Do you know what the problem with faith is?
You can't prove it.
No matter how much evidence is acquired, you cannot possible provide enough of it to push belief beyond a shadow of a doubt; especially in spiritual things.
Last night, James Cameron's The Tomb of Jesus aired on the Discovery Channel. For those of you who have not heard (and are living under a rock!) a tomb was discovered several years ago with several mini-coffins that contain the bones of the deceased. Carved on them are the names of the person in the box. One says, "Jesus son of Joseph." Other names seem to indicate a "Mary" is also present. For some, this indicates that Jesus was not resurrected. For others, it proves that more than one person names Jesus lived in Jerusalem.
To be honest, I did not watch the show. I only saw a few minutes before deciding to watch something else. (I did see one expert say something like, "Either you believe that Jesus somehow magically ascended into heaven, or you are historical and realistic." No one said the documentary was unbiased.) Because of this, I will not make any comment on how well James Cameron did or did not prove his point. For more see Ben Witherington's post here.
What I want to point out is that people from all points of view will watch that documentary and look at the same evidence and it will prove their point. Each of us starts with an assumption. We either believe that Jesus is the Son of God come in human flesh and we see all that evidence in support of it. Or, we don't believe Jesus is the Son of God or that he resurrected, and we see all the evidence for that too. No amount of evidence seems to persuade either side to change their viewpoint.
The assumption that we start with is our point of Faith.
I think we all have faith. Even when we are trying to be objective, there are certain presuppositions that color the way we interpret the data from the evidence. If we believe there is no God or that Jesus was not resurrected, the evidence confirms that the bones are Jesus'. If we believe that Jesus was resurrected, then we do not even entertain the thought that the bones belong to Jesus. Even when trying to be objective...we are not.
If we believe the Bible is God's Word, then we believe that the words we have were inspired by and the message guarded by God through the Church. If we do not believe the Bible is God's Word, then we see all the possibilities for exploitation and addition or subtraction from the text.
The same thing happens with modern-day miracles. Either we believe prayer works and we see that someone's miraculous healing is a direct result of God's influence. Or, we don't believe prayer works, and there must be some explanation: the ability of the body to overcome and heal itself, some medicine, whatever.
I admit that I am a "prove it" kind of person. I want to see evidence, but I also have to realize that at some point, I have to put my faith in something. I have to believe in something. I also have to realize that my faith determines how I will view evidence.
I also think that we do a disservice to the faith if we constantly take it into the "Prove It" realm. If I try to weigh my faith propositions in an arena that does not allow for faith, I am already set up for failure.
We do this with science. We try to prove the Bible through the scientific method, but many scientists are able to dispute our evidence because they start with an assumption that EVERYTHING that is real is reproducible. Many start with an assumption that excludes the possibility of the divine. It is also hard to note when God uses a natural occurrence to accomplish His task when it is God and when it is a natural occurrence.
What changes a person's mind? I believe (here is one of my assumptions that God is working in our world through the Holy Spirit) that the Holy Spirit is the only one who can change a person's assumptions about the world. We can't CONVINCE a person of anything, but we can be the voice and take part in what God is doing.
What do you think? What role does faith play in how you evaluate the "evidence" of something?