Tactics and Tools

What Counts as Evidence?

Author Amy K. Hall Published on 04/04/2013

You’ve probably heard at least one atheist say, “There’s no evidence for Christianity.” It may not be that they’ve never looked into the question and listened to our arguments. The problem may simply be that they’re illegitimately disqualifying circumstantial evidence from consideration. Jim explains in Cold-Case Christianity, from his experience as a detective, why this is a mistake:

It’s not a coincidence that I was a nonbeliever before I learned anything about the nature of evidence. In those days, as I was evaluating the claims of Christianity, I demanded a form of evidence (direct evidence) that simply isn’t available to anyone who is studying historical events. I failed to see that rejecting (or devaluing) circumstantial evidence would prevent me from understanding anything about history (when eyewitnesses of a particular event are unavailable for an interview). If I continued to reject (or devalue) circumstantial evidence, I would never have been able to successfully prosecute a single cold-case killer. All of us need to respect the power and nature of circumstantial evidence in determining truth so that we can be open to the role that circumstantial evidence plays in making the case for Christianity….

When discussing evidence with skeptics, we don’t need to concede that a particular fact related to the Christian worldview is not a piece of evidence simply because it is not a piece of direct evidence. Even though a particular fact may not have the individual power to prove our case in its entirety, it is no less valid as we assemble the evidence….

When defending our belief in the existence of God, the resurrection of Jesus, or the validity of the Christian worldview, we may need to take some time to explain the nature, role, and power of circumstantial evidence.

The instructions for jurors in California read, “Both direct and circumstantial evidence are acceptable types of evidence to prove or disprove the elements of a charge, including intent and mental state and acts necessary to a conviction, and neither is necessarily more reliable than the other. Neither is entitled to any greater weight than the other.” That might come as a surprise to our atheist friends!