“What if the secret of the universe had to do with sex?”
This was Stephen Hawking’s question to a friend during his days at Cambridge. A new movie about Hawking’s life, “The Theory of Everything,” suggests the brilliant cosmologist was on to something.
“The Theory of Everything” is a film about cosmologist Stephen Hawking and his wife Jane. Most folks know Hawking as the author of A Brief History of Time, a popularizing book about physics. The film, adapted from the Jane Hawking book Traveling To Infinity: My Life With Stephen, isn’t so much about theoretical physics as it is about love.
The story opens with Stephen as a doctoral candidate at Cambridge, a genius with an irrepressible capacity for sex (Jane has the same appetite). Then Hawking is diagnosed with a motor neuron disorder related to Lou Gehrig’s disease. He’s given two years to live. But this fateful diagnosis only serves to expand his intellectual horizons. Hawking dreams of “one single unifying equation that explains everything in the universe.” And somehow it seems connected to sex. “What if the secret of the universe had to do with sex?” he asks a friend at Cambridge. Christopher West would say yes.
I’ve recently been reviewing a manuscript that Christopher sent me for his new book, Our Bodies Proclaim the Gospel: An Introduction to the Theology of the Body for Evangelicals. This book is more accessible for evangelicals than his previous work, Fill These Hearts: God, Sex, and the Universal Longing. In both cases however West helps us understand why the secret of the universe has to do with sex.
God – Father, Son, and Spirit – have co-existed eternally, before the heavens and earth existed. God is love. By definition, love is the enjoyment of another as well as the desire to expand the circle. Throughout eternity, the Trinitarian circle enjoys one another. But they also deem to expand the circle by creating a bride, the human race. In reading West’s books, we begin to see this saga is The Theory of Everything.
West reminds readers that throughout scripture (as well as church history) it is understood that our bodies as male and female proclaim the mysteries of the gospel. For instance, the promise to Abraham was for fruitful nuptial union (he would have offspring more numerous than the stars). The sign of this covenant was circumcision – the shedding of his blood and the sacrifice of his flesh – exposing the most intimate aspect of Abraham’s anatomy. Abraham’s bride would see this sign every time they consummated their marriage, thus hoping to fulfill the promise to Abraham of offspring.
This sign of the Old Covenant foreshadows the sign of the New. In the New Covenant, Eucharist is celebrating the shedding of Christ’s blood and the sacrifice of his flesh for the sake of the most fruitful union of the cosmos – the union of Christ and the Church. This is how the human body as male and female proclaims the mysteries of the gospel.
We also see signs in the female body. In nuptial union, there is the tearing of the hymen. When Christ consummated his marriage at the cross, the curtain that veiled the “holy of holies” was torn from top to bottom, analogous to the hymen tearing.
It’s tragic how many believers blush at this kind of talk. It’s indicative of a pornographic culture scarring human conscience. The Apostle Paul, a man of clear conscience, routinely used sexual metaphors to picture salvation and sanctification, including “circumcision of the heart” (Rom. 2:25-29) and “labor pains” (Rom. 8:22-24). West notes these metaphors “speak of the need in both men and women for our hearts to be stretched to their maximum capacity – to the point that they are large enough and open enough to receive and even ‘give birth’ to infinity.”1 In marriage, this opening wide to give birth includes sex and calls for foreplay. This correlates with Paul’s description that believers are “betrothed” – already married – with Jesus as husband seeking to arouse his bride for the big wedding. Yes, the secret of the universe has to do with sex.
Hawking cannot make sense of sex without this Theory of Everything. He’s looking for meaning in molecules and black holes. It can be found there, but meaning is better understood in the mysteries of our bodies as male and female. Hawking and his wife didn’t seem to know that, which might be why they divorced in 1995. Still, “The Theory of Everything” is worth watching. Hawking is indeed on to something.
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1 Christopher West, Fill These Hearts: God, Sex, and the Universal Longing (New York: Image, 2012), p. 69.