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Atheism – Evidence

11 Feb
from Google Images

from Google Images

Perhaps this video (HERE) contains Chris’ most abstract confessions in this series that show why and how he rejected his Christian worldview. Chris asks: “How do I know what is real? Why do I believe what I believe? What am I justified to believe?” He then explains how these questions help him draw conclusions about reality. He compares different personal perceptions and concludes that the more evidence he has for a particular idea the greater the possibility is for it being true (real). On the other hand, the less evidence one has for an idea, the less value one should place upon that perception. Social pressures have their value in helping us navigate within and be nurtured by our cultural climate, but they have no real value in determining ultimate truth or justification of a belief.

The implication of Chris’ epistemological conclusions seems to challenge the faith we have in God, since he has already concluded that there is no real objective evidence for him. While this is true of the gods of this world who have no power to make themselves relevant in our lives or prove their own relevancy in our world, it is not true of the God of the Judeo-Christian Bible. He does intervene in our societies and, according to Christian faith, has even become one of us, taking on flesh and blood, in order to experience the same kind of life you and I have and to bring us into a relationship with himself. If this God is real, then he has made himself knowable to us (at least to a degree) and is verifiable when that becomes necessary.

In my previous blogpost I offered three categories of scientific evidence for God’s existence—provable and verifiable, provided we use only scientific evidence and not hypothetical assumption. In this posting I am inclined to offer evidence according to Chris’ epistemological exercise,[1] namely the value of the evidence we receive from others and whether or not that evidence can be proved by the one who is willing to consider it.

The New Testament presents itself as evidence of God who not only created us, but loves us and wants us to come into an eternal-life-giving personal relationship with himself. The evidence is offered to us through the means of personal eyewitness testimony. Textual criticism is not a matter considered in this posting and is not contextually important to the question of evidence coming from others, but I do address textual criticism in a number of blogposts HERE.

Eyewitness testimony is considered very good evidence in our courtrooms. Chris calls such sensory evidence into question in this video, but he usually uses only personal indicators, showing we can be wrong about what we think we see, hear, touch (and presumably taste and smell). The courtroom would probably agree with Chris’ observation. After all, if only one eyewitness testifies against someone, unless there is an abundance of other circumstantial evidence, all it amounts to is the witnesses’ word against the accused. That is not proof. Nevertheless, if there are several witnesses and their individual testimonies agree, the situation changes. More value is given to the eyewitness testimony and less value is given to the objection of the accused, and justifiably so. Chris even admits to his embracing the JEDP hypothesis on the basis of his understanding that many scholars say it is true. So, the abundance of personal observation about a matter is justification for one’s acceptance that the thing communicated is true.

What about the testimony of the apostles that Jesus is the Son of God who became a man, was crucified for our sins, resurrected to give us life and will one day return again to set up his Kingdom among men and rule the earth? This is the testimony of 12 eyewitnesses. The accounts agree, and justification can be made in areas of the testimonies that seem not to agree (something 12 jurors in our own judicial system also rule upon when considering the similarities and apparent differences in the testimonies of multiple eyewitnesses). The content of the testimonies include miracles, but this should not be a problem, if the miracles are performed by the God who created the universe and comes to us in human form. Even if the miracles are a problem, the testimony of the 12 still ought to be considered on the ground that we accept the historical records of the ancients as true (without the miracles), when all those records come to us with the hero performing miracles of some kind.

The difference between the testimonies of ancient historians and the testimonies of the writers of the New Testament is that, according to the New Testament, we are able to experience the truth of the testimonies of its authors, if we allow ourselves to trust their testimony and embrace the God they claim to represent as our Lord. If in doing so, nothing changes in our lives, then their testimony is cold and powerless in and of itself, just like the testimonies of all ancient historians. Not only so, but they are worse, since we can now reject the testimonies of the authors of the New Testament, in that belief in such testimony is not life-changing and does not bring us into a relationship with the Eternal Being, who created all things. However, if belief in their testimonies does have such an effect, what good reason do we have for not accepting as true the eyewitness testimony of these 12 men—from an epistemological point of view?

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[1] In the video Chris didn’t argue his epistemology according to the theories of Descartes. Rather, he and Descartes parted company after the first proposition, namely that they both begin with the assumption: “I exist!” is epistemologically true. Otherwise argument is useless. From that point Chris argued for the accumulation of verifiable evidence as proof of his epistemology. Therefore, epistemology, according to Chris, is not simply a mental exercise / philosophy, but also a search for an accumulation of verifiable evidence through one’s personal experience. Evidence from others, while satisfactory for a starting point, is not as valuable as personal experience.

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Posted by on February 11, 2015 in atheism, naturalism

 

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