Stephen Hawking’s atheism: 3 responses

Great Read from Dr. Jim Denison:

Dr. Jim Denison | March 16, 2018

Stephen Hawking was one of the greatest physicists in history. One professor predicted that scientists “will still be talking about Hawking radiation,” his theory about black holes, a thousand years from now.

His spirit was buoyant as well; an actor who played him in a 2014 biopic called him “the funniest man I have ever met.” I was deeply impressed upon reading his bestseller, A Brief History of Time, and am not surprised that it has sold more than ten million copies.

After Hawking died this week, I read his autobiography, My Brief History. His story is both fascinating and tragic, with enormous implications for our faith and culture today.

He “wanted to fathom the depths of the universe”

The facts of Stephen Hawking’s life read like a novel. He was born on January 8, 1942, exactly three hundred years after the death of Galileo. He did not learn to read until the age of eight. He was never ranked more than halfway up his academic class.

When Hawking was diagnosed with ALS at the age of twenty-one, doctors predicted that he would live only another two years. He survived his disease for fifty-five years. As his body deteriorated, eventually he used a single cheek muscle to control communication devices, writing only a few words a minute.

Nonetheless, he was able to produce groundbreaking scientific work. He was especially known for his explanation of the behavior of black holes. From the beginning of his academic career, Hawking “wanted to fathom the depths of the universe,” seeking to understand “where we came from and why we are here.”

Several times in his autobiography, he states that he had a “satisfying life.” He points to his successful career, the fact that he was married twice and had three “beautiful and accomplished children,” and his global travels and meetings with world leaders.

He concludes his book: “I’m happy if I have added something to our understanding of the universe.”

Three arguments for atheism

Some atheists reject God’s existence because they cannot reconcile an all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful God with evil and suffering in the universe. Tragedies such as yesterday’s bridge collapse in Floridacause skeptics such as Sam Harris to proclaim that there is no God.

Hawking’s atheism was of another kind.

He stated clearly: “We are each free to believe what we want and it is my view that the simplest explanation is that there is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate.”

It’s not that Hawking had no exposure to biblical truth. His father insisted that he study the Bible as a child for its literary value. In My Brief History, he tells of working with a research assistant who “was an evangelical Christian, and he did his best to convert me when he later came to live with us in Cambridge. He used to read me Bible stories at breakfast.” The physicist assured him that he “knew the Bible well” from earlier studies. Hawking even helped smuggle Bibles into the Soviet Union at the request of a Baptist who was part of his travel group.

In A Brief History of Time, he referred to the “mind of God.” However, he meant only “the embodiment of the laws of nature.” In my research, I found at least three reasons why Hawking chose atheism.

First, he rejected the concept of a personal God with whom we can have a personal relationship: “When you look at the vast size of the universe and how insignificant an accidental human life is in it, that seems most impossible.” But why? Why is the apparent insignificance of a human life relevant to the existence of a Creator and the possibility of relationship with him?

Second, he became convinced that “spontaneous creation” explains the existence of the universe, with no need to appeal to a Creator. But his theory requires the prior existence of gravity. As Oxford mathematician John Lennox notes, Hawking must then explain how gravity came to be. He must also explain how a law can create physical reality (for instance, Newton’s laws of motion do not cause a moving car to exist). And, even given Hawking’s parameters, could God not have designed a self-creating universe?

Third, he asserted: “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

But computers and people are far more different than we are alike. This is what philosophers call a “category mistake,” like asking the color of seven or the weight of a circle. The fact that computers have no afterlife bears no relevance to an afterlife for humans.

Upon this mistaken logic, Hawking tragically risked his eternity.

“I am the bread of life”

Why does Stephen Hawking’s atheism matter today?

Imagine what his brilliant mind could have contributed to humankind if it had been empowered by the Spirit of God. Imagine his influence as an intellectual Christian. And imagine his eternal reward if he had turned from the creation to its Creator, trusting his soul to our Savior.

If Christians do not grieve the deaths of Stephen Hawking and other non-Christians, something is wrong. We are then implicit universalists, ignoring the fact that “whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18). Such a person is not in the “book of life” and will spend eternity separated from God in hell (Revelation 20:15).

If people could go to heaven without Jesus, why did Jesus die for us? Why did Paul have “great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart” for his fellow Jews who had rejected the gospel (Romans 9:2)?

Our Savior’s invitation is still open: “I am the bread of life; whoever come to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). But we must turn from ourselves to our Maker: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all” (v. 63).

Beware the “illusion of knowledge”

Ironically, Stephen Hawking was convinced that “the greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” However, his rejection of God was one such “illusion of knowledge.” Now, tragically, he knows better.

Are you praying for the non-Christians you know to know the Truth before it is too late?

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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What “Living Biblically” says about religion and culture today

Great read by Dr. Jim Denison. Enjoy.

Television is producing more shows with religious themes, as the sitcom Living Biblically illustrates. The show depicts a lapsed Catholic who is married to an atheist and decides to live by the literal commands of Scripture with the help of a Jewish rabbi and a Catholic priest. I found it mildly humorous at times, cringeworthy at others.

Other religiously themed shows include a young man preparing for his bar mitzvah, a young genius who struggles with his mother’s Christianity, and a stand-up comic who wrestles with his faith.

What they seem to have in common is this: they treat Christianity as a religion more than a relationship.

“That’s easy-it’s grace”

In What’s So Amazing About Grace?, Philip Yancey describes a conference on comparative religions in which experts were discussing whether any specific belief was unique to Christianity.

The debate went on for some time, until C. S. Lewis wandered into the room. “What’s the rumpus about?” he asked. He was told that his colleagues were discussing Christianity’s unique contribution among the world’s religions. Lewis responded: “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.”

When we focus on the grace-centered, intimate communion we can have with God Almighty, those who don’t understand may mock us for listening to our Father’s voice. Recall Joy Behar’s claim on The Viewthat Mike Pence, who claims to hear God’s voice, has a “mental illness.”

As Eric Metaxas notes, “If Mike Pence is crazy for believing he hears God’s voice, then so are George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, FDR, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama-all of whom said they listened for the still, small voice of God.”

The good news is that some in Hollywood really understand the good news.

For instance, Letitia Wright, who plays Princess Shuri in Black Panthertold an interviewer that a few years ago, “I was pretty much obsessed with acting, and it became my world. It became what I used to be happy.” So she went on a hiatus from acting: “I said, ‘Okay, Jesus, I’ll try you,’ and I haven’t looked back since.”

Now, she says, “I don’t really consider myself religious. I view it more as a relationship. And if anyone thinks that’s weird, then okay.”

When we work, God works

How can you and I build a more transforming, empowering relationship with the Lord of the universe?

Our self-reliant culture would expect me to encourage more church attendance, Bible reading, time in prayer, and other spiritual activities as the answer to the question. The brilliant theologian Henri Nouwen agreed that such disciplines are vital: “Discipline is the other side of discipleship. Discipleship without discipline is like waiting to run in the marathon without ever practicing. Discipline without discipleship is like always practicing for the marathon but never participating.”

Then comes the grace-centered surprise: “It is important, however, to realize that discipline in the spiritual life is not the same as discipline in sports. Discipline in sports is the concentrated effort to master the body so that it can obey the mind better. Discipline in the spiritual life is the concentrated effort to create the space and time where God can become our master and where we can respond freely to God’s guidance.

“Thus, discipline is the creation of boundaries that keep time and space open for God. Solitude requires discipline, worship requires discipline, caring for others requires discipline. They all ask us to set apart a time and a place where God’s gracious presence can be acknowledged and responded to.”

Said simply: When we work, God works. When we make time for God, we position ourselves to receive what his grace intends to provide. We cannot earn what he can only give. But we must be close enough to receive what he wants to bestow.

“O Lord, do it again!”

Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). His Father promised us, “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known” (Jeremiah 33:3). Our Savior added: “Whoever is of God hears the words of God” (John 8:47).

But know this: after God speaks to us, he intends to speak through us.

Yesterday I reflected on Mark Batterson’s terrific new book, Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God. I’ll close today with my favorite story from the book:

“In 1940 Dr. J. Edwin Orr took a group of Wheaton College students to study abroad in England. One of their stops included the Epworth Rectory. The rectory now serves as a Methodist museum, but it was the home of John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement.

“In one of the bedrooms, there are two impressions where it is believed that John Wesley regularly knelt in prayer. As the students were getting back on the bus, Dr. Orr noticed that one student was missing. Going back upstairs, Dr. Orr found a young Billy Graham kneeling in those kneeholes and praying, ‘O Lord, do it again!'”

Now it’s our turn.

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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Where do we go from here?

Do you ever wonder, where are you headed in this world? We are often numbed by the daily grind of routine schedules, and before we realize it, we are staring at retirement. Life is more than working until you retire. Life has many challenges so go ahead and figure out how to enjoy life as you love it out.

Take time to spell the roses, take time to enjoy a sunset or sunrise, take time to enjoy a good book, take time to relax on Sunday afternoon, take time to taste new foods, and take time to find out where you are headed.

God has an amazing world for you to live in. We are suppose to enjoy it. When Jesus was on this earth, He took time to get to know people by just being with them. Yes, He spoke and taught eternal principles, but Jesus relaxed too. He was sitting at his friends house Mary and Martha. He enjoyed spending time with friends.

Jesus knew where He was going, so He was enjoying life as He went. None of us are headed to a cross to be crucified for the weighting’s of the world’s sins, so we can cross that off our bucket list. Jesus took care of all of that stuff for us so we could know where we are going.

1 John 5:13 says this: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know you have eternal life.”

What a great verse to place assurance in our hearts about where we go from here.

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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Enter In-A Journey Through Joshua, new sermon series

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2018 is here, and it is time to start a new chapter. What better way then through the book of Joshua? Joshua is the successor to Moses. Big shoes to fill. Joshua led His people to the promised PromiseLand, a land described to be filled with milk and honey. Why this description? The reference to “milk” suggests that many livestock could find pasture there; the mention of “honey” suggests the vast farmland available—the bees had plenty of plants to draw nectar from. God’s description of the Promised Land as “a land flowing with milk and honey” is a beautifully graphic way of highlighting the agricultural richness of the land. God brought His people out of slavery in Egypt to a prosperous land of freedom and blessing and the knowledge of the Lord.

As we begin this new season at City Church Del Rio, we are “entering in” our promise land. We live among a people that desperately need to know that God is the One who will show them the way, the truth, and the Life.

JANUARY 7, 2018—OBEDIENCE IS NEVER EASY, JOSHUA 1

JANUARY 14, 2018—YOUR PAST DOES NOT DEFINE YOUR FUTURE, JOSHUA 2

JANUARY 21, 2018—POSSESS WHAT GOD HAS GIVEN TO YOU, JOSHUA 3

JANUARY 28, 2018—CHOOSING THE RIGHT LEADERSHIP, JOSHUA 4

FEBRUARY 4, 2018—GOD HAS A MARK FOR YOU, JOSHUA 5:1-12

FEBRUARY 11, 2018—DOING THE UNIMAGINABLE, PART 1, JOSHUA 5:13-6:14

FEBRUARY 18, 2018—DOING THE UNIMAGINABLE, PART 2, JOSHUA 6:15-27

FEBRUARY 25, 2018—GOD DEMANDS LOYALTY-PART 1, JOSHUA 7:1-14

MARCH 4, 2018—GOD DEMANDS LOYALTY-PART 2, JOSHUA 7:15-26

MARCH 11, 2018—GOD WILL DESTROY ALL SIN, JOSHUA 8

MARCH 18, 2018—LOVE YOUR ENEMIES, JOSHUA 9

MARCH 25, 2018—TO SERVE AND PROTECT, JOSHUA 10:1-15

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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Anticipating the Coming King!

The advent season has come and is culminating to the ultimate birthday celebration shortly on Christmas Day. As we have celebrated through, Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace, it is now time for the real star of advent, Christ! We celebrate the birth of our Messiah and Savior, Jesus. Without His birth, there is no real redemption for mankind. When Jesus was born, He changed the entire human race. He did this by relating to humans, by becoming human, by being tempted to sin, by paying our penalty for those sins, by being put to death on a cross, and by finally conquering death through a physical resurrection. That is why this time of the year is so meaningful to the world.

As God’s people wait for the return of Christ in glory to consummate his eternal kingdom. The church is in a similar situation to Israel at the end of the Old Testament: We are in exile, waiting and hoping in prayerful expectation for the coming of the Messiah. Israel looked back to God’s past gracious actions on their behalf in leading them out of Egypt in the Exodus, and on this basis they called for God once again to act for them. In the same way, we the church, during Advent, look back upon Christ’s coming in celebration while at the same time looking forward in eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom when he returns for his people. In this light, the Advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” perfectly represents the church’s cry during the Advent season:

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appears.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

While Israel would have sung the song in expectation of Christ’s first coming, the church now sings the song in commemoration of that first coming and in expectation of the second coming in the future. During this season there is much hope for many things and desires. We hope that our family will be together for Christmas, we hope that we won’t get into too much debt for the all amazing Christmas gifts we want to give. We hope that Jesus will truly be the Lord of Christmas. We hope for those things we cannot see, because that is real hope.

Malachi 3:1-5

“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years. “So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty.”

I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart! Where? Down in my heart! Where? Down in my heart! I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart to stay! If you were around in church as child, that was one of the bible songs that would be sung a long way back. It is such a neat little way to have children express a simple fact. When Jesus rules your heart, you have joy, great joy. We should be cheerful and happy about it!

One day God loved us so much that he sent Jesus to be born as the Messiah for all people of all the earth for all time. He demonstrated His love for us even though we ourselves are a sinful people. He said I will love them anyway.

Romans 5:8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

We are to celebrate God’s love in anticipation of the coming King. First by birth, but next time, by His return to culminate a Kingdom that has already been established. He will finish the work set before Him on that Day!

This is the Christmas season, and we are reminded year after year about the greatness of God through the birth of Jesus Christ. We celebrate every December 25 as a pillar of our faith. We give gifts to each otters in remembrance of the first gifts brought to the newborn King! Oh what a fantastic time of the year! Unto Us A Savior Is Born!

Stand & Read—John 1:1-5;14

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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5 Reasons the Homogeneous Church is Declining and Dying

This blog post comes from Thom Rainer.

Maybe you belong to one of these churches?

When you are in your worship services next Sunday, look at the people around you.

Do they all look like you? Do they all come from the same economic backgrounds? Are they are about the same age?

If so, you are in a homogeneous church. As the old homogeneous unit principle implied, “We attract people who are like us.” That principle was a point of contention and debate for decades. Is it descriptive (a reality observed), or is it prescriptive (a strategy pursued)?

I contend that the healthy church in America will be neither. Indeed, I contend that the homogenous church is declining and dying.

Why? Here are five key reasons.

1 We live in a heterogeneous culture. I grew up in the racist world of the Deep South. We whites had our own churches, places of business, and country clubs. No one else was allowed. If you went to the doctor, there were separate waiting rooms for whites and African Americans (“Coloreds”). It was abysmal. It was sickening. I know. Racism is not gone. But I am grateful that my children and grandchildren don’t even know why a person of a different color should not be their friend or colleague. The culture has changed. But not all churches have changed. Those that haven’t will die.

2 Gen Z will not have a majority racial or ethnic group. Those born from 2001 to today are growing up in a generation that has no majority group. For the first time in American history, whites will be a minority with other minority groups. That is the real world. Our churches need to reflect that real world.

3 The Millennials tend to avoid homogeneous churches. This generation, born between 1980 and 2000, sees homogenous churches as aberrations. It does not reflect the reality of the world in which they live. They may visit a homogeneous church, but they likely will not return.

4 Cultural Christianity is dying. “Cultural Christians” is an oxymoron. We use that term to refer to unregenerate people who had some level of participation in a congregation because it was the culturally acceptable thing to do. It was good for business and politics. That world is almost gone. Cultural Christians could come to our segregated churches with no qualms, because they only attended to get business connections, to get votes, or just to be accepted as a member of good standing in the community. That world no longer exists.

5 Homogeneity is a form of segregation. It is not gospel-centric. This issue is the essence of the matter. When we begin to define our churches by skin color, socioeconomic class, or any other divider, we are going counter to the gospel.

Where should we begin to move our churches to reflect the centrality of the gospel? A first step is to know your community. Do the research to find out who is really in the community around your church.

Whatever path you take, get to know who is really in your community. That information will let you know if there is a divide between those who attend your church and those who live around you.

Homogeneous churches are dying. They do not reflect the gospel. It is my prayer that our churches will soon reflect this reality when we gather before the Lamb of God:

After this I looked and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10, CSB)

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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First Baptist Sutherland Springs

As I write this morning, I feel so helpless as a pastor in the light of another senseless act of violence at FBC Sutherland Springs. But that in itself is a worldly mindset. The truth is that I can do something. I can stand in the gap prayerfully and make sure that I keep my faith in tact. My strong faith can help those who truly feel helpless that were actually the ones going through this harmful tragedy. I will pray and ask my Heavenly Father to give peace, comfort, understanding, wisdom, faith, love, hope, truth, and guidance to the families left behind.

Pastor Frank Pomeroy needs us to be the arms that will hold him up in the upcoming days, weeks, months, and years. He is not immune to the loss of life, since his young 14 year old daughter was one of those loses. Paul teaches us in 1 Corinthians 12:26 –  26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. We suffer with FBC Sutherland Springs and Pastor Frank Pomeroy.

I don’t know about you, but me as a pastor must take action and begin implementing a plan to make our churches safer. Some families are thinking right now that they aren’t going back to church in light of this tragedy. No where is safe. So, what can we do? We can gather volunteers to head a security team. We can encourage those that are law enforcement in our midst to be our eyes and ears. We, of course can pray for God mighty hand of protection over our places of worship. To sit by in neutral isn’t a viable plan.

Please unite with me and so that we can work together to create a plan to strengthen our church families. Even when we are in the right place at the right time, evil can still enter our midst. God has overcome the evil one, and He will have His way in the final battle of good and evil. You see 2,000 years ago, God allowed His Son Jesus to endure the most horrific death at the hands of the enemy so that you and I could live in an eternal Kingdom with Him. Jesus is watching and He has empathy for FBC Sutherland Springs. He loves His church and He gave His life for the church.

Stay in the Light, 1 John 1:7,

Pastor Larry

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