The Mind of God & the Death of Stephen Hawking

The highly influential scientist Stephen Hawking passed away this morning. He was a brilliant theoretical phycist and a best-selling author. I remember reading one of his books, or at least portions of it, when I was a teenager.

When I was in high school the Walmart in our small town functioned like a shopping mall. It was a place to hang out. But every once in a while, we would go on an adventure. My teenage comrades and I would pile into the most reliable used vehicle owned by one of us at the time and drive thirty miles away to the state capital to visit an authentic, full-orbed, center of commercialism and materialism, real-deal shopping mall.

These irregular ventures were always a treat. Besides the expected stuff, window shopping at “The Buckle,” consuming thousands of calories at Luca’s Pizza, and in general trying to project a cool and confident exterior walking through the mall interior, I would usually spend some time sitting cross-legged on the floor in the mall’s bookstore pouring over whatever suited my adolescent pseudo-intellectual mood at the moment. I’ll never forget the time that included Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time.”

Hawking’s discussion of dark matter and dark energy provoked my attention. I acted like I understood what this brilliant scientist was talking about. I didn’t. But apparently neither did most people. The book was described as the “least-read-best-seller.”

Hawking summarizes the scientist’s desire to find a theory of everything in the closing paragraphs of the book:

“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.”

This quote has stuck with me since reading it as a teenager. Of course Hawking wasn’t being literal, he didn’t believe in God. He was an atheist. But his quote illustrates something powerful, to get a theory that explains everything we would pretty much have to know the mind of God.

That is exactly what Christians have the audacity to claim every time they open the Bible. They believe they are learning the mind of God, not by Hawking’s ‘ultimate triumph of human reason,’ but through God’s gracious acts of communicating his love to us.

It is the Christian’s conviction that you cannot understand the world unless you understand the Creator who made the world, the One who loved the world so much he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in him might not perish but have everlasting life. God has revealed his truth to us and we will all have to grapple with it, be it in this life or the next.