Occam’s Razor and the Bible

Occam’s Razor is the often-quoted philosophical idea that when we are presented with various hypotheses about the same thing, we should select the solution that is the simplest. Or put more simply, the simplest explanation is usually the right one.

This rule-of-thumb is considered a helpful guide for scientific research, and it can be invaluable these days in sifting through a never-ending flow of popular but exceedingly complicated conspiracy theories. Sadly, the Razor is also sometimes quoted by anti-theists to rationalize their disbelief in God.

It escapes many that William of Occam himself (c. 1285-1349) was a devout Christian, an English Franciscan friar, and a theologian who used his preference for simplicity to defend the reality of divine miracles. He wrote that “nothing ought to be posited without a reason given, unless it is self-evident (literally, known through itself) or known by experience or proved by the authority of Sacred Scripture.” As Occam realized, sometimes the most simple and obvious answer is actually the God answer.

“For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” The Apostle Peter, 2 Peter 1:16

(Pictured: Sketch of William of Occam labelled “frater Occham iste” (“This is Brother Occham”), from a manuscript of his Summa Logicae, (Sum of Logic), 1341.)

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