Interesting is the contrast of lives of two of the most influential men that generations over the past 75 years has known and have now lost over the past three weeks. One devoted his time sharing the mysteries of the Gospel and how to have eternal life; the other, devoting himself to understanding the mysteries of this intricately, extraordinarily designed world in which we presently live. Both outstandingly and uniquely brilliant, capturing the attention of audiences of all ages; Both impacting their audiences profoundly by expanding their understanding of the universe and changing the way people look at this temporary time we have on earth; Both encouraging these followers to do great things in this life. Amazingly, their life pursuit was like oil and water; completely opposite and repellant of the other. In no way can one human believe what both men were proclaiming. So, who was right?
I’m not going to bother going into detail about Stephen Hawking’s theories of creation vs what Billy Graham taught (found in the book of Genesis of the Bible). I more so want to focus on what impacted these two men’s lives in the past three weeks. After researching numerous recent articles that were published upon their passing, I think you will find their ideas on God and the Afterlife quite interesting.
First, we will look at their thoughts on both God and science
An Article from The Time on Stephen Hawking quotes the following:
“Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist,” he wrote in The Grand Design. “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”
Using language about God, Hawking told TIME after the book’s release, is more figurative than literal.
“God is the name people give to the reason we are here,” he said. “But I think that reason is the laws of physics rather than someone with whom one can have a personal relationship. An impersonal God.”
Hawking considered himself an atheist
Hawking spoke more plainly about his thoughts on God in an interview with Spanish publication El Mundo.
“Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe. But now science offers a more convincing explanation,” he said. “What I meant by ‘we would know the mind of God’ is, we would know everything that God would know, if there were a God, which there isn’t. I’m an atheist.”
Billy Graham’s responses are just a bit different. Okay, galaxies apart! I used content from BillyGraham.org, which are answers to questions taken from talks or entries given by Billy Graham or written by his staff at Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
The first question for Pastor Graham is this: Is Jesus God?
“The New Testament equated Jesus as the creator of the universe (John 1:3), and that He is the one who holds everything together (Colossians 1:17). The apostle Paul says that God was manifest in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16, KJV), and John the evangelist says that ‘the Word was God’ (John 1:1). The united testimony of Jesus and the writers of the New Testament is that He was more than mere man; He was God …
“Yes, Jesus claimed to be God. Why should anyone believe it? After all, merely claiming to be something does not make it true. Where’s the evidence that Jesus is God?
“The Bible gives various reasons, including miracles and fulfilled prophecy, that are intended to convince us that Jesus is the one whom He said He was (John 20:30-31). The main reason, or the sign which Jesus himself said would demonstrate that He was the Son of God, was His resurrection from the dead.”
Most importantly, countless people for almost 2000 years have discovered that Jesus Christ alone can meet the deepest longings and needs of the human heart. He can do this because He was God in human form, and He was raised from the dead by the power of God.
He is alive today, and He wants to enter your life right now. Do not be blinded by your own ideas or the ideas of others regarding religious truth. Look at Christ, and when you do you will realize that in Christ alone “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).
Furthermore, he went on to explain the Mysteries of God.
Your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. -1 Corinthians 2:5
The word “mystery” is used many times in Scripture. Some of the mysteries of the past have been fathomed by science. Others still bewilder mankind. This fact remains: All of the garnered wisdom of the ages is only a scratch on the surface of man’s search for the knowledge of the universe. For the most part, God retains His secrets, and man standing on his intellectual tiptoes can comprehend only a small fraction of the Lord’s doings.
This inability to comprehend fully the mysteries of God does not in any way curtail the Christian faith. On the contrary, it enhances our belief. We do not understand the intricate pattern of the stars in their courses, but we know that He who created them does, and that just as surely as He guides them, He is charting a safe course for us. A “mystery” in Scripture is a previously hidden truth now divinely revealed, but in which a supernatural element remains unknown despite the revelation.
My next topic to explore is this: What did these brilliant minds think about life after death?
In a nutshell, Stephen Hawking’s philosophy was: Live now because there is nothing else.
Professor Hawking responded in an interview with 2011 with The Guardian when asked, point blank, his thoughts on the afterlife.
“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,” he added.
In the interview, Hawking rejected the notion of life beyond death and emphasised the need to fulfil our potential on Earth by making good use of our lives. In answer to a question on how we should live, he said, simply: “We should seek the greatest value of our action.”
Billy Graham had a completely different outlook on the afterlife, for better or for worse.
When asked, “What will heaven be like?” He responded:
“Heaven will be a place in which its inhabitants will be freed from the fears and insecurities that plague and haunt us in the present life. No energy crisis there … Free from the economic and financial pressures that burden us down here. Free from the fear of personal and physical harm … No fear of personal failure … Our relationship with Him will be intimate and direct. I’m looking forward to that glorious day of going to heaven…
“Heaven will be what we have always longed for. It will be the new social order that men dream of. All the things that have made earth unlovely and tragic will be absent in heaven. There will be no night, no death, no disease, no sorrow, no tears, no ignorance, no disappointment, no war. It will be filled with happiness, worship, love, and perfection.
Heaven will be a place to challenge the creative genius of the unfettered mind of redeemed man.” Revelation 21:4 says, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”
And about Hell…
It may surprise you to learn that no one in the Bible spoke more about the reality of hell than Jesus.
Those are sobering words, and we need to take them seriously. Hell is real, and not one word about it in the Bible would ever make you want to go there. Those who thoughtlessly say that they look forward to going there because all their friends will be there simply haven’t realized its horror. If there is no hell, then we live in an unjust world in which tyrants and abusers and other evildoers will never pay for their evil deeds. The Bible calls it a place of “outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30, KJV).
But it’s important to realize that Jesus spoke about hell’s reality not out of hate or anger, but out of love. Yes, hell is real, but God doesn’t want you to go there! This is why He provided a way for us to be with Him in heaven forever, by sending His Son into the world to die for our sins.
In an interview with The Huffington Post in 2010, Billy Graham added a few more thoughts worth noting.
They asked, “When you open your eyes in Heaven, what do you believe you’ll see? Has this vision changed through your lifetime?”
“I don’t know exactly what I’ll see when I enter Heaven, because Heaven is far more glorious than anything we can possibly imagine. As the Bible says, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” [1 Corinthians 2:9).
“But I do know this: Heaven is the dwelling place of God, and some day I will see Him face to face. Think of it: The Creator of the whole Universe wants us to spend all eternity with Himself! When I was younger I tried to imagine exactly what Heaven looked like, but I don’t try to do that anymore. Its splendor far surpasses anything we can ever imagine…
- What do you plan to have written for your epitaph? Did you pen it yourself?
“Some years ago Sir David Frost was interviewing me and asked a similar question: How I would like to be remembered? My reply, as I recall, was that I hoped I would be remembered as someone who was faithful — faithful to God’s call, faithful to the Gospel, faithful to the responsibilities and opportunities God gave me. I’m sure I’ve failed many times, but that’s been my goal ever since I committed my life to Christ, and it always will be my goal: to be faithful to Him.”
Clearly, there is nothing similar in how these men prepared for life after death. Stephen Hawking chose to believe that this is all we have. That we were not created for anything more than just a few fleeting moments on this Earth. How bleak is that? For someone who spent so much time studying the vastness and complexities of the universe, how could he not grasp that there is so much more beyond what we can see or understand? It’s heartbreaking. Billy Graham preached, similarly, that this life we have on Earth is crucial. He said, “Heaven doesn’t make this life less important; it makes it more important.” It is TODAY that we determine where we are going to spend the reality that is the afterlife.
When I was a child and coming to understand the existence of God, Heaven and Hell, it dawned on me that even if they don’t exist, what have I got to lose by choosing to spend my life on Earth believing that they do? By believing they do exist, I have the opportunity to spend eternity with my Creator who died on the cross for all my sins and rose again! If, however, I choose to believe that there is no God, no Heaven and no Hell, then, if I am wrong, I will end up in that Hell, eternally separated from God. Now that realization is not why I chose to follow Christ as my Lord and Savior but that reality seemed so simple to me as an eight year old girl. Christ gave everything for me so I owe nothing and have nothing to lose by following Him for the rest of my life; I only gain. Since that day of choosing to follow Jesus twenty-five years ago, I have had a constant companion to lean on in times of trouble, celebrate with in times of jubilee, and direct my steps in times of doubt and fear. Professor Hawking got it wrong. There is Nothing impersonal about My God.
I can be sure that Pastor Graham is currently enjoying a vast amount of riches in Heaven. As far as Professor Hawking, his eternity is not as clear. God is the judge and knows the true heart of those He created, but one can hope he came to know Christ and just didn’t make it public knowledge as to not hurt his brand (similar to Pontius Pilate as our community group discussed on Sunday). I shudder at the thought of outcome for those who completely deny that Christ is King to His face. And I believe that Hell is absolutely a real and horrific place.
So, what do you think about these two? Where would you want to be if you were in their shoes at this very moment? Having certainty in your eternal, glorious future with a God who chose love and desires an everlasting fellowship with you? Or the alternative, which is complete separation from all things good and a life of loneliness being the least of your problems?
For my views on Steps to Salvation, visit my blog on How to be Saved.
~ Lindsey Alaine
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