Stephen Hawking died earlier today.
I grieved this morning, being reminded by the truth that intelligence isn’t enough to gain entrance to glory. My wife wrote the following to me in an email this morning: “It really is tragic, isn’t it? It is an example of someone made in God’s image with a brilliant mind whom God left in blindness and didn’t choose as His own child. So sad for Stephen Hawking, but God is still glorified in his life and his death because His justice is satisfied. Sobering nonetheless.” Her words echo those of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians, chapter one.
26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no man may boast before God. 30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
For those who have been called, these are wonderful words. When we think upon those who die apart from Christ (individuals not “in Christ”), we do take heart that God is indeed glorified in His justice even as we mourn. We do not pray for the dead, but we can pray for their children (Robert, Lucy and Timothy). Hawking had two ex-wives.
Having thought briefly about the sobering realities above, let’s consider Hawking’s counsel to his three children.
During a 2010 interview on ABC’s “World News Tonight”, the respected physicist was asked if he had provided any advice to his children. This was his reply:
“Here are the most important pieces of advice that I’ve passed on to my children,” he said. “One, remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Two, never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. Three, if you are lucky enough to find love, remember is it rare and don’t throw it away.” *
First, “remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet.”
I can share what I believe Dr. Hawking meant by that statement, but I won’t do so. I will, though, put that exhortation within a Christian context. We, too are to look to the stars. And what do we find as we gaze heavenward? The glory of God (Ps. 19:1). In other words, we find the Creator and the end for which He created the universe. These words are found at the conclusion of Hawking’s important text A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes (Bantam Books, 1988):
“However, if we do discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason–for then we would know the mind of God” (p.175).
Today finds me thankful that I actually do know “the mind of God.” Because I possess the Word of God, I can honestly say that I know what God was thinking when He created the universe and when He created me–that He would receive the glory due to His name. He was putting Himself on display that all of creation might worship. Jonathan Edwards wrote, “what God intends, by what He actually does; because He does nothing inadvertently or without design…what God values ultimately, it must therefore, by the preceding position, be aimed at by God, as an ultimate end of creating the world (p.146)…As it is desirable in itself that God’s glory should be known, so when known is seems equally reasonable it should be esteemed and delighted in, answerably to its dignity” (p.149 in God’s Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards with the complete text of The End for Which God Created the World, Crossway, 1998).
Believer–raise your head! Meditate upon your glorious God and His glorious works!
Second, “never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it.”
I am currently teaching a course for Belhaven University entitled Kingdom Life. It is the last worldview course in the curriculum that students are required to take before graduation. In the class, we discuss the concept of vocations–callings. One of the vocations we mention is that of work. The students read a book by Timothy Keller entitled, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work (written with Katherine Leary Alsdorf, Penguin Books, 2012). In the book, Keller and Alsdorf offer, “Work is a much a basic human need as food, beauty, rest, friendship, prayer, and sexuality; it is not simply medicine but food for our soul. Without meaningful work we sense significant inner loss and emptiness. People who are cut off from work because of physical or other reasons quickly discover how much they need work to thrive emotionally, physically, and spiritually” (p.23). Later they add, “In short, work–and lots of it–is an indespensible component in a meaningful human life. It is a supreme gift from God and one of the main things that gives our life purpose. But it must play its proper role, subservient to God” (p.29). Very true. We are all made to work, to be productive. Laziness is a sin because it is unlike God and because it contradicts the reality that we are all made in His image. Hawking’s advice to his children was spot on, and all three of them are living productive lives. As God’s people, we should do no less.
Third, “if you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is rare and don’t throw it away.”
As a biblical Christian, I dismiss the concept of luck. It was not a coincidence that I found Jodi, my wife of almost twenty-seven years. God led me to her and, by His grace, we have remained together and strong. I have not “thrown it away.” Hawking’s words are not spoken apart from personal experience. My guess is that he is sharing some remorse for his role in his divorce from his first wife, Jane, after thirty years of marriage. He remarried the same year and remained in that marriage for eleven years. For most, marriage is difficult. Sinners are selfish. Conflicts often arise. Resolution takes effort. Good seasons are followed by droughts. A healthy marriage is, perhaps, rare, but it is possible. We should thank God if we find ourselves in one and cherish it rather than “throw it away.”
In A Brief History of Time, Hawking wrote,
“ever since the dawn of civilization, people have not been content to see events as unconnected and inexplicable. They have craved an understanding of the underlying order in the world. Today, we still yearn to know why we are here and where we came from” (p.13).
I find it interesting that he penned those words during a time in my life while I finally coming to grasp the reality of God’s presence and purpose for my life. Admittedly, I cannot dialog with scientists at any length regarding the activity of black holes and the theory of relativity. But I rejoice to know the One who controls them both. More importantly, I am grateful that Jesus’ creative and sustaining activity continues to this very day (Col. 1:16,17). The Scriptures clearly demonstrate that Jesus Christ is truly the “single theory that describes the whole universe” (Hawking, p.10). He provides the answers to the vital questions: Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going?
I do very much respect men like Stephen Hawking and Neil deGrasse Tyson and I’ve read some of their works. They believe(d) “the unexamined life isn’t worth living” (a quote attributed to Socrates from Plato). They searche(d) for meaning, purpose, understanding. But apart from a supernatural work of God, they could only see the shadows.
If you can see more than shadows, if you can see the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Cor. 4:6), you are so very blessed.
I hope you were encouraged in your walk with Christ today. Thanks for stopping by the blog!