Do extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence?

I think I just said this a couple of weeks ago, but it is worth repeating as it has become a mantra among evangelical atheists:

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

While this may seem like sound reasoning at first glance, it fails in significant ways. Try using this phrase and switch out the modifier. What if I said, “physical claims require physical evidence.” Or what about this: “miraculous claims require miraculous evidence”? How about “canine claims require canine evidence”? Of course, you would see the fallacy right away. The equivocation creates an apparent profundity that misdirects our senses. In every case claims just need evidence. At best, you could say that claims need sufficient evidence, but their sufficiency is subjective to the person, not the claim.

You may be like Thomas and say “Unless I stick my fingers in the nail holes and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.” But this did not even end up being true for Thomas as the invitation to do so was given, but the subjective need has been overcome.

I don’t know what kind of evidence any one person needs for them to claim mastery of their own subjectivity and exercise a will to believe, so I try to stand ready at all times to give the reasons why my own subjective skepticism gives way to belief. One thing I do know is that when one continues to cry foul at the evidence for Christianity, pronouncing its insufficiency, it is not the evidence that is at fault. There is something more going on, something much deeper. The best I can do at this point is try to get the individual out of the endless spiral of disbelief, understanding that no matter how extraordinary the evidence is their will cannot be overcome by an act of the will. I do think there’s an outage that fits in the situation. “Convince someone against their will and they are of the same opinion still.”


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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