Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Stephen Hawking, Heaven and Wisdom.

Photo from foxnews.com
So I pulled up foxnews.com this morning and this article was there staring me down. It seems that Stephen Hawking, who is arguably the smartest man in the world, has determined that there is no Heaven.


After relating the human brain to a supercomputer he says this,  

There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.

I will admit that the article was short and did not go into any detail as to how Mr. Hawking came to the conclusion that there is no Heaven so it is impossible for me to address his actual argument. Now that I think about it though, even if the article did give his reasoning I'm not sure I would be able to respond to it because of the simple fact that...I'm not a theoretical physicist! At any rate it did bring a thought to mind that I think applies here.That thought is about wisdom and how a persons degree of wisdom is not directly related to the amount of information they can process, the level of their IQ, or the number and types of degrees that are hanging on their wall. You might say that today we are going on a quest for wisdom. "Hold on Christian," you may be thinking, "wisdom is something that comes with age and time spent living life." Rightly so...to a degree. You see I believe that the quest for wisdom has a very definite starting point, a very clear goal and purpose and even if you are old and grey, it is possible to miss wisdom all together.

I think the best place to begin would be with a definition of wisdom. The English Word Dictionary defines wisdom as follows:

the ability or result of an ability to think and act utilizing knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense, and insight .

Webster defines it nearly the same;

The ability to understand what is right, true, or enduring; good judgment, knowledge.

In addition to that, listen to what The New Bible Dictionary has to say on the matter;

Like all Heb. intellectual virtues, wisdom (generally ḥoḵmâ, though other words are used; e.g.: bînâ, ‘understanding’, Jb. 39:26; Pr. 23:4; teḇûnâ, ‘insight’, Ps. 136:5; śeḵel or śēḵel, ‘prudence’, Pr. 12:8; 23:9) is intensely practical, not theoretical. Basically, wisdom is the art of being successful, of forming the correct plan to gain the desired results. Its seat is the heart, the centre of moral and intellectual decision (Emphasis mine).




You see, in the Biblical sense, wisdom means applying all the knowledge we have gained to reality. Even outside of Christian, or even theistic, worldviews we intuitively know that if we have all kinds of knowledge but can't apply it to our lives or the world we live in, then we are just "smart" and not necessarily "wise." So it seems to me that the formula for wisdom is knowledge + practical application = wisdom. 



For the Jew and the Christian, perhaps the most well known exposition of wisdom comes from the book of Proverbs. The first eight chapters of the book are devoted to an explanation of true wisdom. While it would be impossible to give a full description of what Proverbs has to say I would like to point out a few highlights. Most of us are familiar with Proverbs 1:7, which says, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction. This is reiterated in 2:6, For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. What this tells me is that apart from God we cannot hope to find true wisdom and even the knowledge that we think we've achieved is false. This stands in stark contrast to the ideas of Stephen Hawking when he says, 


There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, and science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win, because it works"  

My argument, from what we have seen so far from the Bible, is that science cannot give us knowledge if it is contrary to God. Let me explain this a little bit further. If science tells us that there is no God and religion tells us that there is, then one or the other is wrong. That means that if there is a God then science has given us false information. Likewise, if we find that there is no God then religion has been giving us false information. Now, I also believe that Hawking is creating an unnecessary dichotomy. It is my belief that science and religion, or science and faith, can work hand in hand and they don't necessarily preclude one another. For the bulk of human history faith has informed science rather than stand in opposition to it. It is only since the theories of Darwin have gained such popularity that this division has become common practice. My question to Hawking would be, "Where has science worked and faith failed?" Perhaps in Nazi Germany, or in the abortion clinics of the world? If science tells us that the universe came into existence without the action of a divine being and that turns out to be wrong then science has failed and we are no closer to gaining wisdom. Another question I would ask is, "How is religion NOT based on observation and reason?" Romans 1:19-20 tells us that the existence of God can be seen and observed in the world around us and that His presence is clear if we will but take a look around. If we read further in verse 21-22 we are brought right back to the issue of wisdom;

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools (emphasis mine).

You see, if we take God out of the equation we are doomed to futility and foolishness because all of the knowledge that we think we've gained is falsehood and our wisdom becomes foolishness. I Corinthians 1:30 tells us that Jesus Christ became to us wisdom from God. It is through the lens of Christ that we begin to gain real wisdom, wisdom which allows us to apply our knowledge to reality. "What is that reality?" you may ask. The reality is this; the human soul is eternal and when our bodies die we will have an eternity to deal with, despite what Stephen Hawking may say. With that reality in mind, only a fool would choose to spend it in torment or apart from God. Therefore, the only wise thing to do is put our faith, trust and hope in Jesus Christ. If Jesus was who He said He was (the evidence for this is overwhelming but I haven't the time to address it now) then any other alternative is false and putting our trust in it is unwise. The ultimate reality is Heaven or Hell and the only knowledge that is going to matter at the point when we reach eternity is Jesus Christ.

Furthermore, true wisdom is not quantified by the number of degrees on our wall. The time we spend in school trying to learn all there is to know is time wasted if it is not guided by God. Wisdom is not a product of years of life either. There are many people who have spent a long time on this earth but have missed wisdom by a mile. Wisdom is a product of God because He is the very essence of wisdom and, according to James 1:5, if we lack it we should ask God for it because He gives it to us generously. What does He give us? God does not give us pointless information. He give us true knowledge that can be applied to the reality of eternity.

There are so many "rabbit trails" that I could follow in this post and, if the Lord leads, I may take them up in future ones. There is much in this post that I have presupposed but the goal today is to address wisdom rather than origins or theistic proofs so please forgive me for not being thorough in those areas. I would like to leave you with this challenge though. If you find yourself searching for wisdom in the lecture halls of academia or the labs of science I would encourage you to stop where you are and seek it from the One who contains all wisdom. Please understand I am not saying that we should reject school and learning because it is very valuable. We can find useful wisdom in the traditional areas but only if it comes from God and applies to the reality of eternity. God is the source and beginning of all wisdom and one day we will find that all the other stuff was simply wasted time.

Godspeed,
Christian






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