Objective evidence for the Christian God's providential interventions into the lives of his children

We have two remarkable cases with which regulars here should be familiar. There are also several other instances that have been related on the forum that add credibility and support to the contention, and we can refer to them as well, if necessary.

These are first person accounts and autobiographical, and as you read, recognize that the facts are external and objective, verifiable by others[*] and are not subjective since they are based on neither emotion nor imagination, nor personal preference and inclination.

Each is a series of disjunct events with no physical causal connection but both have an objective meaning infused between and among them, tying them together because of to whom they occurred, in what time frame and in what order. Think of them as constituting a forensic M.O. They are not merely astronomically improbable coincidences because the sets of events also each perform at least one function.

The first is especially notable because he did not want God’s intervention nor was he looking for it. Rich Stearns was the CEO of Lenox Corporation, maker of high-end dinnerware and other luxury merchandise, and the events led to his resigning to become the president of World Vision, a large Christian NGO serving to promote the welfare of children around the globe. He elucidates them in his book, The Hole in Our Gospel, winner of the ECPA 2010 Christian Book of the Year Award.


Rich Stearns, from his account:

There are a lot more details in the book about how Stearns resisted and his reflections on scripture and introspections on who he was, but finally he agreed to fly to Seattle to do some more investigation, “a series of fact-finding meetings and discussions before I made a final decision.”

 


The second needs no introduction – it is self-contained as she relates it. (Note how she uses the word ‘miracle’ – no natural laws have been broken, but there is preternatural timing and placing in the circumstances.)
 
Maggie, her account:

 


[*] ETA footnote: See in comment 198 (way below ; - ) about verifiability.

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Testimonies of personal experience are by definition subjective evidence. It is great evidence for the person having those personal experience but does not provide a reasonable expectation that others should believe what is claimed. Testimonies of personal experiences can also be found for things like radium patent medicines, UFOs, psychics, fairies, healing with crystals, and more.

How is scientific evidence different? These are written procedures anyone can follow to get the same results regardless of what they want or believe. For this reason they do provide a reasonable expectation that others should believe what is claimed. That is what makes the evidence objective – it is the same for everyone.

But what about the large numbers of people who have similar experiences to those in the OP. Did they not follow a similar procedure and get the same result? Not independent of what they want or believe. And the plain fact is that others have followed those procedures and have not had the same results. These are not quite the same for everyone.

This doesn’t mean these things supported by subjective evidence are not true – particularly when we have no objective evidence that they are not true. It is demonstrable that we can know something is true even when we have no objective evidence for it. We don’t even have objective evidence to establish the claim that reality only consists of things which are the same for everyone. Thus we have no reasonable basis to accept the claim of anyone that they are not true just because the knowledge of it is based upon personal experience alone.

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Not so and we seriously disagree. The facts in the evidentiary testimonies are objective. Just like in a court of law, the witness in these cases is relating ‘forensic evidence’ that is verifiable. That does not make the evidence subjective. If they were relating how they felt, now that would be subjective. There were other people involved who knew the facts as well.

You are misrepresenting without any foundation or citation. We are not talking about a one-off ‘coincidence’ – these are whole sets of disjunct events. And Rich Stearns’ account is nothing like your fictional “large numbers of people” following some “similar procedure”!

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The deconstructed natural experience will be true, but the unnatural interpretation of it beyond that is entirely subjective. Which is deconstructably natural too of course.

Testimonies are not considered forensic evidence. Also, the definition of objective evidence is not “whatever evidence they allow in court”.

You are turned around so far backwards that it makes conversations impossible.

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Well… I can certainly give personal testimony that arguing with Dale about this doesn’t accomplish anything. My post was not to start an argument with him but simply to present the other way of thinking about this that many other people are likely to agree with. I think the best we can do in cases like this is simply explain it as clearly as we can.

The point is that testimonies of other witnesses do add some greater objectivity than the testimony of one individual alone. After all, this does demonstrate that what they testify is the same for a number of people. But we can also demonstrate that even things testified by many people can be and have been terribly wrong and so this just isn’t close to the order of objectivity found in scientific evidence which provides the assurance of demonstration that these are things which are very much the same for everyone.

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I know there are other philosophers better versed at this than I am - this standard of rigorous scientific objectivity only works under a certain set of circumstances and settings. I vaguely remember Keener discussing this alleged requirement for knowledge in relation to even basic tools for researching historical events.

If you are searching for absolute deductive certainty, then I have good and bad news for you.

I think we all agree with that assessment. Therefore, when someone claims to have verifiable objective facts we expect those requirements to be met. If the evidence is subjective and unverifiable, then just say so. In certain settings, subjective and unverifiable evidence can be compelling.

I think we are all satisfied with inference from objective facts.

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So miracles do or don’t happen?

I don’t know. I have yet to see compelling evidence for a miracle, so I currently don’t believe they exist. However, I don’t expect reality to conform to what I believe or don’t believe.

I said the facts related could be thought of as, meaning analogously, not that testimonies are.
 

The definition of objective includes “factual”, as in real and true.
 

You are so far in denial that it makes conversations impossible. :sunglasses:

Evidence doesn’t become objective because you claim it to be factual.

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Sure, you can deny that the facts are not true all you want. That does not mean that they are not. And as I said, they are third party verifiable, especially in Rich Stearns’ case which is considerably more recent and with names.

Claiming something to be a fact does not make it into a fact.

What is verifiable?

How do we verify that God told him anything?

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Other faith traditions have eyewitnesses to miracles that we are skeptical of. Thousands were said to witness the Catholic miracle of the sun supposedly done by the Virgin Mary.

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Of course not. The meanings infused in both cases are self-evident and not subjective. And each set performs an objective function.

There is a very well documented miracle internet skeptics have had to explain away by saying the person faked being a paraplegic for 20 years. 20 years which can be documented. Her healing happened on video. It can also be confirmed by eyewitness testimony of people who knew her before and after she regained her ability to walk. It’s rare, extraordinary, and not repeatable under laboratory conditions.

Nor does that make it not a fact.
 

The personal and ‘coincidental’ interactions.
 

We can’t. That is a weak point of the argument, the only one. (Even he was reluctant give specifics because it was so unusual and probably ‘otherworldly’ somehow.)

Vague descriptions aren’t very compelling.

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“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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