In my last article, Atheists Don’t Exist, commentors keyed on the idea that atheists simply lack a belief in a God or gods. According to them, they do not make knowledge statements regarding the existence of God or gods, as I attributed to them. While I refuse to believe that most atheists do not hold an opinion on this subject, through our discussion an interesting distinction was made. It was posited that if either side of the argument had “proof” there would not be a debate. Well, this site is dedicated to providing evidence for the existence of a Good Good Father. So I had to ask myself, “Isn’t evidence proof?”
The short answer is no. Evidence, as defined by Webster’s Dictionary, is “something that makes another thing evident”. With evident defined as “easy to see or perceive; clear”. While proof is understood to mean “a proving or testing of something” or “evidence that establishes the truth of something”. The definitions do sound kind of similar, right? I would differentiate the terms by saying that proof is the highest standard of truth. If you prove something, you do so as a mathematical certainty. Evidence, on the other hand, needs to be considered and analyzed to substantiate or diminish a belief. Unfortunately, I have observed these words used interchangeably on numerous occasions and, in this case, regarding the reasonableness of the existence of God.
As I searched for a way to describe the difference between proof and evidence succinctly, I found this on-point quote by Oxford mathematician Dr. John Lennox:
“Can you prove that there is a God? In a mathematical sense no, but proving anything is very difficult. The word proof has two meanings. There’s the rigorous meaning in maths that is difficult to do and rare. But then there’s the other meaning – beyond a reasonable doubt.”
So when I hear the familiar “there is no evidence for the existence of God”, I should really hear “there is no conclusive evidence for the existence of God”. Of which, I can agree. But certainly, there is plenty of evidence for the existence of a Good Good Father at our disposal. None of it, however, can be considered a proof, but, as Professor Lennox supports, real world mathematical proofs are “difficult and rare”. Consequently, approaching a discussion or debate with these parameters for success, clearly, represents an act of futility since achieving such a high standard of certainty is so tall a task. This might explain why non-believers never apply these high standards to issues they tout. Ask yourself, can such a proof be made for macroevolution?
That said, the devout non-believer still might say, “I only believe things that can be conclusively proven. For example, I can prove gravity. If I drop this book, I can prove that it will fall to the floor”.
Right. With respect to Dr. Lennox, it isn’t hard to prove something that is observable. You might be able to prove that it falls that particular instance and the next and then the next after that. But can you prove that it will always fall? Or that it always has fallen? More so, what you have done is make a prediction based on prior experience of the effects of gravity on other books and similar items. You may have faith that the book will always fall, but you can’t prove it always will. In fact, the only reason you know the book fell is because you observed it. Again, can you prove it fell yesterday? According to the question above, if you can’t, well, then you shouldn’t believe that it did. In fact, should someone ask you if the book would have fallen yesterday, your honest answer should be “I don’t know” if you cannot prove it did.
Sure, this all sounds a tad silly. Of course, you believe that the book will fall even without mathematical proof. But you do so because you have seen books and other solid materials fall in the past and in the present. You have good evidence. You noticed that you have never observed an instance where a solid object knocked off a table had not fallen to the floor. So with the evidence of prior experience, you’ve made a reasonable assumption that it will happen again. You’ve considered evidence from reality to support a belief.
But then you might say, “I get this, but you are comparing a book, an object we can see, with the workings of an invisible God. Why should I believe something that cannot be proven or that I can’t see?”
To that, I would offer that you already do. There are plenty of other things, that you use everyday, that you don’t bother questioning even though you cannot prove how or why they work. Math is one of them. Math is a concept. Like all concepts, it is immaterial. In other words, the number three does not exist in the physical realm. You have never seen a number three, other than in the sense that it represents a number of items on a page or screen or in real life. You may see three apples, but what you see are the apples, not the number. The Scientific Method is another example. How do you test the Scientific Method to see if it works? You don’t. You just have to have faith that it does. Otherwise, you couldn’t do math or science. In fact, if someone were to state that “only things that can be proven are true”, how would this person prove that that very statement is true?
See, when you do not have to deal with the burden of conclusive proof, you are free to give answers that, after careful analysis, make the case for the existence of God in the Theism vs. Atheism debate. Answers that show that non-believers require more faith than believers do in order to live out their beliefs. No longer will you need to be stymied by demands of mathematical certainty that your opponents require, but do not apply to their own beliefs. Instances that fail to be a search for truth, but rather, serve to impede the achievement of any resolution or enlightenment.
So when an atheist coyly posts the familiar, “You know that you are an atheist too, right. You deny the existence of Thor, Odin, and all the other pagan gods. We simply go one god farther than you.” You can respond to them that we can reject those small “g” gods because we simply have more compelling evidential support for the creator God of the Bible. Tell of the evidence from history, philosophy, science, logic, etc. Then ask, by what evidence do you deny mine? And wait.
Maybe, at this point, you want to know what the evidence from history, philosophy, science and logic is? Or maybe you just want to be able to better explain to a loved one why you believe what you do. Well, “Like” this blog and every so often new content will be sent to your email. My intent is to simply present the evidence, hopefully, in an easy-to-understand, but informative and respectful way . You can decide what to do with it. Let me leave you with this quote from the great C.S. Lewis:
“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”
While the quote speaks of Christianity, the same rings true for theism. If God exists, this understanding requires action. How can what we do when faced with the evidence for the existence of God be anything other than infinitely important?