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