When is Enough, Enough?

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”  I’ve heard this stated several times over the past few weeks.  A lot of people who choose to not believe in God make such demands of believers.  For instance, if I claim belief in the resurrection of Jesus, one who does not believe may demand extraordinary evidence.  “You say that a man raised from the dead never to die again?  That is a monumental claim and you need to supply monumental proof that it is true!”

The trouble with this demand is what qualifies as extraordinary evidence depends on the perception of the one making the demand.  One man observed:

The concept of sufficient evidence is infinitely elastic.  It depends on context.  Taste plays a role, and so does intuition, intellectual sensibility, a kind of feel for the shape of the subject, a desire to be provocative, a sense of responsibility, caution, experience, and much besides.  Evidence in the court of public opinion is not evidence in a court of law.  A community of Cistercian monks padding peacefully from their garden plots to their chapels would count as evidence matters that no physicist should care to judge.  What a physicist counts as evidence is not what the mathematician generally accepts.  Evidence in engineering has little to do with evidence in art, and while everyone can agree that it is wrong to go off half-baked, half-cocked, or half-right, what counts as being baked, cocked, or right is simply too variable to suggest a plausible general principle.  ~ David Berlinski

What I find to be extraordinary evidence differs from what you think to be extraordinary.  Some people require little evidence in order to believe in God while others never seem to hear enough.  What I accept as evidence you may reject as a gross misrepresentation or misinterpretation of the data.   As one who loves history, I may find historical evidence compelling while you, with a love for physics, may view such evidence with skepticism.

So who’s right?  Well, we could occupy a lot of time discussing evidence, whether it is admissible or not, or whether it is extraordinary or not, or whether or not it is relevant to the discussion of truth.  However, hard evidence of God’s existence or the truthfulness of the Bible is only one piece of the larger pursuit of truth.  By no means am I saying that evidence of God’s existence is unimportant.  On the contrary, I am simply saying that there is a lot more to the pursuit of truth than observational data.  Maybe the evidence found in the world around you has not convinced you that God exists.   So you’re unconvinced.  But have you considered that there are matters of equal importance which one must confront and reconcile in order to arrive at the truth?  Let’s talk about them if you are so inclined.