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Feedback archiveFeedback 2005

Agnostic asks whether biblical Christians commit circular reasoning: role of axioms, internal consistency and real world application

28 February 2005
Hi,
I’d like to state first of all that I mean no offence, and ask this purely in the spirit of enquiry, as an agnostic and a philosopher.
I respect your views as far as you hold them, and that despite evidence to the contrary you have held firm to your beliefs—that is commendable, and respectable.
However, I have long been taught throughout my school-life the virtue of science, and the ‘big-bang theory’, evolution and so on.
Having read through your website, I can see that you have well thought-out arguments, backed up with evidence and study, which could easily hold up for some time against long-held theories. On the other hand, I notice that many of your theories are backed up by nothing more than the word of the bible.
I’m not denying that the bible is an excellent book, nor that it may be the word of God, but I will question one tenet:
That the Bible must be the word of God, because it says so.
Now, consider me heretic, but it strikes me that this is a ridiculous line of thought to take? If I were to say that my face was made of cucumber, and I’m four hundred years old, would that make it so simply because I said so?
I’m not entirely convinced that it would.
All in all though, fair play to you, you’re doing some good work there
I always have to favour the underdog in any debate!
Be happy, and God’s love on you,
Joe P.
UK

Hi,
I’d like to state first of all that I mean no offence, and ask this purely in the spirit of enquiry, as an agnostic and a philosopher.

Thanks. I will try to answer in the same spirit. I will say though that many of the answers you seek are already on our website, as will be shown below.

I respect your views as far as you hold them, and that despite evidence to the contrary you have held firm to your beliefs—that is commendable, and respectable.

However, there is a worldview in what you say whether you are conscious of it or not. That is: you have accepted what is known as the fact-value distinction, although many philosophers reject it on for the cogent reason that no good demarcation criterion has been proposed.

Proponents of this distinction place Christian beliefs in the realm of ‘values’, i.e. mere personal beliefs that have no connection with reality. There are less scrupulous people than you who will say the same sort of things, that they ‘respect’ Christianity, but at a frightful cost of dismissing Christian ideas from any rational discussion.

However, Christianity is a system of Total Truth (the title of a new book on these issues by Nancy Pearcey). It makes objective claims about the world, including its history and about absolute right and wrong. See this refutation of Stephen Jay Gould and NOMA (nonoverlapping magisteria) for some examples.

Actually, many Christians have likewise accepted the fact-value distinction, including Dr Batten in his younger days as he confesses (note the diagram) which he wants people to avoid.

However, I have long been taught throughout my school-life the virtue of science, and the ‘big-bang theory’, evolution and so on.

Did they also teach you about the many cosmogonists skeptical of the big bang because of the ad hoc unobservable entities required to prop up the theory, e.g. hypothetical inflation field, dark matter and energy, as well as adjustable parameters to bring the theory into line? See Secular scientists blast the big bang.

Or did they teach you the many chemical hurdles of chemical evolution required before nonliving chemicals can form even a simple living cell? See Q&A: Origin of Life. I also have to wonder whether their ‘evidence’ for evolution was mere change, as atheistic New Zealand journalist Bob Brockie did (see refutation).

Having read through your website, I can see that you have well thought-out arguments, backed up with evidence and study, which could easily hold up for some time against long-held theories. On the other hand, I notice that many of your theories are backed up by nothing more than the word of the bible.

Since the creation/evolution issue is about history, we do what the best historians do—go to eyewitness accounts. That is what the Bible is.

I’m not denying that the bible is an excellent book, nor that it may be the word of God, but I will question one tenet:
That the Bible must be the word of God, because it says so.

Then I have to ask you, why do you think it is an excellent book? If it claims to be written by God (and it does many times), then if this claim is false, the Bible would be a fraudulent or delusional book. This is parallel to C.S. Lewis’s famous Trilemma argument: Jesus claimed to be God, so either this is true or false; if true, then worship Him! But if false, then he is either deliberately lying, or is hopelessly deluded, worse than the man who thinks that he is a baked potato. One option He just does not logically allow is ‘he was just a very great teacher’. The same is true of the Bible.

Now, consider me heretic, but it strikes me that this is a ridiculous line of thought to take? If I were to say that my face was made of cucumber, and I’m four hundred years old, would that make it so simply because I said so?
I’m not entirely convinced that it would.

No, but this is not our argument. Rather, it would be worth seeing this answer to the charge of circular reasoning. For one thing, the circle is easily broken; for another, the alleged circular reasoning is to show the self-consistency of our chosen axioms—the propositions of Scripture. All philosophical systems start with axioms (presuppositions), or unprovable propositions accepted as true, and deduce theorems from them. Therefore Christians should not be faulted for having axioms, as explained in Creation: ‘where’s the proof?’

So the question for any axiomatic system is whether it is self-consistent and is consistent with the real world. The self-consistency is explained above, and as will be seen, 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. E.g. science requires certain premises to work, and they are deductions from biblical axioms, as shown in this response, while atheism does not provide this justification from within its own framework. Also, atheism must postulate certain unprovable beliefs that go against observable science, as shown in this reply to an atheist.

Also, the Christian axioms provide a basis for objective morality. Please understand what I am saying here—not that atheists can’t be moral but that they have no objective basis for this morality from within their own system, as explained in this response. The fanatical atheistic evolutionist Dawkins admits that our ‘best impulses have no basis in nature.’ 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’.

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 behavior 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 they claim that free will is a ‘useful illusion’.

We must also wonder why atheists call themselves ‘free-thinkers’ 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!

Also, it is amusing that evolutionists believe that other people’s ideas (e.g. religion and morality) are explained by evolution, and thus can be dismissed as not based in reality. Right, so what evolutionary process explained their evolutionary ideas, and can we similarly dismiss them as explained away? Perhaps there is a gene that evolved to makes them believe that behaviors are controlled by evolved genes? See also this response to an evolutionist who was hoist by his own petard.

All in all though, fair play to you, you’re doing some good work there
I always have to favour the underdog in any debate!

Thanks. But even better to favour the truth. Underdogs aren’t always right, e.g. Holocaust deniers, but thank you for the kind thoughts.

Be happy, and God’s love on you.
Joe P.
UK

You too, and I hope that you will one day ‘love God with all your mind.’

Jonathan Sarfati, Ph.D.
Creation Ministries International
Brisbane, Australia [now USA]

[Update: See Using the Bible to prove the Bible? Are biblical creationists guilty of circular reasoning?]


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