students. It was an opportunity to help them learn how to think about scripture. Why do
we read it? What are we looking for? Do we read it literally or does the context matter?
What does it mean to say the Bible is absolutely true, but not always factual?
One of the first lectures I would give would be on the nature of God. God, as creator,
created all "things". By definition then, God could not be a "thing". God must be "no-thing"
in order to be the creator. Oh, the weeping and gnashing of teeth from parents when their
young adolescent came home and told them God was nothing. All of this was good for students
and parents as it forced them to abandon cliches about God taught in Sunday school; and let
go all the ways we anthropomorphize (whew) God. The students also discovered mystics like
St. John of the Cross and St. Theresa of Avila who talked about ascending a mountain to find
God, only to find when you got to the top you found "nada". It has been said that God created
man and then man returned the favor. Yes, the calls to the school were swift and sure, but
not career ending.
The eminent scientist Stephen Hawking has a new book out in which he claims many
universes were created the same way ours came into existence. He says there is no need to
have a God as creator. All of these various universes rise naturally out of the laws of physics
and they don't need any "super" natural assistance by God to come into existence. For some,
this maybe a shocking conclusion and may sell some books. For me, it is cause to say,
The universe is governed by the natural laws of physics, mathematics, and quantum
mechanics. The concept of anything being "super" natural is a contradiction in terms. "Super"
is used in this context as a euphemism for outside of or beyond nature. There is no existence
in any universe not governed by the natural laws as articulated by science. No matter what
the universe, the rules still apply. This also applies to God. When God acts in the universe,
the natural laws still apply. There are no exceptions. God cannot cause 2 plus 2 to equal 3
or change the speed of light. All "things" have a beginning, but God is not a "thing", and
therefore has always existed. Whatever the stuff of the "big bang" or the "big bangs", it is
not irrational to suggest all of that has coexisted with God throughout time. (Time itself is
a concept which really doesn't exist. Past, present, and future; all exist at the same moment.)
Hawking is suggesting universes can come into existence without any "super" natural help
from God. OK, so what? There is no conflict here. Believing God to be the source of physical
existence, positing God to be the source of life, even using terms like Creator for God, are not
precluded at all by Hawking's M-Theory or by string theory or the general theory of relativity.
There is no conflict between God's act of creation and the physical laws of the universe. They
can coexist quite nicely. As with Stephen J. Gould and Christopher Hitchens and others in
the Godless genre of writing, they are fighting a war against a fundamentalist view of God.
As smart as he is, Hawking makes the same mistake. If he read Alfred North Whitehead or
Charles Hartshorn, if he had the benefit of a teacher like Father Francis Baur, O.F.M. (as I did),
he would know about a theological world view called "process" theology. Cosmologists and
theologians have been thinking about all of this for a long time and long ago abandoned the
"super" natural God of the white beard for whom words like omniscient and omnipotent were
used. This is the God of those wishing to check their brains at the door and pick up their
crayons. This is the God of the Sunday school or Catechism or Catholic grammar school, but
not the God of thinking adults.
It does not require a leap of faith to believe in a God who creates and does so within the
physical laws of our universe or any other universe. It does not require one to abandon science
to believe God created "things" while remaining "no-thing". It is proof of how powerful and
ubiquitous these fundamentalistic childhood images of God are; to see the purported smartest
man in the world railing against them and making headlines by writing a book debunking the
God of our childhoods. A much better avenue of inquiry would be to ask yourself why God
created at all? What motivated the act of creation? What does it say about each of us to
acknowledge God choosing our existence? It would be fascinating to see Mr. Hawking struggle
with those questions. I struggle with them every day. What about you? What do you think?
I welcome your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org