Why Demanding Extraordinary Evidence Makes Little Sense
Many skeptics approach “the evidence” for Christianity with a closed mind. Hobbled by a number of presuppositions, they typically end up where they begin: convinced that God simply would not have made himself so difficult to detect. Many will back up their position with a challenge – because Christian claims are so “extraordinary,” they say, only “extraordinary evidence” will be sufficient to persuade them.
Upon reflection, however, it should be soon apparent that this is a rather odd – and self-defeating – way to go about the task of acquiring knowledge. Odd because it demonstrates a misunderstanding about the way evidence works. Self-defeating because reviewing evidence is supposed to be done so that one can arrive at “the truth” about what occurred, and when one option – a creator God – is set “off limits” at the beginning, there is only one result that can be reached. This may give the atheist comfort – his views remain unchallenged – but it is difficult to describe this as a meaningful search for the truth.
Consider: “evidence” can mean a variety of things, but as it relates to historical events – which, after all, is the basis of Christian belief – it refers to the existence of certain facts which directly or indirectly tend to prove that the event in question occurred. Whether it’s Jesus life – was he real or fictitious? – his death – did it occur on the cross?- and, most significantly, his bodily resurrection from the dead, the process of discernment requires a consideration of all of the evidence to determine whether one can conclude with confidence that the event did in fact occur. Consequently, in assessing the weight and persuasiveness of the evidence, it may appear that certain pieces of evidence line up as probative or not probative, relevant or irrelevant, weighty or weak. But refusing to consider evidence unless it first meets the standard of “extraordinary” reflects a bias against ever reaching a conclusion. Far from being a rational position, it is the abandonment of reason, for reason does not impose upon itself such artificial restrictions.
This demand for “extraordinary” evidence is, upon reflection, also rather ironic. Christianity is in fact based on “extraordinary” evidence. It is “out of the ordinary” and “exceptional” and “not commonplace” that…
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