Over the last two weeks I’ve read two enthralling books with radically different point of views.  I read these books in tandem, one chapter at a time from each, which roughly worked out to finish them both at the same time, hence the blog title.

The first book was: The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking & Leonard Mlodinow. A well-publicised book in which the authors delve deeply into M-theory and string theory in an attempt to examine the finely-tuned workings of the universe and, not so much to disprove the existence of God, rather to offer a God-free interpretation of these workings.

The second book was: God and Stephen Hawking by John C. Lennox in which Lennox issues a swift response to ‘The Grand Design’ and argues that the key points made in the book, rather than pointing us away from the notion of a benevolent creator God, actually seem to bolster the argument for His existence quite substantially.

The whole atheist/faith debate is something that fascinates me.  I am neither a scientist nor a theologian, but I have a strong, lifelong Christian belief and I find that the constant quest of science to delve deeper and deeper into the origins of the universe, far from shaking my faith, constantly informs and bolsters an unshakeable foundation of belief in an immense God the surface of whom we have barely scratched.

I honestly love atheists! Anyone who has genuinely spent time seeking the truth behind thee universe and come to a conclusion has my respect and I will happily debate the subject with them all day long.  We may never agree but I hope that we can shake hands on it and debate it again the next day.

I’ve read several of Lennox’s books now and I would recommend them to anyone interested in the topic from either side of the debate (or from none). He is Professor of Mathematics in the University of Oxford, Fellow in Mathematics and the Philosophy of Science, and Pastoral Advisor at Green Templeton College, Oxford. He is also an adjunct Lecturer at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University and at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics and is a Senior Fellow of the Trinity Forum. In addition, he teaches for the Oxford Strategic Leadership Programme at the Executive Education Centre, Said Business School, Oxford University.  Hence his academic qualifications for the debate in question are never in question.

Hawkings and Mlodinow’s argument for the beginning of the universe, as I understand it, is that, because there is a law of gravity the universe must spontaneously create itself, there is no requirement, as they say, for God to light the blue touch paper.  Lennox responds with the obvious question that if the universe came out of nothing, where and how did the law of gravity originate?  Of course our atheist friends will ask the age-old question ‘if God created everything, who created God?’ Lennox answers this succinctly by explaining that God needs no creator, he is eternal, a view shared by all of the major religions and he is personal, involved at every level in the operation of the universe and it’s inhabitants.

Their defence of the multiverse theory for me leaves a lot to be desired.  The notion that there are billions of alternate universes bubbling away independently, that only a tiny minority of these universes could support life and that we should not be surprised to find our universe obeying just the right set of laws for our existence because we must live in just the right one, seems to be a hugely philosophical and hardly scientific standpoint as there is no real scientific evidence for this.

Conversely Newton, one of the greatest scientists mankind has ever known, the discover of the very law of gravity that ‘The Grand Design’ discusses, stated that the universe was ‘created by God at first and conserved by Him to this day in the same state and condition’

In the penultimate chapter of ‘The Grand Design’ Hawkings and Mlodinow are at pains to point out the extreme fine tuning which must be in place in order for life to exist on this tiny planet.  The precise elliptical orbit of the Earth, the axis of rotation relative to that orbit, the distance of the Earth from the Sun and the mass of the Sun itself.  Whilst their conclusion is that these conditions are serendipitous enough to bring forth life, the age-old standpoint of faith in a designer surely gains some credibility here.

Psalm 19

The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
The skies display his craftsmanship.