Having convictions is not a crime
Are biblical creationists guilty of circular reasoning?
Published: 7 September 2021 (GMT+10)
This first appeared in CMI-UK/Europe’s Update, February 2021.
“Que uno nace y luego muere
y este cuento se ha acabao … depende.
Depende, de qué depende
de según como se mire todo depende”—Jarabe De Palo (1998).
“One is born and later dies,
and this story has finished … [It] depends.
It depends. Depends on what?
It all depends on how you look at it.”
As we will see, this is an apt observation when considering the fundamentally different perspectives of evolutionists (especially those who are atheists) and biblical creationists. Evolutionist Bart Klink, writing for the Dutch website De Atheïst, has presented a list of questions for the “good-natured” creationist.1 It starts with this:
“What concrete, testable predictions does creationism make that could prove that it is incorrect?”2
Notice that this is not a challenge for creationists to prove their case; rather, he is really asking, ‘Is there any evidence which would force you creationists to admit that your position is wrong?’ Or to put it another way, is creationism falsifiable? What argument would a creationist consider to be a ‘game changer’? The question is elaborated under the heading, “The question that creationists always avoid”. Klink notes:
“After all, no idea or source is infallible in science. Of course there are certain facts and theories (such as the theory of relativity and the theory of evolution) that have been tested and confirmed so well that we can adopt them.”1
CMI agrees that scientists are never infallible. We do not dispute the science of relativity (read the box ‘Relativity and distant starlight’ here) but we strongly disagree that Darwin’s theory of evolution has been scientifically tested and confirmed. Klink has no such qualms and continues:
“However, this is not an assumption on the basis of faith, but on the basis of a gigantic mountain of supporting evidence. Even these facts and theories could be rejected if very convincing evidence of their inaccuracy is discovered.”1
At least he admits that evolution may be rejected in principle. For it to be scientific, it ought to be falsifiable! In practice though, evolutionists want to have their cake and eat it, for to reject a long-held belief (in this case, evolution) is very hard for anyone. It’s very different from conceding that you predicted the wrong team would win a sports game, or chose the wrong ‘whodunit’ (who committed a crime) in a detective series. But there is something much more profound going on here, alluded to in the earlier statement that “no idea or source is infallible in science” (emphasis added).
Fundamentals in the battle of worldviews
Should creationists have (at least) one concrete, testable prediction that could show their biblical worldview is incorrect? “Yes”, was my initial reaction. If we expect that of evolutionists, doesn’t it stand to reason they will expect the same of us? However, after discussion with a colleague and some further reading,3 I have changed my mind, ironically.
It is important to understand that everybody has a worldview. This is the case from a very young age, and one’s perspective on some things changes over time. I remember, in secondary school, recovering from the shock that electricity does not run from positive to negative but that electrons scurry in the opposite direction. Notice that this is underpinned by something that can be verified by scientific experiment, and there are many examples of similar ‘revelations’ as our understanding of the world matures. As such, some views can (and in my example must) bow the knee to the factual findings of operational science. Yet there are other beliefs that simply cannot be experimentally tested—they are presuppositions. If a person thinks this is untrue, then they likely believe in scientism (or positivism):
The belief that the investigative methods of the physical sciences are applicable or justifiable in all fields of inquiry (emphasis added).4
This definition is axiomatic because it is not subject to the investigative methods of physical science. Axioms are untestable beliefs—basic convictions that are self-evidently true—so they provide the greatest resistance to change in a person’s thinking. Axioms are fundamental to the paradigm an individual has accepted. They are not a property of the natural realm. Instead they are metaphysical, so it usually requires a convincing immaterial reason for them to be rejected. In the use of logic, if people believe ‘A’, logically they won’t believe ‘not A’ at the same time, unless they are confused! For instance, if people believe that a Supreme Being created the heavens and the earth from nothing (creatio ex nihilo), then they won’t at the same time believe the fallacious idea that the universe created itself—an impossibility, since something that does not exist cannot create anything!
Should all beliefs make testable predictions?
This has been a rather long preamble to addressing the question raised by Bart Klink in the introduction of the article. The creationist worldview primarily emanates from Scripture, which we believe is the Word of God and therefore entirely true. But, is this not circular reasoning: using the Bible to prove the Bible? In a sense, it is, but that doesn’t make it false. All deductive reasoning is circular because it must start with axioms. This is true for those who disbelieve in the Creator of the Bible (atheists) as well as for theists.
A problem for the Christian would arise if Scripture contradicted Scripture. Many such alleged contradictions have been raised, and as many have been rebutted. The atheist, hardly neutral either, is certainly guilty of a circularity in his belief: ‘there is no Creator so everything must be explained by evolution. We are here, so however improbable it might seem, evolution did it.’5 This hinders the atheist from even considering supernatural causes, not because he has empirically proven God to be non-existent. Au contraire, he has assumed it!
Interestingly, the naturalist worldview really ought to be testable because evolution’s adherents claim it is scientific. It is not, but if it were, it should be reducible to solely naturalistic processes. If this was indeed the reality, the atheist worldview would be falsifiable on the basis of good scientific methods, as Klink admits. However, he wrongly presumes that biblical creation should be scientifically testable, hence the question he poses to creationists at the beginning follows directly from his thinking.
Those who claim to be atheists must have sound reasons for rejecting Christianity. Thus, they must know something about the Holy Scriptures first. Often they don’t, which corroborates the argument above, that there is a prior commitment to materialism. What about those of us who say we are Christians? We believe that Christianity is not a blind, irrational faith, rather it’s a faith grounded in truth and history (see Loving God with all your mind). If something is false, we must reject it (1 Thessalonians 5:21; John 8:32; 14:6).
As we have seen, then, believing in the truth of Scripture may seem circular. For unbelievers (who reject God and thus His inspiration), the Bible is nothing more than a collection of books and letters by different human agents. But in the minds of many Christians it has been verified, certainly in their own lives. Christians believe God is the supernatural author of the Bible, who ensured that the writings of numerous biblical authors, over many centuries, form a consistent, theologically unified whole. Indeed, the evidence for the supernatural inspiration of Scripture is overwhelming.
Some have wondered why God doesn’t write a message in the sky so that people would be compelled to believe. Others are hoping that, one day, some amazing artefact like Noah’s Ark might be found—then surely people will stop being (wilfully) ignorant. For a few people, such things might make a difference, but most would not alter their already held convictions: “Neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead”, said Jesus (Luke 16:31).
Most believers have heard testimonies that go something like this: “God, if you are real, then please… [fill in the blank]”. In some cases, God graciously answered the prayer, hence those who were true to their vow shared their testimonies. But what about the others? There are many, undoubtedly, who having got their ‘proof’, still would not believe. If you know people like that, perhaps it is worth reminding them to respond honestly and accordingly. Exchanging a naturalistic worldview for a trust in the supernatural God of the Bible is by far the best thing you can do in this life.
How people view the world, and enter into a discussion about it, really does depend on their worldview. By limiting themselves to pure naturalism, atheists have shot themselves in the foot. Insisting that Christians need to be willing to let go of their presuppositions—which we acknowledge we have—they do not realise (or acknowledge) their own fundamental premises. Ironically, by insisting that their naturalistic view of origins is wholly scientific, they must shoulder the responsibility of providing hard evidence to support their beliefs. The biblical creationist’s convictions are not a crime against science, rather its vital foundation, as many have testified—like Lorren H. who shared:
“Thank you for the wonderful work the team at CMI does. I read every daily article sent to my email, have read every book you’ve sent or I’ve purchased, and watched every DVD you’ve sent or I’ve purchased. All of it has increased my belief in the inerrancy of the Bible and my awe of our heavenly Father. Please keep up the great work and may God richly bless your efforts to bring glory to Him.”
References and notes
- This list of questions is in response to a Dutch, Bible-affirming website, entitled “Answers for sceptics”; Antwoorden voor sceptici, logos.nl/category/type-bericht/debat/antwoorden-voor-sceptici/; accessed 1 September 2021. Return to text.
- Klink, B., Vragen voor welwillende creationisten, deatheist.nl/index.php/artikelen/665-vragen-voor-welwillende-creationisten, 25 April 2020; accessed 1 September 2021. Quotes were translated using Google Translate and checked by the author, a native Dutch speaker. Return to text.
- See: Frame, J., God and Biblical Language: Transcendence and immanence, frame-poythress.org, 4 June 2012. Return to text.
- American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition, scientism, thefreedictionary.com; accessed 20 October 2020. Return to text.
- See general objection 3, Responses to our 15 Questions: part 1, creation.com/qe1, 7 September 2011. Return to text.