I was munching on my second piece of pie this afternoon, when I heard the news that Stephen Hawking had just died.
I work at a university, and it can be a geeky place, at least for the scientifically inclined. Stephen Hawking was not simply a brilliant scientist, who managed to think big thoughts, even while dealing with a terribly debilitating disease. He was an international celebrity, a champion for a scientific worldview. So, it is only fitting that Hawking would end his earthly life on what is now known as “Pi Day,” the mathematician’s holiday, March 14… ( 3.14… get it??)
That’s right. Several computer geeks brought into work their freshly baked pies to celebrate PiDay.
Science has a certain allure, in that a growing segment of the world’s population believes that science can solve the world’s problems. Many have left “religion” behind, particularly Christianity, as Western culture has been gradually, yet successfully, displacing Christendom with a secular world outlook. We see this in the story of Stephen Hawking.
I first read his wonderful and amazing A Brief History of Time over a Christmas break, and it still leaves my head spinning. This was Hawking’s 1988 blockbuster popular science book, that sought to put heavy-duty concepts like the Big Bang, gravity, and the nature of time down on the bottom shelf. During those days, Hawking indicated that the laws of physics “may have been decreed by God, but God does not intervene to break the laws.” But within a few years, Hawking began to change his tune: “It is not necessary to invoke God to … set the universe going.” By 2011, he made this statement on a Discovery Channel documentary, “We are each free to believe what we want and it is my view that the simplest explanation is there is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate.”
Well, science does have extraordinary explanatory power, but there is quite a bit of hubris in Hawking’s statement. Someone put some humor to this, in a Twitter feed:
Yes, the world has lost an extraordinary human being, in Stephen Hawking. Nevertheless, a more modest assessment of what science can and can not do, is sorely needed. This is where informed Christians need to step up to the forefront, and engage our culture. Trying to use science to somehow “prove” God is not going to work. What we need to show is that science does not stand in conflict with the Christian faith. We need to artfully say that the story of the Bible has the greatest explanatory power, that includes, not excludes, the story that science is trying to tell.
Christians are great consumers of science-inspired technologies, from Google to iPhones to modern medicine. However, many Christians see science itself as a threat to faith, or they are too busily occupied with disputes among themselves to engage the great challenges of our day. This does harm to the witness of the church. Believers need to stand together. Let us pray that Christians gain the wisdom and the courage to boldly tell the story of Jesus Christ to a skeptical world.