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.
Many leaders in the United States, as well as other countries of the world, seem to have a view of global warming that contradicts the evidence and good scientific data. More amazing is that many scientists also take positions on global warming that don’t fit the evidence. Science News (March 2, 2019) published an article (page 6) about various theories of how melting ice could affect eustatic sea level rise.
One estimate is that sea levels could rise by 2.1 meters (over six feet) by 2100. Another research report says that sea levels could rise by four meters by 2200. Both of these estimates are based on the melting of ice cliffs in Antarctica. Imagine the result of an eight-foot rise of sea level on Miami or New Orleans or Venice?
The problem with the scientific data, as spelled out in the Science News article, is that the physics of ice cliff collapse is very poorly studied. Another problem is that much of the ice that has been proposed as being likely to melt is floating. If the ice is floating, it has displaced as much water as it weighs or it wouldn’t be floating. This is an old physics law that says “any object that is placed in a fluid is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid displaced.” If the iceberg somehow evaporated instead of melting, the sea level would go down. If it just melted, the mass is still there, and there would be no sea level rise.
Scientists are hotly debating the predictions of eustatic sea level rise. The question is not whether we are experiencing climate change with an increase in worldwide average temperatures. We are. The question is what that temperature rise will do. The design of the amazing physics of ice and water may seem simple, but it is highly complex on a global scale. We see evidence of God’s design of Earth to support human civilization. Stay tuned for more data as research continues.
It was almost sure to happen. As our culture continues to embrace the idea that there are no absolute standards of morality, it attempts to justify every kind of perverse behavior. Pedophiles are adopting the label “minor-attracted persons.” They want to add MAP to the LGBTQ alphabet.
In an attempt to justify their practices these “minor-attracted persons” are claiming victimhood. There is now a program called “The Prevention Project” that says it exists to treat people who are attracted to minors. On their website, they refer to a MAP they call “John.” They claim he is a victim of misunderstanding. They say “he wants help to ensure he is safe in society.” The homosexual publication Gay Star News ran a story claiming that “pedophiles are attempting to be part of the LGBTI community.” Meanwhile, a German medical student defended pedophilia as an “unchangeable sexual orientation” in a TEDx speech at the University of Wurtzberg.
Since the LGBT community demands that children must be allowed to change their gender, how can they say that children should not be allowed to choose their sexual behavior? In a world where every behavior is “relative” and “caused by biological or environmental factors,” almost any behavior can be justified. Does that mean that we must tolerate the actions of “minor-attracted persons?”
Humans have not been programmed to act in ways that are beyond their control. There are absolute standards of morality and the Bible from Genesis to Revelation indicates that we are free to choose our behavior. Whatever my history or my DNA may be, I still am responsible for what I do.
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.
I can remember that even as a child I wondered about zebras. They look like horses in just about every way except the stripes. Why do zebras have stripes?
When I raised that question in my high school biology class, I was told it was for camouflage. That explanation satisfied me until I was in the army where I was taught how to camouflage myself in combat. Our combat uniforms were striped. The leaders told us that the stripes would only work if there were movement around us, and if there wasn’t, we should stand perfectly still. Watching zebras in the wild, to me the stripes seemed like a flag saying “here I am.” I realized that a striped deer in the Michigan woods wouldn’t last very long during hunting season.
A good friend sent me a clipping of an AP report published in the February 23, 2019 issue of The Herald Bulletin in Anderson, Indiana. It finally answered my question of why do zebras have stripes? The article told about research by scientists at the University of Bristol and the University of California at Davis. They dressed horses in white striped coats. The striped horses had significantly fewer horseflies landing on them than the ordinary horses. The striped coats apparently disrupted the visual system of the horseflies. The leader of the research team said that when flies get close to the stripes, they tend to fly past them or bump into them.
In much of Africa, there is a fly that carries a parasite that causes “sleeping sickness” or Trypanosomiasis. The parasite is transmitted to humans and animals by a blood-sucking insect, the tsetse fly. For a zebra, the tsetse fly is the number-one enemy. A healthy zebra can outrun a lion, and most other threats to their survival are of minimal efficiency. Getting away from flies is virtually impossible.
The stripes are a design feature of zebras. In northern areas tsetse flies don’t exist, so deer and horses don’t have stripes. An animal’s external appearance is a genetically determined feature. Why do Zebras have stripes? They are a classic example of how a change in appearance can protect against various kinds of enemies.
This new area of research shows one more example of God’s design in producing a genome that allows animals and plants to survive in a world of constant change.
On a clear night look around to find the brightest star. (Don’t get confused with planets which sometimes are more brilliant than stars.) The brightest star in the sky is Sirius.
The name comes from an ancient Greek word which means “glowing.” It’s in the constellation Canis Major which means “big dog.” Sirius is at the base of the dog’s neck. It looks bright because it’s 25 times more luminous than the Sun and is “only” 8.6 light-years away. Other stars are more luminous, but they don’t appear as bright because they are farther away from the Earth.
We see Sirius as a single star, but it’s more than that. It is actually a binary star consisting of Sirius A and Sirius B. A binary star is two stars orbiting around a central point. There are star systems composed of 2, 3, 4, or more stars orbiting each other which look like a single star to us. Astronomers estimate that half or more of the stars we see in the night sky are actually multiple star systems.
If our Sun had been part of a multiple star system, we wouldn’t be here. Imagine being on a planet orbiting a star which is orbiting one or more other stars. Gravitational forces would pull the planetary orbit apart. Days and seasons and years would be completely chaotic. Life would not be possible.
Genesis 1:14 tells us that God established the Sun and Moon to “serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years.” It’s no coincidence that we are orbiting a single star to light the day, and we are orbited by a moon to light the night. Together it is an unusual and extraordinary system. It is a gift from God.
We take for granted many things that God has built into the Earth so that we can survive. Among those are trees. World Ark magazine for the spring of 2019 published some interesting data that demonstrate the benefits of trees:
One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide in a year. That is enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people.
One acre of forest produces six tons of oxygen a year. That is also enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people.
A single average-sized tree produces 260 pounds of oxygen a year, which is enough for two people.
Large areas of asphalt or cement attract and retain the Sun’s heat artificially boosting local temperatures. Trees are the only cure for this overheating.
Trees are the most efficient way to reduce urban noise.
Planting a tree on the west side of your house can block enough of the Sun’s heat to save $25 on your air conditioning bill every year. Trees also serve as natural windbreakers to reduce your heating bill in winter.
Some trees, such as apple trees, attract birds which eat invasive caterpillars.
Property values are increased up to 15% by having trees in yards and throughout neighborhoods.
Joyce Kilmer’s wrote, “I think I shall never see, a poem as lovely as a tree.” That is even more true when we realize the multiple hidden benefits of trees.
“And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit whose seed was in itself after its kind: and God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:12).
A major issue of our day is the question of equal rights for all people. We have talked about racial issues in the past and considered the conversation Jesus had with a Samaritan woman who represented a despised population in that day. This brings us to the issue of women’s rights in the Bible.
John 4:5-42 describes this incredible story of the total freedom from any prejudice in the practice of Jesus Christ. The Jews hated the Samaritans. The hatred had historical roots, and most Jews would not even walk through Samaria. In addition to being in Samaria, Jesus was talking to a woman. In verse 9 the woman expresses amazement that a Jewish man would talk to her, a Samaritan woman. Verse 40 tells us that Jesus stayed with the Samaritans for two more days. That is something a typical Jew would never do.
Those who accuse the biblical record of promoting male chauvinism and racial bias are making an argument that cannot be well supported. There are many reasons why such charges against the Bible are incorrect, and here are a few:
Cherry picking examples without looking at the time, the culture, and the practices of the day is a dishonest approach to women’s rights in the Bible. In the early days of human existence, survival depended on the entire family being involved in providing food and shelter. This meant that women necessarily were confined to certain roles. Defending the family against animals and enemies didn’t fit the roles of most women, and the times and conditions dictated the functions of each member of the family.
Failing to see the God-given roles for women and ascribing abuse that was done in opposition to God’s commands is an invalid argument. In Genesis 24:54-58 the story of Rebekah shows that in God’s system a woman had the right to control whom she married. Numbers 30:3-16 shows God’s rules that protected women. Proverbs 31 describes the voluntary role of a woman who chose to manage her household. The entire book of Ruth shows women having rights even in the ancient world. Deborah in Judges 4 was a judge and political leader. Esther is a revered figure of the Old Testament.
Women in the New Testament could choose any role they wished. First Corinthians 7:32-40 makes it clear that women have the option of choosing a career instead of marriage. Luke 8:1-3 shows us that women supported Christ financially in His ministry. Acts 16 tells about a woman named Lydia who owned a business and played a vital role in the ministry of Paul.
The whole New Testament plan placed great value on all people, including women, above every other consideration. This is stated plainly in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” In Acts 21:9 we read that Philip had four daughters who prophesied. In Romans 16 Paul lists a group of individuals who played critical roles in the work of the early Church. Most of them are women, and he especially tells the Church in Rome to assist a woman named Phoebe.