Posts Tagged ‘Criminal law’

Fall is in full swing and I am in the middle of an important cold-case trial. As I sit in court each day, I can’t help but think about the nature of evidence and the objections that many non-believers express related to the case for Christianity:

OBJECTION: God‘s existence cannot be known with evidential certainty. The evidence for God‘s existence is entirely circumstantial and therefore cannot be trusted. There are no items of direct evidence that can be examined today to determine if Christianity‘s claims about God are true.

The answer to this objection lies in our perception of “evidence”.┬áThere are two kinds of evidence that are used in criminal and civil trials each and every day across America: ‘direct’ evidence (evidence that proves something ‘directly’ on the basis of someone’s first-hand experience) and ‘circumstantial’ evidence (evidence that proves something ‘indirectly’ on the basis of a reasonable inference). We might determine, for example, that a suspect committed a murder on the basis of an eyewitness who saw the murder directly or a suspect’s later confession (two pieces of direct evidence), or we might determine this on the basis of the suspect’s prior threatening remarks, his bloody appearance minutes after the crime, and his efforts to flee the scene (all examples of circumstantial evidence). Our criminal justice system draws no distinction between these two forms of evidence; both are equally viable and powerful in making a case.

When we decide we can trust a piece of direct evidence (an eyewitness account, for example) this evidence, in and of itself, is sufficient for us to come to a decision about the truth of a matter. This is the nature of direct evidence. Circumstantial evidence, on the other hand, often requires additional support in order to reasonably infer the truth. The more pieces of circumstantial evidence you have that point to the same conclusion (the more cumulative the case), the better your inference and level of certainty. Many of us are under the false assumption that criminal cases cannot be prosecuted without some form of direct evidence, but, as a Cold Case Homicide Detective, I’ve never had the benefit of direct evidence. Murderers are convicted every day with nothing more than circumstantial evidence.

As it turns out, the case for Christianity is both direct (in a limited sense) and circumstantial (in a robust and comprehensive sense). We happen to have three direct eyewitness accounts (the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and John). If these eyewitnesses can be trusted on their own, no more evidence is needed to establish the truth of Christianity. We can establish the trustworthy nature of these eyewitness accounts by examining the external corroboration from those who were hostile to Christianity, the internal consistency between the eyewitness records, and the lives and character of those who claimed to be eyewitnesses. A fair historical analysis in these three areas provides us with sufficient confidence related to the Gospel accounts. But in addition to these eyewitness accounts, there is tremendous circumstantial evidence available from the study of the origin and fine tuning of the universe, the appearance of cosmological and biological design, and the existence of objective morality and transcendent concepts (like logic) to make a strong and thorough cumulative circumstantial case for the existence of God. Belief in God does not need to be a blind leap of faith; Christian Theism is a reasonable inference given the circumstantial evidence. No successfully prosecuted case is evidentially perfect or complete, but all successfully prosecuted cases are evidentially sufficient. While we may not be able to examine direct evidence related to the existence of God, we do have sufficient circumstantial evidence to believe that Christianity’s claims about God are true.

Written by a Christian Attorney named Jim who writes for pleaseconvinceme.com