I follow J. Warner Wallace’s blog “Cold Case Christianity”. A few days ago, the blog featured a video clip in which Wallace responded to the popular statement “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”, a statement often used to argue against the believability or reasonableness of The Faith.
In my opinion, Wallace handled that statement quite well (as you can see here), so there is no need for me to say anything further about it. What I would like to do, though, is say something about one part of it. I want to question a part of it, actually. I want to question the first part, the “extraordinary claims” part.
Obvious, whoever coined that statement took the existence of a god (either a generic higher power or the God I follow, the God of the Bible) to be an extraordinary claim. Equally obviously, the many people who have repeated this statement over the years obviously agree. I did as well when I first heard this statement somewhere around 1995-96 (right in the middle of my Bible college career). When this statement was tossed as me, I immediately reacted by anxiously thinking, “Yes, the existence of God is an extraordinary claim and I must be able to give some extraordinary evidence for it.”
My immediate reaction when I saw the title of Wallace’s blog, though, was very different. As soon as I saw that title, I thought not, “Yes, the existence of God is an extraordinary claim” but “The existence of God is an extraordinary claim? Says who?” I wondered what authority was certifying the existence of God to be extraordinary. I further wondered if they were correct in certifying the existence of God to be extraordinary. I most of all wondered if the existence of God is indeed extraordinary.
And I came to believe that it is not. I came to believe that it is not based on the same idea I offered in the previous post on this blog, the idea that everything I see in the world around me has been created by someone I don’t now see. If you didn’t read the last post, let me summarize this idea for you. I live on a city park, and everything in that park was created. Everything in that park come from someone or something else. Whether it is the organic elements (the trees and grass which not only came from the seeds of other trees and grass but were purposefully planted where they are) or the inorganic elements (the buildings or ball fields which were clearly built by human hands). As far as I can tell, this rule is absolute; there are no exceptions. The organic elements are clearly not the original organic elements brought into existence at the moment the universe came into being but instead the descendants of those organic elements. The inorganic elements are even more clearly not the product of the moment the universe came into being. So whether you subscribe to a theist worldview or a materialistic one, you have to admit that everything I see in the park or in any other place I go to came not only to be where it is but to be itself by the agency of someone/something else before it.
That being the case, is the idea of the universe being brought into being by someone that extraordinary? It is not. That idea fits the pattern I see in the park and all the other places I go in my daily routine. It fits this pattern of something being brought into existence by someone/something else. That’s not extraordinary at all. What is extraordinary is the opposite, the idea that the universe (the single biggest thing I see) brought itself into being or was brought into being by mindless forces or was never brought into being at all. That idea violates the clear pattern of everything else I see, everything else I hear/taste/touch/experience. That idea, in my opinion, is the extraordinary one.
Maybe extraordinary claims do require extraordinary evidence. Maybe (as Wallace suggests) they don’t. Maybe that is a legitimate rule, maybe it isn’t. I don’t know. What I do question is whether or not that rule applies to the idea of the existence of God. I quite frankly think it doesn’t. I think the idea of the existence of God is an ordinary as the existence of all the other unseen-but-obviously real creators who are behind everything I see every day.