Author Greg Koukl
Published on 12/18/2023

What Do You Mean by “Proof”?

Can Christianity be proven? It depends on what one means by “proof.” Greg describes three different standards of proof that the skeptic you’re talking to might be using to evaluate Christianity. 


Can any religion be proven? Namely, Christianity? Now, of course, this question is akin to asking how we can be certain Christianity is true. If I have given good reasons for why Christianity is true, then it is the case that something reliable could be said for the Christian understanding of reality.

The difficult word here, of course, is “proven,” and it depends entirely on what you mean by that word. It’s an awkward word because it’s oftentimes thrown out without qualification, and if it’s not qualified, when a Christian gives lots of evidence for his view—proof, if you will—that evidence is dismissed as not proof. It doesn’t rise to the critic’s standard. So, this is why it has to be qualified, because there are different standards of truth.

There’s apodictic truth—highest standard. That means it’s not possible for it to be mistaken. For example, “I think, therefore I am.” That’s pretty straightforward. If you’re thinking something, then you are a something because thoughts are had by things. Hard to deny that. But most things don’t rise to apodictic truth level.

Then, you have beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s the high standard for criminal trials in this country, and it’s such a high standard that we feel justified, when the standard is met, to execute people who have committed a crime established by that standard as a capital crime.

You have preponderance of evidence. That’s 51%. It’s more for than against, basically. And, it seems, if you have more evidence for one view rather than for another view, then you are intellectually obligated to believe the one that is most reasonable or most likely and not believe the one that’s least likely.

So, which one do you have in mind when you ask me to prove Christianity? Now, I don’t think apodictic truth is a standard that’s appropriate to apply to these kinds of questions because if you ask whether it’s possible Christianity is true, I could be mistaken on a bunch of the details. I can’t be mistaken about my own existence because I’m aware of my own existence directly, and awareness entails the notion of existence. Most of the details of the Christian worldview are defeasible—it’s possible to show them to be false, in principle. They’re falsifiable. And so, it’s not going to rise to that level of truth.

Beyond a reasonable doubt—I think that definitely can be the case, but a lot depends on the individual who’s doubting because, for some people, one level of evidence will be enough to take away any reasonable doubts, but for other people, it won’t be enough. But I think that Christianity certainly falls into that category of proof.

Absolutely, preponderance of evidence fits. It is much more likely, in my mind at least, that Christianity is true than it’s false, or else I wouldn’t be a Christian.

So, given those standards of proof, what I offer to the question of how we know Christianity is true is my attempt to give the kinds of evidence that might raise one’s confidence level, at least to preponderance of evidence and, if we examine the evidence more closely, maybe beyond a reasonable doubt.