There’s a Difference Between Evidence and Proof
by J Warner Wallace
Several years ago I presented a talk at the Apologetics Canada Conference in which I examined the reaction Bart Ehrman had related to the textual variants he found in the Biblical text. As he pursued his education over the years and poured over the manuscripts of the Bible, he evaluated the evidence and eventually decided that Christianity was false. Ehrman is clearly a very smart man, raised in the Church and well educated:
Studied at Moody Bible Institute
Graduated from Wheaton College
Received his PhD and MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary
Former President of Southeast Region of the Society of Biblical Literature
After reviewing Ehrman’s academic credentials, one can’t help but think he might be right about his conclusions related to the evidence. How can someone this well-trained be mistaken? Part of the explanation, it seems to me, is found in the difference between evidence and proof. I never tell people I can prove the reliability of the New Testament; instead, I tell them I am happy to share the evidence that convinced me of the Bible’s reliability. While evidence is a matter of objective truth, proof is in the mind of the evaluator, and many of us resist the truth in spite of the evidence. I did this for many years.
I understand now that before I can ever convince someone with evidence, God will have to do the work of regenerating the heart of my listener. It’s not up to me; God’s calling can only be done by God Himself. And that’s the difference between evidence and proof. We can offer evidence all day long: facts about eyewitness testimony, archeological verification and scientific harmony, but none of this will serve as proof unless God first changes a heart.
The facts we offer to support our claims of truth
What we infer from the facts offered
Ehrman may be an excellent example of this, I don’t know enough about his personal life or situation to comment with certainty, but it is interesting that the man he so admired and trusted, his mentor at Princeton, Bruce Metzger, was also interested in the evidence of scripture…
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