Why is it that when someone is skeptical about the Christian faith or questions the existence of God they always demand 100% certainty in your answer? Most of the things we base our lives on are with less than 100% certainty yet we trust them to be true. How much more so should we trust the things we know to be true about God and investigate the rest since what we believe in this area is of eternal importance?
Some important elements to consider about Christianity:
- The Christian faith is not a blind faith and it is not based on wishful thinking
- The Christian faith is based on trust in things known to be true
- The Christian faith is founded in eyewitness testimony and evidence from many fields of study such as science, history, literature, philosophy and law—and its claims can be proven to be true beyond a reasonable doubt
How many people take the time to investigate the truth claims of Christianity? How much evidence do you need to be convinced? Using the legal levels for burden of proof, where do you stand?
Simon Greenleaf (1783-1853), phD Royale, Chair of Harvard’s Department of Law, and an “enlightened atheist” was challenged by some of his students to apply the rules of what he taught to the claims of the four Gospels of the New Testament, and he did. After careful investigation, he found that the rules of legal evidence thoroughly bared out the Gospels. The result was his conversion to Christianity and his book “The Testimony of the Evangelists: The Gospels Examined by the Rules of Evidence.”
The following categories explain the “Burden of Proof” requirements used in our legal system. These are the most developed thought processes in the world for finding truth. Take the test: At what level do you fall in your journey of faith?
LEGAL LEVELS FOR BURDEN OF PROOF (and their approximate % of certainty):
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11
1) Hunch: 0%
- Something rings true about the statements but you have no evidential support.
- Example: A gut feeling.
Everyone has that gut feeling that there is something beyond self. What we do with that feeling varies in belief systems from atheism to theism. For those who worry about loved ones who have passed the thief on the cross only had time to begin at this level, he responded and is with Jesus in Heaven today. (Luke 23:32-43)
2) Reasonable Suspicion: 15-25%
- Defined as a common-sense conclusion upon which people are entitled to rely. This requires facts or circumstances that give rise to more than a bare, imaginary or purely conjectural suspicion. It is a hunch based on a few objective facts.
- Example: The level needed to warrant a search in a criminal investigation.
At this level a person has at least a clue about the existence of something beyond us and a sense that things are not the way they are suppose to be. What we attribute that to either begins a journey towards belief in God or ends here with agnosticism.
3) Probable Cause: 35-40%
- In criminal law, where known facts and circumstances of a reasonably trustworthy nature, are sufficient to justify a man of reasonable caution or prudence in the belief that a crime has been or is being committed.
- Example: The level of certainty required for an arrest.
This level of knowledge requires a reaction or decision to be made. For example, if you were told that there was probable cause that a bomb was planted in the room you are now sitting in how would you respond? Would you ask to be given more evidence, or would you immediately react?
How much more should we consider making a decision concerning our eternal destiny? A person at this level might claim to be a theist (believer in a god) but has not completely accepted the truth claims of Christianity. This is not a level where we should want to stay, further investigation is of eternal importance.
4) Preponderance of Evidence: 51% +
- The trier of fact is convinced the truth of the fact asserted is more likely true than not. This is a minimal need for certainty at an intellectual level.
- At this point you are justified in making a commitment. You are open to a rebuttal, but you can argue a case.
- Example: The standard for most civil cases.
Most people of faith are at this level. They think that what they believe is more likely true than not, but they cannot necessarily articulate their reasons for this belief. This is not a good place to stay especially if we claim to be followers of Jesus. It is very close to lukewarm (see Revelation 3:15-17).
5) Clear and Convincing: 70-80%
- The trier of fact is convinced the truth of the fact asserted is highly probable.
- Example: The standard used in probate cases. It requires more than the preponderance, but less than reasonable doubt.
People at this level have some confidence that what they believe is really true. We may need a little more knowledge and evidence to help us articulate it, but we are convinced that we are right. At this point we might pray like the man whose son was demon possessed:
Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:21-24) And with that Jesus went on to heal his son.
6) Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: 80-90%
- The trier of the fact is fully satisfied, entirely convinced, or satisfied to a moral certainty that the fact is true. Practically, this standard represents a high level of conviction in an individual that causes him to act in accordance therewith.
- At this point all reasonable objections have been satisfied.
- Example: The level or standard for criminal cases.
This is the level we want to be at concerning our faith and belief about God, Jesus and eternity. There is no way any evidence in the other direction would turn us away, but there may be times we struggle with answering every question like John the Baptist from his prison cell. This is where the evidence from the Bible, the miracles of Jesus and the work of God in our lives plays out. John the Baptist had doubts when he was put in prison and sent his disciples to asked Jesus to give him certainty (Read Jesus’ response in Matthew chapter 11).
7) Psychological Certainty: 90-95%
- The individual holding the view has no doubt about some state of affairs and does not have to consider doubt. It is something taken for granted.
- Example: Gravity, the sun will rise tomorrow, 2+2=4 etc.
Few people get to this level when it comes to their faith. At this level we would be able to face a loaded gun to our head knowing that we will die if we confess that Jesus is our LORD and Savior. This is the level I desire and we can only be here if we commit time to the study of God’s Word (and in today’s culture this includes Apologetics). The Apostles were most likely at this level.
8) Absolute Certainty: 95-100%
- The proposition is impossible to doubt. This is also known as Tautological Certainty or Axiomatic Certainty.
- Example: A triangle has 3 sides—things that are true by definition. (There are not too many things that fit this category).
Jesus models this level of certainty because of who He is and what He did by taking our place on that cross. He had absolute certainty in God’s purpose and plan. We can have confidence because of that and we can know for certain that we have an eternal home with Him in Heaven (John 14:1-14).
He will take care of all of our doubts. Once we accept Him as our LORD and Savior He will give us the Holy Spirit who will teach us and lead us into all truth. (John 14:15-30; 16:5-15)
Jesus said: For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. John 17:8
Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. John 14:11-12
This life is not all there is, God has promised us that. To combat doubt and increase our confidence (level of certainty) it is of vital importance to have a life skill of daily prayer and Bible reading. It is also of vital importance to stay on the journey of faith through worship and Bible study with other believers.
You will not find this material in the public school curriculum even though it is based on solid evidence and grounded in research. It is ironic that following the evidence to where it leads stops at the door of our public schools as they will not let a “Divine footprint” in!
Join us this year as we examine evidence for Christianity and learn how to become a thoughtful defender and ambassador of your faith.
Click into the resource page of this website to view many of the top Christian thinkers and apologists along with some of their work; connecting to these types of resources is essential in your Christian growth.
Please let me know what you think: Give feedback, ask questions or send concerns in the comment section of the blog.