No one would doubt that Stephen Hawking, the Cambridge University theoretical physicist and cosmologist, is one of the more brilliant minds of recent times. The guy forgets more in a day then I’ll learn in a lifetime. The Theory of Everything, the movie of his marriages, his journey with early-onset Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS—more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease), and his rise to fame, is a great watch and stirs much thought about the nature of love, faith and science. Hawking intrigues and he has wide influence.
So, when he says something like he did recently at the Oxford Union debating society it draws no small attention. “We must also continue to go into space for the future of humanity,” he said. “I don’t think we will survive another thousand years without escaping beyond our fragile planet.” Quite a statement, and one that led to this jarring headline: “Stephen Hawking: Humans only have about 1,000 years left.”
That’s right. One of the brightest bulbs around has declared we’re in the last millennium and our salvation is escape. This is, likely, an over-simplification of Hawking’s Oxford comments, and perhaps he was just seeking headlines to keep his books selling, but let’s be honest: How many preachers would get away with such talk these days?
There is a trend currently among those contemplating the big questions: This can’t last. Do you agree? Do you sense their angst? Do you read those headlines? Do you hope as they hope? Do Hawking’s words elicit the desire to invest in NASA or the “Mars-ish” dreams of Elon Musk?
There is a strange paradox we live in within our culture: A shrugging dismissal of faith on the one hand, and an incapacity to live without it on the other. This is not meant to criticize, but rather to call Christians to new compassion, hope and boldness. We may conclude we live in a time where faith is a thing of the past for many, but this is clearly not the case. People are open to invitations to huge leaps of faith. After all, does it not take enormous faith to believe that our salvation from the ticking time bomb of a planet we inhabit is space travel? It takes a lot of faith, without awakening much hope. This is not a salvation for all, but for the wealthy and privileged. Unless, of course, Chevrolet is still around and producing economy spaceships.
I jest, but only because we don’t live a thousand years from now. And since we don’t know what tomorrow brings, we’d perhaps be wise to remember a different type of authoritative word: “But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent” (II Peter 3:8-9, New Living Translation).
In other words, the last millennium could be today—and probably is for someone somewhere—so what does that require of you and me who have been brought from darkness to light, and know a Saviour, who is full of grace and truth, and is looking for a people who bring heaven here?
Phil Wagler is pretty sure he won’t be around for the next millennium, so he’s committed to loving like Jesus right where he lives now in Surrey, BC.