Circular Reasoning in Christianity is Successful?

circular-reasoning

(Eunike Misiekaba) #1

Some degree of circular reasoning is unavoidable when dealing with an ultimate standard. We can’t avoid circular reasoning when dealing with a ultimate standard, only in the Christian Worldview circular reasoning can be done successfully.

The killer question is: How do you know your ultimate standard is true?
The answer to this is: You don’t know or you will take it for granted or you know. IF you don’t know that your ultimate standard is true, you don’t know anything.
As believers we must be able to prove that our ultimate standard is true, otherwise knowledge would be impossible. Therefore, lest we start with God’s word we can’t know anything, at least not ultimately.
By: Dr Jason Lisle

I’d appreciate your thoughts on this statement. I’m also trying to understand what makes circular reasoning in Christianity successful.


(SeanO) #2

@Eunike I disagree. For example, see the difference below between a circular argument versus a proper argument based on Scriptural authority. Yes, we trust the Bible, but we have reasons to trust the Bible. Therefore, the argument ‘because the Bible says so’ is not circular if we have a valid reason for trusting the Bible. It is only circular if we cannot justify the reliability of the Scriptures.

Circular Argument:

  • X is true because of Y
  • Y is true because of X

Circular argument for Scriptural authority:

  • The Bible is God’s Word
  • Because God tells us so in the Bible

Contrast this circular argument with a proper argument based on Scriptural authority:

  • we know Christ taught us to love our enemies

  • because the Bible tells us so

  • we know the Bible is God’s Word

  • because of the resurrection of Jesus, the historical witness of the Church, the reliable documentary evidence, its truth as evinced by obedience to its teaching, the witness of God’s Spirit

However, it is true that we all have fundamental assumptions in our lives that are not verifiable merely by logic or the scientific method. There are first principles in every worldview upon which that worldview is built. The question we must ask is which worldview has the most believable assumptions and, in light of those assumptions, makes the most sense out of the universe - origin, meaning, morality and destiny.


(Eunike Misiekaba) #3

@SeanO Thanks much.
I don’t quite get it.
A definition of circular reasoning that I have is:

  • Circular reasoning is an argument in which a person begins with the point that he or she is trying to prove
    My concern that rises from what you mentioned is when approaching the Scriptural authority through deductive reasoning. Deductive reasoning speaks to the Self-authenticating capacity of the Scriptures right? So you would come to some degree of circular reasoning.

Greg Bahnsen made an interesting statement about this:

**What if we all got together and said,;The Bhagavad Gita is the Word of God. Would that make it the Word of God? What if we all got together and studied the Bible and declared it to be the Word of God? If the Bible does not claim to be God’s Word, all the extra-biblical arguments cannot justify that conclusion.

So the Self-Attestation of Scripture is important for what we can conclude about the Bible itself. Like all of the other doctrines of the Christian faith, the doctrine of the Authority of the Bible must be proven by the Bible. And so you see now that we are automatically trapped in circular reasoning aren’t we?;Why do you believe the Bible to be the Word of God?That’s what the unbeliever wants to know. As a theologian, the answer is cannot be evaded;I believe it because the Bible says so.

The unbeliever will say, That’s circular reasoning!; But let’s back up a step. If the Bible didn’t claim to be the Word of God and we didn’t believe it on the basis of the Bible itself, what would be the basis for believing it? Consensus? No. Only God can define His own Word. When an unbeliever rejects our answer that the Bible speaks for itself, you know what he is really saying? What he is really saying is, I won’t let the Bible be the final authoritative Word of God. I have precluded that possibility. How has he precluded it? Here is the horns of the dilemma: you can prove the ultimate authority of the Bible from either something outside of the Bible or from the Bible itself. The unbeliever already claimed that he won’t accept it on the basis of the Bible itself, because that’s circular reasoning. But we also see that nothing outside of the Bible can make it the Word of God, because there is no authority that is divine in its stature outside of God Himself. So when you look at both options, they both reach the same conclusion for the unbeliever-there is no authoritative god in history.

Please help me out here.


(SeanO) #4

@Eunike I also disagree with Bahnsen’s conclusions.

If you have reasons to believe the Bible other than the Bible says so, then by definition your argument is not circular.

So, let me ask you, do you have reasons to believe the Bible is God’s Word other than ‘the Bible says so’? Could you list a few for me?


(Eunike Misiekaba) #5

:slight_smile:

@SeanO Absolutely, I have reasons to believe the word of God. And yes, it wouldn’t be circular when taking an inductive approach. And yes, my reasons range from my personal experience, to historical evidence back to the Scripture itself.
I think I’m struggling with the self-authenticating capacity of the Bible. I quote: Biblically speaking, Scripture claims the Bible is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16–17). If it is breathed by God, and God is perfect, Scripture must be perfect (Psalm 19). Another way to say this is that God is true (Romans 3:4) and God breathed out Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16–17); therefore, the Scriptures are true.

So in fact, what the Bible says it about itself is key for (validating) my reasons. I don’t see how it would be wrong to argue based on what the Scripture says about itself.

“The challenge becomes: If the Bible claims to be God’s word, that does not prove that it is God’s word”. But all the evidence and reasons that I would sum up, would bring me back to an ultimate criterion.I understand from my study material that: " One may not argue for one ultimate criterion by appealing to another. And the argument over Scriptural authority is precisely an argument over ultimate criterion" (quote: https://frame-poythress.org/scripture-speaks-for-itself/). So I see why this would be considered circular. But it doesn’t differ from what the other refuting party is doing. We would either hear:

  • the Bible is the word of God, because X,Y,Z, including because the Bible tells us so therefore the Bible is the word of God"

  • Bible is not the word of God, because Y,Y,Z, including because D tells us so and C, B and A support D, therefore the Bible is not the word of God

I was also looking at this issue based on what is written in John 8. The Pharisees in the day where also refuting what Christ said, because he testified of Himself. I quote:

13 The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.” 14 Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going.

He was speaking as the ultimate source and it got me thinking on what is actually valid on our day of dealing with the ultimate standard of Scriptural Authority. Later on in the same chapter He is stating

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Here I understand that He is saying that only by holding on/ living out His word, we will know the accuracy of them. First accept them as truth. I guess you can only hold onto to word if you accept is as truth. What I understand is that that truth will affirm itself in our lives and liberate us from all other conceptions about life etc…

This is what I am going through at the moment in my personal study. So I still come to that area of circular reasoning in Christianity, but still valid.

Am I going about it the wrong way?


(SeanO) #6

@Eunike My personal opinion is that the validity of Scripture does not rely on what Scripture says. Jesus’ testimony about Scripture, for example, is a much better reason to trust the OT then simply because the OT says it’s the Word of God.

I think that if the Bible never claimed to be God’s Word, then an argument could be made against it. But I do not agree that the Bible saying it is God’s Word is the evidence we must ultimately return to… There are plenty of good reasons to trust Scripture outside of Scripture says so.


(Carson Weitnauer) #7

Hi @Eunike,

Consider this statement: You are reading the writing of Carson Weitnauer.

That statement is true! I wrote it!

You can also confirm that I wrote it because it appears next to my name in RZIM Connect.

Further, the style and voice of my writing in this post is consistent with how I write my emails.

It is logically possible that my computer has been hacked and someone else is writing this. But, I would think it is reasonable for you to conclude that I did write the above statement unless and until you have good reason to believe otherwise.

When it comes to the Bible, I think we have the same kind of dynamic, but there is also the Holy Spirit, living and active, and testifying to our minds, “This is God’s word!”

I think when people read the Bible and recognize it as God’s word - because it is God’s word and because the Holy Spirit confirms that reality - they are making a rational decision to trust that they are reading God’s word. And the Bible itself expects us to have this experience.

However, if Christianity is false, then this line of reasoning is quite bad. On the other hand, if Christianity is true, then it follows logically.

I think a robust Christian theology can have the self-confidence to affirm these truths.

From the perspective of a seeker or skeptic, this may appear to be circular reasoning. However, they lack the crucial information that the God of the Bible is a real entity and therefore is quite capable of speech that does, after all, seem to be from God.

Further, how wonderful it is that God has provided so many other means for us to know that he is real. From the resurrection of Jesus to the daily reality of miracles to the fine-tuning of the universe, there are so many ways that our minds can reasonably conclude that Christianity is true.

But I don’t see any harm in giving someone the Gospel of John and encouraging them to read it! They just might recognize God’s voice when they do…


(Eunike Misiekaba) #8

@CarsonWeitnauer Helpful, Thanks.
@SeanO Thanks for your contribution as well


(Raymondo) #9

I was thinking that if we look at creation, and do as my dear Baptist friend does if he gets “down” in spirit, and work our way back to a solid thought process about God, His nature and salvation because He is the same One who reveals Himself in nature as the One who reveals Himself in Scripture, I think that is not circular reasoning and quite legitimate from the philosophical, logical point of argument? Do you think so too?