I recent exchange I had on Facebook:
What "evidence" is there that the Holy Spirit actually exists? I mean this as a serious question because when I was "saved" at 10, I did not feel any supernatural force guiding me, nor have I ever that I am aware of. It was a decision in my brain that caused me to walk the aisle and tell the preacher I wanted to be saved. How can anyone discern any difference between a conscience and the Holy Spirit? There doesn't seem to be a clear distinction. And shouldn't we KNOW with a significant degree of certainty that we are being led by this supernatural guide?
Ray, decisional evangelism and the alter call are 19C theological innovations that have nothing to do with the Biblical theology of conversion. So you're using the wrong standard of comparison. That's pop folk fundamentalist theology.
In terms of supernatural guidance, a better example would be unambiguous cases like premonitory dreams.
Steve, how do you know a dream is from the Holy Spirit?
If a dream were to come true, then it's revelatory. That would be a veridical, supernatural dream.
Steve, if a dream comes true, it may be a random coincidence, which I contend is much more probable than someone having a dream that predicts the future.
Also, you can't just count the hits and ignore the misses. How many dreams has the person had that did not come true? Most likely more dreams do not come true than do come true.
Whether it's a random coincidence depends on the specificity of the details and/or the antecedent improbability of the event.
As a matter of fact we can just count hits and ignore misses. Misses simply mean something didn't happen. The fact that something didn't happen hardly subtracts from something that did happen. A nonevent isn't counterevidence, but nothing at all. It does nothing to obviate evidence for something. The fact that most cruise ships don't hit an iceberg and sink hardly makes the sinking of the Titanic less credible.
But it makes the sinking of the Titanic less probable because you know that on say 99 trips, the ships did not hit an iceberg. So you could estimate that 1% of cruise ship trips result in hitting an iceberg.
Misses are events. I'm sure you know how batting averages are calculated.
If a person has 99 dreams that do not come true, those are misses and they do count.
i) Why is the abstract probability of the Titanic accident relevant when we have evidence that it sunk? Do you really think we need to counterbalance the evidence that it hit an iceberg and sank against mathematical improbabilities? No one says, let's begin with the mathematical odds of a cruise ship hitting an iceberg and sinking. Let's put that on one side of the scales. Then let's put news reports of the Titanic accident on the other side of the scales, and see which tips the scales. No, we just go with the evidence that the Titanic sunk.
ii) Swinging a bat and missing the ball is an event. That's quite different from something that didn't happen.
Most dreams don't come true because most dreams aren't premonitory in the first place. That's a red herring. Most dreams are not about the future. You can only miss what you're aiming for. There's no presumption or expectation that dreams in general are supposed to be revelatory or premonitory, but 99 times out of a 100, they fail to envision the future. The presumption, rather, is that most dreams are ordinary, imaginary mental events. What distinguishes a premonitory dream is precisely that it's not normal in that regard.
iii) Problem is we need some criterion to distinguish a coincidence from what's not a coincidence. Atheists are intellectually lazy about that. They play the coincidence card, but of course, but they also need some criterion to rule out events that are not coincidental. Otherwise, their appeal is ad hoc.
I had a series of dreams recently about hot air balloons (never been in one, and no reason to dream about them). In a short space of time, two separate people (who didn't know each other) mentioned hot air balloons to me specifically relating it to the meaning of my dream. They didn't know I had been dreaming about hot air balloons. Coincidence?