Not too long ago, the distinction between proof and evidence was offered to me. Evidence being a series of arguments that, if sound, point towards the truth of Christianity. Evidence has an objective sense about it. Arguments that are sound do provide evidence of their conclusion. However, a lot of the time, the conclusion offered is not exclusive.
Proof is the more subjective cousin of evidence. Proof may consist of evidence; it may not. Proof is what convinces people of the truth of a claim. Many people are convinced of the truth of things without any evidence, while others have lots of evidence. Either way, the truth of that something has been proven to them.
When a person claims that an argument "doesn't prove anything," they are typically saying that that particular argument is not persuasive to them. Unfortunately, we tend to interpret that same statement to be that the person is saying that there is no evidence for the conclusion. I discovered this mistake when I attempted to show the logical path to the conclusion. The person wasn't looking for evidence, rather they were looking for something to convince them specifically.
A while back I wrote the post "Can You Argue Someone Into the Kingdom?". My point in that article was that arguments are not what will convince someone. We are to develop relationships with people. We present arguments as opportunities arise; we live our worldview to them; and we wait for when (if) the Holy Spirit is preparing the heart of the person to enter The Kingdom.
Building a relationship with someone is important. Even though we may be able to present several arguments for the truth of Christianity, we may actually just be wasting breath. What we are doing is providing general evidence, when people are looking for something that appeals to them specifically to provide proof. Without a relationship with the person, this can be more of a challenge. Don't make the mistake of thinking that people are always asking for evidence; they aren't. They are asking for subjective proof. And if they are already committed against the worldview of Christianity, we must wait for the commitment to truth to come before proof can be found (see more in "Reasons In And Out Of A Worldview").
Here are a few articles that also discuss the distinction between evidence and proof:
- J.W. Wartick: What Kind of Evidence?
- Anthony Horvath: Demanding Extraordinary Evidence For Extraordinary Claims and Render You an Extraordinary Dupe
- William Lane Craig: A Brief Post-Mortem on the Krauss Debate