Evidence and The Law of Rationality
The religion of Christ is unlike the many other religions in the world in that it purports to be a religion that is based in and upon actual historical events. The Bible sets forth God as the One who literally is the historical origin of all things. This Book gives a historical account of man’s creation, initial fellowship with God, and subsequent fall. It tells about the destruction of the world by a global flood. This Tome speaks of the historical figure Abraham, his family, and God’s relationship with them as His chosen people. The Bible chronicles the development of this relationship in the growth of this family, their establishment as a nation, and their subsequent failures. At the apex of its story, God Himself enters the world in the Person of Jesus and sets Him forth as the Christ. His death, burial, and resurrection, become the central theme of God’s New Covenant with the world.
All of these events, the Bible sets forth to have occurred in history. This makes these events subject to investigation and the process of reason. In this respect, the religion of the Bible is rational – that is, one may reason about it much as he would reason about any other historical event. Christianity in particular exhorts those who investigate it to reason correctly and honestly about the evidence, weigh it in the crucible of the human mind, and conclude that what it is setting forth is, in fact, God’s truth.
This is consistent with the Law of Rationality: one ought to justify his conclusions by adequate evidence. Were an individual to simply give up on justifying his conclusions by evidence, then he may make quite literally anything the object of our devotion. That is to say, if one is not going to justify his conclusions by adequate evidence, one may “conclude” anything he desires with no evidence at all to support it. This is simple irrationality. Under such a scenario, “conclusions” do not require evidence at all, and one is thus “justified” in drawing a myriad number of “conclusions” that may or may not be related at all to what actually happens in the real world. If one wants to “conclude,” for example, that the moon is made of green cheese, one is “warranted” to believe such. [i]
In stark contrast to such thinking, the Bible declares, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). It exhorts believers in its message to “give an answer,” or “make a defense” regarding those things that are believed as true (1 Peter 3:15). The authors of the Bible assert that they did not follow “cunningly devised fables,” but were “eyewitnesses” of these events (2 Peter 1:16). Moreover, they consistently set forth this evidence “explaining and proving” the facts undergirding their beliefs (Acts 17:3 ESV). Those who doubted were given tangible evidence to assuage their doubts and foster belief (John 4:42, John 9:1-41, John 20:26-31). Those who proclaimed these things were men and women willing to suffer and die in ardent support of their truthfulness. Enemies who heard the message, and evaluated the evidence were convinced and converted (Acts 6:7, Acts 8:13, Acts 9:1-31). What is clear, however, is that in each one of these opportunities, the law of rationality was being applied. Men and women were seeking to justify their conclusions by adequate evidence, and they were given that evidence in abundance!
Those who today proclaim a Christianity eviscerated of the need for their conclusions to be warranted by evidence have abandoned one of Christianity’s fundamental truths. They have substituted the genius of what it means to be Christian for the message of the remaining world religions, namely, that it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe something –any old “belief” will do. The gospel calls men to accept, first and foremost, the law of rationality, and thereby to draw only such conclusions as are warranted by the evidence. The very resurrection of Jesus demands nothing less. Without such a foundation, “we are of all men most pitable” (1 Corinthians 15:19).
[i] The words “justified,” “warranted,” and “conclude” are presented here in quotations because they become meaningless when evidence is not necessary to forming conclusions.