The Contradiction In Demanding Extraordinary Evidence

eeeMy last post discussed some of the problems with demanding “extraordinary” evidence before considering the possibility that an extraordinary event – like the Resurrection of Jesus – actually did occur. Setting artificial standards for evidence, I argued, does little to advance the goal of determining the truth. Skeptics often respond by insisting that nothing short of the miraculous will convince them of the existence of God. After all, they reason, if God did exist, he would expect us to use the mind he gave us to come to our own conclusions, based on evidence and reason, in order to separate fact from fantasy. When pressed, the skeptic will often provide the following examples of “adequate” proof:

  • God appearing to everyone, everywhere at the same time;
  • Finding microscopic writing on every living cell identifying God as the manufacturer;
  • Present day miracles such as amputees regrowing limbs through prayer;
  • Alien life coming to earth and also proclaiming Christ as savior;
  • Finding large etchings on Mars authored by Yahweh.

These examples of “adequate” proof all share the quality of being “extraordinary.” Faced with such evidence, many more – though I would submit not all – would have a conversion experience. Since God performed such extraordinary acts in antiquity, the skeptic wonders whether it is asking too much that he perform these same types of acts for all people at all times in all places.

The first step in assessing this challenge is to consider whether God has an adequate reason for not addressing each of us in a direct and unambiguous way. Why doesn’t God write us an email each day that makes his will known? The answer, I suspect, has to do with the “fall” – as a result of which God removed himself from direct contact with us – and from the fact that he actually does intend us to use our intellect to move towards him. To better know, and experience and understand him requires not a one-sentence tag line – “You should take that job. /s/ God” – but a conscious effort of the will to solve the puzzles of life, of revelation, of awareness of God in our lives. That this is achievable requires little more than perusing a book on the lives of the saints. But at a deeper level, the skeptic who insists on such direct communication is actually betraying the very commitment to rationality that he pretends to have.

The skeptic insists he cannot just believe “on faith” and that he expects that a God who gave us a mind would expect that we use it. Christians agree. In fact, many passages in Scripture reaffirm Jesus’ admonition that we are to love God with all of our minds. In placing trust in the Biblical account of reality, Christians use a rational process known as abduction – reasoning from inferences to a logical conclusion – piecing together dozens of bits of information to see where they lead. This process is an example of how rationality works. By contrast, despite their asserted reliance on rational thinking, skeptics insist 1) that the evidence be “extraordinary” (whatever that means) and 2) that nothing short of a direct contact by God would suffice. Do they not realize that the intellect isn’t necessary if one’s expectations are set to that level? Even the person of below normal intelligence would be able to conclude “God Is” with such evidence and without any use of rational thinking. Reasoning from evidence to a conclusion would simply not be necessary.

The skeptic’s position is like that of a juror who refuses to convict the murderer because there was no confession, or no video of the killing as it took place. But killers always leave some evidence behind, and piecing together the bits and pieces of that trail allows for a thoughtful, rational person to find guilt regardless of the killer’s silence. Now, the skeptic may object that God should not try to hide, the way the killer does. No matter. Use a different example. Many of the greatest discoveries of science – for instance, unlocking the secrets of the atom – required effort to uncover the reality that lies beneath the surface. If scientists waited for an instruction manual to appear written into the canals of Mars, or printed on the cell, we would still be lighting fires to illuminate our caves. In any other pursuit of knowledge and understanding, the thoughtful person understands that the answers will not always be clear and that reasoning to best conclusions is a viable way of attaining knowledge. Why should it be any different when it comes to knowledge of God? What is too easily obtained is often too little valued.

The skeptic sets impossible standards because he is trying to find reasons to reject what is patently obvious to most people who ever lived – created things require a Creator. Christians take this knowledge to a deeper level, placing confidence in their conclusion that this Creator revealed himself in the pages of the Bible. In so doing, Christians rely on reason; it is the skeptic, with his impossibly high demands, that refuses to.

Posted by Al Serrato

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  1. Roger Reynolds says:

    I believe that among many reasons why God does not perform miracles for signs of “proof”, to unbelievers is that it wouldn’t do them any good. Look at how many people witnessed the plagues and miracles of the OT and still did not believe. How many saw Jesus heal, raise the dead and still would not believe. The main ingredient required for salvation is humility. A person that is imbedded in sinful pride is literally blind to anything of the Spirit. Flesh is flesh…outward proof only produces outward results. Many times God can reach the heart through miracles but not if the heart is hard.

    “Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and asked that He would show them a sign from heaven… (Jesus responded) “A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” And He left them and departed.
    Matthew 16:1, 4

    “What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life”.-John 6:62-63

    It is the drawing of the Spirit that holds the key to unlock the heart. That is why truth sets free. Truth contains light, light exposes. If we run to the light not from it then faith grants access to Gods grace. Criminals don’t hang out with cops. A repentant, humble heart is Gods primary goal. He doesn’t need to impress, He desires our heart!

    “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ ”
    Luke 16:27-28, 31

    The mind CANNOT receive what the heart rejects

    1Corinthians 2.14 – But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned…”

    The Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God…12 We have received…the Spirit…that we might know the things that have been freely given to us. (1 Cor. 2:10-12)

    The Spirit escorts us on a divine treasure hunt into the beauty of Jesus. He takes the things that Jesus is thinking and feeling and reveals them to us. This is divine entertainment at its highest.

    Reality – What is seen is temporary, what is unseen is eternal. (1 Cor 4:18)…
    Christians are realist too, they just believe in a superior reality!

  2. Jeremy Legg says:

    Roger, indeed. I’ve shared so much truth with atheists, often in the form of refutation of their shaky theories, and do you suppose that any have ever said, “Thank you, Jeremy, for clearing that matter up for me. I won’t rely on that erroneous belief in future”?

    Actually, one did, a couple of months ago when I pointed out that his argument was based on something in the OT that has been fulfilled for us by Jesus Christ in the NT, but apart from that, it’s a case of ignore the truth they’ve been shown and move onto the next flaky objection.

    Thus with miracles, as with everything else – some people just don’t want to believe.

    At the same time, however, God is reaching many people through healings and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and we have to pray that He will convict the heard-hearted.

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