If you made the assumption that Steven Hawking arrived at his theories about God as a result of intense scientific investigation, you are mistaken. History reveals that Steven Hawking’s beliefs about God have remained relatively unchanged since he was a young teenager. The most influential person in Hawking’s life was his mother Isabel. Isabel Hawking was a member of the communist party in
Faith as the Universal Starting Point
G.C Berkouwer wrote,
For the riddle of sin is the same as the essence of sin, with its antinormative character and illegality. It is the same as the senselessness of sin. Therefore, since every "unriddling" of sin implies a discovery of "sense" where no sense can possibly be found, the very notion of an "unriddling" is impossible. One cannot find sense in the senseless and meaning in the meaningless." [Berkouer, G.C. Sin, Studies in Dogmatics, 134.]If it is true that faith drives human behavior, then the converse must be true as well. Since God is the source of all lawful predication, it must follow that thinking properly also equals thinking rationally, that is if we assume that God is infinitely rational in nature. And Scripture certainly presents God in this fashion.
Scott Oliphint writes,
Given that unbelief is at the root of quintessential sin, it is therefore, necessarily, quintessentially irrational. [Oliphint, K. Scott. The Irrationality of Unbelief. Revelation and Reason, 60]Since God is the source of proper reasoning, proper thinking, logic, if you will, then it is impossible to think reasonably, logically, soundly, rationally if you will, apart from God. Paul describes the irrational lifestyles of unbelievers in Romans 1. K. Scott Oliphint does a brilliant job of exegeting Romans 1:18-32 in the book, Revelation and Reason on pages 59-73. We say that someone who touches a hot stove knowlingly, thinking they can do so without getting burned, is behaving irrationally. Hence we may generalize that knowingly going against truth is irrational. Someone once said to me that you think your right about this subject and that anyone who disagrees with you is wrong. Well, I sure try to think that way. Could you imagine what people would say if I confessed that I knew I was wrong about something but still believed I was right about it too? We classify such thinking as irrational. Of course we think others are wrong about a matter if we have a contrary view of it. That is only reasonable! That is rational thinking. What is irrational is that we know the truth about something, but we refuse to accept it and choose rather to believe the contrary. That is irrational. And this is precisely Paul's point in Romans 1:18-32. Paul says in verse 18, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness." The Greek word suppress means to prevent the doing of something, to hold down, to hinder, prevent and restrain. And then Paul goes on to say that that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. There is no such thing as a person who does not know about God. Men know that God exists. There are no real atheists. Scripture explicitly teaches this fact.
The finite nature of man makes faith necessary regardless of the method man uses in his search for truth and his claim to knowledge. As finite creatures our primary relationship to truth, to knowledge, to understanding, may best be described as interpretive. We do not establish truth. We do not determine what 'is' or even how things 'are.' We study, we observe, we research in order to know, to understand, what is true. That is the very best we can do. Now, before those of you who are specifically educated in theology and/or philosophy conclude I have run off the proverbial agnostic cliff, allow me to clarify. While it is true that we are creatures confined to the realm of interpretation, that does not ipso facto eliminate the possibility of true knowledge. Our interpertation of life, literature, nature, human behavior are often spot on. And God is the reason for that. God has endowed human beings with the ability to adequately interpret their world so that they may arrive at truth. While this endeavor is wrought with challenges and many perils, it can be engaged in successfully. Suffice it to say that for the believer, the one thing you should take solice in is the fact that the unbeliever is in the same interpretive position you are in. Well, sort of. Actually, you are much better off. But space constraints prevent a more robust discussion of this fact at this time.
The Scientific Method (Empiricism) Requires Faith
According to Merriam Webster, the scientific method can be defined as follows: principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.
First one must understand the any principles man uses to guide his procedures are unavoidably subjective. This does not make them wrong. It merely suggests that a degree of interpretation went into formulating the rules. Anywhere there is interpretation, there is faith in something. Whether that faith is justified or not is another question altogether. I am not concerned with justification at this point. My only concern is to demonstrate that we are all in a similar boat.
Second, recognition of a problem is not as easy as the definition might suggest. This is because there are no brute facts. They simply don't exist. This was established above when we demonstrated that man is a creature confined to an interpretive nature. There are only interpretations. They may be correct or incorrect.
Finally, even the idea of testing hypotheses involves faith in the idea that we have our standards right. We are testing our discoveries against a standard that is subject to our own finite understanding. And that understanding is confined to interpretation as well. In some cases the interpretation is right, but in others it is wrong. But since we are the finite creatures we do not get to establish right and wrong. We can only discover it. Created, finite beings can never establish morality without that morality being arbitrary. Morality predates human beings and because of this we can only discover it. This truth also applies to the natural world. The truth of the operation of the natural order predates human beings. The best we can do is interpret accurately and arrive and an understanding of how things operate. But this too requires faith.
Exististentialism (Human Experience) Requires Faith
At the heart of existentialism is the idea or belief that existence takes precedence over essence. In other words, meaning and value are found in being, living, willing, and acting. [Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics] The individual is valued over society. Morality is not discovered, but rather established. And it is established to serve the individual, not the individual the ethical. This is why we see people argue irrationally when it come to moral law. The influence of existentialism on western culture and even the church has been profound. Taken to extremes, existential lends itself quite easily to mysticism. Like the scientific method, existentialism requires a radical faith in human experience. This is a highly subjective worldview, and due to it's emphasis on individual experience, it requires extreme faith in both human experience and the individual. Such a faith is untenable. That is, it cannot be defended because of it's extremely subjective nature. How can I defend truth that I allegedly arrive at through my experience? It is impossible for you to experience my experience. You may experience burning, but you cannot experience my burning. For a pure existentialist, one cannot even know if my burning is similar to other's burning. They have to take it by faith. So for the existentialist, faith in experience and the individual is absolutely necessary. But that faith is a radical faith anchored in the individual. This, of course, is a vicious circle. Circularity is unavoidable, but vicious circles should be shunned.
Mysticism Requires Faith
Mysticism involves the idea that one can attain an intuitive knowledge of truths through meditation. Truth is discoverable through the use of human consciousness. As one might imagine, incredible faith is placed in human consciousness, not to mention the notion that such things exist and are discoverable to begin with. One may say that mysticism requires a "leap in the dark" in some respects. Mystical experiences are not self-authenticating, they are highly subjective, and are unverifiable. Add to this the fact that even these experiences are interpretations and one can easily see that a great deal of faith is required for mystics.
The Profound Difference in Biblical Faith
Now one may be tempted to think that I consider the faith of empiricists, existentialists, and mystics to be on par with Christians. Nothing could be further from the truth. Before closing this article, I want to make it clear that Biblical Faith is not the same as faith that is spoken of in common vernacular today. The truth is that there is a remarkable difference between the two. Merriam Webster defines faith as "unquestioning belief that does not require proof or evidence." This can be seen in all systems of faith that are of the worldly brand. When you take every other system into consideration, they all end with this definition of faith. There is an unquestioning faith in the existence of brute facts for the empiricist. There is an unquestioning faith in human experience for the existentialist. And there is an unquestioning faith in human consciousness for the mystic. At bottom, such thinking is unavoidable to maintain these positions. It goes without saying that I am not dealing with agnosticism.
The Greek word for faith used in Scripture is PISTIS or PISTEUO. It means "to believe to the extent of complete trust and reliance—‘to believe in, to have confidence in, to have faith in, to trust, faith, trust." Biblical faith is grounded in the metaphysical reality of God. It does not come as a result of human reasoning, research, investigation or any other means of human ingenuity. It is a gift of God. (Eph. 2:8-10) Men do not believe in Christ, not because they simply choose not to believe. They refuse to believe because they are evil. They are not evil because they do not believe. They do not believe because they are evil. (John 8:42-47; 10:26) Faith is a gift from God. Faith is more than mere mental assenting to the fact of God's existence. It goes far beyond human predication. It works itself out in the deepest corners of our heart and soul and can be seen in our behavior. Biblical faith is an unwavering, unshackable commitment to craft our lifestyles after Christ. Biblical faith produces a burning desire to please God in EVERYTHING we do! Biblical faith, the kind of faith imparted by God through Christ results in a complete surrender of self do the things God has said in Scripture He finds pleasing. Biblical faith is the strongest of all human convictions because it is anchored in the love of God. There is nothing stronger than biblical faith.
Stephen Hawking exercises a great deal of faith when he says there is no God and that heaven is a "fairy tale." He came to this conclusion before he did an ounce of scientific investigation. His presupposition was "no God" and every interpretation he makes regarding what he finds in natural phenomenon is interpreted through that grid. In short, Hawking has incredible faith. It is just misplaced.