Applying Evidential Standards to Discernment

In law, the art of deciding who is right or who is left is called decision-making. In life, it’s called discernment.

Judges rely on evidential standards in matters of uncertainty (that is to say, all findings of fact). So no judge ever says that a person is conclusively or certainly guilty. The judge only declares that it has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt or proved on a balance of probabilities that a fact is true.

Similarly, discernment is never a matter of certainty (for who can know the mind and mysteries of God). So we abandon the idea of certainty in favour of a more practical and applicable test – a standard of proof. The issue then becomes: what standard? 

The standard of proof is a function of doubt and desire: standard of proof = k(doubt/desire). The more you doubt the outcome, the more proof you will need before you are convinced that the outcome is God’s will. Conversely, the more you desire an outcome, the lower the threshold you need to interpret the ‘signs’. After all, doubt relates to the head; desire relates to the heart. It makes sense that the two often depart.

So here’s the plan.

Doubt is high; desire is low (subject to change). So the standard of proof is set at beyond a reasonable doubt. This standard is met by a remarkable coincidence, a clear and unequivocal sign or something to that effect. Miracles work too. But miracles are Miracles.

Correspondingly, this gives rise to a presumption of the status quo. Unless God rebuts the presumption by proving beyond a reasonable doubt that action is to be taken, nothing will happen – until something happens, or the end of the year, whichever is earlier.

P.S. Discernment is a strange thing to make a person the judge and God the counsel. Ahh the problem of free will. What would we do without it; what would we do with it?


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About Mel

I dreamt I was a whale.