Jesus certainly knew what he was talking about when he said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure."
Whenever I read that quote in Luke’s Gospel, I’m grateful to be a simpleton instead of one of the great minds who has a list of degrees after his name and inhabits the rarefied world of MIT or Stanford or Harvard.
Just because I don’t have those credentials, of course, doesn’t mean I’m quick to grasp what Jesus had to say, but I think at least I have a better chance of getting it right.
Throughout my life, the people I’ve met who’ve had the greatest difficulty believing in God are often the ones who’ve had the greatest hostility when it comes to matters of faith. They’re generally the brightest, the proudest and the angriest, and these characteristics get in the way of accepting Christ.
So it came as no surprise to read recently in an Associated Press story that the renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, an avowed atheist, got headlines worldwide by saying, "There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers [meaning our brains]; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark."
Hawking, who is 69 and almost completely paralyzed by motor neurone disease, was unequivocal in his assessment, and added that even though he’s not afraid of dying, "I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first."
In his most recent book, Grand Design, he concluded that it was "not necessary to invoke God … to get the universe going." It was the standard atheistic grumbling we’ve all heard hundreds of times before, but because it came from Hawking, it had the smell of truth for many people. Unfortunately.
Yes, Jesus knew what he was talking about. The learned and the wise are usually so impressed with themselves for being learned and wise that they have no need for God. Even worse, they don’t have the capacity to be humble enough to seek God with a sincere heart.
I’ve always believed that anyone who is having a crisis of faith or seeking God with an honest heart will get the answers if he or she asks for them. All you have to do is ask. The act of asking is a gesture of humility, and God readily provides answers for people who seek them with a sincere heart.
Some other people I’ve known categorically deny God’s existence because they’re angry over a tragedy in their lives, so they shut the door and won’t let God enter. There may have been a death of a loved one or some prolonged suffering that caused them to turn their backs on God and, in defiance, deny his existence.
No intellectual arguments or cosmological proofs will ever convince them of God’s existence because they’re not sincerely looking. They’re too busy being consumed by their resentment.
And then, there’s the case of the proud and arrogant, who are too impressed with themselves to concede the need for God. It’s no accident that pride was the first sin that caused Lucifer to turn away from God.
I’ve known people so consumed by pride (often because of their intellectual prowess) that they scoff at the idea of God and don’t miss any opportunity to ridicule believers.
Theirs is a lonely existence and, much like Hawking, they deride the people who believe, frequently disrupting dinner parties and social gatherings with their pompous pronouncements about the origins of the cosmos. They are always eager to debate anyone who believes in a power greater than themselves.
Sadly, many of them aren’t really interested in finding God. They’ve already shut the door. They remind me of the Psalmist who offered a piece of advice thousands of years ago that is just as valuable in the 21st century: "If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart."
J.F. Pisani is a writer who lives with his family in the New Haven area.