Methods of Determining Truth

I have been in dialogue with two non-Christians lately. The objections are different, but the nature that they represent is the same. The first objection was in the belief in God. The person believes that the sun and moon exist and needs evidence in the same way for God. The second one believes that if the resurrection took place, we need more than natural means to determine it due to it being a supernatural activity.

I believe both hold an illegitimate bias in favor of naturalism and both are the same in that regards. My question to the first is how someone knows that the sun and moon exist. We could say our senses show us. Well how do we know our senses are reliable? There is the chance, after all, that this is all an illusion and anything in the world will seem to be real, but it won’t really be.

Of course, we could just accept the common sense approach. Our senses do give us knowledge about reality. That would be a faith claim though. It would be saying that our minds do fit the world outside of them, but why should I think that on the basis of naturalism? Could I not consider that instead, my mind is playing a trick on me?

Why do I believe God exists then? Because I look at the universe and I see the mark of design and I do not believe it to be an accident. I would say that while we may think the existence of God an incredible doctrine, we should realize that the existence of our next-door neighbor is incredible as well.

Now we come to the second. The objection assumes that we need more for a miracle. How come? Well, it’s because a miracle is an anomaly. It is not part of nature. Yet I am not sure our thinking can be considered part of nature. Are our thoughts the result of purely naturalistic events? If so, why should we trust them? It would be like trusting the answers of a computer that somehow came of an accident.

Let us use another example. Let us suppose a police investigator decided to go to an island on vacation once. This island has been a peaceable place for centuries. The police force down there has an easy time. However, while he’s vacationing, for the first time, a murder takes place. Our detective is a good guy so he goes to see if he can help when discussion starts about a dead body.

He looks at the body and notices signs of foul play and calls for the police chief. The police chief will say “It cannot be that, because murder does not happen here.” Our sleuth will say it just did and the police chief will ask for more evidence because that doesn’t happen here. The investigator gives all he can but the chief refuses to think that. Why? Because murder just doesn’t happen here.

Why should this be different though? If my actions are not caused by purely naturalistic means, then could we not say in some ways that I am an agent acting on nature? Don’t we use forensic science to determine that there are cases where people act on nature in such a way and we can determine what happened even if the event (Which it always is) is unrepeatable?

Why should we treat the resurrection of Christ differently? Why not look at the reports that we have of the event and see their proximity to it, whether their authors can be seen as generally reliable, Whether they are by and large consistent, and then look at any external evidence such as changes in the social structure or archaeology? We can then look to see the context of what happened and see if it fits in overall.

The argument that it’s supernatural just doesn’t cut it. When a man claims a supernatural experience such as seeing an angel, we can either say that the common man is a liar or that angels don’t exist if we want to dismiss the claim right off. However, the Christian is allowed to look at the claim and examine it and see if it could be true. He does not have to dismiss it out of hand.

Now someone might ask, as this one did also, about miracles in other religions. I have no problem with them. I examine the claim like any other claim. If they happened, then they happened. A miracle in a Hindu society does not destroy my faith. However, a miracle in ANY society destroys naturalism. There is one side that obviously might have a bias as there is more to use.

What’s my contention then? Be fair with the evidence. It is all the Christian asks. We must look back at our epistemology and see if any side truly is stacking the deck.

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