British scientist Steven Hawking is reported to have recently said that heaven is “a fairy story” for people afraid of the dark. As those who believe in heaven, we can either respond with indignation, or we can engage the discussion thoughtfully with transformed minds (Romans 12:2). And when we do, we see that maybe he has actually hit the nail on the head and just doesn’t realize it.
If one is operating from a naturalistic perspective, Hawking has spoken the truth. Humans are just another animal with no reason to expect any existence beyond physical death. But consider another set of assumptions, one with room for the infinite and the eternal. From this framework, “fairy story,” rather than meaning something that is not real, serves as a decent synonym for transcendent reality, a legitimate metaphor for what lies beyond our daily experience.
Hawking uses the term to dismiss what he cannot see. After all, no one operating from an atheistic worldview can account for anything outside the boundaries of that perspective. In other words, his atheistic doctrine, by definition, denies transcendence. He has bumped into the ceiling of his perceptions. His worldview box renders him oblivious to what is outside that box. As Darrow Miller says in a forthcoming book, Atheism … denies God. Nature is all that exists. Man is the center of the universe. There is no revelation, only reason.
But just because your worldview can’t explain a phenomenon doesn’t mean it isn’t real. A blind man may dispute the appearance of rainbows, but what court would admit his testimony?
Hawking’s brilliance deserves our respect. Yet he could be the 21st century equivalent of those Jesus called “the wise and learned.” At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. (Matthew 11:25, NIV)
Jesus didn’t tell fairy stories, but he did use parables to disguise the truth from foes while disclosing it to friends. The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, “though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.” (Luke 8:10 NIV, emphasis added)
- Gary Brumbelow