Stephen Hawking's Last Words

Stephen Hawking passed away on March 14, prompting the expected outpouring of laudatory expressions and tributes. Hawking was born on the 300th anniversary the famed astronomer Galileo's death, and now he has died on the anniversary of fellow theoretical physicist Einstein's birth, causing many observers to look to the cosmos for some kind of scientific significance.

What we do know is this. In the 30 years since the publication of his landmark book, A Brief History of Time, Hawking has stood above all others when it comes to explaining the universe and its origins. So it is fascinating to realize that his "last words" on the subject were pretty profound, and they came just a few weeks ago on StarTalk, the popular science program on NatGeo hosted by astronomer and bestselling author Neil deGrasse Tyson.

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Dealing With Doubt About God

Why do people doubt God? Some doubt God exists, others doubt he cares all that much about us, and some question his very goodness. If you have doubts about God, you’re in good company. Everyone from the disciples of Jesus to 20th century saints have had their doubts about God in one way or another.

In fact, if you’ve never had doubts, you probably haven’t thought all that much about your faith. Even more importantly, if you’ve never doubted God, you probably haven’t grown all that much as a Christian.

Fuller Theological Seminary conducted a study of young adults who left church after high school. The researchers came to this conclusion: “The more college students felt they had the opportunity to express their doubt while they were in high school, the higher [their] level of faith maturity and spiritual maturity” (www.fulleryouthinstitute.org/college-transition).

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When Nature Groans

You can’t help but feel a sense of helplessness when natural disasters occur. Because their origin comes from this planet we call home, we all feel the sting when the earth convulses or the seas spawn fierce storms. And we wonder: Can we trust this life-giving sphere that is usually so good to us? It all seems rather capricious, especially when those who are least able to handle the terrestrial smack of earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods are often hit the hardest.

How do we deal with this kind of suffering? What are our options? We can believe that nature has run amok and out of God’s control. Or we can believe that nature is all there is, with no God to care or wield any authoritative restraint. Those are the options of people who have given up on God. They aren’t very comforting, are they?

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The Wonder of Our Solar System

For about two minutes on Monday, August 21, the Great American Eclipse will darken skies across the U.S. as the moon passes between the sun and Earth, casting its shadow on the planet. According to John Dvorak, a trained lunar scientist and author of Mask of the Sun: The Science, History and Forgotten Lore of Eclipses, people have always ascribed spiritual importance to eclipses. Historically, solar eclipses have been understood as powerful manifestations of God’s greatness.”

In our book, Creation and Evolution 101, we show how our own solar system, one of billions in the Milky Way Galaxy, demonstrates God’s greatness and creative power.  It has certain features that are not common to all other solar systems. Not only are these features unique, but they are also necessary for life to exist.

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Why We Can't See God

Even though you may be convinced God is real, are there times in your life when God feels distant and hidden? It’s okay to admit it. King David was being very honest when he wrote, 

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? (Psalm 13:1)

So why do people who believe God exists sometimes lose sight of God? Here are several possible reasons.

We take general revelation for granted. Our consciousness becomes callused to God’s creation; over a lifetime, the miraculous seems commonplace and we forget to notice that the wonder of the natural world reveals God. 

We’re using only our eyes. Jesus confronted a woman at a well who was struggling to believe. He told her, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). The woman was looking only with her eyes, when she should have been seeing Jesus by faith.

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Are Near-Death Experiences for Real?

Remember all those books about people who died, went to heaven, and then returned to life with stories of their celestial vacation? They were referred to as “heaven tourism” books, and whether or not you are one of the millions of people who read one, you have to wonder. Are these Near Death Experiences (NDEs) for real or figments of over-active imaginations?

If you go by the immense popularity of books like Heaven Is for Real, a multi-million-selling book about a boy who dies and goes to heaven and comes back, the least you can say is that people are very curious about this question. They want to know if NDEs are for real, and by implication, if heaven is for real. Here’s our quick response.

If the historic words of Jesus, who actually died and came back to life, are not enough to convince someone that heaven is for real, why would the words of a little boy do the trick? Do the subjective words of everyday people carry more weight than the Bible? Maybe we’re being a little harsh. Personal experiences count for something, and millions of such experiences can’t be dismissed out of hand. Something is going on.

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More Than One Way to Jesus?

Jesus insists and Christians believe that he is the only way to God (John 14:6), but is it possible that there are many ways to Jesus? Theologian Peter Kreeft asks the question this way: “What subjective relationship must one have with Jesus in order to be on the right way?”

Some insist you merely need to say a prayer inviting Jesus into your heart. Others suggest it isn’t enough to reduce your salvation to a “magic formula,” that there needs to be true repentance, or a desire to turn away from sin. But was the thief on the cross next to Jesus sorry for his sins? All we know from the text is that he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom,” to which Jesus answered, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:42-43).

What about the Old Testament saints? How were they saved? James the apostle, writing about the kind of faith it takes to please God, said that “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (James 2:23). Abraham didn’t know Jesus, but he experienced the righteousness of God extended to sinful people through Jesus.
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How Do You Explain the Trinity?

You have probably heard some illustrations that are supposed to help explain the Trinity. One of the most common examples is the egg. Everyone knows an egg has three elements: the yoke, the white, and the shell. Each element is distinct from the other, yet they all combine to make up an egg. Just like the Trinity, right? Well…not really.

Yes, all three elements of the egg make up the egg, but each element by itself isn’t an egg. You can’t isolate the shell and say, “This is an egg.” The next time you have guests for breakfast, try scrambling up a couple of eggshells for them. We guarantee they will think you’re one egg short of a full omelet.

The shell is part of the egg, but separated from the other two parts, it isn’t truly an egg. By comparison, if you isolate Jesus or the Holy Spirit or God the Father and say of each one, “This is God,” you would still be right. They are all God, but they are not each other. Jesus is equal to God, but He isn’t God the Father. The Holy Spirit is equal to Jesus, but the Holy Spirit isn’t Jesus.

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The Benefit of Doubt

The following is an excerpt from the new book, Answering the Toughest Questions About God and the Bible by Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz.

God isn’t surprised when people doubt him. It doesn’t even bother him. How do we know this? Because of the way Jesus treated one of his disciples, famously (or infamously) known as Doubting Thomas. Jesus had been crucified, was dead and buried. But he rose again and appeared to more then five hundred people, including his disciples—except for one.

It seems Thomas was missing when Jesus first appeared to his followers, and even though his colleagues told Thomas about the risen Lord, he refused to believe. “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). Talk about a tough sell!

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Will Animals Be in Heaven?

This is a broad question that is easier to answer than you might think. The Bible talks about a “new heaven” and a “new earth” (Revelation 21:1). Heaven is not just a place “out there,” but also a place “down here.” Heaven will not only be a spectacular Holy City, but also an incredible “earthly” place of astounding variety and beauty.

The book of Genesis tells us God created the heavens and the earth with an extravagance of flora and fauna (plants and animals) necessary for our survival and enjoyment. The prophet Isaiah declares, “the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3). Even after the fall, God’s glory is evident, though clouded somewhat by sin. But in heaven God’s glory will once again be on full display in everything he created (Habakkuk 2:14), including animals.

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About
Christianity 101 is a collection of books and digital resources by Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz that talk about God in a way that encourages people to grow in their faith.


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