C.S. Lewis & Stephen Hawking on Heaven

Derek Ouellette —  May 18, 2011

I often wonder what a conversations might look like between great thinkers of different era’s. In today’s post I wonder how a great Christian thinker of the early twentieth century (C.S. Lewis) might answer a great antagonistic and skeptical thinker of the early twenty first century (Stephen Hawking).

The subject is heaven. The question is, is a belief in the Biblical concept of Heaven ridiculous?

Moderator: Dr. Hawking, why don’t you believe in heaven?

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

Moderator: Mr. Lewis, Dr. Hawking believes that the Biblical concept of heaven is, quote, “a fairy story”. How do you respond to that?

C.S. Lewis: “There is no need to be worried by facetious people who try to make the Christian hope of “Heaven” ridiculous by saying they do not want “to spend eternity playing harps.” The answer to such people is that if they cannot understand books written for grown-ups, they should not talk about them. All the scriptural imagery (harps, crowns, gold etc.) is, of course, a merely symbolical attempt to express the inexpressible. People who take the symbols literally might as well think that when Christ told us to be like doves, He meant that we were to lay eggs.” (Mere Christianity, book III, Chapter 10.)


“Heaven is important, but it’s not the end of the world.” ~ N.T. Wright

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • http://www.nearemmaus.com Brian LePort

    Well played!

  • brad.dickey

    Think on this…

    During the era of c.s. lewis’ writings, it was entirely to invite some guests for a dinner which is not that impressive. However consider sitting at a dinner table alongside, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, c.s. lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and any number of German Psycho-philosophers. :)


  • William Mayor

    I would have to say that in such a debate I would hve to back CS Lewis. Hawking is a brilliant physicist, but I doubt he knows much theology. Lewis had at the very least an excellent layman’s understanding. Further, while I have never seen it so stated, I would not be surprised to learn that Lewis had experienced either an NDE or an OBE at some point in time. Either of those experiences can profoundly alter one’s understanding of reality.

  • http://vagantepriest.blogspot.com/ FrGregACCA

    The quote from Lewis, as interesting and valid on its own terms as it is, does not directly engage Hawking here. However, if Hawking is to be credible when discussing such things, he must take on the matter of Near Death Experiences, or NDE’s. An increasing body of evidence strongly indicates that, at least in some cases, consciousness persists after brain function ceases.

    There are other questions as well which Hawking, and those who wish to think like him, must address. A few years ago, NPR’s Barbara Bradley-Hegarty wrote a book called “Fingerprints of God”. Linked below is my review of that book. It is a good place to start when considering these matters.