Welcome to “The Defense Rests” – Understanding Burdens of Proof
This episode introduces “The Defense Rests," a podcast where lawyer and RZIM itinerant Abdu Murray looks at the claims for and objections against the Christian faith from a legal perspective, considering the rules of evidence and procedures to see which worldviews can withstand the scrutiny of a legal trial.
In this episode, Abdu examines the concept of burdens of proof, to see who has it, how to meet it, and whether the burden ever shifts.
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Abdu Murray: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, welcome to The Defense Rests, a podcast that tackles claims for and against the Christian faith from a lawyer's perspective. I'm Abdu Murray, Senior Vice President and speaker at RZIM and a veteran litigator, or a trial attorney.
Over the course of the episodes in this podcast, we're going to look at numerous claims, not just historical or scientific claims, from a legal perspective and employing legal principles. Now, why is that helpful? Well, because trials are usually about what happened in the past, usually the recent past, but they're also moral arenas. They're arenas where right and wrong are often debated and decided. The very essence of the American jurisprudence system and any jurisprudential system is about justice anyway. And that, in fact, is a moral category itself.
Now we're not going to just be examining claims for and against Christianity, sort of using the rules of evidence in a wooden way. We'll be employing ideas like: “burdens of proof,” as well, “how evidence works” and “what eyewitness testimony is all about.” What's good and what's bad about it, how expert testimony works, and the like. And we'll be applying these to various claims both in favor of the Christian faith and against the challenges that come against the Christian faith as well. Each episode, I'll be highlighting a particular legal principle as we tackle the issues.
Now this is the first episode. So in one sense, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, this is my opening statement of sorts. For today's episode, the theme is going to be handling a basic objection, and that basic objection people often have to the Christian faith, is not really an objection at all. It's simply saying, "I don't have any burden of proof and the Christian has to meet his or her burden." In other words, oftentimes you'll hear atheists say something like, "Well, you've got to prove your case. I simply lack belief in God. I'm not convinced by the evidence and you have to convince me, and if you don't bring me enough evidence, well, I can remain unconvinced and therefore I don't have a burden."
For example, a well-known atheist named Matt Dillahunty who's got an internet show called The Atheist Experience recently said this in a debate, “My issue or my position is not, I can confirm that Jesus did not rise from the dead. It's that I am in fact unconvinced.”
Ladies and gentlemen, you can see what's happened is that what he said is that he doesn't have a burden. He only sits back and says he's not convinced. Basically saying, “not good enough.” Try again. Now a charitable way to look at this would be to say that he feels, and many other skeptics of course feel this way, that they have no burden except maybe the moral burden to accept the claim as true when there's enough evidence, but we'll see shortly that I don't think people really believe that or they don't even act in accordance with that. In other words, people don't believe things always based on the strength of the evidence. Oftentimes, they believe things because they want to believe or disbelieve something and that will be, I think, the subject matter of another episode.
But in order to talk about this, and can meet this objection where someone says, "I don't have the burden of proof, I just lack of belief, and you have to convince me." To really understand the force of this kind of a statement or this kind of a claim, we have to understand what burdens of proof actually are. This is important because burdens of proof are often misunderstood or misapplied, especially when the legal burdens of proof that we use in trial law are applied to conversations about God's existence and the credibility of Christianity. And it's okay to analogize those things, but oftentimes I think we misapply them because we don't understand what we're saying when we say burdens of proof or beyond reasonable doubt or preponderance of the evidence. But the first thing I want to say is this. Burdens of proof are good when they are placed well. In conversations, the burdens of proof shifts all the time, so it's a little more nuanced than people make it sound.
Now when we think of burdens of proof, we typically think of legal court cases where the prosecution or the plaintiff bears the burden of proof from start to finish. The prosecution in a criminal case bears the burden of proof for beyond a reasonable doubt from start to finish and the defendant doesn't have a burden of proof. And the plaintiff in a civil case, there's a burden of proof or the preponderance of the evidence or clear and convincing evidence from start to finish, and the defendant doesn't have to do anything. Now that's true and also not true. It's a lot more nuanced than that because burdens of proof in legal cases, just like in conversations, shift all the time.
Let me give you an example. Let's say in a civil case, someone is suing someone for negligence. Let's say a person was hurt because a window fell out of a building because the person negligently installed it. Now in that case, the person who's hurt is the plaintiff. He's the one bringing the lawsuit and if he's the plaintiff, he bears the burden of showing that the window was installed negligently. Now, once I meet that burden of proof as a plaintiff, the defendant can say, "Okay, well maybe you were comparatively negligent." That's a doctrine of law in lots of States. It's called an affirmative defense, where, as a defendant, even though you don't bear the burden of proof in the case, you do bear the burden of proof of proving what's called an affirmative defense, which means, "Yeah, plaintiff, even if you're right, you're still not going to win or you'll win not as much because." Well, because defendant makes the affirmative claim that the plaintiff, the person who was hurt, doesn't get as much as they are claiming or doesn't get any, the defendant therefore bears the burden of proof.
So in this example, let's say I happen to have seen the person actually installing it negligently, or maybe let's say I was instructing the person and saying, "Oh no, you got to do it this way or that way." And then when it was installed negligently, I could have or should have known or I was comparatively negligent. Well, the defendant, the person who was being sued could say, "I will show that that person who was hurt contributed to their own injuries as well." So we see all the time in trials that burdens of proof shift and when burdens of proof shift in trials, certainly they can shift in our conversation as well.
So it's not totally accurate to say that the prosecution or the plaintiff always and only has the burden of proof and so it would be incorrect to use the blanket assertion that only one party has the burden of proof when talking about Christianity or atheism or anything else.
The usual rule is this. This is important for conversations and for trials, but for conversations for our purposes. The usual rule is this: The one making the claim bears the burden of proof. That bears repeating. The one making the claim bears the burden of proof.
Now, let me give you an example in everyday conversation, especially about God or Christianity. Now I was a Muslim and when I was a Muslim, I used to always make this claim. The Bible is full of errors. It's contradictory and there's no reason anybody should actually believe in it. It's a liability because it's been changed over the course of the centuries of various means in various ways. Now, I used to make that claim and a lot of Muslims make that claim. A lot of atheists make that claim as well.
Now what always was interesting to me was when I was making these objections, oftentimes a Christian that was making the objection to would launch into a defense of the Bible and say, "No, you're wrong," and give me like five, six, seven, eight nine reasons why the Bible, it can be trusted. Now that's valid. You want to do that at some point, but you didn't notice what happened. In those particular instances, it wasn't the Christian who said, "You should believe in the Bible and the Bible is true, and the Bible is accurate," and all these things. If they had said that, they would bear the burden of proving the claim they just made. But no, in the instance that I'm talking about, I made the claim that the Bible had been changed, and that had been corrupted over time.
And oftentimes at our conversations, if someone finds out you're a Christian, they'll say something like, "How can you believe that book? I mean, we know what's been changed and translated and re-translated. It's outdated and all these things." Well do you see who made the claim in that particular instance? It wasn't the Christian who made the claim that the Bible is reliable. It was the skeptic who made the claim that the Bible is unreliable. Now, if the skeptic makes the claim, then the Christian shouldn't rush to the defense of the Bible. The Christian should impose the burden of proof on the person making the claim. So when the skeptic or the Muslim, or whoever it might be says, "The Bible's not trustworthy," you can simply ask very easy questions to make sure the burden is assigned to the right person. Instead of rushing to the defense and pulling out the manuscript evidence and all these other things. Simply ask the question, "How do you know that? Can you prove the statement you just made? I mean, that's quite a statement. You just made a very lofty accusation against the world's most influential book and I'd like to know what proof you have of that."
Now they might have proof, which is great because then you're going to actually have a real conversation about the evidence. But until then, oftentimes what you might find is that people who say these kinds of things, that the Bible's been changed, or it's unreliable, or it's full of unbelievable stories, often haven't thought it through or haven't marshaled evidence. They simply said what they heard someone else say. So once again, all we need to do is make sure that the burden of proof is properly placed. The one who makes the claim bears the burden of proof.
But now the question arises, how high should the burden of proof be in conversations about God? Again, we typically think of criminal cases. Because from TV, we're familiar with beyond a reasonable doubt. Now, what's interesting about this is that people often misinterpret when someone says you have to prove a claim beyond all reasonable doubt to beyond all doubt. No, it's not beyond all doubt. If you are varying the burden of proof, you don't have to prove that God exists or that the Bible's reliable or whatever it might be. Beyond all doubt. It's almost impossible. We can never actually do that. It's beyond all reasonable doubt. If you were to bear the burden of proving something beyond all doubt, well then no criminals would ever be convicted of anything because you can always have a possible doubt. It's always possible that some other person who looks exactly like the defendant and it has the same DNA or whatever. Is it possible? Yeah, it's possible that that person has a doppelganger who's just like them and committed a crime and all these things, but is it likely? Is it reasonable? Do you have a reasonable doubt? And the answer usually is no. So we don't have to prove beyond all doubt, just because on all reasonable doubt.
But is that actually the standard of proof we have to have in conversations about God? In other words, do you have to have it beyond all reasonable doubt? Well, in criminal cases, it's beyond all reasonable doubt, but in civil cases we have different standards of proof. For example, in most civil cases, the standard of proof...A civil case is one where someone's not going to jail at the end of it. A civil case is one where usually money or some other kind of release other than putting someone in jail, is that issue in private parties sue each other? Now in civil cases, we have one standard of evidence called the preponderance of the evidence or it was also called the greater weight of the evidence, and that's simply defined as this: Someone meets the preponderance of the evidence standard where the evidence persuades the jury that it is more likely than not, that the proposition at issue or the claim is true. Not beyond all reasonable doubt, just that it's more likely than not.
Oftentimes when judges instruct juries, what they do is they give them an example, like the scales of justice. We think about the scales of justice. They don't have to be tipped 100% in one person's favor under a preponderance of the evidence standard for the person to win. What they have to be is slightly tipped in one person's favor, just a little bit heavier on one side than the other, and that person wins.
Another standard we have in civil cases is what's called clear and convincing evidence. That's defined in the jury instructions like this. The evidence must be strong enough to cause you, the jury, to have a clear and firm belief that the claim or proposition is true. It's a little bit of a higher standard, the providers of the evidence. So in other words, the scales of justice would be tipped a little bit more in one person's favorite than just slightly.
Now here's an analogy you can use to understand the differences between the burdens of proof and why they don't always have to apply in conversations about God. Let's take sports games as an analogy. So I'm a Michigan Wolverine and of course they're my team. And if you were to look at the Michigan Wolverines basketball team, under a reasonable doubt standard, the Wolverines would only win a basketball game if they won by like let's say 80 to 60. You can't just win 61 to 60. They have to win 80 to 60 for it to meet the reasonable doubt standard. If you had a clear and convincing standard, then it would have to win by clear and convincing margin. You have to know that the better team, I would say, from a clear and convincing margin, so they would only win if they won by ten points, so let's say 80 to 70. And under a preponderance of the evidence standard, the Michigan Wolverines would win and beat their opponents if they had won 80 to 79. They don't have to win convincingly, they just have to win.
And the reality is that's how most of life actually works, by a preponderance of the evidence standard. We don't have to win by a huge margin. You don't have to prove something by a huge margin, just enough. You don't have to win conclusively. Just win.
Now that explains a couple of differences in some outcomes in some cases, and maybe this will help you as well, understand the differences between these things. We all can remember the OJ Simpson criminal trial where he was accused of murdering Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman back in the '90s. Now, what was interesting was, is that that was a criminal trial, and of course the standard of proof that the prosecution had to meet was that they had to prove that he murdered Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman beyond all reasonable doubt. So that's a higher burden, the highest burden you can meet. And of course the jury found him not guilty, which means whether you think he's guilty or not, the point was the jury thought the prosecution didn't prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. In other words, the jurors could've thought, you know what? It's more likely than not that OJ actually did kill her, but I can't say beyond all reasonable doubt that they proved it, and so they didn't find him guilty.
Now fast forward. A little while later, the parents of Ron Goldman brought a lawsuit for wrongful death, a civil lawsuit against OJ Simpson in which they claimed that OJ Simpson was responsible and caused directly their son's death and the jury found OJ Simpson liable in that case.
So you see two different juries finding two different things. In the criminal case, you found them finding OJ Simpson not guilty beyond all reasonable doubt. He was not guilty, but they also found him, a different jury found him liable in the civil case. Why? Because the standards of proof, that the burdens of proof were different. In a criminal case, the prosecution had to prove that OJ murdered them beyond all reasonable doubt, and they didn't meet that burden. The court apparently, but in a civil case, they didn't have that high of a burden. They had a preponderance of the evidence standard. They only had to prove that it was more likely than not that OJ Simpson was responsible for the deaths of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson. So we can see that they didn't have to win by 20 points in the civil case. The plaintiff only had the proof by one point more that it was more likely than not that OJ actually did it.
Now, why do we have these different standards of proof? Why do we have this? Because beyond all reasonable doubt is a high burden in criminal cases because someone's life is at stake. They're very freedom is at stake. I remember having this discussion in law school. We were asked, why don't we put people in jail based on a preponderance of the evidence? You know the evidence shows it's more likely than not that they did it. Why isn't that good enough to put someone in jail or to find it they're probably guilty so they should lose their freedom? The reason is because we have two strong public policies.
The first one is this. We'd rather have guilty people go free than innocent people go to jail and therefore, there's a higher burden on the prosecution that helps us achieve that goal of making sure that innocent people don't go to jail, even if it means that guilty people go free. And number two, we want to make sure that the state has a higher burden because if it had a lower burden, then the state could lock people up with its vast resources and not be held accountable, and make it a lot easier for the state to run rough shot over people. We have a higher standard in criminal cases because the stakes are higher.
Now, atheists often will apply that level of burden of proof to claims about God's existence. That beyond all reasonable doubt, but why should we? There's no worry that something bad will happen if you believe in God based on a lower standard of proof and are wrong about his existence. There's no worry that the government will run rough shot over anyone if we don't hold Christians to a higher standard or see us to a higher standard. Is it because the claims are so incredible? Maybe because they're miraculous and therefore quote unquote extraordinary that then leads to the mantra everyone always says, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." Now we'll come to that in a future episode, but suffice it to say for now that this isn't why we employ different standards of proof in court.
The prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone stole a car and they have the same exact burden, the same high burden to prove that a defendant killed someone. So it isn't the consequences of the action that caused you to have a different standard of proof. A plaintiff in a civil case has the same burden of proof for a breach of contract lawsuit as she does for proving a wrongful death that someone caused someone else's death. But in murder cases, in a criminal case involving someone's death, there's a very grave consequence. Yes, someone died. In a wrongful death case, same thing. Someone died. You have different standards of proof. Why is that? Because of the consequences to the defendant. In a murder case, if you're wrong, an innocent person goes to jail or might lose their life. In a wrongful death case, if you're wrong about it, then at most, a defendant might have to pay money they ordinarily wouldn't have to pay. The consequences are the issue.
The extraordinariness of the claims, in the Christian faith, that God created everything, that the miraculous happened. Whatever that might mean, is irrelevant. And we'll see that in later episodes. Non-Christians, especially atheists, make some pretty extraordinary claims themselves about the origins of the universe, about the origins of life, about what happened to Jesus. And so if they have extraordinary claims, then they would have to provide extraordinary evidence to back that up. But I think we can just apply normal evidence and see, does the great weight one of the greater weight of the evidence actually lead to a belief that God exists, that He raised Jesus from the dead or that maybe He doesn't? And I believe that He does.
So all this to say this, we don't need to apply a reasonable doubt standard when we're talking about God's existence, whether Jesus rose from the dead or whatever. I happen to believe that the evidence does meet that burden, but it doesn't have to. In fact, let me suggest a counter argument to show how, if anybody has to meet a beyond a reasonable doubt standard, it's the atheist, not the Christian.
Remember what I said, the reasonable why in criminal cases we have it beyond all reasonable doubt standard, which is the highest possible standard we have, rather than the clear and convincing one is because of the consequences. We have a policy. We don't want innocent people wrongly sent to prison. In other words, we make the prosecution prove a burden very high because that ensures against the possibility of being wrong. Now, is it 100% reliable? Of course not. We know of cases all the time where people, even with that high standard, are wrongfully convicted, but that high standard ensures that people who are innocent don't go to prison. It tries to minimize that possibility.
Now you can easily see the analogy, can't you? If the reason we have a high burden of proof is because we don't want bad consequences when we're wrong, then that would mean the atheist would have the higher burden of proof on their claims or their objections to the Christian faith. How is that possible? Here's why. Because let's say this, it's a version of Pascal's wager, I know, and sometimes that's considered [inaudible 00:21:14] and not a very good reason for believing in something, but for the purposes of burdens of proof, I think it actually does apply.
So let's say an atheist actually says, "Look, there is no God," and let's say that atheist is right. Well, he won't know it. And of course if he's wrong, he will, but here's the [inaudible 00:21:31]. If a Christian claims there is a God and that Christian is wrong, well all that happens is that Christian ceases to exist. So he or she won't know if they're right or wrong, but if they're right, of course, they'll enter into eternal bliss and all these things. If the atheist, on the other hand, says “There is no God,” and that atheist is wrong or proves to someone that there is no God, it's even a lesser burden, a lower burden, and that atheist happens to be wrong about it, then he's convinced someone that God doesn't exist and the consequences of being wrong are eternal punishment. In other words, in a criminal case where we have a consequence, someone could lose their freedom and be condemned to jail for years or for the rest of their life. That consequence is such a big deal that we impose a higher burden on the person trying to put that person away.
In conversations about God, the consequences of being wrong for the Christian are minimal, but the consequences of being wrong if you're an atheist are not only loss of freedom, but possibly condemnation for all eternity. So even the criminal context, the person who could impose the higher consequences has the higher burden of proof. Then if anybody in a conversation about God should have a higher burden of proof, it should be the atheist because the consequences of being wrong are high indeed.
Now, sometimes a skeptic will try to sneak in an unnecessarily high burden of proof for a Christian through a fancy term called the “null hypothesis.” Now listen to this claim from Matt Dillahunty. It's a clip from him from the recent debate he did where he talks about the null hypothesis and the presumption that Jesus didn't rise from the dead because he was speaking on the debate on that issue. Let's listen to it.
“I'm not going to get fancy, but there's one concept that I want to talk about at the beginning, which is the concept of the null hypothesis. And in inferential statistics, this is basically how we establish what the default position for any question should be. The null hypothesis cannot be proved as a matter of practicality. It's the thing that you assume to be true because it can't be confirmed and then you demonstrate that your idea is superior or correct by actually showing that the null hypothesis is false. Innocent until proven guilty. Proving your innocence is potentially impossible in most situations. So we begin with that presumption and so you have to actually demonstrate guilt. Courts don't require a proof of guilt and a proof of innocence. That would be a mess. A null hypothesis, smoking doesn't cause cancer. Basically, whenever you set up a null hypothesis, you're saying this thing really has nothing to do with this other thing. And then as soon as somebody demonstrates that they do, you throw the null hypothesis out and you accept the new offering. Null hypothesis. There's no one alive today who was alive during the war of 1812. Now, this one may get people into trouble, especially if you have a Bible that says people live for more than 900 years. Perhaps there could be somebody if that's what you begin with is accepting, but that actually has to be demonstrated, not just assumed. And when it applies to inferential statistics, one could consider it the foundation for how to properly apply the burden of proof. And when I say properly, all I'm saying is what I've said on a t-shirt and for many years. I want to believe as many true things and as few false things as possible. You have to have both components of that because if you only want to believe as many true things as possible, you believe everything, and if you want to believe as few false things, you believe nothing. You need both of that. Basically, I want my internal model of reality to match the real world as best it can.”
Abdu Murray: To unpack what he said, in a nutshell, it's a fancy way of saying, “I won't believe something you claim until you meet a specific burden of proof.” But what is that burden? How high? In inferential statistics, we give it a numerical value depending on how confident we want to be in the results. It's basically saying, I won't reject the null hypothesis or what I presume to be true until I find proof to a certain level that the null hypothesis or what I presume to be true and I started off is wrong. Other words, whatever competing claim you give me has to have a certain level of proof, a certain level of confidence in that proof, before I reject the null hypothesis. But what you decide as the level of confidence you have is completely up to you and even in inferential statistics, it's completely up to us. We decide what confidence level we want.
Now that's not to say that it's subjective purely that we can't have objective reasons for believing or disbelieving something to be true or be reasonable in believing something. That's not what I'm saying. It's just to save this, that we shouldn't be dazzled by fancy sounding words like “null hypothesis” and be dazzled such that we think that someone is actually sounding like they're being more objective than they actually are. And that's why I think the null hypothesis language isn't all that helpful. In fact, let's listen to this from Matt Dillahunty as well.
“The correct position is I am not convinced that there is a God. I often get asked what would change your mind? I don't know. I don't have to know. If there is a God, that God should know exactly what would change my mind. It should be capable of doing it and the fact that this hasn't happened means that either that God doesn't exist or doesn't want me to know he exists yet.”
Abdu Murray: You see what's happened here. He's basically admitted that he doesn't know what would convince him. He doesn't know what kind of confidence level he'd have in the alternative hypothesis before he'd reject the null hypothesis. You know the alternative hypothesis that you'd have, let's say he says that null hypothesis is God doesn't exist or Jesus didn't rise from the dead. Now he doesn't know what level of evidence would actually convince him otherwise, which means that he really can't employ the null hypothesis in these kind of situations. It's like saying this. I presume that the accused is innocent until proven guilty, but by what standard do you ask? Well, I don't know, but I'm sure the prosecution knows and he'll give it to me. Well, that's not fair because then the prosecution never knows what burden they have to meet.
Now, this null hypothesis is often used as an analogy of a presumption that you as a Christian or someone who believes in God has to prove and the only ones who bear the burden of proof at all, and that atheists have no burden of proof whatsoever, just like a defendant would have no burden of proof in a court case. Now, I've already mentioned this, but it's true that the overall burden sometimes lies with the plaintiff and the prosecution, but oftentimes in the course of a trial, burdens shift during court cases, and I gave you the example of comparative negligence or affirmative defenses, but there's a reality in this as well. Even if you don't have an affirmative defense, it's tactically true that a defendant in a civil case or a defendant, even in a criminal case, does have to prove something. They do have to show something. They have to convince a jury about something. This only makes sense, doesn't it?
Think about this. If you have a trial where somebody is accused of murder and there's a lot of evidence that shows that that person may have done it. Well, the defendant usually offers a counter explanation and why? Because the jury knows that something happened. A body is no longer alive and someone caused it because there are stab wounds or gunshot wounds or whatever it is. So they're looking for an explanation as to what actually happened. If the prosecution gives an explanation and that explanation sounds at least reasonable that the defendant did it, and the defendant doesn't say anything that counters that, well then the defendant's probably going to lose and probably be convicted.
Give you an example. Let's say Bob's accused of murdering Jane. Now, Bob doesn't know Jane. Jane is dead with 17 stab wounds and Bob's hair is found on Jane's dead body and a smear of Jane's blood is found in the front seat of Bob's car. And Bob was the last known person to see Jane alive, so he doesn't know her. His hair is on her. She's dead with 17 stab wounds and some of her blood is found in Bob's car. Now the prosecution presents all this to the jury.
Now a couple of things we know. One, we know that something happened. Jane is dead by stabbing. Two, the jury wants to know how that happened and who did it. Three, the prosecution's burden is to show that Bob did it beyond a reasonable doubt. And four, the jury presumes it wasn't Bob until proven beyond a reasonable doubt, but the prosecution has given evidence that maybe Bob did it and they would be rational in inferring that Bob did it.
Now, the defense doesn't have the burden of proof of Bob's innocence, but inferences could easily be made that Bob did in fact do it. His DNA is on her after all. Her blood is in his car after all, and he's the last person to have seen her alive. Now, if the defense doesn't offer any counter explanation of how Bob's hair gone on her, how his blood got in the car, he'd likely be convicted. That's why defense lawyers, good ones, do provide explanations and counter evidence.
Let's say they provide this explanation, that Bob and Jane were walking out of the same bar and Jane was very drunk and as she was walking to her car, she started to pass out. Now, Bob rushed over to catch her, but as she fell, her hand struck a piece of metal nearby and her blood got on Bob's right hand. The fact that he caught her explains how his hair got on her. The fact that she cut her own hand explains how does a little bit of blood got on her and then got on him. Later after he helped her to the car and he thought she was fine, he puts his jacket on the front seat of his own car, but smudges his hand on the seat without noticing it and that's how her blood got in his car.
Now, if the defense hadn't presented that evidence to the jury, [inaudible 00:31:32] said, the prosecution's case isn't good enough, Bob would go to jail. The reality is that people really do want to know what happened given that something actually did happen and how and who did it. When evidence is presented, it's almost never the case that simply saying, "Not good enough, try again," will ever work.
I think that's the case as well when it comes to God's existence and what happened to Jesus. We know a universe came into existence. Science has shown us that it likely came into existence from a point of nothingness. You have to give a counter explanation to the God hypothesis to give us a reasonable explanation of what happened. You can't just sit there and say, "Not good enough, try again."
And this goes back to not only presumptions of guilt or innocence or liability or whatever, but also inferences. People presume innocence or non-liability until proven to a certain degree to the contrary. But juries make inferences all the time. We will look at the evidence and we make reasonable and rational inferences during the course of a trial all the time. Now you're not supposed to make up your mind until all the evidence is in, but one can't help but look at the evidence and begin to see, I think this is unfolding in a certain direction, but you should be open minded to it.
Well, let's summarize. First, we don't need to employ a beyond all reasonable doubt standard when it comes to evidence for God's existence, even though I think the evidence does get you there. Second, everyone at least at some point in the conversation, does bear the burden of proof and the person who makes the claim or makes the objection bears the burden of proof at some point.
But let me say this final point before we sign off. We always need to be open about the evidence. We have to be careful that when we're looking at something that we're not just cynical as opposed to skeptical. There's a difference between being a skeptic and being a cynic. So you see, a skeptic is someone who doesn't believe until there's enough evidence. A cynic is someone who doesn't believe, even when there is. A skeptic doesn't believe, but a cynic won't believe.
Let me give you an example. You'll see it in the Bible. Pontius Pilate was standing in front of Jesus and he had the very truth incarnate in front of him and he asks Jesus the most reasonable question he could ask, the most poignant question he could ask. Jesus claims to be the one whose voice is synonymous with truth and Pilate doesn't want to know if what he's saying is right. All these simply wants to do is wash his hands of the political mess he's found himself in, and instead of asking Jesus, "What is truth," wanting to know what Jesus might offer him, he says, "What is truth?" And then walks out of the room. Pilate wasn't a skeptic. Pilate was a cynic.
But the apostle Thomas having walked and talked and lived and breathed with Jesus and his disciples hears the eyewitness testimony of the disciples saying, we saw Jesus raised after he was crucified. And he won't believe, he says, I will not believe until I feel the nail scars, until I see the wounds in his side. Jesus rewards him by giving him the evidence actually. Thomas falls to his knees and then believes that Jesus is the vision of Christ. Because Thomas was a skeptic. He wouldn't believe until there was enough evidence. Pilate was a cynic. He wouldn't believe, even when there was.
It's interesting, that the standard jury instructions, what they say to jurors after describing the different kinds of burdens, a judge will instruct the jury this. Quote, "You must consider all the evidence regardless of which party produced it." In other words, if you're seeking truth, rejecting evidence because a Christian gave it isn't honest, nor is rejecting evidence just because an atheist or a Muslim gave it. An honest inquiry tests the strength of the evidence, no matter who presented it, imposing an unfair burden on someone is a way to avoid having a look at the evidence, but placing the burden correctly and making sure that the burden of proof isn't unreasonably high, but is also placed on the right person, that's how we get to truth.
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, over the courses of these episodes and in the next couple episodes coming up, we'll be examining Christian claims. In episodes coming up, we'll be talking about the resurrection of Jesus. How can we know, from a lawyer's perspective, employing the rules of evidence and principles of law, that Jesus actually rose from the dead? And how do we respond to the objections that critics make against the resurrection of Jesus? We'll be looking at those and listening to the objections, oftentimes from the lips of the very objectors themselves.
But for now ladies and gentleman of the jury, let's make sure we employ the right standard of proof. And I think when we do that, we'll see a very strong case can be made that God exists, Jesus is his son, and he was raised from the dead to save us from ourselves.
That's it for now, ladies and gentlemen of the jury. Until next time, defense rests.
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