Friday, September 17, 2010


For about eight years, I taught Hebrew and Christian scriptures to high school

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,

"...therefore what?"

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


  1. Excellent analysis Bernie.

    I'm kinda with Alan Watts on the whole "God is Creator" myth. I do not think we can separate God from the creation, just as we cannot separate time itself into unique parts - all of it exists AT ONCE - as does reality.

    The concept of creation is limited by the concept of separateness and even time - but if time is simultaneous and happening all at once, then there is no exact point of creation.

    Stephen Hawkings does make the gross blunder you point out - he is still battling with outdated concepts of God IMO. And he also makes the fatal error of deterministic reductionism to describe all phenomenon - a common error of many modern scientists today.

    "And why God created at all?"

    My best guess would be a "yearning for expression" and love for infinite potential and thus we are made in God's image, including the immortal soul and spark of divinity that can never be extinguished within each of us.

    Blessings to you Bernie.

  2. God creates so that man can learn lessons and finally learn to love and not resist all of our own painfull life lessons. The lessons that teach us to think and understand our intellligence and to someday know we are all of God's creation... just like the trillions of suns in the universe and just as important

    God Bless You Bernie

  3. You certainly do have a vivid imagination, Bernie. If you like making stuff up, go ahead, but it seems like a waste of the limited time we have to think about things.