Recently here in my state, a man was acquitted of manslaughter in the death of his girlfriend. In response to the loss, the District Attorney who prosecuted the case stated:
"..Of course, we're gutted, However, what people will not understand is this: The number one reason we lost is the burden of proof in a circumstantial case is not just beyond a reasonable doubt but it's far higher."
Is this true? Do I need to be absolutely certain before I can say this man is guilty or innocent? What about the case for Christianity? Do I need to be certain of every detail before I can accept the evidence as pointing to it being true?
The truth is, you don't. In fact, most of the time, we know things are true or false without having all of our questions answered. But this brings up a question: How does one weigh evidence?
According to J. Warner Wallace, semi-retired Cold Case Detective and Christian author and speaker, understanding evidence first begins with understanding the difference between direct and indirect evidence
Direct evidence is eyewitness testimony. For example, a person witnesses a robbery and testifies in court. That is a direct evidence case. Indirect evidence is everything else. Indirect evidence is also known as circumstantial evidence. Even DNA and fingerprint evidence is not direct evidence, it's only a fact that is part of a larger body of evidence. In a circumstantial case, you draw inferences from the facts [evidence] you are presented. People can draw different inferences from the same facts. and a lot of this can be based on your personal bent. So what you must do is set aside your presuppositions and determine to follow the evidence wherever it leads - even if it's to a place you do not like.
Circumstantial evidence can make the strongest case for Christianity by building a cumulative case. A cumulative case can be compared to a puzzle. Once the pieces begin to be put together, they start to form a picture. At some point, if there are enough pieces, you can see what the picture is even if you don't have all of the pieces.
Another example: I am in the computer security industry. We make a product that provides secure remote access to systems. On occasion, a customer will report an issue that turns out to be a problem with their network. Now to show that, I need to comb through a series of logs that contain information. But there is never a smoking gun that says "it's their network". Instead, I have to put all of the information gathered together to form a cohesive picture of what's going to to show the customer where the issue lies. And this is exactly how we show that Christianity is true from the evidence.
Rational Inference is a basic law of logic and all of the facts are not required to make such an inference. There is a huge, circumstantial, cumulative case for Christianity. And when you weigh all of the evidence together, you begin to see the picture of Christ form. But, there will still be unanswered questions. I have them and you will too. But we don't make decisions based on being absolutely certain.
Back to the criminal case. I was not there to see the evidence, I'll leave it up to the jury. But if the DA thinks that a circumstantial case requires a higher burden of proof, he may have sunk his own case or had a bad one.
If you think you can't be a Christian because you cannot answer every question, apply that same burden of proof to everything else you think is true and see if those things hold up under the same scrutiny. You may find your case for those things wanting.
Recently saw this meme on social media:
Now, there are a lot of issues here, but what caught my eye was "..Peer reviewed DOCUMENTATION, Empirical results of repeatable EXPERIMENTATION.."
So this bring into question if one could test the Supernatural. Specifically, if you posit that God is the supernatural explanation of the universe, could you test God? This is what is known as a catagory error. In other words, since God would be supernatural, any tests that are by their nature designed to test nature would be null and void. You would have to use other tools to determine if God is a reasonable explanation for the universe given the evidence. Now you could use science to determine a particular supernatural claim such as if someone claims to have been miraculously healed of cancer, you can use science to determine from medical records if they indeed had cancer and you can use science to examine them now to see if the cancer remains or if a natural explanation is more reasonable like chemotherapy.
Proper tools for determining the supernatural in principle would be philosophy and logic as examples. Philosophical arguments for God being the cause of the universe would be the Kalam Cosmological Argument, the Ontological Argument, Leibniz Cosmological Argument, and so on. These arguments rely on the truthfulness of their premesis. If the premesis are true, then the conclusions logically follow.
Many naturalists assume that God is not a reasonable explanation for the universe (and many other things) because it cannot be "proven" by science. But the mistake is using the wrong tool for the job. As Greg Koukl of Stand To Reason would say, it's like "trying to weigh a chicken with a yard stick".
Because God is an autonomous being, requiring documented scientific experiments showing His existence is really moving the goal posts a bit. It would be better to require scientific evidence of the results of His existence. Even then, ideas like morality, logic, and even reason would not be able to have science reveal the reason for their existence as they themselves are abstract objects like mathematics. You know they are there, but you cannot determine why using science. You can only see their results.
This requirement fails at a fundamental level and sets the bar higher than science can prove about itself.
One of the most oft asked questions of any apologetics speaker is "How do I get apologetics in my church?". But I think what they are really saying is "how can I get my pastor to do apologetics?"
It goes without saying that if you want to bring apologetical teaching into your local church, you should be prepared to head that up. But it doing so, you should not think of yourself as a teacher, but a servant.
Your job is to serve your church by equipping the local body to make the case for Christianity. Want to bring apologetics to your youth? Serve in the youth group. Want to lead an apologetics group? Serve in your church. We are about meeting the need of the body to answer questions, not to put our intellect on display.
This past weekend, I had to privileged of joining 50+ of my brothers and sisters in Christ at the Cross Examined Instructor Academy learning to be a better apologetics speaker and presenter. Amongst the great apologetic instructors, we learned from Bobby Conway, lead pastor at Life Fellowship Church in Charlotte, NC. One of the things he shared with us was creating an environment of apologetics. You do that by having a 3D approach to the Gospel: Declare, Display, and Defend.
This means you must declare the good news and display it in your life before you can defend it's validity. This requires that we meet the need your church has for apologetics training while working as a servant team member of your church. This allows you to develop the trust of your pastorate and care for those you are leading in apologetics. You will have to lay your agenda aside and be a part of your church's mission as a whole and seeing how apologetics fits into that mission.
So, put on your best livery and be prepared to serve the Lord in whatever capacity He requires as you help equip the saints for the good works prepared beforehand for them.