Monday, January 20, 2014

Evidence and Proof: What do a Drug Trafficker and God Have in Common?

"How much God could proof of God prove if proof of God could prove God?"
That line from my Intro to Philosophy professor has stuck with me all these years. I mentioned in a previous blog that some atheists often say that there is no proof that God exists. I have seen in conversations and debates where an atheist will say, "There is no evidence." The Christian then offers some evidence which the atheist dismisses with a wave of their hand. The comments usually amount to something like "That's not real evidence" or "That doesn't prove God exists."
Sadly, too often I have seen or heard the Christian then scramble to explain something another way or find additional information that would be better evidence. The problem is, often the atheist has already stacked the deck by defining "evidence" and "proof" in such a way, setting the standard so high, that nothing a theist can offer would qualify.
The problem is not with the Christian's evidence. The problem is that the atheist is getting to redefine the terms. I'm not saying that they are necessarily being sinister or tricky, they may indeed genuinely believe the definitions they use, but their position is seeking to rewrite the dictionary.
It would seem that the definition of "evidence" and "proof" have been corrupted by the individual's existing belief. Many times atheists hold to naturalism, materialism, physicalism, and/or scientism. While these all have separate specific meanings and uses, they all generally involve the idea that the only knowledge or data that counts is what is experiences through the 5 senses: touch, taste, hearing, seeing or smell. If it is not experienced or observed using those senses, then it can't be objective or actually known with any certainty. This view of the world has informed their definition of "evidence" or "proof" to automatically exclude anything that does not fit.
However, if you actually look up the definitions of these terms, you find a much broader use. (See definitions below from
Evidence does not mean only direct evidence.
Proof does not mean absolute certainty.
Anything that points to the validity of a conclusion is evidence or proof of that conclusion, whether it is a physical thing or an abstract idea. Logic, reason, feelings, mathematics, etc. These all count as evidence in all kinds of instances, but they are not physically obtained.
I've talked before about serving on a jury. In a criminal case, most of the evidence is not going to be direct evidence like DNA, fingerprints, or camera footage. Most of the evidence is indirect evidence from which the prosecution builds their case.
In the case I was involved with, the charge was conspiracy to transport drugs. There was no direct evidence that put drugs in the hands of the person in question. Drugs were found in his house. Known drug dealers were seen coming and going. Vehicles known to have left his house had drugs stashed in them. His wife testified that he always had money but no regular employment. A large stash of cash was found in his house. Known drug dealers and suppliers in custody testified that they used his house as a stop off point between themselves and the local dealers. There were photographs of the defendant partying with known drug dealers and smugglers.
NONE of this directly put drugs in the possession of the defendant or empirically shows that he was knowingly allowing drugs to pass through his house. Indeed the defense's argument was that the worst he was guilty of was keeping bad company but was not directly involved in the trafficking of drugs.
Does that mean it is not "evidence" since it is not empirical (at least related to the defendant with drugs)? Of course not. It is clearly evidence.
Did the prosecution "prove" that the defendent was involved in trafficking drugs? According to the judge's instructions on "reasonable doubt" a jury took only a few hours to come to a conclusion, and the man is now in jail. That would seem to say "yes".
The claim was that a particular person had done a particular activity. Evidence proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he had. It was not specific, direct evidence which removed 100% of uncertainty. However, the indirect evidence as a whole built the case and laid out the circumstances which were reasonably explained ONLY by the conclusion that he was guilty.
When it comes to God, the evidences (morality, logic, philosophy, scientific data, etc.) may not directly "prove" God. However, taken as a whole, the circumstances laid out by the evidence is reasonably explained only by the conclusion that the God of the Bible exists and His Word is true.
1. that which tends to prove or disprove something; ground for belief; proof.
2. something that makes plain or clear; an indication or sign: His flushed look was visible evidence of his fever.
3. Law. data presented to a court or jury in proof of the facts in issue and which may include the testimony of witnesses, records, documents, or objects.


1. evidence sufficient to establish a thing as true, or to produce belief in its truth.
2. anything serving as such evidence: What proof do you have?
3. the act of testing or making trial of anything; test; trial: to put a thing to the proof.
4.the establishment of the truth of anything; demonstration.
5.Law. (in judicial proceedings) evidence having probative weight.

verb (used with object), proved, proved or prov·en, prov·ing.
1. to establish the truth or genuineness of, as by evidence or argument: to prove one's claim.
2. Law. to establish the authenticity or validity of (a will); probate.
3. to give demonstration of by action.
4. to subject to a test, experiment, comparison, analysis, or the like, to determine quality, amount, acceptability, characteristics, etc.: to prove ore.
5. to show (oneself) to have the character or ability expected of one, especially through one's actions.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Faith: Just a Step Further and You're There

A big problem I have encountered with both believers and non-believers
in conversation is the idea that to have "faith" means that you lack
any reason or evidence. I have even heard people say that the very
presence of evidence or a reason means something is NOT faith.

This just boggles my mind. I am not sure where this is coming from
because we do not use this meaning in most cases. I would say that if
this IS the definition a person insists on using for the word "faith",
then the word "faith" needs to be abandoned completely when discussing
Christianity and Biblical matters.

I recently had a conversation with a skeptic friend where we kept
running in circles because he would not accept that my "faith" involves
evidence and use of reason.

Yes, there is a sense in which the word "faith" can be used to mean total blind faith, but it usually is in the context of hope where as having faith in Jesus Christ is a belief or trust based on something.

According to, the #1 definition for faith is
"confidence or trust in a person or thing". Of the 5 definitions
given, only 1 involved the idea of lacking proof. I would say that the
way the word is used by Christians is that there may be a lack of
absolute "certainty" but not evidence.

Faith takes the last steps where evidence cannot go. I have faith that
my wife will not cheat on me. My evidence is her moral character, past
track record with relationships, personal convictions, and our wedding
vows. Now, obviously it is possible for a wife to cheat, and my wife
is not free from sin and temptation the same as every other person on
the planet. I cannot absolutely prove with certainty that she will not
cheat on me, but the evidence provided gives me a really good reason
to believe she will not. I have faith in her ability to keep her vow.

My faith in her takes the last few steps that evidence could not take.

I have faith that my lunch from a new restaurant will not poison me,
leaving my wife a widow and my children fatherless. I have very good
evidence to believe this. It is bad business to poison customers on
purpose, so that's not likely. Our society has safety and health
regulations on multiple levels, so an accidental poisoning isn't as
likely. I have spoken with several friends who have recently eaten
there, and they were not poisoned. Even if poisoning occurs, most food
poisoning leads to discomfort not death. Now is it possible that some
deadly bacteria could get past all of the protections and by a freak
accident I end up dying from food poisoning? Of course. Can I say with
certainty that I will not die from lunch? Nope. But the evidence gets
me close enough to assume safety.

My faith in the restaurant takes the last few steps that the evidence cannot.

You can apply the same standard to driving, going for a walk, whether
or not your boss will pay you, ... all sorts of things. All day long
we put our faith in things and people that we cannot have complete
certainty about but for which we have a decent amount of reason or
evidence to deem them trustworthy.

THAT is what faith is. Faith takes the final steps towards belief that
evidence cannot take.

Christianity has an abundance of historical, philosophical,
scientific, logical, archaelogical, and experiental evidence to make
it a reasonable belief. Faith simply takes the final steps from
believing THAT Christianity as a religious belief is valid to
believing IN the person of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your

Do not let someone get away with telling you that "faith" has no
evidence and is without reason. If they refuse to budge on their
faulty definition, then just use another word like "trust" or
something else more applicable to the conversation.

Remember, the point when we talk to other people is to communicate. If
definitions of words get in the way of that happening those words no
longer serve a purpose. Either find common agreement on a word or find
a new word.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Atheism: Firmly Convinced of Nothing

There has been something about the discussion surrounding "atheism" that has been bugging me. It only recently occurred to me (I'm a little slow) where the problem was coming from.
Here's the deal, everywhere I read, listen to, or engage an atheist on the issue of belief they tend to claim that they have no burden of proof for their position. Theists say, "God exists." Atheists say, "God does not exist." But they seem to act as if theists are the only ones who have to explain themselves.
That has always bugged me. Because here is how burden of proof works. If you make a claim, you have to provide evidence to prove your claim. Theists claim, "God," and then present arguments. Atheists tend to completely dismiss any theistic arguments as not being "evidence" (that's a future point) and then say that since there is no "evidence" therefore no God.
One day it finally clicked for me as I was considering the way a jury looks at a case (reflecting on my own experience as a juror). In American law, you are presumed "not guilty" until proven "guilty." The defense is not required to make a case at all. The burden is completely on the prosecution to prove the claim of guilt. As a juror, you are required to presume that the defendant did NOT commit the crime unless and until the prosecution convinces you otherwise.

Atheists view themselves as in the defense and the burden of proof lies completely on the theist. Most citizens are considered to not be a criminal until it is proven otherwise. Atheists seem to think most people believe there is no God until they are convinced otherwise.

They seem to believe we are born atheists and have to be convinced otherwise: (

But here's the deal. We are not naturally atheists. Indeed, left to their own devices, people tend to seek for explanations and causes beyond themselves and beyond nature.
The natural state of humanity is not atheism, but agnosticism.  (Actually, Biblically we have an inherent knowledge of the Creator in whose image we were made, but I'm being generous.)
Here's how this works. Atheists tend to claim that they default to a belief that God does not exist because there is no positive evidence (in their opinion) that God does exist. That is a lack of evidence. That's the logical fallacy of argument from lack of evidence. Just because you lack evidence does not prove something is false. This is where many will say that they don't assert that God does not exist, only that they have not seen evidence to demonstrate that He does (again, by their narrow definition of evidence). 
But this seems to confuse atheism with agnosticism.
Atheism (a-theo) = No God
Agnosticism (a-gnostos) = No knowledge
Atheists say that since there is no evidence of God, therefore there is no God. Again, this is a logical fallacy.

I have no evidence whatsoever about what some random person 100 years ago named Frank Smith had for breakfast. That does not mean that he did not have breakfast. Only that I have no information about his breakfast. I am an agnostic when it comes to Frank's breakfast. If I were to claim that Frank did not have any breakfast, that is a positive claim to a position and requires proof.

If the "lack of belief" statement were true, at best all the atheist has done is tell you about their personal beliefs. This has absolutely no bearing on whether or not God is real. It just informs you about what 1 person thinks.
However, generally, atheists claim that God does not exist. That is a positive claim to a position and therefore they have a burden of proof.
The Bible says that we all know that God exists (Romans 1). That would make an atheist actually a theist in denial. At best, without evidence, the most a person can claim about God is to be an agnostic.

Do not let people fool you on this one. A lack of  "evidence" means a lack of knowledge. It is not proof for anything.

What Did You Just Say to Me?

Previously I wrote about a conversation where a friend and I were discussing matters of faith and religion, and we just kept running in circles. Maybe I am a little slow, but it occurred to me that it was mainly because we weren't even speaking the same language. Oh we both used the English alphabet and commonly used English words, but our definitions of those words were so polar opposites that we could barely have a conversation.
I've discovered that in many instances the confusion and debate around and about religious issues come from people fervently stating their argument with completely different definitions of common words.
Some Christians have had their trust in God and Jesus Christ shaken because they either have adopted the atheists' definitions or did not understand a different definition was being used.
Here are the 4 words I have seen used over and over which tend to automatically slant the "debate" on the side of atheists before the conversation even begins:
Tolerance, Atheism, Faith, Evidence, and Proof.
Being aware of these terms and how they are being used can clear up a lot of the problems, tension, and drama in a conversation. Whoever defines the terms tends to control the conversation. Since most of the time we are not debating people but having conversations, we don't want to "control" or "win". We just want to have a productive conversation. That can't happen if we are speaking different languages.
We need to be on the look out for these words and make sure how they are being used so that we don't accidentally walk into miscommunications or misunderstandings that can cause more harm than good.
To start, I want to address "Tolerance"

There have been all kinds of people way smarter than I am addressing this one. It's a common, emotionally charged word tossed around now days to insult and silence opposition. Generally people mean that if you disagree with someone else's beliefs, views or behaviors then you are not being "tolerant."
No one wants to be the jerk, so we either just shut up or actually begin to doubt our own beliefs or positions.
But understanding the error in definition here is simple ... to "tolerate" someone you must first disagree with them. Tolerance by it's very nature requires that judgment and disagreement has taken place. When I would be a little nuisance to my older sister (and my parents were around) she had to "tolerate" me. She didn't like me. She didn't think I was behaving well. She would have loved nothing more than to stuff me into a very small container and toss me in the creek. She wanted me to shut up and go away. BUT, because of my parents' presence, she had to "tolerate" me. She had to act kind and civil to me. Her feelings and thoughts towards me were not required to change. But her behavior was one of civility and politeness.
We all know this. It is only in the realm of religious, political, social or moral issues that we use the term "tolerate" to mean complete acceptance and agreement with something. Simply disagreeing with someone is not "INtolerant". Don't let people get away with this one.
A discussion of this issue also took place at a Q&A event for local teens. Hear it discussed by a panel of youth pastors here:
A look at "Atheism", "Faith", "Evidence", and "Proof" will follow.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Fundamentalism vs Apologetics

[Reposted from a Previous Blog]
A friend of mine responded to a Facebook post I shared about apologetics. He claimed that apologetics seems to be at odds with fundamentalism (a label which he knows I gladly take). Through the course of the conversation we rabbit trailed and meandered through some other areas and miscommunications and even had trouble coming to an agreement on the definition of fundamentalism and the nature of faith. I thought it would be good to do my best to have a clear and concise explanation of my position on this.
Fundamentalism was explained in a previous blog ( as simply holding to the basic teachings of Christ and the Bible with the usual bagage of closed-minded bigotry being polar opposite to the teachings of Christ.
The best I could grasp it, the idea my friend posed seemed to be that fundamentalism is based on faith and faith can't be based on evidence or it ceases to be faith. Since apologetics is the use of evidence, therefore, fundamentalists (like myself) would be inconsistent to use apologetics.
That may not be exactly what he was getting at, but that's what I got from it. Also, I have heard this sort of idea before.
Christian Apologetics as was being used in our conversation I think is best summed up as "a reasoned support of Biblical truth using extra-biblical evidences."
Faith is a tricky thing and a point of much debate in theological and philosophical circles. My friend seemed to indicate (and I have heard this way of thinking before) that the very nature of faith is believing something in a vacuum of evidence (my words).I operate under the definition that Christian faith is reasonable trust in beliefs that have been demonstrated to be trustworthy.
Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so ... yes, AND because there is other extra-biblical reasons to believe that to be true.
The idea of apologetics comes from the urging we have to be ready and able to give a defense or explanation for the ideas, beliefs, principles, etc. that you adhere to.
"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear."
Can extra-biblical sources serve as evidence for biblical truth?
A reasoned argument for apologetics is that extra-biblical evidence is not proof that determines the truth of the Bible, it is evidence that describes the truth of the Bible. God's Word is not dependent on our ability to prove it to be true. However, since God created the world and everything in it, we should expect to find other evidences that agree with the Bible but which are not specifically from the Bible.

An analogy would be a crime. Say I am a citizen deemed to have impeachable character and generally considered by all to be honest and trustworthy (we're just pretending), and I stop a crime in progress. From my vantage point I saw the entire thing from the beginning until I stepped in. I saw the victim. I saw the perpetrator, who happens to also live down the street from me. I heard what was said, and immediately after the criminal fled, I was able to record the entire thing in exquisite detail in my notebook app on my new tablet I got for Christmas. Now, my testimony alone may be enough to convince a jury and convict the criminal. Does that mean that the police should not get fingerprints and check security cameras and check with other witnesses? Is the truth of my testimony dependent on other evidence being gathered? Does the use of these other evidences somehow undermine the strength of my testimony? Of course not. Those other evidences corroborate and lend support to the truth of the primary testimony given, but they have no bearing on whether it is actually true, maybe just whether or not a person will find it more believable.
In the same way, apologetics lends support and additional corroboration to the testimony of scripture, but scripture is not dependent on apologetics to be true or authoritative.
Since the Bible is primarily our source for truth, what does it have to say about using extra-biblical evidences (logic, reason, science, etc)?
God created the world (Genesis 1 and 2), and we know that to at least some degree knowledge about God is knowable from His creation (Romans 1:19-20).
While creation alone cannot point to the specific knowledge of Jesus Christ as the savior of the world on whom we must believe to receive forgiveness of sin, it does demonstrate the existence of God and certain qualities about Him and about us.
We are commanded to love the Lord not only with our hearts but also with our minds (Matt 22:37). Our faith is not only one of love but also entails a "sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7). The whole point of the book of Proverbs is about being wise and not foolish in your thinking. "A wise man will hear and increase learning, And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel" (1:5).
The case could be made that God Himself was engaging in the use of apologetics with Job, especially in chapters 38-40.
Jesus often used parables which involve use of logic and reason to explain a concept in a more mundane or  relatable way so it can then be brought into the greater religious context. He didn't just quote the Torah.
Peter, in Acts 2, lays out the case and makes a defense (apologetics) for the reason Jesus came and died (and rose again) and why those present (and us as well) needed to put their faith in Him.
Acts 17 says that Paul "reasoned" with the Jews in the synagogue.
Paul also makes frequent use of quoting other philosophers and sources, using people's own philosophies and traditions to help explain Christianity to them and make the case for Christ:
What it gets down to is this: If something is true, we do not expect to find only 1 place where it is supported and demonstrated to be true. If it is true that you are an honest person, I do not just take your word for it ... though you saying so would be true. I can check with your spouse, family, friends, co-workers, bosses, classmates, and find out if you are indeed an honest person. Evidence outside of you supports a truth claim about you.
In the same way, since the Bible is true, it is only rational that other things in life would demonstrate and point to the truth found in the Bible. And this is indeed what we see, and making use of those other evidences found in extra-biblical realms of knowledge to point back to the ultimate truth of God found in the Bible is not only consistent with a fundamentalist worldview, but it is a prudent and wise thing to do.

Fundamentally Unashamed

[Reposted from Previous Blog]

I recently had a conversation with a friend on Facebook about whether or not apologetics is at odds with fundamentalism. This conversation started because of a link I shared about apologetics, and he knows I identify as a "fundamentalist" which he feels doesn't leave room for the use of apologetics (a reasoned defense of biblical truth using extra-biblical evidences).
I will address the supposed contradiction in another post, but I thought it best that I make clear what I am describing as "fundamentalism". I unashamedly embrace the label of "Christian fundamentalist".
Fundamentalism is defined in the general sense of adhering to a basic set of core beliefs. That could be described as a strong commitment to those beliefs which are "fundamental" to a particular belief system.
"Christian" fundamentalism then would be adhering to the basic beliefs which are "fundamental" to the teachings of Christianity.
I adhere to the fundamental teachings (basic core principles) of orthodox Christianity, therefore I am a "Christian Fundamentalist." Here is a quick summary of those beliefs: The Bible is the inerrant, infallible Word of God, mankind possesses a sinful nature and is in a state of rebellion against God, we cannot 'make-up for it' with good works, and only faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ paid for through His death and resurrection can reconcile us to God, and those who continue in their rebellion against the just, holy and righteous God who gave them life will receive the deserved consequence for their sin (rebellion). If you don't want God, He won't force you to spend eternity in heaven with Him.
I would like to note that the cultural baggage of closed-minded bigotry and extreme judgmentalism that the word "fundamentalist" usually implies is not "fundamental" to either the teachings of Christ or the doctrines of Christianity. If people claiming to be or labelled to be "fundamentally christian" behaved themselves in such manners, they were in error and opposed to the clear teachings of Christ and the Bible. So, I am taking the word back and unashamedly claim to be a "Fundamentalist Christian."