BioLogos author admits that God is silent, but you can hear Him (even in evolution) if you listen very, very hard

January 27, 2017 • 10:30 am

I haven’t been over to BioLogos for a while, but I see they’re still up to their old trick of trying to convince Evangelical Christians to accept evolution while remaining Evangelicals. That’s a fool’s errand, I think (see here, for instance), and my view is justified by the apparent lack of success of the BioLogos. Instead of shifting Evangelicals towards Darwins, BioLogos has itself become a source of Christian apologetics, engaging in the usual hair-splitting and in tortuous arguments about the existence of Adam and Eve.

I want to show the bizarre theology still on display there in an article about Martin Scorsese’s new film, “Silence” by BioLogos editor Jim Stump—an article called “Silence and evolution“.

Right before Christmas I mentioned “Silence” (based on a novel by Shusaku Endo); it’s about a Portuguese Jesuit priest who, ministering to his minority flock in Japan, sees them tortured horribly and killed for their faith—all while God remained silent. Why didn’t God do something? Apparently the movie and the book (neither of which I’ve essayed) still laud faith in God despite the fact that he didn’t do squat about those who worship him.

It’s not really clear why Stump is trying to mix evolution with the film, but he tries hard. His apparent thesis is that while the scientific view of evolution abjures God, and one can’t really see anything miraculous or supernatural about evolution, it’s still there if you just look hard enough—just like if you look hard enough at what happened in the movie, you can still find a way to eke a God out of a situation where he’s apparently absent.

Stump (my emphasis):

Too many people believe God’s only actions are miraculous actions. If there are normal, non-miraculous, or scientific explanations for something, then they think God had nothing to do with it. They want to see a burning bush, or they won’t believe God is speaking. They want to prove special, de novo creation or they don’t think God is creating.

I fear these attitudes, which are prevalent among the religious communities I’ve been part of, actually make it more difficult for us to see God at work in the normal circumstances of life, or more pertinently for the origins conversation, in the fossil record or in the genetic code. God has not left unambiguous evidence of his activity there, so we might see why science-minded skeptics interpret that as divine silence and content themselves with purely natural explanations. Nonetheless…I don’t think we’re being unreasonable when we look the scientific data squarely in the eyes and see something more at work. That something more is not in the gaps we don’t understand scientifically, but in the beauty and elegance of it all. There are difficult things we see too, and integrity demands we talk about them honestly. Still, it is reassuring to me how often through the eyes of faith we can see hints of the difficult things serving bigger purposes and even being transformed in the end.

Note the “not unreasonable” bit, which appears twice elsewhere in Stump’s piece (see below).  Well, I think it’s unreasonable to look at evolution and see “something more”, if that something more is any evidence for God. Certainly one can see evolution as beautiful and elegant, but that’s a human construal of a naturalistic process, just like you can see the formation of a snowflake as beautiful and elegant. Does that mean God is behind the formation of every snowflake?

Further, there’s a lot about evolution that’s not so pretty, including many painful forms of natural selection and the wholesale extinction of millions of species which died out without leaving any descendants. Is that so lovely? Why did God do that? And why, if we’re on the topic, did he “create” through such a tortuous and suffering-filled process instead of just poofing everything into being at once, as Genesis says? Don’t theologians have to answer that question?

Darwin, in fact, didn’t see any Abrahamic, beneficent God behind evolution; he saw the opposite. In a letter he wrote to his American colleague Asa Gray in 1860, Darwin said this about theology and evolution:

With respect to the theological view of the question; this is always painful to me.— I am bewildered.— I had no intention to write atheistically. But I own that I cannot see, as plainly as others do, & as I shd wish to do, evidence of design & beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent & omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidæ with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice.

One can in fact “reasonably” ask this question: How much ugliness would it take in evolution (or the world itself) to give evidence against a god?

Stump goes on with his relentless confirmation bias, claiming that if you just try hard enough, you’ll find God. He’s just very quiet.  A few quotes:

Re the story of Elijah in the wilderness:

If God speaks in gentle whispers, is it any wonder we so often miss it? Our lives are filled with winds and earthquakes and fires.

And this one, which uses the “not unreasonable” trope (my emphasis):

I’ve often used this passage of Scripture to argue for the necessity of creating times of solitude and silence. In my own life, I’ve regularly gone to a monastery to get away from the hustle and bustle for a couple of days, let my mind slow down, and listen for the still, small voice. Sometimes I don’t hear anything but my own thoughts. Sometimes I think I do hear something else, but I’ll be the first to admit the evidence is slight and ambiguous enough that you wouldn’t be unreasonable in affirming either side of that debate.

Umm. . . if you’re adducing a supernatural being, and you don’t get much evidence, the reasonable thing to do is withhold judgment, not affirm a God. And if not everyone who tries gets that slight and ambiguous evidence, the best thing to do is reject the God hypothesis pending further and stronger evidence. 

Finally, we get “not unreasonable” again!:

I guess that’s one of the main things I take away from Silence. Faith is not so much a creed to assent to or a set of outward actions to perform—though I think those things have a place in the life of faith. Rather, faith is a way of looking at one’s life and choosing to see more than a series of random and meaningless events. It is possible—and I’d say, not unreasonable—to hear the gentle whisper as the voice of God, who numbers our days and orders our lives in subtle and loving ways. One of my favorite contemporary writers, Frederick Buechner, says it this way:

“In my own experience, the ways God appears in our lives are elusive and ambiguous always. There is always room for doubt in order, perhaps, that there will always be room to breathe. There is so much in life that hides God and denies the very possibility of God that there are times when it is hard not to deny God altogether. Yet it is possible to have faith nonetheless. Faith is that Nonetheless.”

In fact, both Stump and Buechner’s quotes are damning, as they clearly characterize faith as a desperate attempt to confirm something that you want to believe but have little evidence for. This is an explicitly antiscientific attitude, and is why BioLogos is constantly subverting its own mission.

h/t: Nicole Reggia

52 thoughts on “BioLogos author admits that God is silent, but you can hear Him (even in evolution) if you listen very, very hard

        1. It’s been 25 years since I looked at BASIC, but I think your program may have just crashed without the closing quotation on line 10. Most languages aren’t that forgiving, unlike the G*d of Abraham, who forgives all if you only grovel before him.

          1. I’m not even sure if I’ve got a BASIC interpreter on the system … Nope. And it’s probably 25 years since I last used one.

            1. I’m not sure. I think most BASICs do require that the end of a string be specifically terminated with a ”
              (BBC Basic does, I think Xbasic does, can’t remember any others)

              There may be some that automatically close the string at end-of-line, but I’m not going to wade through the 1500 languages at looking for them.


              1. Probably 1500 ‘dialects’ might be more accurate, I suppose.

                Some of them are pretty weird too, and some of them you wouldn’t normally consider to be a programming language, but that’s half the fun of it.


              2. I am hoping that “”is a metaphor.
                Then again, there are masochists like that – such as the people who are trying to build a full working version of Babbage’s Analytic Engine, They’ve been stymied for about 5 years on inconsistencies in Babbage’s sets of plans, and worse, in his language (code) for describing the operations of the machinery.

              3. “I am hoping that “”is a metaphor.”

                Umm, no, is a real website with currently 1500 versions of programs that will print out the song. NOT all written by the same people, contributed by visitors (I did one) so nobody’s being masochistic.


  1. The quotations are not only damning, they’re very revealing. As an exercise, go through each of them in turn and consider how they would have to be tweaked in order to make sense.

    Instead of talking about nonetheless believing in God, imagine:

    a parent trying to find love for their severely handicapped child

    a prisoner trying to live out a life which is barren and bleak

    a homeowner considering starting over while standing in the rubble of a destroyed house

    a mountain climber trying to go just that last mile, to rescue their comrade.

    It can be hard to persevere, it can be difficult to find glimmers of hope and meaning, ways to get around obstacles — but nonetheless don’t you want to TRY? Don’t you think you OUGHT to — nonetheless? I mean, some people might give up, and it wouldn’t be unreasonable if they did. But it’s not unreasonable if they decide to stand up, breath deeply, and not give up. It’s not unreasonable if they interpret a grimace as a smile, think the poetry they write in their head is beautiful, pick up a shovel and start digging, or consider a ledge capable of holding a foot … just in case. Because that’s the only way to achieve the ‘impossible.’

    Sure. They think believing in God is like this. It’s not analogous to drawing an honest, objective, reasonable conclusion from the evidence. “God” isn’t being treated like a hypothesis. “God” is being treated like a virtue, and finding a reason to believe in God is being treated as if it’s virtuous. It’s not unreasonable to look carefully for something better.

    I know it’s hard, but nonetheless I really wish they’d stop doing that. And I’m not being unreasonable here.

    1. Shush! Never mind the cries of hungry, the poor, the refugees, the sick, I have to listen very very carefully for what God wants me to do. Is that so unreasonable?

  2. I think Monty Python brought self-delusion into sharp focus with the following song in The Meaning of Life:

    All things dull and ugly,
    All creatures short and squat,
    All things rude and nasty,
    The Lord God made the lot.

    Each little snake that poisons,
    Each little wasp that stings,
    He made their brutish venom.
    He made their horrid wings.

    All things sick and cancerous,
    All evil great and small,
    All things foul and dangerous,
    The Lord God made them all.

    Each nasty little hornet,
    Each beastly little squid,
    Who made the spikey urchin?
    Who made the sharks? He did!

    All things scabbed and ulcerous,
    All pox both great and small,
    Putrid, foul and gangrenous,
    The Lord God made them all.


    God does work in mysterious ways!

  3. In my own life, I’ve regularly gone to a monastery to get away from the hustle and bustle for a couple of days, let my mind slow down, and listen for the still, small voice. Sometimes I don’t hear anything but my own thoughts. Sometimes I think I do hear something else [….]

    “Sometimes I don’t hear anything but my own thoughts.”

    During those moments, he is mindfully meditating in the way that Sam Harris and others define the term.

    “Sometimes I think I do hear something else [….]”

    No, that’s still the same inner monologue as is always there; he’s just misidentifying it as coming from somewhere other than inside his own mind.

    On the subject…everybody, Sam included, overcomplicates the whole mindful meditation thing.

    “A penny for your thoughts.” Your thoughts as you prepare your answer are mindful meditation. Meta-cognition, in other words. Think about what you’re thinking. Hear the neverending voice in your head as were it an actual voice.

    Anybody can do it for a moment, and trivially does so when asked what’s on one’s mind.

    The challenge in meditation is to sustain that attention for more than a few moments before getting lost in thought again.

    The whole focus on breathing — or, as Joseph Goldstein phrases it, “Sit, and know you’re sitting” — is simply an exercise in disciplining your attention such that you can focus your attention on your own thoughts.

    There’s a lot to be learned by observing your thoughts, and all sorts of practical benefits to be had from such a practice. But there’s no mystery.

    And a footnote: you don’t “silence your mind.” The purpose of the mind is to think; it never stops while you live, any more than your heart stops beating. Instead, what you learn is to observe your thoughts such that you can analyze them and, in so doing, discover which thought patters are more and less helpful. (And the big one is to stop identifying yourself with the inner monologue…but it typically takes a bit of practice in observation to be able to recognize the inner voice saying, “I am […]” as a subvocalized thought no different from any other. Think of Harry Potter’s magic pen writing, “Think of Harry Potter’s magic pen writing.” Where do those words come from; to what do they refer; and why should they have any more significance than anything else the pen writes?)



  4. Stump is absolutely right!

    When I was in High School I had an internship at the Museum of Natural History in NYC. Sometimes when I’d get out of work I’d stop by one of the dinosaur halls to look at my favorite; Triceratops. I’d often be the only one on the entire floor and the lights would be a bit dim and I found that if I stared it at long enough soon I’d see it shift its weight ever so slightly and I’d also be able to just barely perceive its ribs move as it breathed.

  5. I went to see Silence. I hated it. Missionaries interfering in a country they had no right to be. Plus self indulgent and way too long

    1. I’m pretty certain this is the book I read years ago that focused on the tortures of Japanese Christians. The mental pictures created then remained with me. I was not a Christian then, nor am I now, but I knew a little about Japanese culture and the very little control most Japanese people had over their lives, whether Christian or not. I’ve always been angry about Europeans proselytizing and bringing torment to people who didn’t ask for it.

    1. On those ghost hunter programs where they creep around in the dark (why don’t they put the lights on?) they sometimes record a squawk of noise on their ghost-o-meters and play it back on screen, typically with a helpful subtitle of what has been said (like ‘go away’ or ‘help me’). Mrs DiscoveredJoys and I can never make the noise sound anything like the speech suggested.

      I guess we are not listening hard enough, even with the volume turned up.

  6. I have just been reading about the bed-bug Xylocaris maculipennis.

    Male bed bugs inseminate females by injecting sperm into the body cavity to bypass any mating plug in the female’s genitalia. However, this species goes one step further by inseminating another male, sometimes while he is copulating with a female. So they reproduce by homosexual rape!

    I wonder how creationists would explain that?

  7. “If God speaks in gentle whispers, is it any wonder we so often miss it? Our lives are filled with winds and earthquakes and fires.”

    And (according to him) why are there “winds and earthquakes and fires”?

    1. Did God get laryngitis? Is that what causes him to whisper? He used to be a loud, explosive, fire-bringing, volcanic mountain erupting kind of God. And, he often killed his people or forced them to kill whole villages or people of other lands, or brought plagues, or caused people to be lost in the desert for 40 years, or killed his son. Maybe we should be glad that he can’t speak up or has lost his voice.

  8. So, he watched a movie about monotheists being tortured by pantheists, and the lesson he drew from it is that God orders the monotheist’s lives in a gentle and loving way?

    What the heck is ordered, gentle, and loving about being tortured for your beliefs?

    1. That’s interesting, because when I saw this quote:
      “I don’t think we’re being unreasonable when we look the scientific data squarely in the eyes and see something more at work. That something more is not in the gaps we don’t understand scientifically, but in the beauty and elegance of it all.”
      – I immediately thought ‘Aha! Pantheism!’

      But apparently Mr Stump managed to draw the opposite conclusion…


  9. An apparently overwhelming majority of people down through the ages, including the most learned theologians and Doctors of the Church, have concocted and continue to concoct rationalizations like this one by Jim Stump.

    These people simply cannot accept that one day they — the entire contents of their consciousnesses, their unique camera angles on the world, their awareness of themselves or anything else — will be utterly extinguished forever, just as though, for them, these things had never existed at all.

    They cannot truly conceive of their own deaths (as some have claimed no human being can ever truly do). They cannot acknowledge their own and everyone else’s transience.

    Thus, longing for an eternal human afterlife so much, they redefine death as simply the end of our time on Planet Earth. As the song put it with regard to President Kennedy after his assassination, “his soul goes marching on.”

    Moreover, they long for this eternal life to be a perfectly blissful compensation for all the pains, disappointments, frustrations, and injustices that life has inflicted upon them through no fault of their own.

    They want it to be true that “everything happens for a reason” — an ultimately good reason devised by a loving deity that must never be questioned.

    They want evil people who so often seem to be life’s biggest winners to suffer unending agonies whose intensity will never wane.

    They want the reward for being good that life so often does not provide. They want the harshest imaginable unending punishment for the evil ones. They want an eternal version of the traditional Hollywood ending.

    Nor can they accept the “meaninglessness” that, to them, goes with transience. There simply must be something called “the meaning of life” that applies identically to everyone.

    Those who long for these outcomes want them so desperately that they assume this very desperation, no matter how deeply it is buried within them, to be proof that this basic desire of theirs will be fulfilled.

    As Jim Stump’s commentary demonstrates for the umpteenth time, this mindset may be life’s toughest nut to crack. The defenses of those who have it are virtually impossible to penetrate, alas.

    Which is why religion, alas again, is not going anywhere during the foreseeable future.

    1. All this ‘want’ comes at a heavy price: consuming insecurity.

      Imagine what it’s like to image that all of religion is wrong.

      If, in this lifetime, religion cannot be extinguished, tis of some minor consolation to think what a burden it must privately feel for those who become less sure of their faith. In the short run, this will lead to some serious disunity and will drive people, no pun intended, to build walls between each other.

    2. Research shows that when humility is embraced, that is, realising how ordinary we are compared to the universe, we are shielded against death anxiety. Christianity not only fudges facts but also can’t even deliver its main product, relief from death anxiety, either as its focus is how insignificant we are compared to god but not how insignificant we are within the universe and all its components as it depicts mankind as the centre and be-all of creation:

      “As Kesebir notes, ‘The humble person is probably more aware and accepting of the fact that against a cosmic scale of time and space, every human being is minute.’ Finally, she found that memories of pride-invoking moments did not buffer against death anxiety, whereas memories of humility did.”

      “So, there you have it: a quiet ego may have its volume turned down, but it is in fact the most powerful buffer against threats to the ego, including the biggest threat of them all: death.”

      1. Excerpted also from the same link above:
        “Recent research even suggests that a quiet ego can buffer against existential angst. This is important because anxiety over death is a central (although often hidden) motivating force for many human activities—from religion and spirituality to sexuality to the drive for money and social status to many forms of psychopathology. While self-esteem can serve as an existential anxiety buffer, it also has a potential downside: when the ego is threatened, or when attention is brought to undesirable qualities about the self, thoughts of the inevitability of death increase.”

      2. Fortunately I was never affected (lucky!) but people’s terrifying stories of being afraid of hell for themselves or people they care for are enough to remove all “consolation” from many.

        This is why I wonder about these “fear of death” explanations. Sure, there’s some of that, but “ingroup/outgroup” these days seems to be bigger. But we need *good* hardnosed social psychology of religion to answer this.

        1. I recall always feeling relieved after going to Confession that now I’d go to Heaven if I died. That feeling soon passed as I committed the same sins again and was terrified of dying because I’d wind up in Hell. Needless to say, this isn’t a balanced way to live life.

  10. ‘I feel, therefore gods.’

    If they just drop the “Bio” misplaced moniker…

    Jerry: “Certainly one can see evolution as beautiful and elegant, but that’s a human construal of a naturalistic process, just like you can see the formation of a snowflake as beautiful and elegant. Does that mean God is behind the formation of every snowflake?”


    science-minded skeptics interpret that as divine silence and content themselves with purely natural explanations

    Scientists famously choose the *best* explanations.

    Which explanations happens to be natural across the board. Fancy that.

  11. Who needs to hear god. I’ve got tech that sees big bad boy. God carries his message on tachyon wavelength 6.66 MegaSatans. You can download the app, ‘AlternativeSkyDaddy’ for just $199,999.00. All proceeds will go towards my South Pacific Luxury Yacht with gold plated toilet seats.

  12. Since the only way a human being interacts with the universe is through sensory input to the brain which makes stories that become your consciousness and knowledge, when the physical body shuts down, consciousness goes away. If you have ever been with someone at the time of death, you have seen that happen.

    The way for people to get over fear of death is to meet it head-on: think about it, talk about it, make plans with your family about how you want your death to be dealt with. Before that, make certain your doctor and the medical community know what your wishes are for treatment if/when you are about to die. Some states have laws that permit Death with Dignity. In those states you do not have to suffer pain at the end any longer than you can handle. Take responsibility for your death as you do your life.

  13. I wish the people who claim God is silent but present would work it out with the people who claim to see God’s hand in nature, and also with those who claim to see God’s actions as to which one is correct before telling atheists they are rejecting evidence. Theists reject the evidence of other theists, so why should atheists even bother?

  14. depressing that more and more scientific or semi scientific publications are engaging in religious accommodationism, pseudoscientific poppycock,or excessive focus on sociological and medical aspects directly pertinent to our own species

  15. I would think the Christian God would let people die if he were merciful, so they more quickly enjoy the pleasure of Heaven, which is infinitely greater than Earth. Yet, people only claim miracles when God puts us back in this supposedly wretched existence with more time to earn a trip to Hell. This seems a bit backwards to me. They should all be screaming about miracles when people die ( and of course they do…”he’s in a better place”).

  16. Listening to your inner voice is not a good method to acquire knowledge. In a relative short time (500 years) we have learned that science does a much better job. If you want to know something just ask your local scientist (

    Just like all other living things, humans don’t need a God or a substitute for God (like secular humanism) to come out of bed and not kill themselves because we are built for survival and reproduction.

    We have just to wait a little while and the neurosciences will be able to make all existential and other psychological problems simply go away.

    Yes, science can also solve these problems once we have figured out how the brain works.

    Just a matter of time; no need to worry.

  17. How will we know it’s the creator and not the evil one whispering trying to trick us… what if it mumbles and I get it wrong, could you repeat that please.. hang on I have to take notes, hmmm I could write a book, call it The Bable, the mutterings of an empty space… and back where we started.
    I find it farcical that the creator of the universe has to compete with all that chatter going on in the heads of humans to be heard… why does it not get out the biggist kick arse megaphone and let it rip, no confusion then… instead we get, listen, listen, listen…
    that is the sound of the CMB you fools which makes infinately more sense AND from a hiss no less.

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