The Shameful Mocking of Stephen Hawking

Posted on March 15, 2018

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By David Ettinger

Hateful Remarks
hawkingOn Wednesday, March 14, Stephen Hawking, the brilliant and groundbreaking British theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author, died at age 76. His accomplishments are easy to find on the Internet, so there is no need to list them here. What is important to mention from a Christian perspective, however, is that Mr. Hawking was an atheist (though it is believed he did, at times, allow for the existence of a “creator”).

Shortly following the news of Mr. Hawking’s passing, Texas state representative Briscoe Cain tweeted the following: “Stephen Hawking now knows the truth about how the universe was actually made. My condolences to his family.” As I perused other stories regarding Mr. Hawking’s death, I saw a slew of similar remarks in the Comments section, quite a few communicated with venom and hatred. All these were by Christians or those who consider themselves Christians.

Some of these comments were made in a melancholy fashion, lamenting the fact that another soul passed from this world without knowing the Lord Jesus. (Such is my feeling regarding Mr. Hawking.) The majority of the comments, however, were done in a gloating, almost celebratory manner, and this cannot be categorized as anything other than shameful mocking – something Christians should never be guilty of.

The Passing of Unbelievers
What should be the Christian’s attitude when unbelievers die? Is gloating and celebration proper, or does the Bible teach some else?

sadnessIn the Book of Ezekiel, God calls upon the prophet to preach righteousness and repentance to the people of Israel, even to the most rotten of them. The reason for this, in God’s own words, is clear: “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’”

Just to be clear, the words “death” and “live” are not talking about death and life in this world, because everyone lives and dies. The meaning here is clearly eternal life and death.

In the New Testament, the Lord, who never changes (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8), repeats the sentiment. The apostle Peter writes: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

These verses have all kinds of meanings for some, particularly Calvinists, but I take them at face value: I believe God means it when He says He wishes for no one to have eternal damnation, but to have everlasting life with Him. This should also be the attitude of all Christians.

A Warning against Mocking and Gloating
If there is one book of the Bible which serves as a warning against mocking and gloating, it is Obadiah. In this tiny 21-verse Old Testament masterpiece, the wicked nation of Edom is condemned – and ultimately destroyed – for its arrogance and cruelty, among which gloating is included.

obadiahAt a time when Israel was attacked by a heathen nation (read 2 Chronicles 21:12-17), the Edomites took it upon themselves to add insult to injury. They went in behind Israel’s attackers and looted and assaulted the oppressed Israelites. And when some of the Hebrews escaped, the Edomites took it upon themselves to either kill the escapees, enslave them, or turn them over to their original attackers (Obadiah verses 10-14).

In verse 12, God rebukes Edom: “You should not gloat over your brother in the day of his misfortune, nor rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their destruction, nor boast so much in the day of their trouble.” As punishment, God says: “As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head” (v. 15).

Yes, Israel was the object of punishment, but that was between the nation and her God. Edom had no right to gloat over Israel’s misfortune, and God was furious at the Edomites because of it.

Mr. Hawking’s Passing
The same applies to the death of Stephen Hawking, and indeed for all unbelievers. When unbelievers die, what happens to their souls is between them and God. However, one thing we can be sure of: God takes no pleasure in their passing, and neither should believers.

Regarding Mr. Hawking, believers should be saddened over the fact that a man who contributed so much to this world left us without accepting Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior (barring an 11th-hour conversion). Conversely, gloating over his death is reprehensible – something no Christian should ever do.

May God give us the heart and compassion to do His bidding in grace and love.

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