Have you ever found yourself in a discussion or argument with someone about God, and they dared you to prove God exists? Or that Jesus is who he claimed to be? Or that the Bible is the inspired word of God? I’ve seen or heard that hundreds if not thousands of times. Here’s the thing – “prove” is quite a strong word and does not fit at all in those types of discussions. Can you prove God exists? Yes, and it’s easier than you think, but not in the way many skeptics want it.
What does it mean to “prove” something? Well, it means to show something to be the case. But what is the standard of proof? There are a few to consider but only one is the most reasonable one to use when speaking about the existence of God.
Some will actually demand full and complete demonstration of facts with no room for doubt and with zero questions left unanswered – absolute certainty. This is a silly demand. Nothing in the world can meet this standard. Aside from mathematical proofs, certainty is elusive. So this standard is way too high.
People demanding this standard when they want you to prove the existence of God are likely not asking for proof in earnest. Often the demand for proof is only a smokescreen to try to shut the believer and stop him in his tracks.
There are others who will not necessarily ask you to prove God exists with certainty but will insist on proof beyond a reasonable doubt – like in a criminal trial. What about this standard? Is this lower standard appropriate for proving God exists? It’s better but still not appropriate.
The standard of “beyond a reasonable” doubt is used in criminal trials when, more often than not, there is some physical evidence or overwhelming circumstantial evidence. This evidence is gathered from the physical world. The trails of evidence are left in time and space by the physical bodies of human beings.
However, God is not a physical being. As such, God can not really leave this type of evidence even if he intervened the physical world. Also, God has no direct eyewitnesses of his actions. When people live their lives, every day they leave traces of themselves in where they go, what they do, with whom they speak, etc. God does not leave such a trace. The only trace God leaves is by the times he himself decides to intervene in the physical world. The incarnation would be one example of this. God became man, performed miracles, rose from the dead – all evidence but not the kind of evidence that you can systematically gather any time you want and repeatedly test.
The instances when God intervened in the physical world were rare. And when God did intervene, he did not and cannot have left any identifiable physical trace of himself because, again, he’s not a physical being. The only way to have evidence for God is through reasoning, examining the effects of the physical world that demand a certain kind of cause, and eyewitnesses to those instances when God did intervene in nature. Again, the incarnation would be an example of both evidence from eyewitnesses and evidence from effects requiring a certain kind of cause.
Mere human beings don’t regularly perform miracles. People don’t regularly have control of the natural elements like the wind. People don’t regularly die and come back to life on the third day. This one person did and he predicted it. And we have eyewitnesses to both his death and him alive after his death.
The case for the existence of God is a circumstantial case, a very strong circumstantial case. We cannot use the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt because this is not that kind of topic that lends itself to that kind of examination; it would be unreasonable for us to do so.
When we’re trying to determine whether or not God exists, we have two options –
Imagine a plot line from 0 to 100 with 0 being the certainty that God does not exist and 100 being the certainty that God does exist. The point in the middle – 50 – would be our marker for someone evaluating the case. Every bit of evidence against the existence of God would move the dial back and every bit of evidence for the existence of God would move the dial forward. We don’t start at 0 and we don’t need to get to 100; we simply need to be at 51, which leans in favor of the existence of God. And this is precisely the way in which civil trials work – the standard of proof is not “beyond a reasonable doubt,” but “the preponderance of evidence” – more likely than not. IWhat Is the Difference Between Criminal Law and Civil Law?, Encyclopedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/story/what-is-the-difference-between-criminal-law-and-civil-law All we really need to say to “prove God exists” is that it is more likely than not that God exists.
Certainty is only possible in mathematical proofs. Beyond a reasonable doubt is not a reasonable standard of proof to use when discussing God. The preponderance of evidence is the only legitimate way to asses the existence of God and is the only way to prove God exists. Even if someone’s at marker 51, he believes in God. The rest of the unknown 49 markers must be traversed by faith. We trust in the 51 because of the preponderance of evidence. The remaining 49 is faith. This is how reason and faith work together. We know what we know and the rest we concede as unknown but traversable. For evidence for the existence of God and Jesus and the Bible, feel free to browse this site.
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|I.||↵||What Is the Difference Between Criminal Law and Civil Law?, Encyclopedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/story/what-is-the-difference-between-criminal-law-and-civil-law|
Arthur is an author, a former agnostic, and a current ambassador of Jesus of Nazareth who loves to share the best of reasons for God's ultimate reality. His love and passion are helping skeptics and Christians grow in their faith and knowledge of God through accessible materials.