Burden Of Proof

An excerpt from R.L. Dabney’s Sacred Rhetoric (Or A Course of Lectures on Preaching):

5. Determine correctly on which side the “burden of proof” justly lies. If the preliminary presumption is in your favour, claim it, and throw the burden of proof upon your antagonist, that you may have to stand only on the defensive. This discreet position may make the difference between overthrow and victory. Sir Walter Scott in the “Crusaders” represents Count Raymond Berenger as refusing to stand on the defensive within his castle, which he might easily have made impregnable against the whole Welsh host. By rashly attacking them in the open field he incurred defeat and destruction, despite his skill and heroism; he fatally threw away his vantage-ground.

The law allows every accused person the presumption of his innocence until he is convicted. It is, therefore, the duty of his advocate to assume the defensive, and throw upon the prosecutor the burden of proving guilt. If the defense should undertake to show that the accused did not commit the act charged, it would find itself committed to the arduous and perhaps impossible task of proving a negative. This negative might be true, and the man really innocent, and yet its demonstration in that form might be impossible.

Here the folly of assuming a logical obligation which did not belong to them would convert a triumphant defense into an abortive attack. Let an instance be also taken from our own science, theology. In a theodicy, or vindication of the divine attributes as concerned in the evils prevalent among creatures, those who assert that the perfections of God are consistent with these adverse appearances are entitled to the presumption; for “the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.” The initial probabilities are in our favour. Let those who assert the opposite assume the burden of proof, as is fair. Our defensive task then becomes comparatively easy; for the arduous thesis which our assailants have to maintain is this:

that there can be no good reason, known to an infinite mind, why God should permit these evils, and be still omniscient, benevolent and almighty.

This presumptuous assertion rebutted, our victory is won, and the fact that, within the limited circle where we comprehend God’s providence, we see him regularly bringing good out of these evils is sufficient for that result.

But if we undertook the onus of explaining fully how God is benevolent in the permission of all these evils, which his omniscience foresaw, and which his omnipotence might have excluded, we should find ourselves overwhelmed with difficulties; the task is beyond human ken. These examples may exhibit the usefulness of our rule” (R.L. Dabney, Sacred Rhetoric; some paragraphing mine–CD).

In one book Dabney is bloated with hard-edge-racist-smack concerning the “limited capacities of blacks.”
This time in a drunken-pseudo-pious-stupor, he is the rebellious potsherd talking back.

Dabney’s alleged “theodicy” is not what it ought to be. Putting on his pseudo-pious mask he’d pass the task,
And take the “overwhelmingly difficult” place of Calvinist-agnostic.

Dabney says “The task is beyond human ken.”
The telescope of Scripture on absolute Sovereignty is focused.
In resonating with Paul’s blurry critic Dabney does what a dope does.

Dabney’s defiant words show that he’s got no game.
It’s quite obvious that to God he points the blame.
Dabney cannot crack the code that’s old as what we uphold.
The explanation for all these evils is found in Romans nine.

God actively causes this evil to demonstrate His glory. Dabney abruptly would halt, say “it’s God’s fault — my sins are His, not mine.” And thus many God-haters doth wine. Behind Paul’s mutinous critic do they get in line.

“For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?” (Romans 9:17-24)

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