EVIDENCE BASED RELIGION?

Everything must be open to and respect evidence so can faith in and loyalty to God be evidence-based? Faith should involve believing in something in light of the evidence. If you have faith in yourself or God to adjust to the truth for the truth does not care what you think that is what you would expect. Faith means you have to be open to revising and improving what you think the evidence is and what it is saying. Closemindedness and fundamentalist obscurantism is a sign of playacted faith.

Cherry-picking religionists may look liberal and open-minded but they are just a form of fundamentalist. Joseph Smith was a fundamentalist and he was a cherry-picker from the Christian and Masonic traditions. Nazi Germany cherry-picked Christianity and liberal Christianity left the Holocaust in its wake.

Liberal religion can have less respect for evidence than fundamentalist so do not be fooled. It tends to turn feelings and sentiment into communications from God.

JOHN LENNOX - SPOKESMAN FOR EVIDENCE- BASED CHRISTIANITY

John Lennox is the main voice today in favour of an evidence-based Christianity.

He is a scientist and of course we have to ask how a Christian deals with the seeming war between science and faith.

He says that there is more to science that just the natural sciences. Scientism is the mistake which sees science only as about what is natural and touchable.

Incredibly he says, “This idea that there is a conflict between science and God cannot be true. Why? Because if you go the very top of science, Nobel prize level, there are scientists on both sides. Let’s take physics. Take Higgs, who won the Nobel Prize for the Higgs Boson — a brilliant physicist and an atheist. But William Phillips, a low-temperature physicist, who won the same prize, he’s a Christian….There is a conflict — but it’s not between science and God, it’s between theism and atheism — the two worldviews.”

There is no logic in saying that because scientists believe that means that science and religion can fit. A scientist is not a theologian. And the argument is ruined by how most scientists who think about religion discard it.

It is totally anti-truth and anti-science to say that a scientist can be a person of faith by pointing out names of scientists who claim to believe. Evidence based thinking does not are who believes what. It is irrelevant. And it is going to backfire for beliefs come and go in emphasis or popularity.

Unpack what he is saying. He is making out that theism or atheism that claims to be science in fact is not! So if God decides to intervene so that his action can be seen in the lab, Lennox is telling God to butt out! So either theism or atheism could be science. You cannot dismiss the possibility of evidence or proof either way. If atheism is true then science is being atheistic even if it does not realise it.

In relation to those fans of scientism who want God proven he says “I say, in what sense do you mean proof? If you mean proof in the rigorous mathematical sense, that only works within mathematics... it doesn’t work in physics, chemistry or anywhere else. When we use the word “proof” [in terms of God’s existence] we mean it in the sense in which lawyers mean it — evidence, pointers, indicators that are beyond reasonable doubt.”

He thinks that those who are unsatisfied with the evidence are being unfair for “trust and faith is not only in propositions, it is also in people.” The implication is that atheists and those who want proof are in some sense psychopaths or sociopaths. Belief in God then is inherently judgemental and passive-aggressive.

He accuses atheists of having a bad attitude to defenders of belief but it could just as easily be the other way round.

He adds that he believes in God's love the way he believes in his wife's then for that reason. Then he says, “All of us are familiar with evidence-based faith. You’re crazy if you believe things without evidence or trust people without evidence. When it comes to my Christian faith, I adopt exactly the same criteria — why do I believe it? Because I believe there is powerful evidence. So, my Christian faith is based on evidence and my scientific faith is equally based on evidence.”

God’s love like love may not be testable but that does not mean God is beyond the reach of science.

So love is said to be beyond strict scientific evidence and testing. But that is not really the point. Science can test how people who claim to love behave. Science knows that the universe does not behave even in a small loving way. It is devoid of concern.

MIRACLES AS EVIDENCE

A miracle that happens in a nice faith, if there is such a thing, is different from one that happens in a religion that is full of questionable historical claims (eg does it make sense to say that Jesus was raised bodily when even the gospels do not say what exactly happened to the corpse?) and spurious doctrines (eg the Bible commands us to believe God commanded the murder of non-virgins so that the Israelite men could enjoy the virgins) and doctrines you need proof for (eg the suggestion that God more than the Romans got Jesus on the cross in order to make him pay for sinners - mere hearsay or evidence is not enough for such a belief proposition). In short if a nice miracle needs excellent evidence then the miracle linked to a dodgy religion needs huge evidence. To put it another way, if you want hard evidence for one it has to be even harder for the other. Naturally Christians do not offer unassailable evidence for their miracle stories being true. Their apologists and theologians are paid good money for writing shocking nonsense. What they offer as reasons for faith is thin and contorted.

Miracles are reported in religion but in "non-religion" too. Not everything that is a religion really is. And some teachers call themselves spiritual and do not form religions and still report miracles. Thus miracle reports for religion are cancelled out by ones that are for non-religion or even anti-religion. The miracle of overnight transformations among Born Again Christians who do not link to any denomination or Church speaks more against the authenticity of the Roman Catholic Church or Mormon Church than ten Medjugorjes or Golden Plates coming from the hands of an angel. An inner miracle is always belittled in the face of wonders such as spinning suns and exorcisms and such nonsense.

THE GOSPEL

The gospel of John asks you to accept it as evidence, sufficient evidence, that Jesus did miracles to show you he was God's Son and the way and the only truth and the way to spiritual life. But nothing changes the fact that a record of a miracle is not the same or as good as the miracle. The gospel is hearsay. It is obvious that though the gospel could be true that is not the point. It is still the case that it is more likely to be wrong or lying for the simple reason it is easy to write a miracle report than to experience the miracle for real. Any testimony of the incredible or impossible is by default suspect. John is asking for suspicion. It is that simple. Anybody can write anything.

We are not endorsing Hume right now. He said a miracle is always unbelievable - we are not saying that right now. We are merely pointing out that something claiming a miracle written long after the alleged event is automatically unbelievable.

We are saying that if you claim a miracle has happened you have to ask and expect people to treat you as misled or mad or a liar until further light comes. No loving God would give you a miracle to put you through that.

It is said that we fail to believe or reject the miracle tales without even looking at the evidence. We can be doing that but we don’t have to be.

Probability on its own and also evidence show that the commonsense thing is not to believe John. Whether that means having no opinion or deciding he is wrong is another question. But belief is not a rational option. While it is true we should not always refuse to believe the improbable, we should not believe in the improbable when it is magical. Improbable natural things can happen. As improbable as it is for a natural event to resemble a miracle in all respects, it can happen. It may be verified strongly and convincingly as a miracle when it is in fact not a real miracles. It can happen. It must have happened. Improbability though seen as a reason for believing in miracles in fact is a reason for being sceptical even if the evidence is there. Don't forget that. It is the core thing. It silences miracle believers - all of them.

Ending on that note we say, “If you say a miracle happened you are saying the improbable happens. But what if some natural improbability made you think or perceive the miracle happened? Improbability demands scepticism not faith in miracles.”

CONCLUSIONS

Evidence-based faith is more about loyalty to belief than belief and part of that loyalty is using evidence to support the belief. The believer makes up his or her mind and then looks at the evidence. It is all filtered. Faith and a struggle to believe are compatible. Cherry-picking on purpose is out.