People believe what they believe for cultural and emotional reasons and never for evidential reasons. They might indeed claim “evidence” and assert “evidence”, but examine it and … well no, none. What tends to happen is that we rationalise and stick on reasons later to explain the adherence to a specific position, sort of akin to popping on a sticking plaster. If you debate and debunk the presented reasons, what you will discover is that nothing changes at all, and so that illustrates that the presented reasons are not the actual foundation at all.
J Warner Wallace, a homicide detective turned Christian apologist, takes what he asserts is an evidence based approach, and if correct, then that would be very much at odds with the norm, and would also be quite interesting. Ah but does he, or is he doing something else?
Let’s take a look at one of his recent postings where he talks about a weekend he spent at Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. He explains …
They invited me to speak to their members because they understand the growing skepticism in our culture; they’re eager to prepare younger members to defend what they believe and to equip older members to better share the truth.
… and then this happened …
After one talk, a frustrated sister in Christ (I’ll call her Jan) told me about a recent exchange she had with a friend who believed in God but rejected Jesus. In past efforts to share her faith, Jan relied on her own relationship with Jesus and her testimony of transformation. But when she took this approach with her friend, she discovered she wasn’t the only person who had a transformational experience. Jan’s friend shared her own relational experience with God and her own testimony of transformation. Jan found herself at a stand-off: personal testimony vs. personal testimony.
… and so we are at the heart of the matter, people have an experience that is quite real, wholly natural, and yet is attributed to a supernatural experience that is specific to the strand of belief they embrace. Mr Wallace, goes on to observe the following …
Christians aren’t the only ones who have a testimony of being raised a certain way or having what they believed to be an extraordinary experience. Mormons make similar claims all the time. So do Muslims and just about every other theistic, polytheistic or pantheistic group of believers.
Yes indeed, that is exactly the way things are, because inside each and every bubble of belief exist real humans who do not simply embrace a specific idea, but rather are bonded to it via an emotional experience. If it was not like this then such beliefs would rapidly wither and die. Each will be quite sure that all the others are wrong and that only they have the truth, and they will truly believe it with all their heart because they have this emotional experience that verifies it. Sitting inside here inside my castle I am safe and warm, only we have the truth, those others over there who believe something slightly different don’t quite have the same depth of truth we have, and beyond the walls there is darkness, and dragons ready to rip you to bits, so it is best to stay safe here.
Do not doubt the sincerity at play, and yet obviously it can’t all be “truth” because much of what is out there is mutually exclusive. Is any of it true, how can we ever really know the truth of anything at all if we can be so easily fooled?
What is perhaps the most revolutionary thing to have ever happened to humans is the rise of the scientific methodology, it has profoundly transformed us and liberated us from the tendency we all have to be fooled by ideas that are not factual – make observations, formulate a hypothesis that explains it, work out how you would test it, then test it. (OK, yes, I’m being simplistic, but you get the idea).
We now know that water is H2O, that is testable and verifiable, so if somebody should pop up and assert something different and perhaps suggest that they have an experience that verifies it to be something else, you would reject that because you are dealing with testable facts that are way beyond an emotional assertion.
Ah but Mr Wallace Claims he has “Evidence”
OK, so back to Mr Wallace – he assert that he has solid evidence …
Christianity is unique because it is verifiable (and falsifiable), and when put to the test, Christianity survives the scrutiny.
Starting with the latter, what we find is a link to another posting in which you find a long list of bible verses used to assert various claims. It assumes things that you simply cannot assume, namely that the bible is true, and so the problem there is that the bible itself is simply a collection of claims written down, many decades after the events it supposedly describes. For example the gospel of Mark, the earliest, was written about CE 66-70, and that is many decades later so is not an eyewitness account. Are there in reality any non-biblical contemporary witnesses that wrote anything down in that first century?
Nope, not one, why is that the case?
Now let’s look at the other link. There we find …
While Christianity makes its own ideological and conceptual claims, these proposals are intimately connected to a singular validating event: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ
… and beyond that, more assertions that he has evidence and more links, but no actual evidence. So follow his Resurrection link and that takes you to an interview he did in which he explains that he uses abductive reasoning, and the problem there is that once again he is leaning upon the bible as his only source. Before he does that he really does need to first establish that it is both reliable and accurate, and yet examine the text critically and you discover it is full of holes and clearly inconsistent.
Simple example: In Matthew we discover that Mary and Joseph lived in Bethlehem in their own house, there was no census, no stable, no inn, no shepherds. Luke has quite a different story. Here we find that Mary and Joseph live in Nazareth and needed to travel to Bethlehem for a census. This time we find no astrologers visiting, and no flight to Egypt. It can’t be both, and is either one of the other, so which is it? Ah but we tend to blend it all together and brush over such cracks, and rationalise away such glaring discrepancies.
So in the end, while Mr Wallace might indeed be quite sure he has evidence, and will no doubt continue to assert that this is so, if you examine it, you don’t find anything that withstands critical analysis.
This of course is the way it is, we are each completely sure that our position is the correct one and that everybody else is wrong, and so if we are to ever be sure about anything at all, we must never rely upon human experiences, or assertions of truth, but should instead question and challenge everything.