Apr 20th, 2022
We are so excited to welcome Dr James Stump to the podcast today. Jim is the Vice President of Programs at BioLogos and hosts the podcast, Language of God. He is a passionate speaker, author, and organizer in the field of science and religion. He has written multiple books on science and religion, and has the uncanny ability to bring disparate groups together for meaningful and respectful conversation. We sat down for an hour to talk about the work that BioLogos does, what he's most excited about, and how to have productive conversations with people who disagree with each other.
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produced by Zack Jackson
music by Zack Jackson and Barton Willis
This transcript was automatically generated by www.otter.ai, and as such contains errors (especially when multiple people are talking). As the AI learns our voices, the transcripts will improve. We hope it is helpful even with the errors.
Zack Jackson 00:04
You are listening to the down the wormhole podcast exploring the strange and fascinating relationship between science and religion. Our guest today is the vice president of programs at BioLogos. And host of the podcast the language of God is a passionate speaker, author and organizer in the field of science and religion. He's also the author of four views of creation, evolution and intelligent design, science and Christianity in Introduction to the issues, how I changed my mind about evolution, and the Blackwell companion to science and Christianity. We are so excited to welcome Jim stump to the podcast today. Welcome.
Jim Stump 00:42
Thanks, Zack. Good to be here. Thank you, Ian.
Zack Jackson 00:44
Yeah. And thank you so much for taking this time out of your day. I know that there's so much going on right now with BioLogos. We were just talking before the podcast started about the conference that you have just a couple of days, which, unfortunately, by the time that this podcast airs will be over. So
Jim Stump 01:02
there will be virtual recordings available to see if you're interested in that sort of thing. Yeah.
Zack Jackson 01:08
Oh, excellent. That was gonna be my first question. So for the folks who did not register, because they are just hearing about it after the fact, they can go watch
Jim Stump 01:17
those. So I think the way it works is you can register for the online portion. And it's a pay what you can kind of thing, and those are going to be available for three months after after the conference. And then there may be free versions that that come out. Don't hold me to that. I'm not entirely sure about that. But I think that's the way it works.
Zack Jackson 01:40
Excellent, wonderful. So you heard it here. First, folks. Actually, you probably already here last point. So for those of our listeners who are not all that familiar with BioLogos, could you take a minute here and explain a little bit about what it is that you that you all
Jim Stump 01:57
sure the BioLogos elevator speech. We are a nonprofit organization, founded by Francis Collins, who was the leader of the Human Genome Project, and then became the director of the NIH is currently the President's science advisor. He wrote a book in 2006, called the language of God after which our podcast was named. And in it, he shared about how he is this world class scientist, he didn't call himself a world class scientist. He's too humble for that. But he is a world class scientist, and how he came to understand these scientific things about the world, but then also how as an adult, he came to faith in Christ, and tried to show how those two things fit together in his own life. And after the publication of that book, he got lots and lots of questions, emails, even letters at the time, from people asking follow up questions. And he quickly got overwhelmed with all of that and put together a group of people to write out answers to frequently asked questions and they put it on a podcast or sorry, they this is a podcast, they put it on a website and call it BioLogos. And that's how biologists got started, it was answers to frequently asked questions about primarily science and evolution at the time, just after that podcast, after that website went live was when he was tapped by President Obama to become the director of the NIH and had to separate himself from bio logo. So it became a little more organized and incorporated and started having things like conferences and doing a blog and writing some other books and those kinds of things. And so here we are, 12 years later, or so that we're now a staff of 1414 people. We have a speaker's bureau, we have this podcast, you mentioned the website is still kind of the main hub of what we do. We had over 2 million unique visitors to the website last year, lots of them interesting, interestingly enough, still landing on these pages of frequently asked questions that Milo has gotten started with. So somebody does a Google search on something related to human beings and Adam and Eve and evolution or these days, we also talked about climate change and vaccines and those kinds of topics as well. And I think it's fair to say we've become a pretty trusted organization within the Christian community for people who are trying to take their faith seriously, but also want to take the findings of contemporary science seriously.
Ian Binns 04:35
Yeah, yeah. So
Zack Jackson 04:36
you've been with them since 2013. Or so I
Jim Stump 04:39
started in 2013. Half time I was a philosophy professor and split my time between BioLogos and the college I was teaching at for a couple of years and then went full time starting in 2015.
Zack Jackson 04:55
But what about your trajectory of your life led you to that point to the place.
Jim Stump 05:00
So I did a PhD in philosophy and was always interested in science. My undergrad degree was in science education II and I would have had you as a professor somewhere along the, along the route. And my father was was trained originally as like a middle school science teacher, he eventually became, became an administrator. But I, and we grew up in a Christian family, a very conservative Midwest Christian community. And so I was always interested in these two things and was never really forced into the kinds of positions you hear lots of people from conservative Christian families were creation science or young earth creationism or something we I was never forced into those kinds of positions, and was always encouraged to investigate and ask questions and look at the natural world as a good place, and was always interested how that fit with the Christian commitments that I had. And so I did this undergrad degree in math and science education, thought I might become a high school or middle school math and science teacher. And then immediately after college, my wife and I went to Africa actually to teach in a mission school for a while. And there I started Reading, Reading books more seriously than I did as a math major and in college. And so it was primarily the 19th century fiction shelf in the library in this little school way out in the middle of, of the jungle, actually. And somewhere in that conjunction between the math and science analytical training I had and then Reading 19th century fiction like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky and Melville and some of these great ideas that came out somewhere in the conjunction of those two things out pop philosophy, and I'm not the first person I've heard to say that, that they were attracted to philosophy through literature, but came back from there and went to grad school and philosophy, wanted to do something related to science and religion in a philosophy PhD, but was said no, you can't really do that in this department. But you could do science and, and metaphysics science and philosophy more generally. So I did a I did a dissertation that was kind of historical in nature, the scientific revolution, how the advancing scientific theories interacted with, with the advancing philosophical theories of the time, and how these two disciplines interacted with each other, all with an eye toward how does this affect science and religion. And so then started teaching in a small Christian liberal arts school where you teach about everything and don't have too much time to research yourself. But I got a fellowship one year through the Templeton Foundation to go to Oxford, for to do some projects in science and religion. And that was where I was introduced more specifically to the academic discipline of science and religion and really liked it, and started doing some things there. In 2013, BioLogos had a new president who was from Grand Rapids, Michigan, the BioLogos offices were previously in San Diego, the the past president was a professor at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. But when Deb haarsma became president, she said, I'm in need to move the headquarters to where I live in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and only two of the staff wanted to move from San Diego to Grand Rapids, Michigan. Surprise, surprise. And so she put out a call looking for some new staff. And in particularly, she wanted somebody in philosophy and theology that could help to curate some of the resources for the website, and so on. So I responded to that saying, I am really interested in this and the work BioLogos is doing. And I think I could help in, in what you need, but I'm not ready to quit my full time, full professor tenured position to do that, can we work out some other deal? And to my surprise, she said, Yeah, let's do this. So for two years, by oligos, bought out part of my faculty contracts so that I could do each of them half time. And that was with the full, full permission of the administration from this little college where I was teaching and but then as word started getting out to some of the broader constituents in that community, it made them nervous that there was a faculty member, so closely aligned with BioLogos that accepts evolution, you know, so sort of long. We called it a dialogue started, but it was more of a one way monologue, I'm afraid and ended with some of the documents that faculty have to sign every year being changed. And it kind of forced me to say, I probably don't belong here anymore, and biogas wanted to hire me full time. So in 2015, I started working for them full time. That was a very long answer to your question of how I got here, but that's the know the nitty gritty like taste a lot of her.
Zack Jackson 09:57
I feel like a lot of our listeners can resonate With that, there's a lot of folks, especially those of us, who come from a more conservative background and more evangelical background, who we dip our toes into this world, we realize we're not alone in the people who really want to engage with science with integrity, and maintain our spirituality. And we discover this new and beautiful and exciting world that God has made. And there's a new life in us. And then we're met with a brick wall of opposition from the people who used to accept us where our identity used to be. And they've now changed, that'd be the fact that they changed their covenant that you could no longer sign in. Very similar thing happened to me in a church once, but is one of the things that I really appreciate about BioLogos of all of this sort of organizations that that are tackling these issues. You all seem to have the best inroads into the evangelical world, where there is, you know, historically, anyway, a lot of science denialism. What is it about about your organization that, that gives you this ability to speak, to speak science speak truth into a world. So full of denialism?
Jim Stump 11:17
That's kind of you to say that, and I wonder if one day somebody in the sociology department might write a write a big dissertation and do a big study related to science and religion organizations in the US because it's, it's a fascinating territory. BioLogos in its earlier days, so soon, after Francis Collins had to disassociate himself with the organization, there was one group of people that came in, and you can go, you can still find some of the the early articles that were written, more so you find when I travel, people who reacted in a certain way that wasn't very positive, I think there's a natural, I think there's a natural kind of progression for people that start to entertain these kinds of ideas. That leads them away. Part of what happens when you when you're trying to figure out how to reconcile evolution with Christian faith, and particularly with the Bible is your interpretation of Scripture, you start to realize has to be a little more nuanced, and, and not quite. So look, I just read this in the Bible, and therefore that's it. And we come to think that that wasn't a good way of interpreting scripture anyway. But what it does is it opens the doors for you to reconsider lots of other things, right, that you see, this is harder, this is messier than, then perhaps the community I came from had led me to believe. And I think there were some instances in those early days of BioLogos, where that was almost pushed down people's throats a little too harshly. And they felt like BioLogos was saying, Oh, you poor benighted evangelicals, let me help straighten you out. And let me you know, show you the truth. And you'll come to be just like we are, then that's that's maybe not a charitable way of interpreting that. But that's the kind of message I hear from people who were only acquainted with BioLogos in some of those early days, and then there was a very intentional decision for a kind of kinder, gentler approach, and the hiring of people that identified themselves as evangelicals, and we're still part of this world. And so I think we took on more of an aura of trying to reform from within rather than taking potshots from the outside, that's a little too simplistic and is perhaps a caricature of what was actually happening. But I think that's, that points to some of it that we have very intentionally tried to keep one foot in the evangelical world, even though you know the way the culture wars have bundled issues together. Science is on one side, and religion is on the other side, way too often. And we find ourselves in that No Man's Land out in the middle. But instead of just going with the flow of saying, well, then we're just going to become this progressive organization that sneers at evangelicals. You know, we've said no, we're, we're still part of this and many of these impulses we share. And so it's much more an issue of how do we articulate within, you know, the the framework that makes sense to that community? So I don't know it's a it's a really good question, and we are not a perfect organization and we misstep and stumble all the time, but It's a it's a one of our one of our values. I mean, our, in our founding documents, our values, say, rigorous science, Christ centered faith and gracious dialogue. So it's not I think too many people use the speak the truth in love verse as a weapon that gives themselves permission to club people over the heads with the truth as they know it now. And we're much more concerned about, you know, winning people through graciousness than just clubbing them with the truth.
Ian Binns 15:35
So I'm curious, I'd like that idea. You talk about the having the conversation, right, making it so that you can actually have a conversation? Which I really liked that how do you approach those who? I mean, I'm certain there are individuals or groups maybe who've started off maybe more antagonistic, or they've started off their conversation with you in an attacking type manner? How do you handle that? Or Or do you initially do? Do you know what I mean? More? I'm trying to get out here like it. People who maybe approach more with my way or the highway? I am correct. You were wrong. type of approach. What have you done in the past?
Jim Stump 16:20
Yeah. So thankfully, those people are the outliers. Actually. They're the ones that get the most press. They're the loudest voices out there. But it's not the norm. We commissioned a sociological survey origins a few years back, and it was really fascinating to see, yes, you can if you only ask the question, like, How old do you think the earth is? Or do you think human beings evolved? evangelicals? Still, the majority of them, say our, you know, young earth creationists or old earth creationist at least saying that there's no such thing as evolution. But when you dig a little deeper and ask, and how important is this to you? It's a really small percentage, it's like less than 10%, who pound their fist on the lectern and say, I'm a young earth creationist Darnit. And it has to be that way, or you're all going to hell or you know, that you hear those voices on the internet, particularly, but that's not the majority of people. And so there's a, there's a middle ground of people who are, you know, either don't really care that much about the issues, or they say, this is interesting, but it's not hugely important to me, and I'm not going to get into fights over it. So that's the first response to your question in is that it's not as many people doing that, as you might be led to believe, by if you only follow these issues on Twitter, right. But then there are those people and one of the things BioLogos has done is that we don't really do debates. I mean, that became that became part of the DNA, I'm afraid of evangelicalism and apologetics, to say we're gonna get up and, you know, have a debate and trot out all our fancy reasons and show people why, you know, we're really just as smart as you are actually smarter. Because we believe the truth. We've said, we're not doing that. We're happy to have conversations with people, but we vastly prefer those conversations to come out of relationship that has happened. So just as an example of that, reasons to believe is another science and faith organization out in California, founded by Hugh Ross, who is an astrophysicist, became a Christian later in his life and started this as an apologetics ministry. They're old earth creationists. So they accept the science of physics and geology that points toward the ancient age of the Earth in the universe, but they don't accept evolution. And we've had really good, interesting, productive talks with them. But it's only because we've spent a lot of time with them. And when I say spend a lot of time with them, it's not a lot of time on stages, talking in front of other people, or even doing this kind of thing on a podcast where you're having a conversation, but secretly, you're just trying to talk to your own audience, you know, preach to the choir, in some sense, we spent a lot of time with them behind closed doors out of the public eye just getting to know each other. So four or five representatives from our organization would get together with four or five representatives from their organization. And we'd talk about the common ground we have we talk about our differences. We'd also pray with each other and we'd hear each other's spiritual journey and stories and we'd eat a meal together. And so I often have said in response, in reaction to that and to these kinds of questions, that it's a lot harder to be snippy over the internet at people with whom you've prayed. People that you people that you have out with people that you know, their testimony, their stories, in when when you have that kind of a relationship, it's it's way harder to be uncharitable toward them. Where when it's people that you don't know anything about, you read a quote, or two, and you make all these assumptions about who they are and what they must be like, and you just go from there. So developing relationship has always been really important in the BioLogos approach to these things.
Ian Binns 20:30
Yeah, I like that, if you're talking about debates, you know, I've never found debates on these types of issues, worthwhile. And when I was faculty at LSU, for three years, from 2008, to 2011. And Louisiana, you know, at times has historically said trouble with teaching of evolution in schools and, and they still do, and I was testifying a lot down there against efforts to undermine the teaching of evolution, and also to undermine curriculum materials. And right before we moved back to North Carolina, I don't remember the name of the person. But someone reached out to me from a small group in Canada, wanting to set up a debate as a way to come after me. And I immediately turned it down. But I reached out to some of my mentors about it. And they just said, it's, it's not worth it. So you're, you're going the right way. But it was it was interesting to finally get on someone's radar that way. But again, I just saying it's not worth my time. So
Zack Jackson 21:30
there seems to be a fine line between a debate and a conversation. Right, and you are a podcast host? Do you find yourself in situations where things start turning into a debate over a conversation? And?
Jim Stump 21:49
Not very often, not very often. And I'm sure part of that comes through the selection of the people we have on the podcast to talk with. Most of them are people who agree with us to start with we we do consciously try to look over the course of a season or over a calendar year to make sure we're talking with people that are outside the tent, and outside the tent in different directions, whether that's they don't agree with us on science, or they don't agree with us about Christianity. And but those have those who have never, like gotten ugly or nasty or anything, so.
Zack Jackson 22:28
Okay. And so for those of you who are listening who are not familiar, Jim is the host of the the language of God podcast, which is saying before, one of the only regularly updating podcasts that tackles science and religion on a regular basis with any kind of intellectual integrity is how I think I would put it, but but I do regular Google searches because, well, you know, one of the reasons we started this podcast was because there wasn't a whole lot out there. And we were in conversation, the five of us and I, we realized there was not a whole lot of content out there. And there wasn't a whole lot of organization of people, everyone kind of felt like they were on their own. And so we wanted to create a community of people who, who at least were asking similar questions, if not on the same page. And you do that on a regular basis. So first of all, thank you for doing that. And I wonder if you might take a little, a little bit of time here and tell us a little bit about what is sort of the driving ethos behind your podcast and what you're trying to do with it?
Jim Stump 23:47
Yeah. One of the most frequently requested resources we had it BioLogos, in the middle teen years of the 21st century, was to have a podcast and we always replied with Yeah, that would be great. But we just don't think we have the resources to do it. Both the human resources as well as money we had known and that that answer was fairly, an uneducated, but we didn't, we didn't we just didn't know about podcasting. And I had a chance, depending on your theology, you might say providential conversation with a former student of mine, at a party one night, I asked him what he was doing. And he said, I started this new business, and I'm a consultant for podcasters. And I'm like, seriously, there is such that you can do that. And he said, Yeah, lots of people want and I said, What does it take to do a podcast? And we had this conversation for about an hour and at the end of that hour, I had the whole plan in mind to go back to the leadership at BioLogos and say, we need to do this. We can do this. It's not as complicated as I thought. It's doesn't take as much money as I thought. and using somebody like this, we can figure out how to do it well BioLogos we're, we're funded entirely through grants and donations, we don't sell anything. So our only revenue comes from those. And so anytime we have a new project, we ended up pitching it as a grant proposal, or we find a donor who's interested in that way, we really thought we needed to hire one more person than we then we had to be able to devote time to doing it. And so we ended up getting, we ended up getting a grant to start it to start it off. And to do that, you have to write up this big document saying this is what we want to do. And essentially, it was taking the academic conversations of science and religion that you guys know that that go on at all sorts of levels. But it doesn't often trickle down into the people in the pew. So this was a grant that was intentionally pitched to say, we want to bring the kinds of conversations that the scholars in our network are having regularly and to try to translate that for a general podcasting audience. For people that say, Yeah, I'm kind of interested in where humans came from. I'm interested in what the Bible has to say about this. And I'm interested in the latest scientific discoveries, but to take that and package it in a way that would that would be interesting for, for for those kinds of people. So it's designed very much to take the all the topics that BioLogos is is interested in and engaged in and to find the interesting people to talk to about that. My only qualifications as a podcasting host. Before starting this were that I was I was the announcer for the women's basketball team at the college where I was teaching for a number of years. And so I had practice speaking into a microphone in that regard. But I was something I thought I can I'd really like to do this, I think I can do this. And there was some skepticism going into it, whether this was really the right fit for me to be the podcast I was about, we started doing a few and people said, Yeah, I guess you can do that, that I guess, announcing three pointers translates Okay, and talking about science and faith, so, so now it's, it's like half of my job. It's and it's been one of the most enjoyable things that I've done. I really enjoyed having these kinds of conversations with with lots of people. So we just like you have recently hit the 100 episode mark, and have continued, continued on for we'll go for at least another couple of years. And we'll see what happens then.
Zack Jackson 27:42
Yeah, I only just realized that you all launched your podcast just about just a couple of months before we launched our podcast. Yeah, it was we must have lost at the same
Jim Stump 27:52
time, we must have sent the same need out there.
Zack Jackson 27:56
I think we probably did, it sounds like we sent the same need anyway, the the taking the from the the academy and bringing it back down to the people as it were. So in the past 100 and some odd episodes, what what are some of the things that you've learned that stand out to you?
Jim Stump 28:17
So, I mean, I think I've learned how to be a better podcast host than I was at the beginning. I've learned I mean, just through conversations with people, one of the things you see over and over again, is that what people believe is really deeply connected to who they are, where they live, the community that's around them, the ideas that we have aren't just floating around in, you know, some ether, that they're deeply connected to the people that we are to the communities that that we're part of. And that can be troubling to people sometimes if you think that leads you down this road of relativism of some sense, but I think instead it shows the embodied pneus of our faith, it shows that our faith can take on particular particular guises depending on where we are and who we're around. And that shouldn't be threatening, that should be an indication of the incarnational element of Christianity. Right. And so it's it always gives me I think, great hope to hear people different people's expression and articulation of their Christian faith dependent on the circumstances that they've found themselves in. And there are obviously commonalities through that. And different challenges. It's similar challenges that come out and are expressed in in similar ways but it it doesn't take away from the kind of uniqueness and embeddedness of of the faith in our in our lives as we find them. Use if
Ian Binns 29:59
Zach knows this. We've been friends for a long time night, I always bounce back and forth. And you were talking earlier. Jim, when you're talking about your journey, and you refer to a fellowship that you did, I think you said it was with Oxford maybe or something. Can you delve more into that a little bit? And what was that experience? Like? So what was it then? What was that experience for you?
Jim Stump 30:19
The John Templeton Foundation is the major funder of all things science and religion in, in this country and in several other countries. And they started a program designed for primarily for faculty at Christian colleges to get more engaged in the academic discipline of science and religion. And so this was, it was actually three summers in a row held at Oxford University. Wickliffe Hall is one of the colleges, one of the halls of, of Oxford University. So three summers in a row, I went over there for four weeks, each two of those summers, I even got to bring my family with me. And it was really transformative time. For me as a scholar and understanding deeper the the issues involved in science and religion. So we each had to pitch a project of some sort to work on throughout those times. And then there was a cohort of about 35 people who were there, and we got to know each other and became friends, and had these kinds of conversations a lot. And so I came back and started working and writing more seriously in the academic field of, of science and religion. And that's kind of what led me to BioLogos then, too, so yeah, and they've done so Templeton has done this several times with different cohorts. I was I was part of the second cohort. So it was see if I have my dates, right. 2003, four and five. Were the years that the summers that I was there, there was a three year program immediately before that, too. And since then, I think they've been doing just two year cohorts, but have had similar programs for quite a while. Yeah.
Ian Binns 32:01
That's because just for me, personally, that's something I'm interested in. And obviously I work at a secular institution, but of the fellowship that brought all of us together. Sinai's snaps as it was, was something that, you know, obviously was very powerful for me personally. And it led to the five of us becoming very good friends in this podcast. But it's something that I am more interested in trying to find other avenues just because, you know, as Zack mentioned, of the five of us, I'm the only one that's not as engaged, I guess you could say, within the religious community, as the others just because of my work. And as a science educator, which is not a bad thing. It's just something that I crave. So
Jim Stump 32:47
I think, when we have so when BioLogos has these conferences, like the one you mentioned, that's, that's coming up here this week, that's, that's what we hear most from the people who come and attend that they've been just craving fellowship around like minded people. Because for too many for too many people in their, in their religious communities, they find it challenging and difficult to talk openly about science. And for many scientists, then in their work situations, they find it difficult to talk openly about their faith commitments. And so again, we're kind of in that no man's land between those those two ideological camps. And so but there really are a lot of people out there like us that are interested in both of them. So it's, it's very, very nice to have a community of people that are involved in both.
Ian Binns 33:38
Well, and thankfully, my my church community, I'm an Episcopalian. And within my Episcopal Church, community, immediate community, at least it is very much welcomed. You know, I've taught several classes from my church, with my former Rector and my current Rector is a huge fan of our podcasts. And he actually was a high school biology teacher before he went to seminary. So it's an area that I get to talk about a lot, but you know, academically, you know, I get to do work on it and write about it. But you know, I do, I'm trying to get to know people in our religious studies program, for example, but also to to get to know people at different institutions around the country and seminaries and things like that as a way just to kind of collaborate more of science and religion centers as a way to collaborate more, because it's something that I find very fascinating, obviously, since we do this. Good. Yeah.
Zack Jackson 34:31
So you've, you've done a lot of work on with with BioLogos in the in building resources, right, with answering Frequently Asked Questions for for faith leaders for Christians, across the board. But what is it that within this, this fear this this, this world of science and religion, this relationship between the two that that just gets you jazzed? That That makes you excited that you could talk about for an hour.
Jim Stump 35:03
Yeah. So I got into this work primarily, because I'm teaching at this Christian College. And I started hearing more and more former students after I'd been there long enough former students, I'd start hearing that had left their faith, because they got out of the bubble that we were part of, and saw how science works in the real world. Maybe it was just watching the Discovery Channel, seeing nature, and, and somewhere deep inside them, whether it was ever articulated this way explicitly, or not, somewhere deep inside them from the religious communities they had grown up in, we're like, this doesn't fit. This doesn't work this with my faith, this view of the world doesn't, you know, I can't reconcile this. And I'm feeling that I got to choose, am I either going to double down and be part of this religious community? Or am I going to say, Yeah, this is the way the world works, and the what scientists told us, and they would feel at this fork in the road of having to choose between these two. And so I got into this because I was tired of hearing that of hearing people think that somehow they had to choose between science and, and faith. And so I said, I gotta sort some of this out myself. I gotta I mean, I've, as I told you before, I've I've never really tempted by things like young earth creationism, but neither was I ever completely sure how to reconcile, in my own mind, things like what Genesis says, with evolution. And so it was through some of my own Reading through some of the work in this Templeton group that I was talking about in Oxford, where it was like, Okay, now I'm starting to see the way that it's not like you have to compromise somehow, on your faith, it's that I need a little better, more sophisticated under understanding a way of interpreting scripture, that's actually better. It's not somehow, you know, shirking responsibility, but it's like, no, these, these documents didn't fall from heaven, that they were written in a time and place. And so coming to understand that just like, opened my eyes to say, Okay, I'm free. Now, I feel like I'm free to explore the scientific evidence and let that lead me where it will, because it's not going to threaten this commitment to faith that I have to this understanding of the Bible, even as this inspired document that that is, you know, been so important to our, to our tradition. So that in my own journey, led to I think I can show this to other people here now, too, I think, I think we can help people come so that they don't get to a crisis point the way so many of my former students had. And so that part of understanding in one bigger, more coherent picture has been really important for me, and I think, is is one of those things that keeps me juiced up and in talking to other people about this, that, that you can take both of these seriously, right, so that it's not not giving up on one or the other. More recently, so BioLogos, here about three years ago, made an intentional decision to expand the topics we talked about. Earlier on, it was mostly evolution and origins related work. And that was an intentional decision also to try to unbundle it from the other issues, because as we talked about on these culture wars, that too often the culture wars come as prepackaged bundles of of issues and topics and that you have to take all of one or all of the other and BioLogos said, No, we're not trying to get you to we're not trying, we're not talking about climate change. We're not talking about homosexuality, we're not trying to get you to vote democratic. We're just trying to talk about evolution as a way of unbundling that, but after doing that for about 10 years, we said we think we've earned enough credibility and trust that maybe we do need to talk about some other scientific topics. That was a at a strategic planning meeting in 2019. And we thought that 2020 was going to be the year of climate change and creation care for BioLogos. And then COVID happened. And we pivoted really hard in 2020, then to trying to provide scientific resources from a Christian perspective that people might trust related to COVID and really ramped up very quickly in that regard. And so then by about 2021, by the middle of 2021 or so we we started thinking more seriously and developing more resources on climate change. And that's become an issue now for me, that keeps me animated and sometimes keeps me up at night. And seeing that just the psychology of the way this is an issue works, that it's just far enough away that it doesn't feel like a crisis right now. But it really is a crisis right now. I mean, the things we're we have this short window right now as a civilization, to make the right kinds of choices, and to show how this ought to flow out of our faith. You know, rather than again, it being bundled on the opposite side of the culture wars from where many people of faith are. And they think that's what those liberal people are worried about. I'm not worried about that, well, to show that this ought to flow out of our faith, that we ought to be caring for creation, and that we ought to be worried about the justice have we in the in in the Western world, the industrialized world who have caused almost all of this are going to suffer the least from it, it's going to be the people who didn't cause it that are going to suffer the most. And what does our what does our faith commitment have to say about that? Right? Shouldn't? Shouldn't we of all people be most concerned about what the poorest and the least of these around the world are going to suffer as a result of what we've done over the last few generations? Yeah, yeah,
Zack Jackson 41:19
I was just Reading that the, you know, the Solomon Islands are probably going to be the first nation that is completely eradicated by the sea level rise, and they're trying to purchase large swaths of land in Asia is or
Jim Stump 41:32
relocate a country
Zack Jackson 41:34
to create a new country, as theirs is disappearing. We hear our are saying, well, you know, maybe it's 100 years out. I think we're all pretty, pretty aware. If you're listening to this podcast, you are probably fairly aware of the awful parts of climate change and the things that we shouldn't be doing. And there's perhaps, a sort of paralyzing nihilism to it. For those of us who think about this a lot. Is there anything happening in this in this realm that brings you hope, right now?
Jim Stump 42:12
Right at the end of 2021, we did a series on hope. And I've been thinking about it a lot lately, because in the in the sense of, is it possible for me to be hopeful, and yet not terribly optimistic? Because when I read the data, when I read the new IPCC report, I'm not very optimistic. And is that something different than hope, and I'm persuaded that I can be hopeful as an intentional choice of commitment, as a way of saying, this is how I'm going to look at the world. I'm committed to seeing it as God's creation as a place where God is sovereign, not in the sense that God controls every detail that happens, but in the sense that the good guys win. In the end, I'm committed to that view of life that, that God will work all things together for good. I'm not very optimistic about the the way things are going. But that ultimately, I'm not. I'm not even called to be effective. We had a podcast guest use this line that I just think is super powerful that we are not called to be effective. We're called to be faithful. And what does it look like to be a faithful Christian in these days? When it doesn't look like we're being very effective at convincing people to do the right thing? What does it mean to be faithful in that, in that kind of circumstance, and I think it's to continue to say that God's on the throne, Jesus is the Lord, within our tradition. These are the phrases we use that order our order our lives, and that we're going to continue to love our neighbor, and love our enemies, and to honor God with our hearts and souls and minds and strength. And hope then becomes the kind of outflow of looking at the world in that way and of being committed to that, to that way of looking at the world, that hopefulness can be and affect an outcome from the commitment to being faithful. And again, I think it's possible to have that attitude while at the same time the sort of emotional risk sponsz to immediate circumstances is not always very good. But that optimism or pessimism I see is that emotional reaction to what I see right now. Whereas Hope is the commitment to what I believe the way things are going to be, ultimately, much longer perspective, eternal perspective that hope derives from as opposed to optimism or pessimism.
Zack Jackson 45:28
I think you've just described Isaiah as call from Isaiah chapter six, where God says, you know, Whom shall I send to bring a message to the people and Isaiah says, ooh, pick me. And God says, Here's your message. Tell them to repent, but they're not going to do it. Thanks for that. I know from the outset that this is going to fail, but I need you to do it anyway. Oh, I like that, that a call to faithfulness, not effectiveness. Because there's a we, we just had a section in, I teach confirmation in my in my church, and we've got eight teenagers. And we were talking about Christology and talking about Jesus. And we got to the section on Christ's return. And they have a lot of questions about what it's going to be like, when Jesus comes back. Is it going to be like, when he came the first time? Is he going to be a baby? Is he already here? Is it going to be dramatic in the sky? And the big question was when, and most of them, uh, kind of agreed amongst themselves, without my prodding, that it was probably just going to be when the climate gets too warm, for humans to live anymore. And that we are going to once we destroy the world, that's when Jesus will come in. And so they were just talking amongst themselves about how bad it has to be first, before Jesus will come and set things right. And like the fact that this is the sort of casual conversation happening among 13 year olds, it was like a shot to the heart to me, because, you know, this is something that's deeply important to me as well. But when I was 13, I was certainly not thinking in these terms. Right? When I was 13, my, the limit of my understanding of the environment was that in all those six pack from soda rings, were going to kill turtles. You know, Captain Planet was the extent of my understanding of what we were doing to the world. But for them, they see this as a present reality. And I think the rest of us need to wake up to that.
Jim Stump 47:35
This is part of what has urged us at BioLogos. To make this to make this one of the core topics that we deal with the origins issues are interesting, they're important at some level, and have implications for things like how you understand scripture, and so on. But whether there was a historical Adam or Eve is not going to affect too many people's lives and livelihoods and caused countries like the Solomon Islands to have to relocate, right? I mean, there's a different sort of immediacy and importance to the topics of climate change that we've got to get this one, right, or it's not just going to result in splitting of denominations, it's going to result in inability to have a sustainable planet anymore.
Ian Binns 48:22
When you think about to, you know, there are still indigenous cultures out there that are completely cut off from the industrialized world, or the technological world, I guess you could say, you know, where they still live the way they've always lived. And we know they're there, but don't have any communication with them that those cultures and those communities, especially ones that are on islands will be wiped off the face of the earth, because of our actions, and then
Jim Stump 48:55
even the ones that aren't on islands, the ecosystems are going to change so dramatically already in Africa and South America, the kinds of crops that you can grow, and when you can grow them are changing pretty rapidly. And those kinds of indigenous cultures that have always done things the same way are not going to be able to keep doing those.
Ian Binns 49:14
Yeah, and it but it's very tragic that, you know, the Western world has to be has to know that its impact, at least the general thought seems to be that some believe that, well, it's not in my backyard. I guess that's the best way of saying that. Yeah.
Jim Stump 49:31
And that again, is part of this, like, that's part of the psychology that makes this so difficult to communicate because it's not immediate and in your face, it's off down the road or in another part of the world or something like that.
Ian Binns 49:45
Sure. And that's the loving others. Yep. Right. And so, you know, obviously if you identify as Christian, you can use Christian scripture to help you with that. But even if you don't identify as Christian or even if you don't benefit as a person of any faith whatsoever, you can still recognize the importance of loving others of caring about other people. So, to me, this is another Ask whatever your motivation is to help you care for others.
Jim Stump 50:13
This is another aspect of communicating to to two people that about these issues that again, span or try to at least span the culture war issues, that the theoretical side of this so we do this a lot in practice and have lots of stories to tell about trying to communicate to people in that regard. But there's a really fascinating theoretical aspect behind it. I don't know if you guys know that social psychologist, Jonathan Hite and his book, The righteous mind from a few years ago. And these moral foundations that people intuitively use to make their decisions and the research that he's done on the political left and the political right, primarily, and which of those moral foundations are most important to them. And you, you see pretty clearly that people who identify as liberal or progressive rank the highest on these moral foundations of care and fairness, and many of us that are on that at least lean that way, think that we can make these arguments just by appealing to Shouldn't we care about these other people? Isn't this fair, in order that the people who have, you know not caused this problem, they shouldn't have to be the one suffering from it. And the way you and I both just talked about this issue, that's what we were appealing to, whereas most people on the political right end of the spectrum rank way higher in these moral intuitions on liberty, and authority. And one of the challenges we face is how do we appeal to those kinds of moral foundations to talk about these issues? Because for them, they hear well, this isn't fair. Well, but their response is, well, you can't take away my liberty, you can't take away my choice. Right? Life isn't fair. Yeah, life isn't fair. Sorry, but or appeal to some other authority that they accept. So I think that's one of the big challenges for us in this business of how do we talk about these issues that are so important in ways that tap into the moral intuitions of people who are different than we are people who, who don't value is highly some of those other things that we value
Ian Binns 52:34
was obviously the last two years of this pandemic have made that that contrast even more, even more,
even more? You're right,
Zack Jackson 52:43
so we need a good alien invasion. Some some common enemy. So
Jim Stump 52:48
I'll tell you though, at the beginning of this pandemic, we at BioLogos said this is going to be what rallies the church to take science more seriously. We thought this is really the opportunity. And within a few months, it was no, the opposite of that has happened. Yeah. So
Ian Binns 53:06
yes, very tragic. Those witness.
Zack Jackson 53:10
Yeah, definitely solve those ideologies take over. And they made certain issues, political that I never imagined a million years could be political. And then I learned so much during that time about what it means to communicate with people and understand other people's values and try to communicate through them to find find some common language, not even common values, but a common way of communicating truth that I'm still working on very much. So
Jim Stump 53:39
there's another book if I can point it to. That's been very helpful for me in this regard to by a legal scholar by the name of John in NA zoo, the books called confident pluralism, which I think is really, really important. I actually just did a podcast interview with him about two months ago on our feed, you can find it but confident pluralism is he's coining this phrase to try to talk about how do we hold to our own convictions in a society where we can't, and probably shouldn't just impose them on other people. So the confident side is this isn't relativism, where we just say anything goes I really believe this is the truth. And I think it's really important, but the pluralism side is, I recognize that my neighbor down the road believes something different with the equal amount of fervor that I believe. So how do we in that kind of society have meaningful conversations? How do we try to break through these culture war bundles that that are there and the he talks primarily in terms of Supreme Court cases in the book because that's what he is. He's a scholar of the Supreme Court, Supreme Court, but really pushes us towards thinking within our communities. How do we move towards tolerance Where again, it's not just in some wimpy sort of anything goes, but rather, to be tolerant that I know other people don't all believe the same the way I do, and I shouldn't just exile them. And tolerance kind of plays off of certainty in a in a certain sense, where maybe toning down my certainty helps to communicate with people a little bit more, but he tries to push towards tolerance and humility and patience, that I think those are all really, really helpful ways of trying to engage people who believe differently than you do.
Ian Binns 55:36
I appreciate that recommendation.
Zack Jackson 55:39
Absolutely. Thank you for that. And we'll make sure to put those those links in the show notes, as well as links to your books that folks can can purchase and read, and all the resources that you've mentioned from BioLogos as well. Here at the end of our time together, first of all, I want to say a huge thank you absolutely half of the rest of our hosts and all of our listeners for spending this time with us. And before you go, what's coming up on the on your podcast that we can look forward to?
Jim Stump 56:12
Yeah, so this conference that we have coming up, we're going to do a live a live recording, which always sounds funny, because it's not like any recording isn't live, but we're gonna have a studio audience. That's what I should say, we're going to have a studio audience in front of us to record a conversation that I'll have with the artist Makoto Fujimura. To talk about creation, what does it mean to be creative, and to be made in the image of God? And what are the consequences that we find between science and art in some of those in some of those ways. We're going to do a whole series on climate change coming up in the not too distant, not too distant future. We did a we did a series last summer on what it means to be human that was a little different from the typical episode where I sit down and talk to somebody for an hour like we're doing here. But it's a little more highly produced, where we go out and talk to two experts in a number of different fields, and then have a narrative where we weave in, weave in quotes from from them. Throughout that. We are going to do a conversation with NT right about the resurrection for the week, right before Easter that will be coming up that I look forward to that we just recorded last week, an episode with Bill McKibben, who's one of the leading scientists, climate change activists, that was a pretty fun conversation than otherwise, we are looking toward the summer and putting together a couple of other series. One of them is related to a new project that I have going on. That is what I'm calling the spiritual journey of Homo sapiens. How did we become the kind of creatures that we are? And can we see in the journey of our species, something analogous to a spiritual journey of us as an individual, the highs and lows that we go through that helped to shape us and form us into into what we are today? So
Zack Jackson 58:21
we're looking at like, Paleolithic spirituality?
Jim Stump 58:26
How did this get started, I have a trip to Europe, hopefully, this next fall, where I'm even going to look at some of the cave paintings as some of these earliest sort of sorts of intimations of, of at least the records we have of our ancestors, looking at something else feel, you know, in a symbolic way of trying to figure out why we're here and who we are and all that. So I'm our series
Zack Jackson 58:53
on human evolution was one of them. It was my favorite series that that is where my, my brain is these days, and what gets me excited. So that's wonderful to hear that you're doing that as that
Ian Binns 59:03
sounds fascinating. Let me know if you need someone to go with you to hold your carry your suitcases. That just sounds fascinating.
Jim Stump 59:15
We'll see if it happens. That's the plan right now.
Ian Binns 59:18
Good luck with that. That sounds really interesting. Yeah. Yeah. And as that moves forward, if that does happen, we'll have to have you back on to talk more about that. Because that that really does sound interesting. I'd be happy to.
Zack Jackson 59:30
Yeah, well, once again, you can listen to that and 109 other episodes of the language of God podcast, you can find that on BioLogos or wherever it is that you find your podcasts wherever you're listening right now. You can also find the language of God podcast. So thank you so much, Jim, for being here today and for spending this time with us. was a really wonderful hour with you. Thanks, Zack.
Jim Stump 59:53
Thanks, Ian. Happy to do it. Thank you