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Today: Saturday, April 21, 2018
 


 

Great Discoverers?

First published 15 Apr 2018



Professor Stephen Hawking, who died in March, was one of the most respected and honoured scientists of recent times.  His work on black holes and on theories of the origins of the universe has been outstanding.  He has helped to shape modern cosmology and increased out understanding of the universe.

He is honoured, not only for his scientific achievements, but also for his courage, persistence and good humour in the face of crippling motor neurone disease, from which he might well have died very many years ago.

The high regard in which he has been held is shown by the decision that his ashes will be buried in Westminster Abbey in London, very close to the remains of Sir Isaac Newton, who died in 1727, and Charles Darwin, who died in 1882, an honour given to very few.

But all three of these great men engaged with Christian thought as well as science, each in different ways.  Isaac Newton is reputed to have spent more time studying and writing theology than on science; he was even highly regarded in his time as a theologian.  Charles Darwin was at one stage in his life destined to be a minister in the Church of England.  Despite his professed atheism, Stephen Hawking was for many years a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in Rome, where the links between science and religion continue to be debated.

Many of the views of all three men remain controversial, and despite their vast contributions to science and human understanding, none of them can be taken as the last word on matters of faith.  None of them discovered everything!  Professor Hawking himself, though he believed the universe came into existence spontaneously and without God’s action, admitted ‘we can’t prove there wasn’t a Creator’.

In the end, for all of them as for us, the question of faith is a matter of faith.  It is possible to build your understanding of the world on there being no God.  It is equally possible to build your understanding on there being a God.  Neither science nor church can prove or disprove God.  And both views have their attractions and their problems.

For people of faith, very many scientists among them, believing in God makes entirely logical sense.  It is the fundamental for all their thinking.  They accept the opening words of the Bible - “In the beginning, God created the universe” (Genesis 1, verse 1), words echoed in John’s Gospel - “God made all things; no one thing in all creation was made without him” (John 1, verse 3).

For Christian people, the words of the disciple Peter about Jesus, are true of their experience too - “We believe and know that you are the Holy One who has come from God” (John 6, verse 69).

We can readily give thanks to God for great minds and for great scientists like Stephen Hawking, and we can also make the great discovery of faith that the universe is no accident, but the work of God who loves his creation and all his creatures.




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Prayer

Eternal God, we believe you are behind and beyond all of creation.  Help us to know you as God of love and purpose, and to meet you in the life of the risen Jesus.




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