Friday, May 20, 2011
My thoughts on Stephen Hawking
In a recent interview with the European newspaper the Guardian, world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking declared that there is no heaven, and that people’s brains simply switch off like “broken-down computers” when they die. He declared that heaven is a “fairy story” concocted by people who are afraid of the dark.
The Irish Central newspaper immediately picked up these statements, and published a story claiming that Christians were angered over his comments. I read the story, and although it seemed to me like the reporter was blowing it out-of-proportion (I did not see anything indicating “anger” or “outrage,” only quotes from another scientist who disagreed with his conclusions), I don’t doubt that there are probably some Christians who WERE angered at his comments.
When it comes to issues of faith, emotions often come into play. When Christians are confronted with viewpoints that challenge them to defend it on an intellectual level, I have seen many Christians become defensive, especially with atheists who, for the most part, approach Christianity with a hostile and angry attitude. It stands to reason that we, as people who love Christ and want to honour him, would be tempted to fall into the same mode. Our faith is something that we are passionate about, and we WANT to defend it. We take it very personally when someone ridicules or bashes God, who is the foundation of our faith.
Given the intellectual dishonesty that most atheists approach the concept of God with, it stands to reason that we would get frustrated, hurt, and even angered.
Even so, as Christians, we have to take the high road. Stephen Hawking is speaking, not only as a lost man, but as someone who has been battling Lou Gherig’s disease, a debilitating and painful illness, since he was 20 years old. He is 69 now. His body is literally a prison for his mind, and I am sure he has wrestled with the question, if there is a God, why would He allow this to happen to me? I am not sure how much, if any, Christian influence there is in his life. I have heard that his wife is a Christian, but really not sure.
When Christian celebrities like Kirk Cameron go public with their reaction to Hawking’s statements, it only re-affirms the incorrect notion that Christians are heartless individuals who care more about apologetics than evangelism. I’m not sure how many people are actually praying for this man. God does not need anyone to defend him, but He does need us to allow Him to love others through us, and challenge their beliefs in a patient, intelligent, bold yet loving manner. This takes discernment, and not listening to our emotions.
I just don’t see the point in Christians getting up-over-arms regarding Stephen Hawking’s misguided comments. Regarding Kirk Cameron, while I can certainly understand how sick and tired he is of people putting down God and Christians, I would much rather have seen him use Hawking’s statements as an opportunity to have his Facebook fans pray for him, and discuss ways to reach those who might give into that deception.
We all know that heaven is real, and getting angry is not going to help us win people to Christ, or advance the Kingdom of God. It is certainly not going to impact Stephen Hawking, who probably thinks that the church and all Christians hate him.