Does Hawking’s grand design really exclude God?

I have just finished reading Stephen Hawking’s new book, The Grand Design which was hyped more or less as the book that disproves the existence of God, or at the very least, disproves God’s involvement in the creation of our universe. In the words of the authors (it was co-authored by physicist Leonard Mlodinow), “…the multiverse concept can explain the fine tuning of physical law without the need for a benevolent creator who made the universe for our benefit.”

I am not new to books on popular theoretical physics; I have been reading them for decades. So I did not read this book as a complete novice. Similarly, I have been studying comparative religions, contemplative spirituality and mysticism for nearly my entire life (which involves more than a few decades)—so I am not new to theology or spiritual practice, either. The once groundbreaking idea of the “multiverse” has been around for years in articles published in popular science periodicals. To me, the “multiverse” concept has always made complete sense and does not challenge my idea of God in the least. It enhances it. These credentials by no means qualify me as an expert, but they do give me an educated perspective on both the subject of popular physics and the subject of God.

While reading this book, I applied the mental template of my “idea” of God to every one of the authors’ concepts, leaving myself completely open to the possibility that at any point in the book, their science may trump my faith, or at least eclipse it for a time. Was I afraid of this? No. Why would an infinite Being allow himself to be limited by me? He wouldn’t. Conversely, how much arrogance would it take for me to think that any conclusion of mine could limit God? Too much. A true seeker seeks Truth, not validation. In challenging our “ideas” of God, we are not challenging God. We are challenging our own limitations. In doing that, we are giving God room to expand. An infinite God will not disappear in the face of an honest conflict, but instead, make himself known in new ways.

At the end of the book, the authors write, “Because there is a law like gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing…” They also say, “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.”

Do either of these conclusions exclude God? Hardly.

Only if I think of God as a bigger version of the Wizard of Oz standing behind the curtain manipulating a panel of levers do I think that God is excluded from the creation of the universe based on mathematical equations or physical theory. A “Supreme Being” is not a large human. It is a “being” in the sense of “Being-ness.” God’s infinite intelligence runs through all aspects of the created world, and to my thinking, preceded them. It is this integral intelligence that allows all manner of creation, right down to unobservable quantum matter, to function without intervention. We were created with an obvious degree of self-sufficiency that is itself a manifestation of divine intelligence.

As I studied the authors’ conclusions, I asked myself—is gravity itself not a force? Where did gravity come from? And also, even if the laws and forces of the multiverse were enacted in such a way as to spontaneously create a universe (which I believe they probably were)—how does that exclude God? Did he not create the entire multiverse? And was it not an aspect of God himself who burst through the barrier of nothingness to express himself, as so many mystics write, “in the divine joy-pleasure of creation?”

God is not limited to or by anyone’s—a scientist’s or a theologian’s—imagination. God is inconceivable, indefinable, infinite. Among other things, God is Intelligence itself, Love itself, Being itself. God runs through us, and we through God. The forces of Love and Intelligence are not, as far as we now know, measureable physical forces. But they are vast and, in the grander scheme, arguably greater than gravity or electromagnetism. Rather than revel in the discoveries of their limited science, I would suggest that these authors allow their expanded knowledge of the created universe to simultaneously expand their apparently limited understanding of God.

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