The Passing of Stephen Hawking

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Has the world lost one of the smartest men?  The praise has been plentiful since the March 14th passing of physicist Stephen Hawking.  Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku states, “Not since Albert Einstein has a scientist so captured the public imagination and endeared himself to tens of millions of people around the world.”  His thesis—Black Hole Explosions – published in the prestigious journal Nature in 1974 was hailed as “the most beautiful paper in the history of physics.” In fact, Edward Witten believes that for 40 years Hawking’s discoveries have “been a source of much fresh thinking…and we are probably still far from fully coming to grips with it.”  Cambridge’s Martin Rees lauded “What a triumph his life has been.” [1]

The world was captivated by Hawking because on one hand he was a glowing triumph for the disabled.  Since 1963 his body grappled with the neurodegenerative disorder Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), eventually being wheel chair bound and losing his ability to speak verbally.  In due course, he was able to communicate by pointing at letters on a screen with his eyes.  Yet, this didn’t prevent him from riding in a hot air balloon at age 60 or going zero gravity in a specially designed Boeing 747 for his 65th birthday.

On the other hand, the world was cheated by Hawking as he heralded hopelessness on one of life’s biggest questions - “Where did the universe come from?”  In his work The Grand Design Hawking wrote “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going”, a British reference to lighting the fuse of a firecracker.  He would write in The Guardian: “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.” Afraid of the dark or denial of the light by one of the world’s most preeminent cosmologist (cf. John 1:9, 1 John 2:8)?   

One of Hawking’s affirmations stands in glowing contradiction to his aura and pronounced unbelief.  On one occasion he said, “God not only plays dice with the universe, but sometimes throws them where they can’t be seen.”  It seems his understanding had led him to the same divine waters that Solomon sipped from over two millennia ago.  The wise man said, “then I saw all the work of God, that man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. However much man may toil in seeking, he will not find it out. Even though a wise man claims to know, he cannot find it out” (Eccl. 8:17). 

Hawking once quipped about his wife Jane Wilde that she gave him “something to live for.”  Ironically, it was Hawking himself who is well known for saying as long as there is life there is hope.  In his passing, the emptiness and futility of this belief are very telling.  Surely the laudatory eulogies printed all around the world give evidence that the world has lost more than a “broken-down computer.”  While the scientific world still hopes for greater understanding in the intricate areas of which Hawking delved—black holes and beginnings—his passing shouts that more than a gifted mind has gone on to his reward.  Surely the world longs like Job to know – where is he (14:10)?   

There is no joy in the passing of Hawking (Ezek. 33:11).  If Hawking’s life represented an intellectual chess match between the world’s foremost cosmologist and the cosmologist of all cosmologists, the game had a predictable ending.  It's check mate.  You know who won. All along the ultimate Inventor knew far more than one of the greatest intellectuals dealing with the parts He made.  The discernment of the discerning was thwarted again (1 Cor. 1:19). The foolishness of God proved wiser yet again (1 Cor. 1:25).   In contrast to what Hawking left us with, the silver living for us is that Grand Designer had his way with the dark (John 1, 1 Cor.1).  He wasn't afraid of it.  He still shines through it.  He still overcomes it (John 1:5).

 

[1] All quotations outside of Biblical ones were taken from Matthew Haag, Matt Stevens and Gerald Jonas, Stephen Hawking Dies at 76; His Mind Roamed the Cosmos, The New York Times, 14 March 2018,  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/14/obituaries/stephen-hawking-dead.html .