Stephen Hawking, eternal life, and fairy tales

I look for the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come.
–Nicene Creed

Stephen Hawking, physicist and author of A Brief History of Time, recently had this to say about the notions of heaven and eternal life:

I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.

How is a Christian to respond to this? Is our belief in eternal life a fairy tale? Have we invented a story about everlasting paradise because we are afraid of the darkness of annihilation?

A good starting place is to recognize that Hawking has never died, and so he really doesn’t know one way or the other whether heaven and eternal life exists. Hawking did not come to his conclusions regarding heaven or everlasting life through observation, experience, or anything resembling the scientific method. He did not run an experiment that demonstrated that humans have no eternal soul. Nor did he derive a mathematical equation that somehow eliminated God.

Of course, similar statements could be said about Christians. We have not come to our conclusions about heaven and eternal life through science. But if science were the only way to know anything, then we really could not adequately address questions such as, “What happens after we die?” We could speculate, which is all that Hawking has done, but we really would not have definitive answers.

As a Christian, my belief in heaven is based on my acceptance of the larger package of the Christian faith. I have dozens of reasons why I think Christianity is true; here are two of what I see as the strongest arguments:

1. Christianity has a good answer for the fundamental question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” I wrote about this last year in my brief post about Hawking’s latest book, The Grand Design:

This goes back to the cosmological argument for the existence of God. Every effect has a cause. What caused the universe? If the answer is, “the multiverse” or “the laws of physics,” then all the authors [Hawking and Mlodinow] have accomplished is to put the question back one step. What caused the multiverse to exist? Has it existed forever? If so, why and how? Did it cause itself to exist? The same questions need to be asked of the laws of physics, or perhaps of the deeper, underlying laws of the multiverse. What is the origin of these laws?  …

To propose that “God” is the answer to these questions is certainly at least as rational as to propose that the multiverse has existed forever or that it created itself. I would say that the “God option” is in reality the most rational answer, as the first option—the multiverse has existed forever—doesn’t answer the “Why is there something rather than nothing?” question, and the idea of a self-creating multiverse is inherently illogical.

Even if Hawking were correct about M-theory, strings, and the multiverse spawning baby universes, he has not explained where the multiverse or the laws that govern the universe came from.

2. A strong case can be made for the historical truthfulness of the Gospel accounts of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I gave an outline of the Christian case for Christ’s resurrection in my recent post The reality of the resurrection. Something extraordinary happened on that first Easter in 30 or 33 AD, and each attempt to come up with an alternative to the resurrection has serious problems.

If there is a God who created the universe (point #1), and if he raised at least one person from the dead (point #2), then it is by no means a stretch to accept the idea that we, too, can experience eternal life. This life comes through faith in Christ:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. — John 3:16 ESV

I have great respect for Stephen Hawking for his professional accomplishments and for his perseverance through great suffering. His ventures into philosophy and theology, on the other hand, fall a bit flat.

Grace and Peace

The Guardian: Stephen Hawking: ‘There is no heaven; it’s a fairy story’

Yahoo News: Stephen Hawking says afterlife is a fairy story

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” — Psalm 14:1 ESV

3 thoughts on “Stephen Hawking, eternal life, and fairy tales

  1. Hawking is an example of when brilliance attempts to replace God, it just falls into foolishness. The man is a brilliant mind until he moves into something other then science. I have often wondered what drives him to do so.

    His latest attempt to explain God away invoves saying that the universe had a beginning but will have no end, and that attempting to explain what came before the universe is like asking what is “South of the South Pole”.

    Now isn’t this painfully ridiculous even to the most simple mind? Doesn’t it fly in the face of the very basic laws of science he claims to understand? Something begins without cause and then something that begins has no end?

    Stick to studying the universe and the world around you Stephen, maybe someday before you die the God who you try so hard to replace will show himself to you and you can quit trying to replace him with foolishness


  2. Sapphire

    Various religions, including Christianity, implicitly define God as being without a cause. That definition is purely arbitrary but it is essential because otherwise you would have to answer the question, “What caused God?”
    If there can be such a being as God who has no cause and no “before” or “after” why not ascribe these attributes to the multiverse?
    Once you accept that God, the perfect creator is an invention you have no need to explain why the world is not perfect so the Fall and all its consequences, including Hell and the need for a Redeemer, become redundant.
    If that happened a number of very rich people would lose a very lucrative business as well as their control over people.
    If it is not reasonable to propose an multiverse without a cause then why is it reasonable to propose a God without a cause. The “God option” only appears reasonable because it refuses to allow the question, “Why is there God rather than not God?”
    Christianity has not answered the question of there is something rather than nothing it has merely invented another layer and then refuses to answer where and how that layer came into being. Why not propose a Super Creator who does nothing but create Creators and a Supersuper Creator who creates the Super Creators? The fact that many believe one thing or another does not make either of them true.
    You may be right or Hawking may be right. I really have no way of knowing. What I do know from experience is that the practice of Evangelical Christianity is a sham.


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