Sorry it has been so long! A couple weeks ago Juliann and I adopted a new puppy and he has put quite a strain on our time. But, it’s time to get the blogging ball rolling again. Something that has been on my mind a lot in recent weeks is the growing amount of secular, godless reasoning in our culture. Christians need to be able to articulate a rational and defensible explanation for why Christianity is true. There are many Christians who have no problem saying, “What’s good for you is good for you, and what’s good for me is good for me.” Though there is an element of secularized humility wrapped up in that expression, it’s not an accurate understanding of Christian truth. The Bible doesn’t position itself as one way to truth but as the way to truth. So if you’re going to believe the Bible, you have to be ready to believe and defend its claim to authority. We don’t defend the Bible because it needs defense. We defend God’s Word because we’re commanded to share the gospel. Part of that involves tearing down intellectual strongholds and providing an answer for the hope that is in us (2 Corinthians 10:1-6 and 1 Peter 3:15).
Non-believers often point out the supposed circularity in Christian defenses of the Bible. They say that you can’t defend the authority of the Bible with the Bible itself because that is circular reasoning. My intent in this post is to explain the hypocrisy behind this statement so that Christians can be equipped to expose this same line of reasoning behind every worldview’s truth claims. I think this will be best accomplished through giving you a chance to sit in on a discussion between Charles, a Christian, and Eric, an atheist.
Eric: So Charles, you believe the Bible is God’s word right?
Charles: Absolutely! I think the Bible is the Word of God which He has given to men to teach us about truth, His character, and the gospel.
Eric: All right. So why do you believe the Bible is God’s word? Why do you believe that your holy book is the one that contains divine revelation from God?
Charles: The Bible itself claims to be the word of God! If you look at 2 Timothy 3:16 you’ll see that all Scripture is God breathed and useful for teaching and training in righteousness. All throughout the Bible, God is speaking to and through man.
Eric: You can’t defend the Bible with itself! How can you say that the Bible is God’s word just because that’s what it claims to be?
Charles: Well I didn’t say that was the only reason that I believe it is God’s word, but it’s certainly the essential reason. Let me ask you a question, Eric. How do you believe that we come to know truth?
Eric: Through reason. If everyone would just use reason to examine the evidence then people would see things for what they really are.
Charles: Okay so you believe that reason is how we discover truth. Why do you believe that reason is the way to truth?
Eric: Because it uses logic and evidence and…
Charles: Aha! See, you’re giving a defense of reason by using reason. You’re opening your “bible” to defend it while not extending that same right to me. Why can you defend reason and logic by using reason and logic while I can’t use the Bible to defend the Bible?
The truth is that everyone has their own “bible”. Your bible is whatever basic presuppositions you believe to be absolutely true. Eventually, if you trace back why you believe certain things, you will reach a point where you can’t go any farther. There is something at the root of all your thoughts that you believe to be true based on nothing else other than faith. For the atheist, it might be rationality and reason. But that takes a step of faith because there is nothing to suggest that all of the biological responses in our brain are firing off in a reasonable way that would produce reasonable thoughts. The atheist trusts reason as his bible with the same faith that the Christian trusts in the Word of God. This is why Christians shouldn’t be afraid to defend the authority of the Bible using the Bible itself. There is a tendency to want to provide a defense of Scripture’s authority by stepping outside of its authority and using fallen secular reasoning. Ask yourself, why must you reason on the turf of secularism?
You might be left asking, so how does this help defend Christianity? Isn’t this just an admission that we’re all using circular reasoning? I’m going to explore that in a subsequent post later on. The point of this post is to teach believers how to expose worldview hypocrisy when the Word of God is being attacked. The ability to see this sort of flawed reasoning shouldn’t be used to win debates or humiliate non-Christians. 2 Corinthians 10 shows us that “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…” The purpose of any debate with a non-believer is to point him to the gospel of Christ. In order to do this, we must be faithful to tear down strongholds of intellectual folly that are muddling the truth of Scripture in the non-believer’s mind. When you’re defending the Bible, don’t be afraid to defend it on its own terms. You won’t be doing anything different than anyone else in the world who is defending their own “bible.”
I’m indebted to Doug Wilson, Greg Bahnsen, and Van Til for the initial exposure to this type of reasoning. I would highly recommend watching “Collision” for a live version of this type of Christian reasoning. “Always Ready” by Greg Bahnsen is a short book centered around helping Christians defend the Bible without resorting to secular reasoning.