So Stephen Hawking, physicist and cosmologist, has died after a surprisingly long life considering what he gallantly suffered through and despite his universally acknowledged brilliance in his area of work and interest. So it is with all of us—Death is lord! Human history (whatever one’s philosophy or theology) makes the point that when Death comes calling we go with him.
A young Bertrand Russell (agnostic or Stratonician atheist depending on one’s view) said this:
“Such, in outline, but even more purposeless, more void of meaning, is the world which Science presents for our belief. Amid such a world, if anywhere, our ideals henceforward must find a home. That man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins—all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain that no philosophy that rejects them can hope to stand…”
I’m not interested in discussing the ethical ramifications of that view. I just wish to say that if empirical science is the only voice to be heard then “unyielding despair” is an appropriate description of the human condition. All love and longing dies, all those beloved to us perish, all the longings for “justice” for the beaten and battered and butchered are just that, “longings”; longings never fulfilled and they die too. Yes, but what about “life after death”? Empirical science offers no support for that.
My suspicion is that the pervasive atheism that’s around is not the theoretical kind but the practical kind. Whether there is a God or not—He does nothing! Or He does so little that what Woody Allen said sounds right, “Whatever else we can say about him we have to admit he’s ‘an underachiever’.” Something like that. But even that response is the response of someone who has the time and interest to think about the “God question”. Practical atheism is like gentle misty rain; you walk in it and get soaked before you’re even aware of it.
Humans (there are exceptions, of course) are compelled to stay busy. They must eat so they must work, they must sleep, they must go places and come back from them, they must be educated to be employable, they must care for their children, they must wrestle with illness, bear with fierce disappoint and rejection, live by social and legal rules, and so forth. And for those in places like Syria, Yemen, Sudan and countless other hell-holes at home and abroad, things are even “busier”. They don’t have the time or energy to spare to reflect on the “God question”. Millions of them are in practice atheists; not because they have made a decision about God and jettisoned Him but because He obviously leaves them to fend and provide for themselves. Of course in times of down in the depths weariness and in anguish they wish there was someone who would throw in His divine weight to help them with a task to great for them to handle. They come across humans who seem to care, humans who pitch in and try to alleviate if not obliterate the injustice or ease some the simply unavoidable trouble in life. It’s true they know a lot of evil doers and abusers, self-serving politicians, financiers, war-mongering thugs who make a living out of promoting and sustaining war. But as they look around with life-weary eyes they now and then come across humans who care and live to help. But of God there’s no sight! Of an all-powerful and all-loving God there is less than no sight. But again, even those who “make it” tolerably well in life have to work, sleep and keep-up and God if there is one, God who seems uninvolved gets scant attention. Without His help people have to make their way through life and then…they die! Good men and women as well as evil men and women. They all die!
Russell again, “…no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins…”
There’s the philosophy of Russell and Hawking. Two brilliant mathematicians and atheists now dead! Their views shared by pantheists like Michio Kaku and Einstein and other atheists like Steven Weinberg soon to be dead.
Universal Death has the last word so they say!
And there stands Jesus of Nazareth with His consummating word; Jesus who was alive, became dead and is alive for evermore (Revelation 1:18). Immortal, glorious, the new and last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 45 and entire context) with whom a new and glorious humanity begins and in whom Death and Sin that reigns through Death (Romans 5:14, 21) are defeated. And everyone who comes to the water, in faith and trust, in being baptized into Him and rising from the watery grave in joy-filled trust do in the very act bear witness to His triumph and so proclaim UNYIELDING HOPE (Romans 6:3-6; 1 Peter 1:3; 3:21). And now they live to proclaim hope to the world!
There’s a new world coming, new world saturated with LIFE that is brimful of life; a world in which Sin in any of its forms has no place whatever and Death is like a dream that passed with the coming of the morning.