I hear this claim quite a bit. There is “no evidence” for God or anything supernatural.
What is evidence? As a Trial Lawyer I have an understanding of evidence and what it is. I also think I have learned allot about how honest people can make mistakes from memory yet this does not mean their entire testimony should be thrown out. But let me give a legal definition.
The United States’ Federal Rules of Evidence defines relevant evidence. (Each state will have its own rules of evidence but this is pretty similar state to state.)
Rule 401 says:
“Relevant evidence” means evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence.
Is there much to argue against? On the whole I think it’s pretty good. “…having any tendency” suggests that that some evidence might have varying degrees of strength to different people. “Any” “tendency” seems pretty broad. But since I am well convinced that different reasonable people can often draw different conclusions from the very same piece of evidence I am fine with that.
I have long understood that you prove things to someone. And you need to know who your audience is and adjust your proof accordingly. If you prove something to no one, then you have not accomplished much.
It seems to me that the various New Testament accounts do provide some relevant evidence for Jesus’s miracles. Would we not agree that having these accounts tends to increase the probability that the resurrection happened than if we did not have these documents? So for example if we had none of these ancient accounts and I just got up in my closing argument and said “a person that lived 2000 years ago rose from the dead,” would we not think the case weaker? So yes the existence of these ancient documents does have some tendency to show the fact that is of consequence “is more probable… than it would be without the evidence.” They are almost certainly relevant evidence.
Is a miracle evidence that God exists? Well it might or might not be. In the case of Jesus miracles I think they are clearly evidence of the Christian God. Why? Because Jesus says he was sent from God and that it was by God’s power he can do supernatural things. And then he does them. Does that fit our definition of relevant evidence?
Consider if I had a trial on the issue of whether God exists and someone says well if God exists then prove it by performing a miracle! And sure enough I then say by Gods power I will raise this corpse from the dead and a dead person stands up and walks. Would this miracle have “any tendency” to make the existence of God more probable “than it would be without the evidence.” Of course, it would. The fact that the person asked for a miracle shows it has a tendency for him.
Plenty of atheists have asked for miracles as proof. So presumably it would have that tendency for them. Of course some might argue even that is not enough proof for them, but my case for God would be much stronger than if I offered no evidence at all, and just said in my closing argument “God exists so you should find for my side.” Therefore these miracles are evidence of God.
I think this is an important point to get people off the whole “No Evidence!” “No Evidence!” mantra we hear. There clearly is *some* evidence. Is it is enough evidence for you? How much evidence do you need? Are really the questions we are getting and that is a subjective matter. I discussed this in a prior blog here:
The evidence in the OJ Simpson criminal trial was not enough evidence to “prove” he was guilty beyond reasonable doubt to that jury. However the trial was televised and lots of people saw that very same evidence, and thought it was enough to “prove” his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Both sides had plenty of relevant evidence to support their case but different people drew different conclusions from that same relevant evidence.