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.