There are many different views of God. Hawking tries to argue against God’s existence but ends up leaving the Christian view of God as the only possible one.
Many philosophers and non-Christian religions have a different concept of God from Christianity. Spinoza and Hegel identified God with nature. Other Modern Philosophers define it as something merely existing in our brains, or something necessary for morality. Most pagam religions have multiple Gods. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam instead believe in a God who is completely outside and above the universe as we know it.
Let’s read some things from Hawking’s book, then compare them to various views of God.
Hawking’s New Book
In his final book, famed astrophysicist and atheist, Stephen Hawking spoke about God’s relationship to the universe. Live Science published an article titled: “Stephen Hawking’s Final Book Says There’s ‘No Possibility’ of God in Our Universe.” It includes some key quotations and summaries from the book, “Brief Answers to Big Questions,” published this week:
“If you accept, as I do, that the laws of nature are fixed, then it doesn’t take long to ask: What role is there for God?”
Hawking will argue for the universe existing at random:
“The universe itself, in all its mind-boggling vastness and complexity, could simply have popped into existence without violating the known laws of nature.”
Following this up, Hawking states:
“We have finally found something that doesn’t have a cause, because there was no time for a cause to exist in,” Hawking wrote. “For me this means that there is no possibility of a creator, because there is no time for a creator to have existed in.”
Other God’s Can’t Exist
These lines rule out many conceptions of God but leave the Christian conception of God unscathed.
The gods of the philosophers fail. Spinoza argued that all of nature together is God but such a view leaves God rules by the laws of nature which really makes those rules the real God. This result is surprisingly similar to Hawking’s atheism. Hegel argues that God develops through time in greater and greater self-revelation in the world. Marx is similar except all is material and instead of moving towards greater self-revelation, it moves towards greater oppression until some magic moment when the workers overthrow their rulers. A God only needed for morality fails, because how such a God exists with the laws of physics is never explained coherently in such a system.
The gods of most religions fail. All polytheistic are some way immanent in this universe. These gods live in a physical way. Even the ancient philosophers of Greece and Rome noticed these problems and rejected their gods.
Even Allah Can’t Exist
At first glance, it would seem that Allah, god as Muslims understand him, can still exist. But this is not the case. As I noted in an earlier article, Allah’s will is above his intellect.
In Islam, Allah’s will is above his intellect, while in Christianity, God’s intellect is above his will. This difference in the internal hierarchy might seem like an abstract distinction but as we work through the consequences, we realize that this tiny change makes a huge difference. God can will things beyond our reason but not against it while Allah can will things against reason. This distinction of superiority is the reason for the discrepancy regarding science – if God wills arbitrarily, why try to understand non-existent laws. The same applies for finding beauty in God’s handiwork of creation. […] As Christians, we understand that God always wills good, yet permits evil, but Allah can will that someone does evil.
In such a system it is hard to account for constant laws of nature. A God whose will is arbitrary seems at odds with constant laws of nature.
The Judeo-Christian God Can Exist
However, the God of Judaism and Christianity is exempt from Hawking’s critique. Hawkings assumes properly, “the laws of nature are fixed,” then notes that the universe could have just started existing without violating the laws of nature. So far I concur. However, he makes three mistakes.
First, he assumes God is the level of the universe. Hawking states, “If you like, you can say the laws are the work of God, but that is more a definition of God than a proof of his existence.” However, the Christian view has never been a God at the level of the universe but one far above on a totally different level of existence.
Second, he assumes all causes are temporal. He explicitly states that God couldn’t have caused the universe as there was no time for God to exist in (3rd quote above). Even in science, some things would be simultaneous but causally related. We say gravity causes a rock to fall, but the force of gravity is simultaneous to the rock falling. Furthermore, time is the measurement of change but change indicates imperfection as it is a moment towards or away from perfection. Thus, the Christian conception of God is unchanging and thus outside of time.
Third, he forgets to ask why? Why is there anything, not nothing? Hawking just assumes it all just randomly happened but even randomness has a cause. The lottery is random but we all know that there is a cause behind the randomness.
In Christianity, we view God as the very act of being himself. In other words, God is IS. If you get this, you can pass Christian metaphysics 101. The idea is that “to be” doesn’t change the nature of a thing – we can think of a wookie even though no wookies are. It is God himself who maintains all – from quarks to humans to super-massive black holes – in existence. Each is insofar as God grants it existence. And the degree of perfection of something is related to how it is: a man is in a way that a dog is not because a man is spiritual in addition to beign physical like the dog. (I’m trying to simplify this but this philosophical principle is difficult to grasp.)
Hawking was an atheist and critiqued the concept of God, thinking it didn’t match physical reality. He, however, seems to understand God differently than orthodox Christians do. His critiques leave the orthodox Judeo-Christian view of a transcendent and intellectual God as the only possibility.
Christianity has two more concepts of God that are above reason but not contrary to it: the Trinity and the Incarnation. Hawking’s critiques of God don’t address these either for or against.
There is a reason science grew and developed most in Christianity: our rational view of God. Next time an atheist tries to argue against God, realize they often mean something other than God when they use the word “god.”
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