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.”
The skeptic constantly assumes that if they could just see God directly or if God would give them an unmistakable sign that He is there, they would bow their knee and follow Him. Sadly, this is misguided on several levels. God declares, “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). However, there seems to be other texts that indicate people did see God. Even in Exodus 33:11 Moses speaks to God “face to face.” Obviously, “face to face” is a figure of speech which means they were in close communion or conversation.
Also, in Genesis 32:30, Jacob saw God appearing as an angel. But he did not truly see God. In Genesis 18:1, it says the Lord appeared to Abraham. Obviously, there are other cases where God appears in various forms. But this is not the same thing as seeing God directly with all His glory and holiness. It is evident that people can’t see God in all His fullness (Exodus 33:20). For if they did, they would be destroyed. Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God and he shows the world who God is (Heb. 1:1).
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 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 fine-tuning of the cosmological constants to permit lifeThe 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
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
- Laws of logic: are abstract entities and are universal, and independent of human conventions. Logic was not invented, but discovered.
- The Lord of Non-Contradiction: An Argument for God from Logic. James N. Anderson and Greg Welty.
- The argument from reason
- The argument from contingency
- 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.
- Argument from Consciousness
- Edward Feser: Why Is There Anything At All? It’s Simple
- Argument for universals, propositions, etc
- Argument for objective moral/values and duties
- The existence of the laws of nature
- God and the Laws of Nature – Robin Collins
- Scientific Evidence for the Soul: Robin Collins: http://home.messiah.edu/~rcollins/Mind-Body%20Problm/Scientific%20Case%20for%20Soul.pdf