Many, up until his death last week, thought he was the world’s greatest living scientist. Merging Einstein’s theory of relativity with quantum theory to himself postulate that space and time would begin with the Big Bang and end with black holes, he authored numerous books, including what was termed his landmark work, “A Brief History in Time”. This one volume, among many he authored, sold over ten million copies. (He is pictured here with former President and Mrs. Clinton.)
In 1961, he was diagnosed with ALS and given only a few years to live, but he was able to publish and speak through voice synthesizers for many more years than physicians had expected. He was an avowed atheist saying that “science can explain the universe without the need for a creator.” He also stated “When I speak of God I use ‘it’ as a metaphor for the laws that control the universe.”
It’s tragic that for the past five days (as we measure time), Hawking has come to understand, in the most horrific way, that God is not a metaphor. He has come face to face with the reality that, not only does God exist, but, rather than being a metaphor for all of the laws of science, He (God) authored those laws. He now knows, indeed, since God is not bound by any of the limitations of time and space that He (God) imposed on our universe, that God is unfettered in His power and authority. He is supreme and omnipotent. Hawking, who spent a lifetime denying the existence of God, would give anything today to be able to “spend” His new existence– to “use up” time in his new and tortured environment. He would love to be able to “spend” a million years in hell and be free from its everlasting horrors. He wishes now that the laws of time and space, the laws for which “god is a metaphor”, would rescue his soul and, once again, control His world. If he had one more moment in time, he would confess God’s existence and bow before Him. But the reality that is outside our boundaries of time and space cannot be measured, “spent” or “used up.” It is eternity. It is never-ending. When Hawking has endured a million years, he has not reduced his term in hell by one second. That is, of course, for anyone who experiences it, the ultimate tragedy.
A metaphor is a figure of speech that directly refers to one thing by mentioning another. Hawking thought of God as a figure of speech. He used the word “god” to mean the laws of science. Now he knows “what ” God is. He knows now, for sure.
Faith is the substance of the things we hope for as Christians (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is that to which we cling in the here and now that gives substance to the hereafter. If that’s the case, then surely disbelief is the substance of things dreaded in the life of an atheist. ALS is a dreaded disease. Surely Hawking dreaded death, too. He knew pain during his life on earth. But now he has tasted the full unending picture of eternal death. Skepticism and denial of the Divine is surely a sad way to live here on earth; but it is just the beginning precursor of eternal damnation.
Every time I consider the death of one who has lived a life of atheism, I feel sadness and great pity. But, as I think about the end of the ultimate rejection of God as Creator and Savior, I am also motivated–to study the Bible more regularly and deeply, to be ever mindful of the brevity of my own life and to cling to the substance of that for which I have the fondest hope. I know how fallible I am. I know my weaknesses and my propensity to fall if I “think I stand” (I Corinthians 10:24). I am so very thankful that the One Who has promised a way of escape with every temptation (I Cor. 10:13) is not a metaphor.