The Theory of Everything

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20 NIV)

The renowned physicist, cosmologist, and author, Stephen Hawking died last week at the age of 76, living more than fifty years longer than expected after being diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, at the age of 21. When I heard the news, this verse from Romans immediately came to mind.

Just a few months ago I wrote about my first conscious awareness of an awesome Creator in a post titled Stargazing. (Click here to read)  As I gazed into that clear, starry night sky from the field behind my house so many years ago, I sensed a creation that is seemingly infinite and complex beyond my ability to understand.

“Pillars of Creation” (NASA Hubble Image)

When Stephen Hawking gazed into the heavens, he resolved to discover the scientific explanation for the creation of a universe which I find incomprehensible without acknowledging the divine Creator whose fingerprints I sensed that night in the scene above me.

Through the years, Hawking also seemed at times to be drawn to the likelihood of intelligent design. In his best-selling 1988 book, A Brief History of Time, he wrote of his goal to develop a “theory of everything” that would fully explain all physical aspects of the universe from its point of creation through today and on into the future.

Speaking of this theory of everything, Hawking closed the book with this statement:

“However, if we discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable by everyone, not just a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we should know the mind of God.”

That last sentence teased many into thinking that Hawking was suggesting a divine Creator, undoubtedly increasing the popularity of his book. In a later work, Black Holes and Baby Universes, Hawking revealed that he almost removed that last statement during proofing and acknowledged, “Had I done so, the sales might have been halved.”

Whatever hope he may have generated that he would eventually conclude the existence of a divine Creator was crushed in a book he co-wrote with Leonard Mlodinow in 2010, The Grand Design. It declares that “Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.”

In a 2014 interview, Hawking further added:

“Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe. But now science offers a more convincing explanation. What I meant by ‘we would know the mind of God’ is that we would know everything that God would know, if there were a God, which there isn’t. I’m an atheist.”

Stephen Hawking was a brilliant scientist. His knowledge of the cosmos certainly far exceeded my own. I thoroughly enjoyed the 2014 movie about his life, appropriately titled The Theory of Everything. Eddie Redmayne’s Oscar-winning portrayal of Hawking was masterful.

With great interest I have read A Brief History of Time, The Grand Design, as well as Neil deGrasse Tyson’s latest book, Astrophysics For People In a Hurry, which I found more readable, compelling, and understandable for “ordinary people” such as myself than any of Hawking’s works.

But rather than cause me to question the existence of God, those books just increase my sense of awe and wonder over the universe that we inhabit. While they offer some interesting theories, I disagree with Hawking that science offers a more convincing explanation for the creation of the universe than the book  that begins with this clear declaration – “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)

Why do I believe that statement in place of any theories Hawking or Tyson offer concerning the creation of the universe? First of all, it just makes more sense than Hawking’s theory of “spontaneous creation”. Paul’s observation in Romans 1:20 that creation has God’s fingerprints all over it is much more plausible, indeed leaving us without excuse.

More importantly, I believe the book I trust was written under the inspiration and guidance of the Creator himself. That’s why we commonly refer to it as God’s Word.

And lastly, I live by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7) – a concept that, in spite of all his brilliance and imagination, Hawking seemed unwilling to consider.

“The fact that the universe had a beginning is a very striking thing. How do you explain that unique event without God?” – Charles Townes, 1964 Nobel Prize winner, Physics


“To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name.” (Isaiah 40:25-26 NIV)

Encountering this verse in a recent morning devotion, my mind took me back to a vividly memorable night from my childhood. As the third of five children, there were times when I felt invisible to my parents.

Deciding to test if they would even miss me, one evening I wandered out to the large field behind our house intending to see how long it would take before anyone would even notice I was gone and call out for me.

As I lay down on that hard Georgia soil and gazed up, I was awestruck by one of the most breathtaking scenes I had ever witnessed. In all my years, I cannot remember a more resplendent night sky.

Those feelings of invisibility were immediately swallowed up in the celestial spectacle above me. This experience was perhaps my first conscious realization of an invisible and awesome Creator who had just made himself visible to me.

How quickly my problems seemed so small compared to the vastness of the universe on display. Little did I know at the time just how vast that universe is. The countless stars I could see that night are only a fraction of the 400 billion stars inhabiting our galaxy. Not only that, but we now know that ours is only one of 100 billion other galaxies God created, each of which swarms with hundreds of billions of celestial bodies.

As I reflect on that experience today, I’m reminded of these words penned by David:

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him.” (Psalm 8:3-4 NIV)

No matter how mindful my parents were of me that night, God certainly was, revealing just a glimpse of his glory. But it would still be years before I realized that this unfathomable Creator desired a personal relationship with me.

So the next time you begin to feel overwhelmed by life or powerless, invisible, and insignificant in the midst of it all, step outside on a clear night and look up. Gaze at the stars and consider that the One who hung each one and calls them each by name is mindful of you. He even sent his Son to die that he might have a relationship with you for all eternity.

Immerse yourself in that truth and those feelings of insignificance should quickly fade as they did for me that memorable Georgia night over fifty years ago.

A sense of the universe, a sense of the all, the nostalgia which seizes us when confronted by nature, beauty, music – these seem to be an expectation and awareness of a Great Presence.” – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

(Note: If you enjoy my posts, I invite you to join others who have subscribed to receive them by email. Just click on the “Follow” button which should appear on the screen of your viewing device as you scroll up and down and submit you email address. You will find this a convenient way to read them or save them to read later, while insuring you never miss a post.)