Judging only from these quotes from Stephen Hawking, it appears that he was a deist (circa 2008) before he officially declared himself an atheist (circa 2014). If you ask me, he’s just confused.
2008 (at the Vatican with Pope Benedict for a closed-door event called “Scientific Insights into the Evolution of the Universe and of Life”): “The laws may have been decreed by God, but God does not intervene to break the laws.”
(That’s deism in a nutshell.)
2010 (talking to Diane Sawyer of ABC News): “What could define God [is thinking of God] as the embodiment of the laws of nature. However, this is not what most people would think of that God. They made a human-like being with whom one 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. There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, [and] science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works.”
(When Hawking, in a stunning leap of conjecture typical of theoretical physicists, says “They made a human-like being with whom one can have a personal relationship,” he foists a proposition not only lacking any shred of evidence but void of reason befitting an intelligent life form. Who’s this “they” he’s talking about? And is he under the impression that the God of the Bible is human-like? Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us, which is one thing, but Jesus coming to the earth veiled as a man does not mean God is human-like. Very, very far from it. Further, he claims that human life is “insignificant” and “accidental” as pure assertions rather than fact, and defying the obvious human fact of consciousness we experience every waking moment of our lives. And while it’s true that Christianity is based on authority, it’s not the human authority he probably posits, having in mind something like the Roman Catholic Church he hangs with at Vatican conferences. Biblical Christian faith is given by grace and based on the authority of God’s sovereign power coupled with observation and reason, guided and illumined by the Holy Spirit. As for “science will win because it works,” what in creation does that even mean? Win what? More souls for Satan? No need to keep score – we already know that the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. That means Satan will lose along with most souls, and Christ and His saints have already won. God has declared the end from the beginning, and it is finished in the work of Jesus Christ.)
2010: “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”
(I find it funny that the phrase, “Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing” lacks all reason. It’s a tautology extraordinaire. It’s as if Hawking’s brain gets sucked into a black hole when he tries to think about God. It only gets worse when he claims “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going,” which begs the question, “What created the matter, gravity and physical laws you call blue touch paper?”)
2011: “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.”
(Of course Hawking regards the brain as a computer. That’s idolatry, seeing ourselves in the things we make with our hands, and then worshipping those things. It’s Romans 1 through and through. As for heaven being a fairy story for people afraid of the dark, my own witness denies his claim. When I was an atheist, I didn’t fear the lights-out scenario. When I was a mystic, I didn’t fear the mystery and adventure my energy would embark on after I crossed the threshold of death. And when I was born again in Jesus Christ, I finally understood my error and now live to seek the His face, looking forward to life eternal in the Lord’s glory. My experience testifies that I went from proud and fearless to humble and fearing God, from darkness to light, from wise in my own eyes to glorying in the wisdom revealed by the Holy Spirit. As it is written, He catches the wise in their craftiness.)
2011: “Philosophy is dead. Philosophers have not kept up with modern developments in science.”
(Hawking doesn’t understand that when he endeavors to understand God, creation and the universe using his own observation and reason, he’s engaging in pure philosophy. He calls it “science,” but the Bible calls it “science falsely so called.”)
2013: “We are each free to believe what we want and it is my view that the simplest explanation is there is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realization. There is probably no heaven, and no afterlife either.”
(This is probably Hawking’s most astonishing claim in the list, “that the simplest explanation is there is no God.” He must assume that a vacuum is simpler than a fullness, overlooking the plain fact that we exist in fullness rather than non-existing in nothingness. Then he throws out another blind assertion: “No one created the universe and no one directs our fate.” Speaking of a religion based on authority, that’s exactly what you get here when a world-renowned popular physicist passes down a decree like this. The secular world worships Hawking’s magnificent brain, which happens to go into neutral, if not reverse, when he contemplates his creator.)
2014 (talking to NBC News): “Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe. But now science offers a more convincing explanation. 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.”
(When Hawking says “It is natural to believe that God created the universe,” he simultaneously contradicts himself from 2013 (“the simplest explanation is there is no God”) and endorses the veracity of Romans 1:20: “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” But the strongest confirmation of biblical truth that he unintentionally reveals follows with the line, “What I meant by ‘we would know the mind of God’ is, we would know everything that God would know.” This claim is quite eerie if you know your Bible. “But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’” (Genesis 3:4-5). And so with that knowledge, Hawking finally declares publicly, “I’m an atheist.” No surprise there, professor.)
Hawking has a yearning for knowledge, but he seeks it in his own mind and in the outer darkness where he will find only weeping and gnashing of teeth. “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise” (1 Corinthians 3:18). I pray that his ex-wife, Jane, will continue to preach the word to him with patience and sound doctrine. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.