Answering a Critic: Refuting the Claim of Biblical Circularity

As I’m working on my next blog post (miniseries on logic, for those who are wondering), I figured an answer session was in order.  I will try, as I am able, to post answers to some of the commentary I come across when researching material on apologetics.  In doing so, I’ll try and keep it as elementary as possible because some of the criticism surrounding Christianity can get quite convoluted.  Thus, I don’t want to stray too far from surface level questions skeptics have posed, for quite some time.  At least for the next couple months!

After completing one of my recent blogs, I came abutton-892151_640cross another interesting blog post by a gentleman named Paul Thompson.  Paul describes himself as a skeptic and humanist.  In his blog post, Breaking the Circle, he attempts to prove the Bible null and void based on a very odd codex which seems to be made up just to prove his point.  In any case, the codex in relation to the Bible is complete nonsense, incomparable, and honestly just plain weird.  Paul uses the codex to try and draw a parallel between it and the Bible to show that the same circular reasoning is present, thus making any argument for the Bible, fallacious.  After braving this odd codex comparison, I came across some very interesting assertions which I will provide answers for.

“Bearing in mind that Faith is not evidence or proof, calling something the Truth does not make it True and something is not necessarily true because someone believes it to be True…..”1

First, it is important to note that in this case the dot-dot-dot does not mean there is additional dialogue to this particular sentence.  The thought simply stops there.  That said, Mr. Thompson is incorrect regarding his definition of faith.  Dr. John Frame offers a much better definition as it relates to the Christian faith: “it [faith] is not ‘belief in the absence of evidence’; rather, it is a trust that rests on sufficient evidence.”2  Moreover, it would behoove a defender of hope to research a few evidences skeptics may be looking for:  historical, archeological, geographical, logistical, etc., when it comes to God’s Word.

chess-1140816_640Now on to the fun part: “…calling something truth does not make it true and something is not necessarily true because someone believes it to be true.”  This is correct, in part.  Remember, people are swayed by very bad arguments and also reject very good arguments.  So how do we know what is true and what is not?  Well, God’s Word is the truth (John 14:6; 2 Tim 3:16; also, I explain why in the next paragraph.  Additionally, how do we know what Mr. Thompson is saying is the truth?  Read it again, “calling something truth does not make it true…”, yet, he’s asserting a truth claim; it’s a self-defeating, relativist statement; thus, it is irrational!

“Can a Christian prove or supply conclusive evidence or even present a convincing argument that:  1. Jesus was who he claimed to be, 2. Whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. 

 

They should be able to do this without referring to Biblical scripture as evidence for Biblical Scripture (Directly or indirectly). They should be able to do this in a way that isn’t also equally valid for the truth claims of any other religion.”1

 

I would start by asking Mr. Thompson a question to his question, “what evidence would suffice in order for you to concede that the Bible, the Word of God, is true?  Odds are that no amount of evidence would convince Paul that the Bible is what it says it is.  Why?  Because those who suppress and don’t know the truth, can continue to reject it (Rom 1:18-22).  If God manifested in front of Mr. Thompson, reciting the entire Bible cover to cover, he may very well write it off as a hallucination, or interject any other secular science based explanation, to cling to his worldview.

For the sake of time, I’ll let you ponder #1 and #2 of what Paul wishes us to prove.  What I face-805556_640want to concentrate on is the request that Christians not use the Bible directly or indirectly to prove itself; thus having us ditch our ultimate standard and argue from a secular point of view.  I would first start by challenging Mr. Thompson (because we don’t answer a fool according to their folly, lest we be like them, Prov 26:4) to do the same, by using his words (but we answer a fool according to their own folly, lest they be wise in their own eyes, Prov 26:5), “you (Paul) should be able to do this (argue for your worldview) without using scientific or philosophical foundations (either directly or indirectly) to prove your truth claim.”  This of course is not only absurd, but impossible!  Remember from Part 3 of my apologetic miniseries, the Bible is our ultimate standard which cannot be proven by any other means, thus, it must use its own criteria to prove itself (which it does brilliantly as only God knows how!).  Consequently, if Paul were to argue his worldview, it would ultimately collapse upon itself because knowledge itself (logic, basic reliability of sense which makes science possible, etc.) is presupposed.  He’s leaning on biblical principles in order to argue his point.  If we want to show Paul more literally of what he’s asking us to do as Christians, we can hand him a Bible and ask him to defend his worldview using only biblical principles (which really he’s doing anyway, he just doesn’t know it).

As demonstrated, Mr. Thompson’s claim of arguing for biblical truth claims by using the Bible itself as a fallacious circular argument just doesn’t hold up.  I responded similarly to his original post, but the original post was dated 2011.  If Paul is still active, he may respond.  In any case, I hope he at least starts seeing the truth by way of error in his logic.  That way, he can finally know the truth by coming to the Lord, then the truth will set him free (John 8:32)!


1 Thompson, P. (2011). Breaking the Circle.  Retrieved from http://skepticalprobe.blogspot.com/2011/11/circularity-of-presuppositional.html?showComment=1455425852223

2 Frame, J. Apologetics: A Justification of Christian Belief. Reformed Publishing Company: Phillipsburg, NJ.

 

Author:  Brian Kurkjian, Ed.D

One thought on “Answering a Critic: Refuting the Claim of Biblical Circularity

  1. I think you will find it impossible to argue with a nonbeliever using the Bible as the authoritative standard because they do not subscribe to it. That doesn’t mean that the Bible is not authoritative; they just don’t recognize the authority. You might make some headway, however, if you start with a different proposition – the New Testament is historical, accurate and reliable. Most nonbelievers won’t believe you of course, but these claims are demonstrable, and the amount of evidence is really quite compelling if the Bible is treated on an even plane with other historical texts. Dr. Timothy McGrew does a good job of exploring the external and internal evidences. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JAPG3eECaxw&list=PL8Re1T3_sNEDOgy1iG4hLBjPAZj4o0k1f
    You might also check out Dr. Daniel Wallace for a primer on textual criticism and why we should have such great confidence in the New Testament text that we have. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XvR4zGnwRD0

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