Notre Dame fire and Occam’s Razor

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I’ve never been to Notre Dame (or France for that matter), but I’m truly saddened by the news today of the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral. An 800 year old building that remains a marvel for art and architecture. Fortunately the entire building was not lost, but Notre Dame is forever scarred.

It is a lost for western civilization.

I was always taught that the simplest conclusion is usually correct.

An initial theory for the fire at Notre Dame was that it was linked to flammable building materials which were being used in a renovation project of the cathedral.

It’s possible.

But I just don’t see that as the simplest conclusion.

The building survived eight centuries. It’s survived wars. Notre Dame was built to last. It’s always been a high profile potential target for a terrorist attack. It’s one of the great symbols of France and it’s a symbol of the Catholic Church. It’s Monday of Holy Week. Not to mention a recent string of unsolved church fires in France. I think it’s more likely that someone intentionally set that fire than that it just happened to occur for no reason.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire (pun intended).

Simplest conclusion is usually correct. Not always. But usually.

Time will tell (hopefully).


It’s been a couple days since the fire. I’ve had a little more time to reflect. What I wrote on Monday was my initial, gut reaction. And while I think it was (and is) a reasonable thought, I do think that it was presumptuous to suggest that my view was the most reasonable or logical assumption.

I’m not dug in on a Notre Dame conspiracy theory to which no amount of contrary evidence will dissuade me.

There are arguments to the contrary of my initial assumption. Authorities were quick to say they did not believe the cause was arson. Also, no person or group has taken credit for this fire (which seems to typically happen in acts of terrorism).

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear what you think, and don’t forget to subscribe! 

Josh Benner  has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has served churches in Minnesota and Illinois. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in St. Louis.