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Sunday, 2 September 2012

Stephen Hawking Praises Human Effort

As with the opening ceremony of the Olympics, Alex and I watched the opening of the Paralympics, another thrilling party held at the same London 2012 stadium. The guest star of this ceremony was (now retired) Professor Stephen Hawking, of Cambridge University. Here is one brilliant mind imprisoned in a body paralysed by Amyotrophic Lateral Disease, a form of Motor Neurone Disease, first diagnosed in 1964 when he was only 22 years old, and while studying for a doctorate degree at Cambridge.

Professor Stephen Hawking

During the Paralympics, Hawking gave a speech which fitted perfectly the tremendous effort and training put in by the athletes, all with some kind of disability, whether it was an amputated limb, a birth impairment or mental disability. The professor likened the determination of the athlete to the same determination the academic had contributed to the rise and advance of scientific knowledge, with Britain itself being the chief founding nation, hence the speech delivered while the games were hosted here, making his speech so appropriate.

Britain has a lot to be proud about with its academic achievements. For example, the invention of the steam engine, leading to the mobility of the "horseless chariot" - resulting of the rise of the railways, the industrial revolution and the advance of medicine all having taken place here. Even the Internet has its origins here in the UK, as featured in the opening of the Olympics. And not forgetting two prominent scientists and authors who were to revolutionise our understanding of our origins and that of our planet itself. The first of these two was Scottish Geologist Charles Lyell, author of his book, Principles of Geology. In it, Lyell proposed a theory known as Uniformitarianism, an idea rising from his observation of the stratified rock layers, each layer laid by water over a long period of time, and the type of fossils each rock layer contained determining the age of the rock. As such, from these rock layers, the Geological Time Scale was worked out, with the earliest signs of life appearing some 2,000,000,000 years ago.

The other great scientist who was born and grew up here was none other than Charles Darwin, author of On the Origin of Species. He was the more famous of the two, and unlike that of Lyell, Darwin's name is spoken in every household, and he is upheld as Messiah of Evolution by such atheists as Richard Dawkins. Darwin based much of his research on Lyell's book, and the Theory of Evolution began to take its place in the academic world. Through these two Charlies, Britain was to play a leading role in turning people away from the truth of the Bible and the credibility of the Christian faith.

Basing his speech on our academic achievement, Hawking encouraged us to reach for the stars, so to speak, in human endeavour and effort, and never give up. Neither let any bias or prejudice from the ignorant discourage us. Primarily, his exhortation was addressed to the athletes, encouraging then never to let their disabilities hamper or to get in the way of their determination and progress. And this can be applied to all of us, particularly in schooling and higher education. If possible, why not go for the doctorate degree, like he did despite his degrading health, and reach for the stars? After all, his discipline, alongside mathematics, is on how the Universe originated, without the need for a God to get in the way of its evolution.

In short, reaching for the stars and reaching for Heaven is basically one and the same thing - by human endeavour and something to be proud of. After all, like Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking is an atheist who has dismissed any possibility of an afterlife, but without Dawkins' aggressive take on this issue.

Reaching for the stars, or as in this case, the moon.

What a contrast all this is to the Gospel of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ! The very word "salvation" itself depicts a rescue of someone by another. Sure, Hawking does have a point about academic achievement and endeavouring to train hard to win a Paralympic gold. But winning a gold medal through human effort is one thing, trying to pull himself out from the bottom of a deep pit by clutching his own hair is quite another!

Our nation, and England in particular, as I was born and grew up in England, relish on the pride of its own achievements. Being of Italian parents, therefore Italian through and through, together with a mild mental retardation as a boy, complete with an odd accent to my speech, had made it difficult for me to blend in with my fellow countrymen. Not only did I fail at school to near disaster level but I had to endure classroom and playground bullying. If I tried reporting this to the staff, the one-size-fits-all response was, "Don't tell tales!" Little wonder I had to keep all my sorrows bottled up. Bullying, mostly verbal, continued during my first years at work until I was about twenty, when I found another job as a poolside lifeguard in 1973.

The verbal abuse mainly centred around my nationality. The times my accent was mimicked, and even nicknamed "Spaghetti" or "Spaghetti face" are too numerous to count, as being called a dimwit for failing at school and "puny" for not performing at team sports. I believe that any ambition I might have had was all but destroyed.

I had, in my twenties, become antagonistic against the British social class system, which I believe, lay behind the abuse. As explained in one of my blogs, Alan Sugar at the Kerith? - even as a Christian adult, I felt an air of prejudice. And this is felt to this day. At Ascot, back in 1997, I gave a short talk touching on the Second Advent of Christ. After the service, I was told by one listener that during the discourse, a couple sitting behind was muttering on how could I know anything, I'm just a window cleaner after all. (For readers outside the UK, domestic window cleaning is a well established British trade, where the need for the ladder is off-putting to many residents, hence they are happy for someone to clean their windows for a payment, the source of income.)

At present, the son of a London professor has blocked me on Facebook, because I asked him to connect to my profile, after watching this young lad grow up, then leave our church to attend University. The reason given for the blocking, was that I disregarded Englishness in its true form and "he was uncomfortable," meaning that I showed too much affectionate emotion during his youth. I was aghast in discovering his website, that he had posted videos pertaining to the occult. With such attitudes, and there are quite a few among unbelievers displaying exactly the same attitude towards me to this day, little wonder I have a degree of delusion over our culture which is full of praise for the strong, the well-schooled, the academic, the wealthy, the sporting celebrity and the successful, yet also have a disdain towards those, like me with no deliberate fault of my own, who don't quite fit in.

Just as with the case of blind former Health Secretary David Blunkett. After reserving his seat at the Opening Ceremony of the Paralympics, he was refused admission by "a jobsworth" because of his guide dog, Corby. Another seat, at a wind-swept area next to a gantry, was instead assigned to him and his dog. This was almost as bad as forty years earlier, when a pub landlord refused his admission to his bar because of the presence of his guide dog Ruby, an incident which caused sensation among newspapers the next day.

But in this blog, am I asking for pity? No, by no means! Because, the whole of this article is not about "poor little me," but how great is the love of God.

As a one-time evolutionist and a highly-strung young individual, God knew me from eternity past, long before I was even born. So my Heavenly Father knew that way back in 1973, I put faith in Jesus Christ. I have written enough here that in this world, I am a nobody, but in the eyes of God, I am a trophy of grace. All I had to do was believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ and I was welcomed into his family. And not an ounce of self effort, not a single penny paid towards the cost of the gift. Jesus Christ paid for my salvation, all I had to do was take it. Absolutely free. None of me, all of Jesus Christ, who loved me enough to die on the cross for me. And dare to say, that throughout my difficult first twenty years of life, God was with me all the time, from the moment of conception, waiting for me to turn to his beloved Son.

Stephen Hawking was absolutely right. The disabled athletes deserves heaps of praise for their outstanding endeavour and self effort, commitment to their training with absolute determination to overcome their disabilities. Their winning medals are well deserved and worthy of praise and my admiration.  But as for salvation, there is nothing I can do about it, but believe. God alone can rescue.

How I wish for God to rescue Stephen Hawking!



  1. You have suffered and for that I'm sorry. I cannot say I know exactly how you feel but I have suffered racism in the USA where I grew up. I had dark hair and dark eyes in a culture of blond hair and blue eyes. I didn't fit in. God was and still is my closest confidant.

    I know you understand what I mean. And you speak the truth when you say that Jesus Christ is our only salvation. We cannot save ourselves.

    I too have prayed for Hawking. Perhaps God will save him. I imagine there will be many surprises in Heaven. :)

    Blessings to you.

  2. Amen, Frank. Somebody once said, "For the Christian, life on earth is as close as we will ever get to hell, but for the unbeliever it is as close as he will get to heaven." Like you I can only pray that he will come to believe so he can experience a freedom far beyond what he has experienced since 1964.

  3. The Lord wants for all men to come to the knowledge of salvation through Jesus Christ so I join with you Frank in praying for Stephen Hawking. I have never really suffered rejection from people before I came to the Lord, but have always been a bit of a loner anyway. I was brought up in a bit of a 'toughie' area and so was able to take care of myself verbally anyway, but because we lived near the docks and many different nationalities were amongst us, there was no prejudice anyway. We lived as one community, happily and safely. We could leave our doors unlocked and know that we were safe. I have seen that the Lord is the judge of those outside of His church who have predjudices, and the word is the judge should those inside His church have any. I have watched some of the 'disabled' in the olympics and cannot believe what I see. They are amazing, and shine even more so because most people would not be able to achieve what they are achieving with no disabilities, let alone with limbs missing or injured backs. I liked the first olympic games, but I am completely in awe of this second one.

  4. This is a brilliant post, amongst many brilliant posts you've written Frank. Yes, the class system is a continual source of unhappiness in this country, and being working class myself, and not really fitting in anywhere, I empathise completely with what you've written. We must remember however that class, racism, any form of prejudice where one person devalues another person for any reason, is part of the world and it's disorder and hatred and evil. A Christian should do their best not to be prejudiced in any way, and if they are they should pray about it. One day, we will all answer for our actions.

    There is salvation in Jesus and freedom from judgement; we must always remember that!