Stephen Hawking, the renown physicist, and avowed atheist died Wednesday. Hawking, who was 76, wasn’t expected to live past age 25. When he was 21 he was diagnosed with ALS, the incurable neurodegenerative disease. Although he beat the odds for more than 50 years he once said that he “lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years,”
Although Hawking invoked the name of God in his book “A Brief History of the World” he later clarified it to say that he wasn’t referring to the Creator in the traditional sense. “Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist,” he affirmed in The Grand Design.
Regarding the prospects of an afterlife, Hawkins took a pragmatic view of what happens to the body. “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail,” he told the Guardian. “There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”
On another occasion, in an interview, Hawking said, “Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe. But now science offers a more convincing explanation,” he said. “What I meant by ‘we would know the mind of God,’ is we would know everything that God would know if there were a God, which there isn’t. I’m an atheist.”
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The scarcity of functioning elders (bishops, pastors) in local churches has led some Christians to conclude that they are a rare breed with rare qualities. Otherwise, they reason, why would they be so difficult to come by? Contrary to this rather discouraging view, elders do not have to be imported from outer space. They are generated from ordinary human beings from “every tribe and tongue and people and nation,” and perhaps it will help identify the reason for their scarcity if we trace, step by step, where elders originate.
First of all, and elementally, elders come from strong Christians, men and women who by the power of God have been radically reborn (John 3:3-6). Now, here are some remarkable people. They have given up everything for the Lord’s sake, claiming not even their breath as their own (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Romans 2:1-2). Theirs is a life of utter trust in the Son of God (Galatians 2:20). Why should we be surprised that something special should arise in the characters of folk like this? They will love God supremely and care about others in a self-sacrificial way.
Secondly, elders (Greek presbuteroi, older men), by definition, originate from Christians who are men. There is nothing special or remarkable or difficult here. From the outset, men as well as women have been touched by the appeal of the gospel (Acts 4:4; 5:14; 6:7; 8:12; 17:12,34) and we can logically anticipate that wherever the gospel is preached, this will continue to be so.
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Silas Barnsworthy, while hunting rabbits one day in West Texas, had the misfortune to step on a diamondback rattlesnake. The snake, unappreciative of such treatment, struck at Mr. Barnsworthy, sinking fangs into his leg, and injecting its venom. Mr. Barnsworthy made his way back to the ranch house and called for the doctor to come, informing the doctor of his mishap. The doctor came posthaste, bringing with him a supply of anti-snakebite serum. Upon entering the bedroom where Silas lay the doctor said, “I have come to save you from certain death. Here in my bag is a supply of medicine, which, if its directions are carefully followed, is guaranteed to save you. And this is the only way that you can recover from your present condition.”
Whereupon Silas expressed joy that Dr. Churndasher had come, telling him, “I know you can save me, and I have the utmost confidence in whatever you say.” He then thanked the doctor profusely for coming. As the doctor left, he placed the bottle of medicine upon the bedside table, once again stressing the importance of following the directions exactly. Silas Barnsworthy continued in bed, feeling joy for his salvation. He did not follow the doctor’s instruction concerning taking the medicine, however. He had complete trust in the ability of the doctor to save him, and in the potency of the medicine, but he did not feel it necessary to follow or obey the instructions to the letter. Silas died.
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