Stephen Hawking’s search ended one year ago today. He was perhaps the most famous scientist in the world until his death. Hawking was a British theoretical physicist and cosmologist. In 1963, when he was 21 years old, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The doctors gave him two years to live. He far exceeded the life expectancy of an ALS patient, even though the disease gradually stole his ability to move.
By the end of his life, Hawking spoke using a computerized voice that he controlled with his cheek muscles using a slow process of selecting words and letters. In spite of his disability, he gave lectures and wrote best-selling books. His motto was “There are no boundaries.” Although he had previously written that God was not needed to explain the creation, in 2014 he openly declared himself to be an atheist.
Hawking married Jane Wilde in 1965. Over the years his illness and his celebrity put a strain on the marriage. Also, Jane Hawking was a Christian and Stephen was an unbeliever, which added to their differences. In 1990 Stephen left Jane for one of his caregivers. In 1995 he divorced Jane and married the caregiver, Elaine Mason. Stephen divorced Elaine in 2006. Hawking then resumed a closer relationship with Jane and his children and grandchildren. Jane wrote a book about their renewed relationship, and it was made into a movie The Theory of Everything in 2014. Eddie Redmayne played Stephen Hawking in the film, and the role won him the Academy Award for Best Actor.
Speaking of the “Theory of Everything,” that is what Stephen Hawking’s search was about. He and other scientists have spent years trying to discover that theory. On January 8, 2018, a new episode of the series “Favorite Places” premiered on CuriosityStream.com. In the show, Stephen Hawking was shown traveling through space to visit some of his favorite places including Venus, the Sun, and the star Proxima Centauri. Narrating the adventure with his computer-generated voice, he told about his search for the “Theory of Everything.”
“I have been searching for something my whole life. Something to explain the world that is by turns kind and cruel, beautiful and confusing. A single all-encompassing idea that can explain the nature of reality—where it all came from and why we exist at all—the Theory of Everything.”
Perhaps in Stephen Hawking’s search, he was overlooking the real answer to his questions. Is it possible that he left out the key to that answer—God. Perhaps his ex-wife Jane had the answer all along in her Christian faith. He acknowledged that the universe is amazingly fine-tuned for life. He attempted to explain that by the idea that this is only one of an almost infinite number of universes with different parameters, and we just happen to live in the one universe with the right parameters and laws to allow life to exist.
Instead of an accidentally fine-tuned universe, what if God created a perfect universe. What if God is love and He created us so that He could love us and so that we would love and serve Him. What if our failure to do so explains why the world is “by turns kind and cruel.” That would explain “where we came from and why we exist at all.” It would also explain “the nature of reality.” That is where Stephen Hawking’s search was leading for his “whole life.”
Sadly, Stephen Hawking never found what he was searching for. We think that the “Theory of Everything” is written in the Bible ready for each of us to discover for ourselves.
For the past two days, we have examined two reasons why atheism makes sense to some people. As we said before, many people genuinely believe that there is no God and there can be many reasons for that. Today we want to examine a third reason why atheism makes sense. It involves a failure to see God working in the lives of people who claim to be Christians.
REASON 3. Christianity does not work. If there is a God, why does He not act when things get rough? Why do even the best Christians find themselves afflicted with disease and loss and even death? Why do so many Christians have nervous breakdowns, broken marriages, hostile children, alcohol and drug problems, and all of the other bad things which are a part of the world today? One man recently wrote to me, “Christianity only works for those who would do okay without it.” Another wrote, “The only thing I can see in prayer is its therapeutic value. Certainly, those who are afflicted and are Christians do not have a better survival rate than those who are afflicted and are atheists.” A third said, “I do not know of any Christian man in my community that does more good, is more generous, or is more successful than my neighbor who is an atheist. If God is real and Christianity is really worth anything, why is that true?”
RESPONSE. This challenge gets to where most Christians live. Can our friends tell any difference between us as Christians and our neighbors who are not? There are two major problems here. The first is that erroneous claims by some religionists have fouled the air. There are those who wear the name Christian who convey to the world the idea that Christians have diplomatic immunity from all problems. They preach what some call a “health and wealth gospel.” They teach that no person who is a real Christian will ever be sick or fail.
The truth is that God never gave Christians diplomatic immunity from problems. The emphasis on present-day miracles and the use of television to promote the claims of “faith healers” have given atheists much to criticize. Atheists, and even many believers, do not understand the advantages a Christian enjoys. When the Word of God says things like, “Seek and ye shall find, ask and it shall be given to you,” it is not speaking of physical and material things. God has not promised that Christians will have health, wealth, and freedom from problems. What He has promised is that He will bless those things we do to serve Him. There is no greater joy, greater fulfillment, greater satisfaction, or greater thrill than to see God work through us to accomplish something we could not possibly do alone.
The difference between an atheist and a Christian in dealing with infidelity in a mate is that the Christian can rebuild that marriage. The difference between the two in dealing with an alcohol or other drug problem is that the Christian can overcome it with God’s help. In dealing with death or tragedy, the Christian can cope and go on and continue to have a fulfilling life. In dealing with failure, the Christian can be secure and confident that it does not affect our eternal destiny.
ADVICE. It is vital that we convey to the world around us that when Christ lives in us, and we are spirit-filled people, we are not walking around two feet off the ground behaving as mystics. We Christians need to let the world know how much of a positive change God has made in our lives. Too often non-Christians view the Church as a group of somber, unhappy, irrational, mystical, illogical, unintelligent, hypocritical people who are out of touch with reality. This third reason why atheism makes sense is one that we can easily disprove as we can laugh, love, enjoy life, and logically and rationally defend our faith.
Yesterday, we looked at one reason why some people choose atheism. Today we want to examine another reason why atheism makes sense. As I said yesterday, some people seem to think that there are no real atheists. Since I was an atheist for many years, I know that isn’t true. Many people genuinely believe that there is no God and they have various reasons. Here is a second reason:
REASON 2. Some argue that religion causes nothing but trouble, hostility, suffering, and discord. History is full of religious wars. We could point out the Crusades, more recent conflicts in Northern Ireland, and in much of the Middle East spilling over into terrorism in the United States and western countries. Examine the internal problems of religious groups including hypocrisy, bickering, hostility, and abuse. Look at the prominent religious leaders who are guilty of immoral actions. Look at the money raked in by glib, fast-talking con-artists who build religious empires for their own pocket. They exploit the very people they pretend to help. In simple terms, religion does not seem to work.
RESPONSE. Who among those of us who wear the name “Christian” would want to deny all of those charges? We can cry out that these are human errors and not God’s. However, if faith in God does not work for us, how can atheists rationally believe it is going to work for them? Today the body of Christ is afflicted with people who claim to be Christians while they single out other Christians to attack as they display anything but a Christian attitude.
What the atheist is missing in this argument is that hypocrisy is not solely a function of religion. You find hypocrisy at work and on the golf course. There has only been one person who ever lived who was entirely free of hypocrisy, and He was the Son of God. Because one atheist was a murderer, can we legitimately say that all atheists are murderers? Every human falls short of what he should be. The most fundamental difference between atheism and Christianity is that Christianity recognizes that fact and functions in spite of it. Atheism relies on humanism which tries to deny the existence of sin while pointing out the sins of religion.
ADVICE. Those of us who wear the name “Christian” need to do a better job of pointing people to Christ and the Bible rather than to preachers and buildings. As long as we are “preacher-oriented” and “building bound” we will continue to reinforce the arguments of the atheists. When we convince people about Christ and the truth of the Bible, the errors of humans will not be relevant. We must live out the faith we claim to have so that others see Christ in us. Only then can we can show them following Christ brings real peace.
One of the most frequently asked questions in my lectureships concerns whether there really is such a thing as an atheist. Are there reasons why atheism makes sense? Somehow, many people seem to believe that there is no such thing as a real atheist. We hear catchy sayings like “There are no atheists in foxholes.” That suggests atheists are actually hypocrites who, for various reasons, pretend not to believe in God even though they do.
Having been an atheist for many years, I know that such suggestions are not valid. Many people genuinely believe that there is no God. There can be many reasons for a person denying the existence of God. We want to share some of them with you from our own experience:
REASON 1. The lesson of history has been that religion has consistently opposed science and human advancement. As we look back to Galileo, Copernicus, Pasteur, and virtually every great scientist of the past we can see religionists opposing their ideas. History tells the stories of scientists who were persecuted and sometimes killed because their theories conflicted with the traditional religious views of the day. Even today religious opposition frequently works to stop scientific advancement. A percentage of college-educated atheists are atheists because they view religion as a stumbling block to human progress. For them, that is why atheism makes sense.
RESPONSE. In the past religion has at times blocked science when men followed tradition, not the Bible. Even today, however, we have Christians who oppose science because of traditional beliefs or because of human religious teaching. The atheist certainly has a valid complaint here. The only problem with his argument is that he fails to realize where modern science started and that it cannot stand alone.
First, look at where modern science started. It began with the recognition that if God conceived the creation, it must display intelligence with logical and understandable order and design. If we believe that nature is a product of blind, random chance, then we could expect it to be random and chaotic and incapable of being understood. Science began when humans realized that the creation and its design could be understood and studied.
Secondly, what we mean by “science can’t stand alone” is that it cannot determine the uses humans should make of its discoveries. Many times religious concerns about the moral implications of a scientific discovery are construed as attempts to stop science when they are actually an attempt to give science intelligent and productive direction.
ADVICE. We who believe in God need to make sure that if we oppose a scientific effort, our opposition is based on Christian principles from the Bible and not on tradition. We also need to be sure that we do not rely on pseudo-science and false science to back up our efforts to reach the skeptic. We must urge ourselves and others to think and examine, not accept and follow.
One thing that confuses both atheists and fundamentalists is understanding the evolution of language. Atheists like to point out “mistakes” in the King James Version, and fundamentalists sometimes say it is the only accurate translation. The English language is continually evolving, and the Hebrew language evolved also.
In the early history of Hebrew, words were not written with the vowels we see today. Over time, vowels were added. That means there are variant spellings in the texts translators use. The word “Jerusalem,” for example, appears 660 times in the Hebrew Bible. Five times the spelling includes an extra vowel (Jeremiah 26:18, Esther 2:6, 1 Chronicles 3:5,2 Chronicles 25: 1 and 32:9). Those books were written later than other passages where the vowel “yod” is not present. The difference is between the older “Yerushalem” and the later “Yerushalayim.” Today in Israel the city’s name is “Yerushalayim.”
On October 9, 2018, archaeologists at the Israel Museum unveiled a recently discovered stone column with a Hebrew inscription. The inscription is around 2000 years old, and it shows that Jerusalem in Hebrew was spelled and pronounced “Yerushalayim” in the time of Christ. That is the spelling used in those five instances in the Old Testament.
Biblical Archaeological Review reported this discovery in their January/February 2019 issue on page 6. The ancient inscription deals only with the spelling of Jerusalem, but other Hebrew words have changed over the centuries by adding vowels to make reading easier. All of this is of no consequence for you and I casually reading our Bibles. However, when we get into discussions of translations of the Bible and the meaning of words going all of the way back to the Genesis account, we have to dig a little deeper. Just like English, the Hebrew language evolved.
By the way, here is an example of the evolution of English. The “yod” vowel is only a small mark. Jesus referred to it in Matthew 5:18. The King James translators transliterated it into a new English word. We still use that word today to refer to a small mark or something written quickly. The word is “jot.”
The Week magazine in their January 18, 2019, issue has a story about “sacred clay.” It is soil found in the churchyard of Sacred Heart Church in the Boho Highlands of rural Northern Ireland. For over 200 years people have used the Sacred Heart miracle soil as a remedy for a variety of ailments.
Scientists have been studying the soil and have found that it can halt the growth of the top six superbugs, including MRSA. The researchers discovered a previously unknown strain of streptomyces bacterium that is responsible for the soil’s seemingly miraculous ability. One of the problems of treating diseases like MRSA is that pathogens develop a resistance to common drugs, and science needs to find new antibiotics to control them. The Sacred Heart soil has a natural antibiotic.
The U.K. Times magazine reported on the Sacred Heart miracle soil. It quoted the key researcher Gerry Quinn in reference to folk cures. Quinn said, “Some of these cures might have been perfectly effective but the people just didn’t have any knowledge of the scientific principles or biochemistry behind them.” Science can help us to know the difference between bogus medical claims and treatments that really work.
The term Christian Atheism seems like a contradiction. However, that was the theology of Thomas J. J. Altizer. On November 28, 2018, Altizer died at the age of 91.
Thomas J. J. Altizer was the theologian who in the 1960s promoted the idea that God was real but had passed away leaving humans to find the sacred on their own.Time magazine on April 8, 1966, gave Altizer’s teachings a boost when they ran a cover that in big red letters said: “Is God Dead?” That issue was devoted to the theology of Altizer which incorporated the teachings of various philosophers including Hegel and Nietzsche. Other religions, especially Buddhism, capitalized on Altizer’s teachings and he gained quite a following.
Altizer himself expressed remorse at the effects of his teaching.Time magazine quoted him in the December 17, 2018, issue (page 11) saying that today people are empty of the joy that we once celebrated. The reason we are empty is that humans cannot find the sacred on their own.
The biblical adage of Solomon certainly applies here: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” When we discard God, we have nothing that can take His place. Materialism doesn’t work. No philosophy works. Christian Atheism doesn’t work. Only the joy that we find in the teachings of Jesus Christ has worked and still does work today.
A recent Barna research study shows that two-thirds of American adults now believe that morality is relative to circumstances. This attitude says that what is right depends on the situation. It also says that what is right for me may not be right for you and what is right for you may not be right for me. This modern moral belief conflicts with absolute moral standards.
We have often said that if you are an atheist, you have no case to make for ANY moral standards. If there is no God and no existence beyond this life on Earth, why shouldn’t I do anything that I think will bring me pleasure? It appears that if this survey is correct, a majority of Americans support that view.
Our society continues to approve any form of sexuality that one wishes to engage in. We have pointed out that experts in ethics and morality like Peter Singer at Princeton, are suggesting that our society should approve the euthanizing of humans who cannot contribute to society and who put a drain on our nation financially. This would include the mentally challenged, the mentally ill, and people who have physical limitations due to paralysis or other physical impairment. It would have included killing people like the late Stephen Hawking or other notables with high intelligence but severe disabilities.
In response to our postings, we often receive messages like these: 1) “There is absolutely no proof that any god exists!” 2) “Belief in a god is not rational.” 3) “There is no evidence of any ‘Creator’ (whether it’s God or an Advanced Alien or Magic Unicorn).” We asked the people who posted each of these comments, “Are you absolutely sure that there is no evidence of any Creator?” Being rational requires comparing options to see which is most reasonable.
A basic fact is that anything that begins to exist has to have a cause. Science has proven that the universe had a beginning, therefore, what was the cause? According to science, the cosmic creation event (better known as the “big bang”) was the beginning of matter/energy and space/time. If whatever caused the universe created matter, then that Cause has to be non-material, and not under the restraints of the physical laws of the material universe. If the Cause of the universe created time, then that Cause must be outside of the time dimension in which we are bound.
Science, by its very nature, cannot investigate, prove, or disprove anything that lies outside of the dimensions of matter, energy, space, and time in which science operates and which it investigates. Modern science suggests that there are other dimensions beyond the three spatial dimensions and the one time dimension that we experience. If anyone says that scientific, empirical evidence is the only way to know reality, that person is making a faith statement, not a scientific statement.
All reasoning begins from certain faith commitments that we cannot reach by pure reason. Being rational requires being open to the available options. A person who believes that “God created the heavens and the earth” is acting on faith. So also is the person who says, “There is no evidence of a creator.” Which of these two ideas is more “rational?”
1) The universe began to exist without a cause.
2) A Cause/Creator outside of time and space and not restricted by the physical laws of matter/energy brought the universe into existence.
Perhaps the most argued event in the Old Testament is the flood of Noah described in Genesis 6–9. Atheists have portrayed it as a myth which came from ancient cultures but with no scientific support. Young earth proponents have used it to explain everything from the age of the earth to the geologic column to the origin of the races. In the next few days, we hope to provide some brief answers to questions people raise about the flood. To begin with, did Noah’s flood really happen?
There is massive evidence that the flood did happen. The fact that even skeptics point out that every culture has a flood account is strong support that it occurred. The flood stories of various cultures are remarkably similar although usually enhanced with local cultural flavoring. The Hawaiians have a giant canoe, the Denali in Alaska have a giant raft. But there is a global idea of a massive flood which only a few humans, who were warned in advance, escaped. To suggest that this was due to a myth being circulated among all cultures is difficult to support. Communication between these geographically separated cultures is not as likely as the fact that there was a common event.
The biblical description of the source of the water is “the fountains of the great deep” and the “windows of heaven” (Genesis 7:11). Two different Hebrew words can be translated “window.” The common window in your home is indicated by the Hebrew word “challon” and that word is used in Genesis 8:6 to refer to a window in the ark. The word used in Genesis 7:11 and 8:2 is “arubbah” which refers to an opening in heaven. (See Malachi 3:10 and 2 Kings 7:2.) The word “fountain” is the Hebrew “mayan” referring to a spring – an underground source of water. Massive underground pools of fresh water have been found all over the earth, and astronomical sources of water are also known. The fact that Genesis does not describe normal sources of water lends support to the notion that this was an unusual addition of water to the Earth.