Well, there you have it; or at least we will have it on September 9, when Stephen Hawking’s new book is released. According to the newest theory, nothing spontaneously creates something, which becomes the universe. There is, therefore, no need to invoke a god or gods as the ultimate explanation of things. This is a bit of a departure from Hawking’s view in A Brief History of Time, in which the door was left somewhat ajar for the possibility of a creator.
I’m not a scientist. I have read more than the average person in the field of the interplay of science and theology; but I haven’t studied all the requisite fields of knowledge to render a scientific opinion on the merits of Hawking’s proposal. I do not know, therefore, whether it actually is scientifically possible for matter to appear out of, literally, nowhere. Color me skeptical. But even if the possibility of such as origin could be established, it does not automatically negate other options. It would be, at best, one of the possible causes of the universe, not the only logical option.
In my reading of science-theology dialogs, it seems that something is consistently missed by those of atheist leanings. Perhaps in part because of their drive to find data-based answers for all beliefs, many in the scientific community believe that Christians (and other theists) believe in God because we find Him necessary to explain the world. God, according to this prevailing attitude, is the answer to why there is a world at all; and the further belief is that such a conclusion comes from the investigation of the available data. So when one refuses to search all of that data, and in fact dismisses it as irrelevant to ultimate questions, the scientist can only conclude that believers are deluded, obscurantist, and just plain stupid.
But is that really the way belief is established? Do we insist on a personal Creator because we refuse to face “the facts” uncovered by empirical investigation? The God of the Bible is not the conclusion of mankind’s search for origins, which then became the property of a privileged (male) class, which in turn wrote the stories and the rules in such a way as to secure their own privileged position. From the very beginning, God is the one who reveals Himself, not the intricacies of the natural order. And that continues to be the case for people of faith. God addresses us, makes us aware of His presence with an invitation to find meaning–not just the meaning of a natural order, but meaning for life and relationship, now and beyond the observable order.
The fact that the solution to our quest for meaning and a plausible explanation of the universe cohere with one another provides something Hawking’s proposal cannot give. It doesn’t simply explain why there is an “us” and a place for us; it explains us.