Refuting Stephen Hawking on the Necessity of God
Much has been made recently regarding Stephen Hawking’s pronouncement that God was not required for our universe to come into existence. He makes this claim in his new book ‘The Grand Design’ and again recently at a lecture recently at the California Institute of Technology. To read a brief article summarizing that lecture, you can do so here.
As one of the world’s leading physicists, his statement carries a great deal of weight and statements like this get out of academic circles and into general discussion. In fact, some people might hear what Dr. Hawking says (and he’s not alone…people like Lawrence Krauss and others also make these same points) and despair that perhaps God does not exist after all.
It is because of this concern that I wanted to offer some information dealing soundly with Dr. Hawking’s mistake. Much of what I’ve included below is in the form of links to various talks where Christian scholars (many of them leading scientists from universities such as Oxford) deal in depth with what Hawking, Krauss and other say. But let me start by giving a brief synopsis of my own…
When Hawking says that the universe can come into existence without God, he says this on the basis that the laws of gravity are sufficient to produce our universe. But this begs the question…how did the laws of gravity get here? You see, when a Christian talks about the universe coming into being we mean that the universe came into existence out of non-being. What this means is that if the universe did not exist, the laws of gravity would not exist either…there would only be non-being. Literally nothing. No time, no matter, no energy, no space…and no laws of any sort (gravity included).
Everything that comes into being has an explanation, either in the necessity of its own being or by virtue of it having been created. God exists by the necessity of His own being. Everything else exists because of God (God being the only necessarily existing entity in all reality and all other things existing only contingently). And this is Hawking’s fundamental mistake. He does not assume that the universe came into existence out of non-being. Instead, he attempts to equivocate on the term “nothing” and redefine it so it sounds like he is saying the same thing as Christians. But he isn’t. He believes something pre-existed before our universe. Namely, the laws of gravity. But these laws must themselves have an explanation. And either they exist as necessary brute facts (Bertrand Russell tried to take this position in his classic debate with Frederick Copleston) or they exist contingently and require a reason as to why they exist. Christians contend that the laws of gravity do not exist by the necessity of their own being, but are contingent. This is the problem Hawking faces. If he wants to demonstrate that gravity exists necessarily such that it is uncaused, he is welcome to give it a try. And I predict he will fail just as so many others who have tried to “explain away” God’s existence throughout the centuries.
Others are, of course, better qualified to comment on Dr. Hawking’s comments than me. For this reason, I’ve provided a few links to talks by leading scholars from prestigious universities who also happen to be Christians and have responded publicly on this subject. Within Christian and Atheist circles, this can quickly become a very heated topic, and it’s not my intent to encourage that here. My purpose is to demonstrate that there are very satisfying and reasonable (and scholarly) answers to assertions like Dr. Hawking’s. And, also, perhaps to introduce people to some of my favorite Christian scholars at the same time…
God & Stephen Hawking: Do the Laws of Physics Make God Unnecessary? by Dr. John Lennox
A Matter of Gravity by Dr. John Lennox
Ravi Zacharias & John Lennox Respond to Stephen Hawking by Drs. Ravi Zacharias and John Lennox
Origins of the Universe – Has Stephen Hawking Eliminated God? by Dr. William Lane Craig
The bottom line is that people like Stephen Hawking make some very serious and fundamental mistakes when putting their hypotheses together. Any first year student of philosophy can easily call these errors out. The links I’ve provided do an excellent job of illustrating this very thing. Dr. Hawking is wrong when he says God is not necessary. In fact, God is absolutely necessary for everything you and I know of as reality. It is my sincerest hope and prayer that people like him and Lawrence Krauss (and many atheists with whom I’ve discussed these matters over the years) will turn away from their non-belief and see the God of all creation who invites all of us into fellowship with Him.