Those who do no accept the idea of God will find this puzzling or wrong. Those who believe that God is constantly speaking will also find it simply wrong.
For me, Schubert Ogden, in his essay, "The Reality of God," in his book by the same name, offers another and interesting way to think about the silence of God.
Ogden argues that non-belief and non-faith may be seriously misunderstood. We all sense the presence of God expressed as a fundamental trust or assurance.
This may take many forms including a fleeting sense that no matter what happens to us we are "utterly safe," to use Wittgenstein's phrase.
Or we may think of God as the ultimate reality (or Tillich's "ultimate concern") that lies at the heart of everything, a reality that we don't go up to but rather journey out to, even as it reaches out to us.
This reality affirms the connectedness of all, a connectedness that reassures us that we are not lost but "saved."
This is getting very close to why I continue in the life of faith, a faith and trust in the intimate, interconnectedness that I sense, a connectedness that is behind the immensity we call the universe, a connectedness that beckons and reassures, a connectedness that feels embracing and waiting.
In Mary Oliver's poem "The Wild Geese" she writes:
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting---
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
For this reason, the real issue of faith at the deepest, existential level is never whether we are to believe in God, or even, as it is sometimes said, what God we are to believe in; the issue, instead, is how we are to believe in the only God in whom anyone can believe and in whom each of us somehow must believe."(Ogden, 24)
In this view a pure atheism is not truly possible although "a-theism," or an argument against certain forms in which God is presented is entirely possible and even responsible. As our associate pastor puts it, "How to talk about faith when you don't believe in God."
We cannot not believe in God, in this view, and instead believe in mammon; we can only take mammon as the token and sign of the God we believe in.
The idolater manifestly believes in God because he or she embraces some form of ultimate trust.
Thus atheism or non-belief stands to belief not as 1 stands to 0 but as plus 1 stands to -1, or as error stands to the life of reason. (Ogden, 23, here citing H. Richard Niebuhr)
Ogden says that we have rationalized, conceptualized beliefs in our heads, and at a more basic or first level, we have a fundamental, element sense of God's presence, an assurance and a re-assurance.
At this level, and perhaps always, God is silent but present.
Here we are in touch with a more elemental reality, one which the more intellectualized sense of God can cloud over.
Indeed, we can have people who confess an absolute faith in God at the intellectual level but at the root level of God be faithless. The bishop of the church in the funny hat can present a towering symbol for God and faith but also may carry in his heart a faith that is more truly attached to his hat and his eminence.
Looked at this way, the silence of God signifies that we have reached the truer level where we find the silent presence of God.
James Carse's ideas about receiving the world and silence, in his The Silence of God, may be the attempt to get to this more fundamental level and this purer sense of assurance, an assurance that waits for us, beckons us, and bids us to speak.