Modern physics' effort to understand the universe has become such a technical and mathematical enterprise that even well-educated people sense they will find the subject hopelessly opaque. Although we've heard of black holes, relativity, and the big bang, we are hard-pressed to really define the terms and would be over our heads exploring them in depth.
Stephen Hawking tries to make this information accessible to ordinary people, and he largely succeeds. The complexity of the subject demands attention, but his style is clear and attractive. Several concepts that were only vague blurs to me became clear for the first time.
For those who like that sort of thing, this is an interesting book; but others will say, "Well, I believe God created the universe, and that's enough." Let me suggest both a theological and an evangelistic reason to encourage readers to explore further.
Hawking recognizes the theology la tent in an examination of the origin of the universe, and God gets mentioned more often than any other character in the book. The author never scoffs, and yet his conclusions lead him to be dubious: "So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator. But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place, then, for a creator?"
This book will get a wide reading. It's my conviction that people in the church must be prepared to interact with the people of the world about cosmological issues. "The people whose business it is to ask why, the philosophers, have not been able to keep up with the advance of scientific theories." Neither have the evangelists. But those who have scientific people in their congregations, or want to, need to be ready to speak their language.
Hawking gets to the end with the why questions unresolved. "Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing? Is the unified theory so compelling that it [the universe] brings about its own existence? Or does it need a creator, and, if so, does he have any other effect on the universe ? And who created him ?" Christian thinkers have already answered his last question. The next-to-last is one we need to be better prepared to answer.