Stephen Hawking has written a new book, The Grand Design, in which he makes statements about God, or at least asserts that God is not necessary to explain the universe.
This isn’t a post about that. James Anderson wrote a helpful reply if you are interested in exploring that issue further.
No, this is a lament: There are ‘Christians’ who seem to think Dr. Hawking’s disability is worth mentioning in their usually-inadequate defense of God or the Bible. And by ‘mentioning’ I mean they use it in ways to make fun of or defame Dr. Hawking.
There were enough negative references to his disability on Twitter that a Washington Post blogger wrote a column on it.
I was hoping this was an over-statement – how could anyone be so rude? Or childish? Or uninformed? Unfortunately, after I read the comments attached to a couple of major newspaper articles, I saw the same thing as that Post blogger. It wasn’t many, but enough to be discouraging.
I expect this new book from Dr. Hawking will be an item for a while. So, even if it is only a few who conduct themselves badly in public, let’s help people in our churches understand two things:
- Stephen Hawking is not an idiot; Christians (and everyone else) look foolish when calling him that. He may be an opportunist – there is a reason he writes ‘popular’ works rather than limiting his writings to peer-reviewed journals and seminars – but he is no ‘idiot’ in the sense that most people mean.
- Dr. Hawking’s disability is no indicator of his standing before God. God is completely free to do whatever he wants to with his creation, including creating geniuses to live with significant disabilities who will deny him.
I find it difficult to do this without being judgmental or self-righteous. That, of course, doesn’t invite people to consider the heart-work that needs to happen which results in a changed attitude and actions. It does us no good if people feel bullied into silence.
Yet, when people in our churches make a direct connection between disability, disease or suffering and God’s displeasure, they are contradicting the Biblical accounts of Job, the Apostle Paul and the man born blind. That can’t go unchallenged, even if the challenge needs to be winsome.
And that ultimately becomes a statement about God and his sovereignty over his creation.
Of course I disagree with Dr. Hawking’s conclusions about God. That breaks my heart.
But it also breaks my heart when those who claim the name of Jesus decide sarcastic remarks about disability will somehow make Jesus look beautiful.