Category Archives: Logic and Reason

POOF! “Hi , I Am God. Nice To Meet You”

Many times when I ask the question, “What type of evidence would you need to believe in God?”, I get the response, “God would have to appear in front of me of some physical evidence of His existance” or something to that effect. In light of that statement, I would like to respond by talking about circumstantial evidence versus direct evidence, and the reason why that statement is not proof against the existence of God.

Jim Wallace, a cold case detective, was standing in for Greg Koukl on Stand To Reason recently. I always enjoy Jim Wallace because he comes from a perspective of a detective when speaking about religion, ethics, and the big questions. During that episode Jim Wallace spoke of a former prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi’s new book Divinity of Doubt: The God Question, in which he argues that agnosticism is the only sensible position to hold.

Bugliosi writes in his book, “By fact I mean a truth known by actual experience or observation. And something that cannot be logically explained in any other way” (p. 4). Bugliosi’s way of approaching Christianity, proof beyond any possible doubt, causes all of history to be off the table not just Christianity. Also many or most of Bugliosi’s trials I am sure were not won with proof beyond a possible doubt. He missed something the judicial system calls proof beyond a reasonable doubt. This is why I want to cover the the difference of direct and circumstantial evidence, and why both are reliable because Bugliosi is saying that we can only trust direct evidence.

Direct Versus Circumstantial Evidence

The definition for circumstantial evidence covers the definition for both direct and circumstantial evidence: Evidence in which an inference is required to connect it to a conclusion of fact. By contrast, direct evidence supports the truth of an assertion directly–i.e., without need for any additional evidence or the intervening inference.

Jim Wallace explains it well in an article from Please Convince Me called “The  Problem of Evidential Insufficiency”:

We might determine, for example, that a suspect committed a murder on the basis of an eyewitness who saw the murder directly or a suspect’s later confession (two pieces of  direct evidence), or we might determine this on the basis of the suspect’s prior threatening remarks, his bloody appearance minutes after the crime, and his efforts to flee the scene (all examples of circumstantial evidence). Our criminal justice system draws no distinction between these two forms of evidence; both are equally viable and powerful in making a case.

Even though direct evidence may give us a conclusion quicker or with less evidence, it isn’t more valid than circumstantial. With circumstantial evidence you may need more pieces to point to the same conclusion, but with enough pieces it makes it reliable, reasonable, and factual. Knowing this Bugliosi must be careful because when making such strong statements about direct and circumstantial evidence he is discrediting more than just Christianity. To his downfall, he is also discrediting his own work. Bugliosi would have to throw out much of the evidence he most likely used in the Charles Manson case he is most famous for. And many others who claim the same belief in the necessity of direct evidence would be discrediting many of their own beliefs or ideas that hinge on circumstantial evidence.

Must God Appear?

In Christianity there are both direct and circumstantial evidence, but a more robust and comprehensive amount of circumstantial. The difficult part for many is that none of the direct evidence is related to the existence of God. Many believe if God were real then he would show Himself, but He doesn’t therefore He is not real. There are three problems with that line of thought: (1) There is plenty of circumstantial evidence, (2) there is a lot of assumptions when making that claim, and (3) there is more than one way to prove something exists.

Since I have written in previous blog posts about the evidence for God, I will leave you to read those or others work on this weighty topic. However, I would like to touch a little on the second problem. The problem with making assumptions about God is that people do it without proper knowledge of God’s actions in the past, His character, or His overall purpose. All of these are important to understanding why God does what He does. Rather than taking these into consideration people draw quick conclusions based more on their own desires. So maybe the statement above should be written more like: If I were God, then I would show myself, and the Christian God doesn’t do what I would do, so He is not real. When the statement is put in it’s true light it sounds much more ridiculous and self-centered.

We must not forget there are different ways to prove thing’s exist. If a thing is physical, then some physical test should be able to reveal it, at least in principle. But if a thing is not physical, then a person has to infer its existence by different means. There are many nonphysical things in this world such as intent, a soul, or an idea. The God of Christianity is also not physical, so it seems that the use of circumstantial evidence to prove His existence would be more than sufficient (especially because there is a lot).

Conclusion

Bugliosi, and others like him, should know that that physical things are found by physical tests, but nonphysical things will need a different test, or inference. Even within Bugliosi’s sphere of work there are nonphysical things such as intent and contracts, so if he were to hold to his way of thinking then these things would be invalid too. Also we must remember that not only is circumstantial evidence a reasonable way of knowing God exists, but we must not be arrogant enough to believe that just because God doesn’t do something our way means He is not real.

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Filed under Christianity, Existence of God, Logic and Reason, Philosophy

No One Can Prove God!

“No one can prove God exists.”

“It is impossible to prove God exists.”

How often do people (or yourself) make one of these comments? During discussions or debates about God the two comments above are used as a trump for any further discussion. As Christians many times this is where the conversation stops. It seems almost worthless to keeping going, and the person saying such comments most likely has already closed their mind to the idea of the existence of God. However, I believe the conversation could be directed in a more useful and thoughtful direction.

I am currently reading through a book called Thinking About God: First Steps in Philosophy by Gregory Ganssle, which was recommended by Greg Koukl on Stand to Reason. I would like to share Greg Ganssle’s approach on the above statements because I see benefit in his approach.

When someone says, “No one can prove God exists” they often mean “You cannot provide reasons for thinking God exists that are so good that they will convince all thinking people” (Ganssle p. 25). In this case, Ganssle and I would agree that no one can give reasons that could convince “all thinking people.” One cannot provide an argument that convinces everyone of God’s existence without some possibility of reasonable doubt. Actually, one cannot provide a convincing argument for many philosophical ideas that would be accepted by everyone. For example, I cannot prove that the universe did not pop into existence fifteen minutes ago and that all of our memories are just illusions, that the mountains we see even exist, or that those around us have minds and are not just clever robots. It is not that there are not good arguments to support these ideas, but there are parts that are less than certain. We could say that these arguments could be rationally doubted. So far it seems that there are no philosophical ideas that can be proven beyond reasonable doubt. The fact the the arguments for God produce any reasonable doubt does not reduce the case for God’s existence (pgs. 25-26).

It is reliable to believe that the universe did not just pop into existence minutes ago, the mountains are real and our thoughts are not illusions, or other minds exist. It is reasonable to believe ideas that are not able to be “proven with unquestionable certainty” (pg. 27). In closing, even if you do not believe in God from the reasonable ideas I have given on this blog, you may at least start to see that those who believe in God are reasonable.

If you are interested in seeing the reasonable answers to the question of God’s existence then check out the articles below or search through my blog.

Articles on Existence of God
If God Were Real…
Evil as Evidence for God
What Science Can’t Prove
Is God Just an Idea?

Sources:

Gregory E. Ganssle. Thinking About God: First Steps in Philosophy. Kindle Edition.


			

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A Religious Showdown….One God Many Ways

Religious pluralism is rampant in our culture today, and only proceeds to become more popular with each generation. When looking around you can find many examples, such as coexist stickers, theological seminaries accepting other religions in their programs, TV shows talking about it, and even congregations that call themselves a mixture of religions (ex. Buddhist Christian). Even if someone does not follow or believe a certain religion, it seems our culture, because of pluralism, demands that each religion be accepted as equally true. At worst many will say, “All roads lead to Rome.” In other words, all religions lead to the same God, power, or whatever you call it/him/her.

In this post I am not going to argue for the truth of Christianity (there are previous posts that do), rather I want to make an argument that not all religions can be equally true, it is not good to mix Christianity with other religions, and we can “coexist” without having to accept another’s religion as true or one-and-the-same.

All Roads Lead to Rome

Two ways people might voice this idea is: (1) all religious understanding is relative and no one interpretation is absolute, or (2) all religions lead to the same end and are equally true. Those statements sound great, pleasing to the ear, and definitely politically correct, but are extremely illogical and easily refutable through common sense.

The first statement has two faults. First, we can evaluate it by the Law of the Excluded Middle. Either God exists or does not exist. There is nothing relative about that. It is either absolutely true that God exists or absolutely true that He does not exist, and there is no other option. There must be truth and truth cannot be relative or it is not truth. Aristotle put it well: If you say, “It is,” and it is, or “It is not,” and it is not, then that is truth. Second, if there is no spiritual truth, then why search for it through any religious means? All it becomes is an invention by man, and a huge waste of time.

The second statement goes against something called the Law of Non-Contradiction. Again the statement sounds appealing at face value, but if you know anything about even a couple religions you will find that there are many contradictions between them. Here are a few examples:

1. Jews say Jesus is not the Messiah…Christians say He is.

2. Buddhists say we live in an illusion…many other religions say this is reality.

3. Christians believe in the Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit all are one)…Muslims and Jehovah’s Witnesses do not. Even worse, Muslims consider it blasphamy to equate Jesus with God.

These are only a few out of many opposing views that both cannot be true at the same time. It would be fine to say that two views or religions are equally valid, but definitely not equally true.

Syncretism 

Syncretism is defined as “the amalgamation or attempted amalgamation of different religions, cultures, or schools of thought.” This is not a new concept, but it is something that needs to be addressed. When religions are considered equally true, then there is no need to exclude one religious belief from another. Then people begin calling themselves Buddhist Christians, or claiming to be a Christian yet practicing witchcraft. The issue with this is that Christianity is exclusive in many of its beliefs, and it must be that way to hold to orthodoxy. To do otherwise contradicts the author and creator of Christianity, which is Jesus Christ. Here are some verses that show the exclusivity of Jesus, specifically as salvation (a center piece to Christianity):

1. Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

2. John 4:25-26 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

3. John 10:9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me,he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.

4. John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

5. Galatians 2:19-22 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

There are many other beliefs in the Christian religion that makes it obvious and wrong to syncretize with other religion. However, the foundation of the Christian religion is the salvation brought through only Jesus, and it must be exclusive or it is no longer Christianity.

Truly Coexist

Last, many want all religions to “coexist.” However, I think the issue here is in the definition of what it means to coexist. Often a word that goes with this statement is tolerance, because anyone who is unwilling to “coexist” is intolerant. What they mean by that is, “You are intolerant and won’t coexist if you claim your religion is true and someone else’s is false.” However, the true meaning of coexisting and tolerance are to accept, respect, and love one another as human beings deserve, without need to agree on religious beliefs as equally true. And as I mentioned in an earlier post, true tolerance requires disagreement.

In the end, all roads do not lead to Rome and all religions are not equally true. So it might be worthwhile to search out which one is true through thoughtful and reasonable questioning and research.

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Committing Suicide

Person A: “I am going to be moving to Thailand?”

Person B: “Why?”

Person A: “I am going to be a teacher, but the main purpose to do missions. I want to tell them about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Person B: “I don’t really like proselytizing.”

Person A: “Why don’t you like proselytizing?”

Person B: “I think it is wrong to push your beliefs on others.”

Person A: “So are you telling me it is wrong for me to push my beliefs on others?”

Person B: “Yes.”

Do you see the problem with this conversation? No, I do not mean that the conversation in itself should not be had, actually I strongly hope people are having rich conversations about important topics. However, I want to point out a common mistake people have in their logic when discussing world views, opinions, etc. The mistake many make is called Suicide. This is a wonderful tactic I gained from reading Tactics by Greg Koukl, so all credit goes out to him.

Let’s go back to the conversation above. Person A tells Person B that they will be heading overseas to share the Gospel with others. Many people find this offensive and wrong, so does Person B who responds with “I don’t really like proselytizing.” Person A does a great job at asking a question, so that Person B must defend their claim (burden of proof). The Suicide is committed when Person B gives their burden of proof, which is that they think it is wrong to push their beliefs on others. Isn’t Person B “pushing their beliefs” on Person A with their comment? So in that comment Person B has committed Suicide.

Many inaccurate views tend to easily self-destruct, or commit suicide. We know these commonly as self-refuting views. These views do not need expended energy to address because they destroy themselves. Greg Koukl gives a simple example of this through a statement: All English sentences are false. In this sentence it is easy to see the problem. If all English sentences are false, then obviously the sentence declaring it must be false too.

The Suicide tactic works well because of a rule of logic called the law of noncontradiction. The law follows the commonsense idea that contradictory statements cannot both be true at the same time. Basically, A is the case and A is not the case.

Koukl explains how to recognize the suicidal tendencies:

1. Pay attention to the basic idea, premise, conviction, or claim. Try to identify it.

2. Ask if the claim applies to itself. Then it commits suicide.

3. Finally, simply point out the contradiction.

Here are some examples of suicidal statements:

1. There is no truth. (Is this statement true?)

2. There are no absolutes. (Is this an absolute?)

3. No one can know any truth about religion. (And how, precisely, did you come to know that truth about religion?)

4. You can’t know anything for sure. (Are you sure about that?)

5. Talking about God is meaningless. (What does this statement about God mean?)

6. You can only know truth through experience. (What experience taught you that truth?)

7. Never take anyone’s advice on that issue. (Should I take your advice on that?)

Koukl makes a distinction between two types of Suicide tactic: Formal and Practical. The tactic still works the same, but one is committing suicide in the statement, and the other is committing suicide in real-life application.

In the end, everyone should be aware of their own and other’s claims because it can be easy to say something we think is logical, but contradicts itself. If we desire to pursue truth, then we must stay away from contradictions.

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