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iamnotaparakeet
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12 Jan 2010, 7:23 pm

Using the Bible to prove the Bible?
Are biblical creationists guilty of circular reasoning?


by Jonathan Sarfati

Creation Ministries International is well known for accepting the Bible as God’s written Word, and thus without error and the ultimate authority on whatever it teaches. But a common objection is, ‘You believe the Bible to be God’s Word because it says so. This is arguing in a circle.’ There are two major points in answering this: the role of starting assumptions, and breaking the circle.

Starting assumptions

All philosophical systems start with axioms (presuppositions), or non-provable propositions accepted as true, and deduce theorems from them. Therefore Christians should not be faulted for having axioms as well, which are the propositions of Scripture (a proposition is a fact about a thing, e.g. God is love).

So the question for any axiomatic system is whether it is self-consistent and is consistent with the real world.

Self-consistency

This means that the axioms don’t contradict each other. Indeed, allegedly circular reasoning at least demonstrates the internal consistency of the Bible’s claims it makes about itself. If the Bible had actually disclaimed divine inspiration, it would indeed be illogical to defend it. This is one argument that the Apocrypha was not inspired—1 Maccabees 9:27 and 2 Macc. 15:37–39 explicitly disclaim divine inspiration.

Consistent with the real world

Christian axioms provide the basis for a coherent worldview, i.e. a thought map that can guide us throughout all aspects of life. Non-Christian axioms fail these tests, as do the axioms of other ‘holy books’.1

1. Biblical axioms logically and historically provided the basis for modern science.2 A major one is that the universe is orderly, because it was made by a God of order, not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). But why should the universe be orderly if there were no God, or if Zeus and his gang were in charge, or if the universe were one big Thought, as Eastern religions teach? It could change Its mind!

2. Also very importantly, the Christian axioms provide a basis for objective right and wrong. Note, it’s important to understand the point here—not that atheists can’t be moral but that they have no objective basis for this morality from within their own system. The fanatical atheistic evolutionist, Clinton Richard Dawkins, admits that our ‘best impulses have no basis in nature,’3 and another atheist, William Provine, said that evolution means that ‘There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either.’4 So Dawkins makes a leap of faith to say that we should be ‘anti-Darwinian when it comes to morality’, that we should ‘rebel’ against our selfish genes, etc. But his own philosophy can’t justify the ‘shoulds’.

3. Christian axioms also provide a basis for voluntary choice, since we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26–27). But evolutionists believe that we are just machines and that our thoughts are really motions of atoms in our brains, which are just ‘computers made of meat’. But then they realize that we can’t function in the everyday world like this. Science is supposed to be about predictability, yet an evolutionist can far more easily predict behaviour if he treats his wife as a free agent with desires and dislikes. For example, if he brings her flowers, then he will make her happy, i.e. for all practical purposes, his wife is a free agent who likes flowers. Nothing is gained in the practical world by treating her as an automaton with certain olfactory responses programmed by genes that in turn produce certain brain chemistry. So evolutionists claim that free will is a ‘useful illusion’.

We must also wonder why atheists call themselves ‘freethinkers’ if they believe thoughts are the results of atomic motion in the brain obeying the fixed laws of chemistry. By their own philosophy, they can’t help what they believe! (see box 1 below).

Breaking the circle

1. It is not circular to use Matthew to prove Genesis (Matthew 19:3–6, cf. Genesis 1:27, 2:24), Paul to prove Luke (1 Timothy 5:18, cf. Luke 10:7) or Peter to prove Paul (2 Peter 3:15–16).

2. It is also not circular to use Jesus’ clear statements to prove the Bible. His statements such as, ‘Scripture cannot be broken’ (John 10:35) and the repeated ‘It is written … ’ show that for Jesus, what Scripture said is what God said.5 Indeed, Jesus defended many of the doctrines that skeptics love to scoff at (see box 2 below).6 Even without accepting Scripture as the authority, many liberal theologians believe that there is overwhelming historical evidence that Christ affirmed biblical inerrancy, although they disagree with Him.7 Yet Jesus proved His credentials beyond doubt by rising from the dead8 (cf. Acts 17:31). This independent historical evidence breaks the circle.

Conclusion

Creationists are thus not guilty of circular reasoning. Also, accepting the biblical presuppositions is not a matter of blind faith. Biblical faith is not blind;9 rather, it is belief, and trust and loyalty, for sound reasons.10 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to give a reason for the hope that we have.11

Furthermore, we are not merely asking opponents to consider biblical presuppositions as an alternative way of looking at the evidence. Nor are we merely saying that they are ‘nicer’, nor even that they provide a superior framework that better explains the data (although both of these are true as well). Rather, the claim is even stronger: that the biblical framework is the only one that provides the foundation for science, voluntary will, logic and morality.

Box 1 wrote:
How evolutionary reasoning undercuts itself

Social commentator Dr Theodore Dalrymple, no Christian himself, commented on the atheist philosopher Daniel Dennett:

‘Dennett argues that religion is explicable in evolutionary terms—for example, by our inborn human propensity, at one time valuable for our survival on the African savannahs, to attribute animate agency to threatening events.

‘For Dennett, to prove the biological origin of belief in God is to show its irrationality, to break its spell. But of course it is a necessary part of the argument that all possible human beliefs, including belief in evolution, must be explicable in precisely the same way; or else why single out religion for this treatment? Either we test ideas according to arguments in their favor, independent of their origins, thus making the argument from evolution irrelevant, or all possible beliefs come under the same suspicion of being only evolutionary adaptations—and thus biologically contingent rather than true or false. We find ourselves facing a version of the paradox of the Cretan liar: all beliefs, including this one, are the products of evolution, and all beliefs that are products of evolution cannot be known to be true.’1

1. Dalrymple, T., What the new atheists don’t see: to regret religion is to regret Western civilization, City Journal, Autumn 2007; <www.city-journal.org/html/17_4_oh_to_be.html>.


References and notes

1. See also Catchpoole, D., Holy books? Which one are you going to trust? Creation 26(1):19, 2003; <creation.com/holybooks>.

2. Stark, R., For the Glory of God: How monotheism led to reformations, science, witch-hunts and the end of slavery, Princeton University Press, 2003; see also review by Williams A., The biblical origins of science, Journal of Creation 18(2):49–52, 2004; <creation.com/stark>.

3. Evolution: The dissent of Darwin, Psychology Today, January/February 1997, p. 62.

4. Provine, W.B. (Professor of Biological Sciences, Cornell University, USA), Origins Research 16(1):9, 1994.

5. Sarfati, J., The authority of Scripture, Apologia 3(2):12-16, 1994; <creation.com/authority>.

6. Livingston, D., Jesus Christ on the infallibility of Scripture, from ‘A Critique of Dewey Beegle’s book titled: Inspiration of Scripture’, M.A. Thesis, 2003; <creation.com/jesus_bible>.

7. Harold Lindsell cites the liberal scholars H.J. Cadbury, Adolph Harnack, Rudolf Bultmann and F.C. Grant to prove this point, The Battle for the Bible, Zondervan, Michigan, USA, pp. 43–45, 1976.

8. For example, there are at least 17 factors that meant Christianity could not have succeeded in the ancient world, unless it were backed up with irrefutable proof of the Resurrection, as shown by Holding, J.P., The Impossible Faith, Xulon Press, Florida, USA, 2007.

9. Note, some contextually illiterate critics claim that the ‘doubting Thomas’ passage (John 20:24–31) promotes a blind faith. In reality, Thomas’s problem was rejection of ample evidence—the testimony of at least 11 men whom he had gotten to know intimately over at least the past three years, plus personal experience of the miraculous powers of Jesus, including raising Lazarus from the dead and even an empty tomb.
Also, almost all future potential converts thereafter would have less direct evidence than Thomas did, although still ample. So Jesus could not allow Thomas to ‘set an example’ to spoiled skeptics who demand God’s personal appearance before them before they are willing to believe, as if God were their personal genie at their beck and call. See also Holding, J.P., Blessed are ye who whine: does John 20:29 promote a ‘blind faith’? <www.tektonics.org/gk/john2029.html>.

10. Holding, J.P., Fallacious Faith: Correcting an all-too-common misconception, <tektonics.org/whatis/whatfaith.html>.

11. See also Sarfati, J., Loving God with all your mind: Logic and creation, Journal of Creation 12(2):142–151, 1998; <creation.com/logic>.



Last edited by iamnotaparakeet on 13 Jan 2010, 9:05 am, edited 1 time in total.

irishaspie
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12 Jan 2010, 8:32 pm

this is so idiotic.
and i hope that quote in your signature is a joke, because if you meant it to be a slight against evolution then thats a terrible attempt.


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iamnotaparakeet
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12 Jan 2010, 8:46 pm

irishaspie wrote:
this is so idiotic.
and i hope that quote in your signature is a joke, because if you meant it to be a slight against evolution then thats a terrible attempt.


Explain in logical terms where the fallacy is, which premises are false, or otherwise how anything in the article is "idiotic", if you wish to of course.

Yes, the quote from Stargate Atlantis is a joke. It is not completely against evolution though, and of course the show would not permit that, since all the scriptwriters are certified materialistic naturalistic atheists and any slight against or derision of evolution would be censored... but it is funny at least to me. It is probably due to their attempt to target multiple audience markets.



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12 Jan 2010, 9:21 pm

The Bible is unsupported by fact. In truth, the Bible contradicts many scientifically determined facts (such as the age of the earth) so the Bible in some respects is false.

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12 Jan 2010, 9:57 pm

Yeah, that's a pretty bad article. Lot's of straw men and bad assumptions.


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13 Jan 2010, 6:09 am

I like how it ends with "Jesus says so!"


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13 Jan 2010, 9:12 am

Funny and sad.

First, the Bible has been upheld as a very sound document of human history. No matter how much people try to claim it doesn't even tell history accurately, one scientific find after another in independent cultures have corroborated many key events in the Bible. It is even respected as an accurate historical account of an entire civilization (the Hebrews). I find it odd that people say you need to have independent corroboration of something before it becomes true. Do we impose that level of scrutiny on EVERY history book we see? We should. I know you can pull any number of "history" books from your local high school and find lots of chapters with revisionist versions of the actual events of the periods covered.

Second, logical reasoning within the same work is not circular just because it does so. A book on mathematics that goes back to principles taught in the first chapter to prove how formulas in the tenth chapter is not using circular reasoning.

Circular reasoning would be to say, "The Bible is true because God doesn't lie and He wrote the book."

We can see the flaw in this reasoning. HOWEVER, you can't say, "The Bible is false because you can't corroborate ____." Lack of corroboration does not = FALSE. Lack of corroboration means you cannot establish the X = TRUE.

You can say "The Bible is false because Y shows a different account of events." However, even that poses problems. Your new evidence must = TRUE for it to serve the purpose you intend for it. At that point, EVERY CRITICISM you can make against the Bible must fairly be imposed against your new evidence.

You have issues of academic bias and dishonesty (a researcher looking for something that will prove his predetermined conclusion and who does not consider evidence to the contrary).

You have issues of academic error (a researcher making a poor conclusion because of faulty or limited study).

You have issues of authentication (is the source legitimate...how much "spin" we see today might taint future historians' view of our society based on which books they unearth).

You have issues of a text just being wrong (inaccurate in content, written with limited knowledge, etc.).

It just goes on and on.

NOW, if you want to reason WITHIN the Bible, that's a different animal. Many principles in the Bible can be reasoned within the Bible because it builds on precepts communicated in other sections of the text as a whole.



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13 Jan 2010, 11:48 am

Well, the issue is that self-consistency doesn't seem true. One major issue is the variations in the 4 Gospel accounts, as even though they share a lot of things, they also vary a lot as well on matters such as the Resurrection, the death of Christ, and the last supper. Maybe one can argue that the accounts don't really conflict, but they don't really make sense if the other possible account is true.

But the issue with 1, is that Christian scriptures tend to dispute what the vast majority of scientists consider to be the true science. The fact that the universe is orderly doesn't mean that there must be a God. Why couldn't the universe just be orderly? The explanation only brings us a step back to a God that just seems to like order and who has to be so utterly trusted not to change all things.

The issue with 2 as well, is that Biblical morals are against what most thinking people would consider moral. Our consciences do not align with the Bible. This is a problem because the issue of morality goes back to the human conscience, as that is the only reason to think that there is a morality in the first place. So, a book that doesn't align with our moral beliefs and standard ethics seems a difficult thing to use.

Thirdly, I don't know what is meant by "voluntary choice" in his statement. Compatibilism or incompatibilism? Evolutionists can be compatibilists, and Dennett is one. So, saying that evolution is incompatible with compatibilism doesn't seem true without additional arguments. But libertarian free will likely is incompatible with evolution, but libertarian free will is also anti-predictive and questionable given the scientific evidence. I don't even know how to create a model of a being that "freely chooses", and am inclined to think that libertarian free will is incoherent for that reason. Not only that, but the predictiveness mostly comes in with the odd psychological issues that we all can run into when the brain is damaged. The insanity plea and voluntary choice don't go hand in hand well.

And the notion of free-thinking that atheists have is not one of metaphysics, but rather one of being against dogmas. By the metaphysics, either everyone or nobody is a free-thinker.

Umm.... problems using the Bible on itself only go with "given one verse, we can relate another verse". In any case, Paul isn't proving Luke. Paul could use a similar phrasing to Luke on one matter without reading Luke, especially if we say that all scripture is known through an oral tradition. Not only that, but if Luke wrote after Paul, then Luke could have copied Paul, but in order to prove one by the other, we must have it clear that Paul trusted Luke, and not vice versa. One can argue that the others are fine though.

In any case, the scriptures that say that Jesus rose from the dead don't prove their own goodness. If you don't think that scripture is inerrant, then why will you accept their claim that Jesus rose from the dead? Not only that, but it is also possible that a being could rise from the dead without being correct. Let's say that instead of God, there were fairies, they promoted this well-meaning Jesus fellow and rose him from the dead just to play a game. Now, if this is true, then the Bible is false, but there is no reason why the Bible's existence couldn't be consistent with a prankster fairy theory. I am not saying that it would be the best explanation, but still.

Finally, I don't think that "how evolutionary reasoning undercuts itself" is really that big of an argument. I mean, the belief in evolution isn't a biological belief to any extent, but rather a culturally instilled belief, but religious tendencies have been universal. And, I think that most evolutionists will say that behaviors that we test more are closer to truth, and they'll say that evolution is tested by empirical evidence and reason, which themselves are put to better reality checks than religious experiences and other things. So, I don't think we get the Cretan liar paradox. Evolved beliefs aren't necessarily wrong, they just are more likely to be wrong the further they are from a means to test their correctness, and given that we don't see the workings of a God, there is no reason to say that God is actively culling the population or causing mutations in his favor.



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13 Jan 2010, 12:46 pm

doesnt axiom mean self-evident? you cant say the bible can be considered self evident since neither god nor jesus were around when it was put together. and there is no proof for either.


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13 Jan 2010, 1:02 pm

irishaspie wrote:
doesnt axiom mean self-evident? you cant say the bible can be considered self evident since neither god nor jesus were around when it was put together. and there is no proof for either.


Perhaps the term presupposition would be more fitting? The use of presuppositions in an argument or an ideology is quite alike with the use of axioms in Euclidean geometry.



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13 Jan 2010, 1:15 pm

ok well my biggest issue with the bible is that it has been revised so many times by the church of the middle ages for the reason of mass control that if it was at all divinely inspired, there is not much of the origional text left in the bible thus is no longer divinely inspired. However the most accurate text of that time and about Jesus is found in the lost sea scrolls...which states that Jesus was a man with no claim to be God and he was a leader of a fundamental militant Jew group aimed at trying to get the offical Jewish leaders to take their role more seriously. Paul was the one who started christanity and the worshiping of Jesus...as a practical joke on Jesus who did not want to be worshiped because he was a fundamental Jew. The new religion spread like wildfire....go figure. Dont just take it from me, check out the lost sea scrolls yourself...after a crazy battle with the roman catholic church, it is now public domain but the church declares it heresy.

Reality is stranger than fiction.


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iamnotaparakeet
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13 Jan 2010, 1:27 pm

jojobean wrote:
ok well my biggest issue with the bible is that it has been revised so many times by the church of the middle ages for the reason of mass control that if it was at all divinely inspired, there is not much of the origional text left in the bible thus is no longer divinely inspired. However the most accurate text of that time and about Jesus is found in the lost sea scrolls...which states that Jesus was a man with no claim to be God and he was a leader of a fundamental militant Jew group aimed at trying to get the offical Jewish leaders to take their role more seriously. Paul was the one who started christanity and the worshiping of Jesus...as a practical joke on Jesus who did not want to be worshiped because he was a fundamental Jew. The new religion spread like wildfire....go figure. Dont just take it from me, check out the lost sea scrolls yourself...after a crazy battle with the roman catholic church, it is now public domain but the church declares it heresy.

Reality is stranger than fiction.


The main documents used for most of the translations of the Bible are the Masoretic Text (for the Old Testament) and either the Textus Receptus or Majority Text (for the New Testament). The Masoretic Text compares nicely with the portions of the Dead Sea Scrolls which have passages from the Old Testament, and for the documents of the New Testament, there are a few variants, but mainly spelling errors regarding vowels of proper nouns and such. Some documents have parenthetical annotations which were later written in, but using a compilation of the majority of the 5,000 some-odd manuscripts of the New Testament, such additions are readily visible in isolation and cancelled out in the intersection of what is common versus what is uncommon.



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13 Jan 2010, 2:41 pm

but then the bible contradicts itself alot, and copies bits from other well known fables (such as the epic of gilgamesh and it copies over pagan religions and holidays/events.) that i cant understand how it can be taken so seriously.

religion as a spirtual institution is fine,but when it starts to dictate the lives of everyone i.e involving itself in law, thats when it becomes abhorrent.


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13 Jan 2010, 4:06 pm

jojobean wrote:
ok well my biggest issue with the bible is that it has been revised so many times by the church of the middle ages for the reason of mass control that if it was at all divinely inspired, there is not much of the origional text left in the bible thus is no longer divinely inspired. However the most accurate text of that time and about Jesus is found in the lost sea scrolls...which states that Jesus was a man with no claim to be God and he was a leader of a fundamental militant Jew group aimed at trying to get the offical Jewish leaders to take their role more seriously. Paul was the one who started christanity and the worshiping of Jesus...as a practical joke on Jesus who did not want to be worshiped because he was a fundamental Jew. The new religion spread like wildfire....go figure. Dont just take it from me, check out the lost sea scrolls yourself...after a crazy battle with the roman catholic church, it is now public domain but the church declares it heresy.

Reality is stranger than fiction.

Where in the world did you get this drivel?


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13 Jan 2010, 4:54 pm

iamnotaparakeet wrote:
irishaspie wrote:
doesnt axiom mean self-evident? you cant say the bible can be considered self evident since neither god nor jesus were around when it was put together. and there is no proof for either.


Perhaps the term presupposition would be more fitting? The use of presuppositions in an argument or an ideology is quite alike with the use of axioms in Euclidean geometry.


Are you serious?