Who doesn’t like Stephen Hawking?

For 49 years he has “lived with the prospect of an early death” from Lou Gehrig’s disease, yet he has fought the disease with remarkable courage.

His “A Brief History of Time” has sold 9 million copies and almost makes astrophysics understandable to the rest of us.

Recently, Hawking has been in the news for bringing clarity to his view on God and the afterlife.

“I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail,” said Hawking. “There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

Hawking believes the afterlife (and God) is a fairy tale for those “afraid of the dark” and that the human brain is a computer. Is the human brain a computer? Do you reboot it in the morning? Do you add software programs at will?

Is it appropriate to compare the human brain, let alone a person, to a computer?

Herein is the deception: The human person is not a logical machine explained solely with rational categories, or else there would be no problem “shutting it down” when “hardware” problems began to emerge in the late decades of life.

If Hawking’s analogy doesn’t work at the end of human life, why would we suppose it works beyond life?

Hawking’s logic is irrefutable – if we assume solely the framework of science and what we can measure and weigh.

The Far Right in this country has made religion sound ridiculous with its creation science and the like. A far more reasonable position is to affirm the reality of science and religion (reason and revelation): Science describes what is (as best it can at the time) and religion reaches beyond physical manifestations to speak of the essence of things (their meaning).

This dichotomy extends beyond religion. Picasso’s art often spoke to the real essence of things beyond mere physical manifestation; thus, his distorted and twisted images. His art drove home the point that more is going on than meets the eye.

I acknowledge some beliefs about the afterlife (and God) are fanciful and without any dimension of logic, but believing the brain (person) is a computer is a fairy tale all its own.

Assuming science alone is the definitive context for understanding the human situation is short-sighted and narrow-minded. It is playing with half a deck of cards.

Reason and revelation belong together – even when it doesn’t seem like it. One without the other is – a fairy tale.

Ron Crawford is president of the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. This column first appeared on his blog.

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