Can Historical Evidence Prove Anything? The Adequacy Of History As Evidence In Christian Apologetics -- By: Wang Yen
Can Historical Evidence Prove Anything? The Adequacy Of History As Evidence In Christian Apologetics
Christianity is essentially a religion founded on historical fact. God’s Word and works manifested through Israel and ultimately in Christ took place in the historical realm. But some challenge the objectivity of history and thus its adequacy as evidence of religious truth, including Christianity that claims revelation of religious truth in human history through the incarnation. For the evidential apologists whose line of arguments rests on historical evidence,1 they have a larger stake in this controversy. If the objectivity of history is proved to be non-existent or impossible to attain, their whole system of apologetic based on the historical fact of Jesus’ resurrection, which proves his divinity and in turn proves the Bible (which was authenticated by Jesus whose divinity has been proved) as the Word of God,2 will inevitably fall to the ground. Therefore, it is vital for the evidentialist to answer the challenge to the objectivity of history, and thus its adequacy as evidence, before he sets out to marshal historical evidence for the truth-claim of Christianity.
To the objection to the objectivity of history, Geisler and Brooks respond:
Some say that historians never record what really happened because they can only see an event from their own perspective. But the very assertion, ‘All statements about history are relative,’ if it is true, is itself a relative statement because it is a statement about history. But if it is relative, then it is not objectively true; it is just a subjective opinion about historical studies. If there are claims that it is objectively true, we find such claims contradicting the assertions. The objectivity of history is inescapable. Why else would historians be constantly rewriting history books if they did not think they could come closer to an ideal 100 percent objective accuracy?3
But the problem of the objectivity of history has not been resolved with such a simple response.4 Perhaps the objector might point out (and rightly so) that Geisler and Brooks’ argument is a straw-man tactic, for the assertion, ‘all statements about history are relative,’ is not the logical entailment of the proposition, ‘historians never record what really happened because they can only see an event from their own perspective’. The crux of the problem lies in Geisler and Brooks’ confusion of the phrase ‘statements about history’, which results from their confusion of the definition of history. The word history is itself ambiguous....
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