A Look at Evidence We Want and Evidence We Should Expect
REMEMBER: Sometimes questions are better than answers!
Some Common Objections:
- “There is no proof for God!”
- “We can’t know if there is a God or that Jesus is the Son of God” (agnostic)
- “We do know that God does not exist and that Jesus is not the Son of God” (knowledge claim)
Questions to ask:
What is “Proof”?
Does “proof” mean we need 100 percent, absolute, mathematical certainty — with no possible alternative explanations for the existence of God/Jesus as the Son of God?
Does Proof mean to have “Certitude?”
- Means it cannot be challenged by the consideration of new evidence that results from improved observation
- It can’t be criticized by improved reasoning or the detection of inadequacies or errors in the reasoning we have done. Beyond such challenge or criticism, such judgments are indubitable, or beyond doubt. Note: This was adpated from Mortimer Adler’s Six Great Ideas.
- Aside from common sense beliefs (i.e, beliefs we take for granted in the common concerns of life), we generally don’t’ get certitude with much of anything.
- If someone is asking for 100 percent, to truly know that God exists, we need to remind them this is unrealistic. We believe lots of things with confidence even though we do not have absolute certainty.
“There is no evidence for God or the Christian faith?”
Questions to ask:
- Are you asking if there is good reasons or grounds for being a Christian?
Evidence We Want vs. Evidence We Should Expect
Note: Thanks to Stephen Bedard at Hope’s Reason for the differentiation here.
Example: Evidence We Want
“God is a supernatural being, so I want a supernatural sign or be handed undisputable evidence of one. If only I could see a miracle, then I will believe.”
Biblically speaking, no man can see God directly and live (Exodus 33:20). In other words, If God revealed himself directly to people, we would not be able to handle it. The few instances we have for some sort of theophany of God display the issue at hand:
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were the seraphim…. And they were calling to one another ‘Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh–Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts–Adonai Tsevaot–The whole earth is full of His glory.’ And at the sound of their voices the doorposts and the thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. ‘Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips, but my eyes have seen the King, Adonai Tsevaot.’” (Isaiah 6:1, 3).
Also, the demand for signs doesn’t guarantee one will believe. For example:
Jesus did signs for people and they still rejected him: John grieved: “Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him” (John 12:37).
Jesus himself said of some, “They will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31). One result, though not the purpose, of miracles is condemnation of the unbeliever (cf. John 12:31, 37).
Jesus did the miracles for those who were Beatitude people. Are you poor in spirit? Do you recognize your poverty before God? Or do you just want a sign so you can say, “Oh, I guess that God exists, but I have no intention of placing my faith in God.”
Evidence We Want: Scientific Evidence
Questions to ask:
- What is science? “Science the attempted objective study of the natural world/natural phenomena whose theories and explanations do not normally depart from the natural realm.” (Del Ratzsch, Philosophy of Science (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 15.
- Is God natural or non natural? How would science ‘prove’ or provide evidence against the non-existence of God? For example, if God created the universe from nothing (think, Big Bang), then all naturalistic attempts to explain the universe’s beginning are going to run into problems!
- Some skeptics want to cling to the claim that science can say nothing about the existence of God (he is supernatural) but they also desperately want to tell people how science has shown that God doesn’t exist. This makes no sense!
- Science operates on induction (A posteriori knowledge which is dependent on experience or empirical evidence ).The inductive method entails searching out things in the world and drawing generalized conclusions about those things based on observation. The only way one can say a thing does not exist is by using a deductive method (A priori knowledge which is independent of experience).
- One cannot know anything inductively with absolute certainty. The inductive method gives us knowledge that is only probably true.
- Can we observe God directly? No! But since science is a search or causes, we can observe the effects in the world and make rational inferences (i.e, is the cause of what we observe the result of natural causation or intelligent causation?
- Does science allow for agency? Human beings habitually understand themselves as agents. Agents have goals (things they desire), and produce behavior which they believe will achieve those goals. They plan ahead and show intentional design and purpose. Example: Does the universe have a goal or purpose? Is the universe set up to allow for scientific discovery? It is set up for life to get get going on earth? Note: Natural selection has no reasons for its “choices,” and it has no goals, only selecting on the basis of past performance.
- God of the gaps? When theists cannot explain something in nature, they will conveniently say, “God did it.” So the complaint is that when we appeal to God to plugs the gaps of our ignorance, science will continue to provide answers.
- Remember: (1) The Biblical authors didn’t differentiate between natural and non natural causes. God is the author of nature (i.e., we need to account or the existence of nature/natural laws themselves that allow science to flourish); (2) “Naturalism of the gaps: “Naturalism-of-the-gaps implies so great a confidence in scientism that ultimately no evidence for God can ever emerge, no matter how strong.
There is evidence for God in the sciences: Note: These issues are always being debated: NOTE: Thanks to Wintery Knight for some of these resources:
- The origin of the universe from nothing; Why the universe exists/the existence of nature/natural laws; Cause must be personal, immaterial, outside time, space, etc verses the universe was produced by a mindless, nonconscious processes.
- Why the universe is rational (i.e., rational Being creates a rational universe that is observable and orderly verses a completely impersonal, non rational cause that allows for a rational universe).
- The fine-tuning of the cosmological constants to permit life
- The fine-tuning of the galaxy, solar system, and planet to permit life
- Origin of the building blocks in the simplest replicating cell
- Origin of biological information in the simplest replicating cell; Biological Information content of organisms (i.e. Information comes from an intelligent source). The info content of DNA is fundamental to life; but DNA is not itself alive. It contains a database of information and the program to produce a specified product. Each of the 10-100 trillion cells in the human body contains a database larger than the Encyclopedia Britannica.
- The limits on what natural selection and random mutation can do
The atheist argument from evolution
1) If evolution is true then God does not exist.
2) Evolution is true.
3) Therefore, God does not exist.
This part was adapted from the article called Why Is Evolution So Widely Believed? by William Lane Craig at http://www.reasonablefaith.org/why-is-evolution-so-widely-believed#ixzz2uMdBjwgO
Questions to ask: What do you mean by evolution?
The evolutionary biologist Francisco Ayala points out that the word “evolution” can be used to mean at least three different things:
- The process of change and diversification of living things over time. It is in this sense that biologists say that evolution is a fact. But obviously this fact, so stated, is innocuous and would not be disputed even by the most fundamentalist Young Earth Creationist.
- Reconstruction of evolutionary history, showing how various lineages branched off from one another on the universal tree of life.
- The mechanisms which account for evolutionary change. Darwin appealed to natural selection operating on random variations in living things in order to explain the adaptedness of organisms to their environment. With the development of modern genetics, genetic mutations came to supplement the Darwinian mechanism of natural selection by supplying an explanation for the variations on which natural selection works. Accordingly, we can call this hypothesis “neo-Darwinism.”
- Evolution in the senses of (2) and (3) is not an established fact, despite what is said and believed in popular culture. According to Ayala, “The second and third issues—seeking to ascertain evolutionary history as well as to explain how and why evolution takes place—are matters of active scientific investigation. Some conclusions are well-established. Many matters are less certain, others are conjectural, and still others. . . remain largely unknown” (Darwin and Intelligent Design).
- With respect to (2) Ayala emphasizes, “Unfortunately, there is a lot, lot, lot to be discovered still. To reconstruct evolutionary history, we have to know how the mechanisms operate in detail, and we have only the vaguest idea of how they operate at the genetic level, how genetic change relates to development and to function. . . . I am implying that what would be discovered would be not only details, but some major principles” (Where Darwin Meets the Bible). As for (3), he cautions, “The mechanisms accounting for these changes are still undergoing investigation. . . . The evolution of organisms is universally accepted by biological scientists, while the mechanisms of evolution are still actively investigated and are the subject of debate among scientists”(“The Evolution of Life: An Overview”).
- Lyn Margulis, one of the so-called Altenburg 16, a group of evolutionary biologists who met in 2008 at a conference in Altenburg, Austria, to explore the mechanisms behind evolutionary change, reported, “At that meeting [Francisco] Ayala agreed with me when I stated that this doctrinaire neo-Darwinism is dead. He was a practitioner of neo-Darwinism, but advances in molecular genetics, evolution, ecology, biochemistry, and other news had led him to agree that neo-Darwinism’s now dead” (Suzan Mazur, The Altenberg 16 [Berkeley: North Atlantic, 2010], p. 285).
Evidence We Should Expect
We need to discuss the difference between factors and proofs
Webster’s II New College Dictionary says a factor is “something that actively contributes to an accomplishment, goal, or process.”
The plausibility factor: “Isn’t it reasonable to believe that a God who created us could, if he wanted to do so through the vehicle of inspired writing?” In other words,does it make sense that God should provide a revelation of Himself to humanity?” (see Randy Newman’s Questioning Evangelism, pg 127-128.
Analogy: As someone who is married, how do I know what my wife expects of me in certain situations unless she communicates!
Why the need for a revelation?
- We need to know the character of God: we need a concrete communication to establish the exact nature of God’s character. Who is God and what is He Like?
- The Origin of Evil/The Fall: Man needs to be educated concerning the reasons for our situation.
- Man’s Origin: Without a clear revelation, people might think they are the result of a blind, naturalistic process instead of being created in the image of God.
- Mankind’s Destiny: In the absence of a revelation, we might think that this life is all there is
- Testimony of witnesses
- Hostile eyewitness testimony
- Written documents
- Archeological/external evidence
- We use textual studies to show that we have trustworthy versions of the original biblical documents.
Remember, when it comes to historical evidence: Since history is inductive, probability comes in degrees:
- Virtual Certainty: Where the evidence is overwhelmingly in its favor( the law of gravity)
- Highly probable: Very good evidence in its favor (There was a man named Jesus who lived 2,000 years ago and was crucified)
- Probable: Means there is sufficient evidence in its favor (Paul wrote Galatians and 1 Corinthians)
- Possible: Seems to have evidence both for and against (The Shroud of Turin is the cloth that covered Jesus when he was in the tomb)
- Improbable: Insufficient Evidence in its favor (Life can come from non-life)
The Old Testament explains:
- The reality of original sin: it is seen in the reality of life and all around the world.
- The emergence and present existence of Israel
- Predictive prophecy: (i.e., timing of coming of Messiah (Gen. 49:8-12; Deut. 18:15-18; Dan. 9; Haggai 2); Gen 12:1-3: Forming of Israel will lead to Jewish Messiah who will enable millions of non-Jews to come to know the one true God; manner of Messiah’s death and rejection: (Isa. 52:13-53:2; Psalm 22); divinity of Messiah (Gen. 49:8-12: Dan 7:13-14; Isa. 9:1-9).
- Objection: Killing of Cannanites, etc. slavery issue, need to employ hermeneutics.
The New Testament explains:
- Messiah’s first coming
- We can detect God’s work in human history and apply historical tests to the Bible or any other religious book .
- The late Anthony Flew said the resurrection of Jesus was the best attested miracle claim that he had seen. Perhaps the most reasonable expectation is to ask where God has broken through in human history.
- Miracles performed in connection with a truth claim are acts of God to confirm the truth of God through a messenger of God
Evidence We Should Expect:
“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory. Note: see Paul Copan’s God: The Best Explanation
- Humans long for transcendence, meaning and purpose
- The argument from reason
- Humans are relational- they long for community
- When people see evil in the world, they appeal to a design plan (how things ought to be, but are not) or standard of goodness (a corruption or absence of goodness),by which we judge something to be evil.
- Humans can develop propositions, formulate arguments, draw inferences, recognize universal principals, value logical validity, coherence and truth. While animals can be taught and use vocabulary words, they lack the ability to work with abstractions and ask philosophical questions.
- Human beings have intrinsic value/dignity and rights.
- Objective moral values/and duties exist.
- We believe we make free personal decisions/ choices. We assume humans are accountable for their actions. our control.
- (Self-)consciousness exists.