Hello readers and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth! As it stands, it still looks like I will be heading out of town again tomorrow and won’t be back until next week so if you don’t see a new post tomorrow, don’t panic. There is simply other business that I must take care of.
Today, I’d like to take a look at the standard atheist answer to many Christian claims and this is to say “ECREE.” What’s that? It means “Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence.” This is a response that is met so often that it has become a platitude in our times. Indeed, there is a problem when thinking is replaced with soundbites. To be fair, Christians can be just as guilty.
I recall one of the responses a professor of mine has about this kind of objection that is being raised. What is extraordinary evidence? Does it glow? The whole concept of extraordinary evidence is subjective. Propositions do not require extraordinary evidence to believe them. They require sufficient evidence.
Let’s take the claim of an atheist as best exemplified by Carl Sagan. “The cosmos is all there ever was, is, and ever will be.” For Sagan, that sounds certainly like a reasonable claim. However, if we are talking about extraordinary claims, in that there is a claim that is out of the ordinary, Sagan’s claim is just such a claim! The majority of people alive today and who have ever lived in the past have believed in some form of deity.
With that in mind, the rest of humanity can just look at Sagan and say “ECREE!” However, he will look at our beliefs, those of us who are theists and not just Christian theists but all theists, and say “ECREE!” If you are a naturalist, the claim that there is a God will be extraordinary. If you are a theist, the claim that there is no God is the claim that will be extraordinary.
When we reach this point then, the problem becomes more along the lines of examining the believers of the worldview instead of the evidence. It’s “I hold this worldview and yours is contrary and therefore, I must view your belief system with suspicion. I cannot believe it lightly. I require extraordinary evidence.”
None of us should take our worldview lightly, but we should not assume that we have no burden of proof. My thinking is that everyone who is asserting a truth claim has a burden of proof. The atheist needs to demonstrate that there is no God. The theist needs to demonstrate that there is. Of course, there are different methods of demonstration.
ECREE is not a response. It is an excuse to not give a response. It is a way of avoiding thinking because you could always look at the data and just say “Not extraordinary enough.” Instead, it’s best to look at the data for any claim and say “Does this match the claim? Yes or no. Is this data verifiable and/or believable? Yes or no. Do those who are knowledgeable on both sides hold to this? Yes or no.”
With the last one for instance, if you are arguing for a position, you want to get as much of your opponent’s worldview in as possible. For instance, Richard Dawkins in The Blind Watchmaker argues that macroevolutionary theory is true. Because macroevolutionary theory is true, God does not exist. That is not part of a Christian worldview however. The Christian worldview does not necessarily say either God or evolutionary theory. There can be both/and. I could grant everything Dawkins says about evolutionary theory from a scientific perspective and that would not disprove that God raised Jesus from the dead.
Meanwhile, when I approach my opponent, that is what I want to do. I want to say “I will grant you your macroevolutionary belief for the sake of argument. I will argue as if the proposition ‘Human beings are the result of a macroevolutionary process’ is true.” Now of course, I don’t mean a naturalistic process, but a process nonetheless. Upon saying that I will then say “Now give me your argument against my theistic beliefs.”
This is coming to the table and accepting the data. A way the new atheists misconstrue this often is their common notion of faith as believing something without evidence. I don’t know of one dictionary of biblical words that defines faith in that way. It is certainly not the way I understand faith. Still, the new atheists regularly trot this out. I only wish to ask “Do you have any evidence that that is the definition of faith?” If they do, then please give it because it has never been found in any dictionaries of biblical words. If not, then they are believing something without evidence, the very act that they condemn.
Instead, the new atheists need to come and say “Here is the data the apologists put forward. Here’s where we think the data is right. Here’s where we think the inference from the data is wrong.” (Check the bibliography several times in works of the new atheists. It is woefully lacking in Christian sources and if they are cited, interacting with them is negligible.)
We Christians need to do better than our opponents are and part of this is calling ECREE the nonsense that it is and really arguing. ECREE has been an excuse for too many people to avoid thinking about data for a long time and really confront it. It is entirely subjective, which is amusing as most of our opponents pride themselves on being objective thinkers.
Christians also need to realize something else. We do have the evidence. It’s whether we present it rightly and if the heart is receptive.