If you have not already seen, you may be interested to know that Stephen Hawking, the brilliant British theoretical physicist and cosmologist who has never been a friend to Christianity, has made an announcement: the universe came into being from nothing. There is no God.
Of course we have all be sitting on pins and needles waiting for such a definitive announcement, right? This information comes from his new book The Grand Design, his first major work in nearly a decade (to be released later this month). What makes this information news, I suppose, is that before this announcement, Hawking could have been labeled as an agnostic with quasi-deistic sympathies. In other words, if Hawking allowed for a God, it was not one like the Christian God and he/she/it was certainly not interested in the going-ons here on earth. “The universe,” according to Hawking, “is governed by the laws of science. The laws may have been decreed by God, but God does not intervene to break the laws” (source). In other words, no miracles, no transcendent love, and no God becoming man. How he was privy to the information that “God does not intervene” is for his eyes only.
However, as I said, there has been a change. Hawking seems to have figured it out. In his new book he says that “Spontaneous creation is the reason why there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.” He goes on, “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper [fuse] and set the universe going.”
But I don’t get it. Aren’t we as rational being supposed to be rational? Is it really rational to say that something comes from nothing. What about the axiom, ex nihilo nihil fit, “out of nothing, nothing comes.” What if this “spontaneous generation” answer was permissible in our every day life? Me: “Will, who made this mess in your room?” Will: “Ummm…no one. It just appeared from nothing.” Fireman: “How did this fire start? Man: “It was just one of those things. Nothing started it.” Policeman: “Who robbed the bank.” Robber: “No one. The money is just gone and nothing caused it to go.”
As irrational as this “something from nothing” philosophy is in the real world, it cannot and should not get a better shake when it comes to religion. People often ask, “If God created everything who or what created God?” Many times we just stare with a blank look on their face, not knowing how to respond. However, we do have a response. It is called transcendence.
(Hang with me, I will get back to the Hawking kind of faith thing in a moment.)
We believe in a transcendent God. This is what we call a “necessary” belief. “If something exists,” so the argument goes, “God must exist.” It is actually the best argument for God that is out there. If something exists, we have to have an adequate cause to explain it. This cause must be transcendent in order to avoid the infinite regress produced by the “If God created everything, who created God? Who created that which created God? Who created that which created that which created God?” You see, there must be an “ultimate cause.” This is called the “unmoved mover.” Because of the law of cause and effect (every effect has an sufficient cause) and because we know that time cannot go infinitely backward (or we would never reach the present because we would always have an infinity to go), we know that the “universe” in which God resides, must transcend the physical laws of our universe.
Back to Hawking…
Hawking understands well the ultimate atheist dilemma. It is not whether or not evolution can explain the the genesis of life. It is not whether God shows his face here and there. It is not even whether spiritual bodies can be scientifically proven. It is the problem of existence itself. Where did everything come from? The law of cause and effect says that there must be a sufficient explanation for existence. If there is no God, then there is no answer to the question, Why is there something rather than nothing?
However, Hawking has the answer. In his new book (from what I understand) he argues for the reality of multiple universes. From here he argues that if there are many universes (possibly an infinite number), one will have characteristics in physics that are much different than ours. One of these characteristics may be that it does not have to abide by the law of cause and effect. If so, in this universe, something can come from nothing.
At this point I pause and say to myself, Stephen Hawking believes in a god. You see, this is not so much unlike the tentative belief that aliens created our universe held by Richard Dawkins. In both cases, you have to have something above and beyond us which explains our existence. There must be something/someone which exists outside of our universe to explain the existence of our universe since the laws of our universe militate against self-creation. For Hawking there is a “universe” out there which is responsible for all things. Hawking’s creative universe where something can come from nothing carries the same basic and essential characteristic of the Christian view of God: transcendence. Sure, Christians add attributes to our understanding of God such as intelligence, love, and intervention, but the essential realm of existence is the same. God resides in a realm where the laws of physics do not have the same application. Why? Because he created them. They had their genesis with him through the creation of our time/space universe. God, in his essence, has no relation to time, space, or matter, therefore, he is not “under” the laws we are under. What we call heaven (often as a metonymy for God), Hawking calls “the universe where the same rules do not apply.” What this “universe” is like would most certainly be a great mystery to Hawking, but it exists nonetheless. Why? Because it must exist. There simply must be a sufficient explanation for all things. Therefore, Hawking believes in a mysterious creator of all things. Whether this creator is personal or not is not the issue right now. The point is that Hawking invokes a mysterious creator he calls “Other Universe.” This puts him in the religious camp of either pantheism or deism.
Does he worship this “other universe”? It depends on what you mean by “worship.” He credits it with the creation of all things, believes in its power and transcendence, and, now, is evangelizing on its behalf. But he does not have a relationship with it and does not believe it cares about him. Like Paul walking through Athens and noticing the alter built to the “unknown god” (Acts 17:23), Stephen Hawking has a similar alter with the same kind of generic name: “Another Universe.”
The point is that ultimately you have to avoid the “Where did it all come from?” question if you want to be a consistent atheist. Hawking’s pronouncement that God is not necessary dies the death of his own qualification. His faith step here is in the right direction, but needs to go further. I simply call on him to see that this God has revealed himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ and call us to a life of recognition and service to him.
Having said this, I do say what a brilliant mind Hawkins truly does have. Even though he is an unbeliever, he is shows God’s image so brightly in many ways.