Monday, December 16, 2013

Circular Reasoning?

One of the common accusations professed atheists throw at Christians is that we are using circular reasoning in arguing that the Bible is true. If we were merely saying that the Bible is true because the Bible says so, then that would be an invalid circular argument. However this is not what we are saying. 

Firstly, as I mentioned in a previous post (Sye's Analogies), without God you don't get truth -  you just get brain fizz. So it's illogical to say that the Bible is not true, because you can't get truth without God.

Secondly, it seems arbitrary for an unbeliever to accuse us of doing circular reasoning while overlooking their own circular reasoning that devastates their own worldview - that of using their mind and reasoning to check that their reasoning is valid. How do you know that your reasoning is valid? is thus a very valid question.

Thirdly, some circles are unavoidable when you get down to core assumptions. In the Bible God swore by himself because their was no one greater to swear by. To illustrate this try proving that logic exists without using logic! For example, take the Law of Non-Contradiction (LNC) - you can't prove that this exists without assuming that it exists and using logic to prove logic - which is circular. But we can prove that the LNC exists by the impossibility of the contrary - if you look at what happens if you try and reason without it you end up in absurdity. If the LNC were not true we could also say that it is true and there would be no basis for objecting to that contradiction.

Fourthly, not all circles are created equal. Only the biblical circle can account for knowledge. Without the biblical circle there would be no circles at all! All non biblical worldviews have vicious circular reasoning at their core and cannot overcome the problem of using their reasoning to validate that their reasoning is valid. For this reason they refute themselves and blow themselves up. (See picture below)

"Non-Christian circles of reasoning are ultimately self-defeating. They do not pass their own test."
Jason Lisle article -

Here Jason Lisle has used an illustration of a man with a barrel of gunpowder going round in a circle. When he lights the fuse it will circle around him and blow himself up. The biblical circle is not a vicious circle but a virtuous circle because it is not a simple circle. The circle transcends a mere vicious circular argument by acknowledging revelation from God. It transcends this earthly plane and thus breaks free from the circle. God has revealed certain things to us so that we can know them for certain (such as that He exists).

God is true because the Bible says so AND because of the impossibility of the contrary. Without God truth doesn't make any sense and those who deny God's existence have their worldview reduced to absurdity.

Is circular reasoning always fallacious? The criticism that we have made a logical fallacy is borrowing from the Christian worldview where logic makes sense. In all non-biblical worldviews logic cannot be accounted for. The fact that the unbeliever expects us to play by 'the rules of logic' exposes the fact that in their heart of hearts they do know God because without God logical rules make no sense at all. Evolution doesn't give us logic - just brain fizz.

Another analogy similar to the unbelievers circle blowing itself up is that by arguing against God they are cutting off the branch they are sitting on. Check out the following humorous video to see someone doing exactly that!

The bottom line is that arbitrary circles are fallacious but the Christian position is a non-arbitrary circle that provides the only foundation for logic and knowledge is therefore not fallacious.


  1. The top example is valid because it asks valid question to which it provides actual Christian responses to those questions.
    The middle example is fallacious because it makes projections on what someone is thinking. which is impossible to know.

    1. I'm not really sure what you mean sorry. How do you know that your reasoning is valid?

  2. the first point shouldn't be first but last. you'd have to escape the accusation the whole article is addressing (circular reasoning) before this could be used as a counter-rejoinder to the whole point. the way it's written makes it an argument from assertion fallacy.

    the second point shouldn't be a point. it may be a worth while side thought, but as an argument to defend you from the circular reasoning accusation, it's an et tuum fallacy.

    the third point is acceptable, and is your strongest point. it addresses whether circularity is 'really' bad reasoning, which is a respectable approach. however, it isn't sufficeint for the first point to follow it.

    the fourth point commits the distinction without a difference fallacy. circular reasoning is a kind of presumption fallacy. we categorize it as bad reasoning because it's form isn't rationally compelling. non-circular arguments add new information content to the things being argued about by following a set of mutually accepted rules of inference. if your opponent agree's with the rules of inference, then they are rationally compelled to accept the conclusion, but this simply isn't true in circular reasoning. your circular argument, in that respect, isn't different from other circles. thus, the 'virtuous-viscous' distinction, doesn't address what makes circular argument fallacious (their lack of rational compulsion)

    ps: the last article you linked doesn't work.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, and for letting me know about the broken link (which I've removed just now). How do you know your reasoning is valid?

  3. Brendan, Excellent work, I just finished reading Jason Lisle's "Ultimate Proof for Creation" I got an A+ in Philosophy class, but wow Dr. Lisle really has it down. While it is easy to reduce non-Biblical claim to absurdity, I am terrified at how strongly people will hold to their positions. Thanks!

  4. Lack of belief is not trust in my own reasoning.
    You have no proof. You have the burden of proof.

    1. Paula - you can't even account for the concept of proof without God, so your point is invalid. Proof assumes the biblical worldview where truth can be known and you are able to know that we aren't all insane. So, sorry, but you're still stuck in the vicious circle of using your reasoning to validate your reasoning. Do you believe that your reasoning is valid and that you are capable of reasoning at least to some degree of validity?

  5. I'm a Christian, but why do we think the Bible is infallible and why do we think it is "God's word" and what does that mean?
    What makes a psalm "God's word"? David or someone wrote it in praise or prayer to God and it may be wonderful and edifying, but the same is true of many modern hymns which no one considers scripture.
    What makes a book of the NT "God's word"? What Jesus said is "God's word", assuming Jesus is divine and quoted accurately, but what about the rest?
    I enjoy the challenge of proving God exists without using the Bible because science and logic are assumptions I share with the atheist.
    Alas, I don't know how to make an ironclad logical leap to Christianity from theism, but an intelligent person who recognizes theism is true has a strong incentive to explore the nature of that God further.

    1. The proof that the Bible is true is that if you reject it you can't know anything to be true. It's unbiblical and folly to try and prove the authority of the Bible by rejecting the authority of the Bible.