Circular Reasoning and the Bible

This is an amazing infographic depicting the 63,000 cross references within the 66 books of the Bible.

It’s available in much bigger formats at the source. I found it at Andrew’s blog.

The bar graph that runs along the bottom represents all of the chapters in the Bible. Books alternate in color between white and light gray. The length of each bar denotes the number of verses in the chapter. Each of the 63,779 cross references found in the Bible is depicted by a single arc – the color corresponds to the distance between the two chapters, creating a rainbow-like effect.

One of the lines from atheists that annoys me is that Christians only believe the Bible is true because it says it’s true (circular reasoning).

I have two things to say to that.

One: If the Bible said it wasn’t true that would be reason not to believe it.

Two: The “Bible” as we know it was only bundled together in around 363 AD. The “circular reasoning” should instead be treated as cross referencing and corroboration from multiple sources. Not one self referencing source.

That is all.

The author

Nathan runs St Eutychus. He loves Jesus. His wife. His daughter. His son. His other daughter. His dog. Coffee. And the Internet. He is the campus pastor at Creek Road South Bank, a graduate of Queensland Theological College (M. Div) and the Queensland University of Technology (B. Journ). He spent a significant portion of his pre-ministry-as-a-full-time-job life working in Public Relations, and now loves promoting Jesus in Brisbane and online. He can't believe how great it is that people pay him to talk and think about Jesus.

28 thoughts on “Circular Reasoning and the Bible”

  1. The essence of the circular reasoning argument doesn't come from a failure to recognize that the New and Old Testaments were originally multiple different documents and oral traditions. It has more to do with people claiming that Jesus fulfilled the
    prophecies of the Old Testament in the New. Jesus and his disciples obviously knew the prophecies, so it would be easy to
    fulfill them. A good example is Jesus attempting to ride two donkeys at the same time in Matthew 21:7 in an effort to fulfill the
    prophecy at Zech 9:9. Ive heard many different apologetics reasons for these confusing passages, but it seems more likely
    that Jesus and crew were just attempting to put a check mark in as many prophesies as possible. Its easy to fulfill a prophecy
    that you know about in advance.

    Then when they compiled the Bible in 363 AD, they had the opportunity to throw out as many contradictory documents as they liked.
    Since it was a man made book, compiled by a committee, I have a hard time accepting it as a divinely inspired tomb.

    Lastly is the historical argument. Of the tiny amount of non-Christian historians that reference Jesus, none mention any of the key
    events from the bible. Notoriously missing is any reference to walking dead, earthquake, or the darkening of the sky on the day of
    the crucifixion. All of these events would be experienced by everyone, not just the followers of Christ. Yet none of the many historians writing at the time mentioned any of these events. The same can be said of the miracles of Moses or Noah's flood. None of the contemporaries of these men make mention of the huge miracles they were said to have witnessed. Surely the ancient Mayans would have made some mention of a world wide flood, and having their nation started from the descendants of Noah!

    The circular reasoning argument does recognize the multiple authors, and multiple sources for the Bible. It just points out that while it might have some internal consistency, it fails to line up with known histories of other societies.

  2. Jesus and his disciples obviously knew the prophecies, so it would be easy to
    fulfill them.

    They would have to be very ambitious, and orchestrate some pretty extraordinary things, I would think. Unless you're going to suggest that most of them were just invented?
    I do realise that it's the only option available if you've a priori rejected prophecy as a real possibility.

    Lastly is the historical argument. Of the tiny amount of non-Christian historians that reference Jesus, none mention any of the key
    events from the bible. Notoriously missing is any reference to walking dead, earthquake, or the darkening of the sky on the day of
    the crucifixion. All of these events would be experienced by everyone, not just the followers of Christ. Yet none of the many historians writing at the time mentioned any of these events.</blockqoute>
    Except for the one's who did, of course ;) If no one mentioned the events, then you wouldn't be discussing them now, would you. What you really mean is that other than the gospel writers, no one mentions the details, which of course, doesn't mean they are necessarily false.
    This is essentially argument from silence. We don't have extant even half the documents that were written. We can't know what might have been written, so to say that none of them did is presumptuous. You might say that many contemporary historians didn't reference the events, but again, that is simply argument from silence when multiple writers do. There's little reason why any contemporary writers should be interested in an executed criminal in a provincial city. It's an unfair goal-shift, always demanding one more reference.
    And I would suggest that the "key" events are very well attested.
    And do you think that if those things happened and someone saw them and attested them, they would probably become a believer – and then be summarily dismissed as an unreliable Christian source?
    There is quite a sufficient deal of reliable historical attestation for Jesus.

  3. "They would have to be very ambitious, and orchestrate some pretty extraordinary things."
    Not really. They (the actual authors and compilers of the Gospels, long after the time of which they were writing) could simply create a written account that would square with the prophecies they wanted to affirm. That's neither extraordinary or ambitious. It's waht anybody would do if they were aiming to convince a skeptical world, rooted in tradition, that the man they had chosen to use as a vehicle for their religious beliefs was in some way predicted by prophecy.

    "Except for the one's who did, of course." The point you're missing here is not an argument from silence. The contemporaries are of Jesus are anything but silent – they write about the trivia of life – the price of a loaf of bread, petty thieves, the way the local armies were woken up in the morning – as well as about what they saw as the significant events of the time. A corpse rising from the dead might have been expected to have caused some comment, but didn't. As you say, that's proof of nothing, but similarly, the fact that four documents (three drawn (probably) from a single common other document) say something is also not proof of very much: otherwise we'd all believe in the literal truth of the Fall of the House of Atreus – recorded in documents about 800 years (approximately) older than any in the new testament. So the age of a document, and multiple copies of a story, do not convey veracity. Independent texts separately confirming events might provide some sense of possible authenticity. These don't exist in the case of the "key" events of the new testament.

    But back to your core argument, that the vast amount of consistent cross-referencing through the bible is evidence of its veracity. This argument fails on a number of counts: first, the bible is not a set of contemporaneous documents that happen to agree with each other. It's a set of documents that were subject to extensive, repeated processes of editing, selection, deletion, revision, rewriting, exclusion and insertion. At the end of such a process, it's not a surprise, yes, that some of it is internally consistent, because it's reasonable to believe that the people who put it together wanted it to be. It's also not surprising that much of it is internally contradictory, because after all, the people who put it together are only human. I won't go into detail about the contradictions, because they can be found easily through a cursory reading of the old testament and gospels (if you need more help, look at wikipedia under "Internal consistency of the Gospels" – not because wikipedia is itself the most reliable source, but because it gives a very simple overview of where there are inconsistencies and references to apologetics that address them).
    Secondly the idea that if a document is internally consistent it must be true doesn't stack up. The Lord of the Rings, or the financial reports of Enron, for that matter, are internally consistent, but no less works of fiction for all that.

    1. They (the actual authors and compilers of the Gospels, long after the time of which they were writing) could simply create a written account that would square with the prophecies they wanted to affirm. That's neither extraordinary or ambitious. It's waht anybody would do if they were aiming to convince a skeptical world, rooted in tradition, that the man they had chosen to use as a vehicle for their religious beliefs was in some way predicted by prophecy.

      "long after the time"? No, I don't think so. 50-70yrs in historical terms is normal. Besides, the very earliest reference to the crucifixion and resurrection comes from 20yrs and is almost certainly a citation of a creed that is thought to come from within 2-5yrs. Very early attestation. There simply is not enough time (e.g. not even two generations) between event and time of writing for the historical core to be wiped out. Moreover, it opens up the problem of a) who invented this new religious idea, and b)how did so many people come to believe it, when it is completely foreign to and conflicts with both the Jewish and Greek beliefs of the time?

      The point you're missing here is not an argument from silence. The contemporaries are of Jesus are anything but silent – they write about the trivia of life – the price of a loaf of bread, petty thieves, the way the local armies were woken up in the morning – as well as about what they saw as the significant events of the time.

      Who are the contemporaries you are referring to, just so I know.

      as well as about what they saw as the significant events of the time. A corpse rising from the dead might have been expected to have caused some comment, but didn't.

      Yet another would-be messiah is hardly front-page news. And if the idea of a resurrection went against the prevailing philosophy of the day, it would no doubt be easily dismissed. BUT we do have attestation, and presumably any other commentators of the time who acknowledged a risen Jesus would be dismissed in the same manner as you dismiss the attestation we DO have.
      Further, the only extant reference to contrary account from hostile witness actually corroborates the crucifixion, burial and empty tomb.

      As you say, that's proof of nothing, but similarly, the fact that four documents (three drawn (probably) from a single common other document) say something is also not proof of very much: otherwise we'd all believe in the literal truth of the Fall of the House of Atreus – recorded in documents about 800 years (approximately) older than any in the new testament.

      Indeed – proof of nothing, as you say, argument from silence!
      Yes of course Matthew and Luke have common Markian and 'Q' source for some material, but both contain non-markian material, and of course there is John and Paul neither of whom rely on Mark.
      Of course this is not 'proof' (a word we shouldn't even be using in an ancient historical context) but independent, multiple attestation is normal criteria of authenticity, as is lack of contrary accounts.
      From the very beginning, the unanimous witness was that Jesus had risen bodily from the dead. To suggest, as it appears you are, that it is a late development is simply not supported by the historical data.

      So the age of a document, and multiple copies of a story, do not convey veracity. Independent texts separately confirming events might provide some sense of possible authenticity. These don't exist in the case of the "key" events of the new testament.

      Early, independent, multiple attestation is very much an indicator of authenticity in normal historical scholarship, and they most certainly do exist in the 'key' events of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

      1. There simply is not enough time (e.g. not even two generations) between event and time of writing for the historical core to be wiped out."

        Unless they wanted to wipe out that historical core. Look at JFK conspiracy theories – plenty of writing there that doesn't necessarily correspnond with any factual evidence for what happened.. (I apologize by the way for any misspellings in my posts – it's because there's an annoying YouTube graphic hovering over the top of the comments field. They annoy me too…)
        And if anyone today were to insert new material into a document written in 1940 and claim that that document were contemporary to that period, that would be considered unreliable. That doesn't change 2000 years later.

        "Moreover, it opens up the problem of a) who invented this new religious idea, and b)how did so many people come to believe it, when it is completely foreign to and conflicts with both the Jewish and Greek beliefs of the time?"

        Good questions, thanks for asking – I don't know if the premises of (b) are true, but if they are, I think it's a question that deserves a robust evidentially based discussion, no doubt with reasonable scholars having differing views based on the sketchiness (in all senses – limited, unreliable, incomplete, contradictory, etc.) of the historical evidence available from such an ancient period. Oh, perhaps that's what's going on already. I think the fact that we don't know the answers to these questions is proof only of the fact that we don't know the answers to these questions. Maybe that's what you're getting at. If not, let us know.

        "Indeed – proof of nothing, as you say, argument from silence!"

        You call it (!) an argument from silence (!) – I call it (!) proof of nothing! Take that! Wham! I'm not sure what you're saying here? Are you suggesting that a proof of nothing, but a suggestion of something, is an argument from silence? Or do you have a something more insightful (!) to add(!). I hope so!

        "From the very beginning, the unanimous witness was that Jesus had risen bodily from the dead."

        A bold statement. And misleading. Better to say "from a period beginning some 20 years [following your earlier assertion] after the events they purport to record, the limited number of documents that have survived, many of which date from decades or centuries after that date of the events, seem to carry a constant theological thread of "resurrection."
        Not one of them is a record of a "witness" in any recongisable modern sense.

        "Early, independent, multiple attestation"

        There is early attestation set out in multiple contradictory accounts. Which should be treated as the inherently interesting, unreliable, historical documents recorded in the centuries after the events they discuss. That makes the early Christian texts terrific material for research, but terrible material on which to base a confident assertion of divinity.

        Oh, and contemporaries of Jesus: Philo, Pliny, Seneca. Some close, some far, some more reliable than others. Near contemporary, Josephus, very close geographically too.

        1. Unless they wanted to wipe out that historical core

          No, that's the whole point: in that time frame there is simply too many people around for that to happen unchallenged.

          Look at JFK conspiracy theories – plenty of writing there that doesn't necessarily correspond with any factual evidence for what happened..

          And how do you know what the factual evidence is? It is because it too is extant. But in the case of the crucifixion and resurrection, there are not two accounts (e.g. one saying he was killed and raise and another saying he was never killed or whatever). Lack of competing account is an indicator of authenticity.

          And if anyone today were to insert new material into a document written in 1940 and claim that that document were contemporary to that period, that would be considered unreliable. That doesn't change 2000 years later.

          If you're going to suggest that this happened, you'll have to back it up! (The only examples I can think of would be the account of the woman caught in adultery in John, and the ending of Mark – which is not found in the earliest manuscripts. Even if we assume these were later additions, I don't see how that is sufficient to wipe out the entire collection of documents.)
          In addition, there are a number of details which also indicate authenticity. One is the existence of embarrassing details. If it was pure invention / propaganda written by people who felt free to invent and change details, then it is very unlikely that embarrassing details would be kept. That they are indicates that they were seeking to honestly write accounts. And also, we know from Paul's letters that there were a number of issues in the early church, such as the Jewish/Gentile/law or the role of women in the fellowship. If the gospels were propaganda and invention as you seem to claim, then it is very odd that Jesus is completely silent on these issues. Surely there's no better way to settle the case than have Jesus give an answer! But no, he does not. The internal evidence points to reliability.

        2. I don't know if the premises of (b) are true

          N.T. Wright has dealt extensively with this.

          I think the fact that we don't know the answers to these questions is proof only of the fact that we don't know the answers to these questions. Maybe that's what you're getting at. If not, let us know.

          The point is that if your explanation simply opens up some very big, unanswered problems then normal argument to best explanation criteria would suggest that it's a less powerful explanation than the one that does account for the unlikely arrival and spread of this idea – namely, that it actually happened.

          Are you suggesting that a proof of nothing, but a suggestion of something, is an argument from silence? Or do you have a something more insightful (!) to add(!). I hope so!

          If, as you say, it is proof of nothing, why bring it up?

          Better to say "from a period beginning some 20 years [following your earlier assertion] after the events they purport to record, the limited number of documents that have survived, many of which date from decades or centuries after that date of the events, seem to carry a constant theological thread of "resurrection."
          Not one of them is a record of a "witness" in any recognisable modern sense.

          Not at all. Paul was converted only a couple of years after the crucifixion, and historians reliably date the creed of 1 Cor 15 to the period of time he spent in Jerusalem with Peter and James following this. In ancient terms, within 5 years is 'immediately'. The testimony of the early church was not a development as you suggested, but as far back as we can see was unanimous that Jesus was physically raised from the dead.
          In terms of witness – Paul claims to have met the risen Jesus, though we don't know if he encountered Jesus during his ministry or not. Matthew was a witness. Mark is probably based on the testimony of Peter and Luke claims to be basing his account on eye-witness testimony. John's gospel, if not written by the disciple himself, was probably written by his own disciples on John's testimony. All written, with the possible exception of John, within the life-time of witnesses who could correct and rebut any error.
          Of course, it's not 'modern' eye-witness testimony, but we're doing ancient history, and we must work with what we have. And what have multiply attests to the death and resurrection of Jesus.

          There is early attestation set out in multiple contradictory accounts.

          I'm yet to see any actual contradiction (that is, places where the accounts cannot be harmonised). Furthermore, none of the alleged contradictions involve the central claims: that Jesus was crucified and resurrected. They are unanimous in attesting these.

          Which should be treated as the inherently interesting, unreliable, historical documents recorded in the centuries after the events they discuss.

          While I read this kind of assertion often enough on the internet, I'm yet to see anyone other than a few fringe scholars say such a thing.

          Oh, and contemporaries of Jesus: Philo, Pliny, Seneca. Some close, some far, some more reliable than others. Near contemporary, Josephus, very close geographically too.

          Josephus of course does corroborate the crucifixion of Jesus, even if later scribes interpolated the first reference somewhat. The wholesale dismissal of the Josephus reference is likewise only really found on the internet and not in mainstream scholarship.
          At any rate, I don't see why the others should be interested in a provincial itinerant preacher / would-be messiah who was crucified like half a dozen others? I don't see that it is in any way sufficient to cast doubt on the attestation (both Christian and secular) that we do have.

  4. "One of the lines from atheists that annoys me is that Christians only believe the Bible is true because it says it’s true (circular reasoning)."

    Well it annoys us that Christians make this argument that the bible is true because it says so. It's not that we think it is the only reason you believe in the bible, it's that when many other arguments are shot down this card is pulled out of the deck as if it means anything.

    I have two things to say to that.

    One: If the Bible said it wasn’t true that would be reason not to believe it.
    Actually, you have it backwards. If it claimed not to be truth that would actually be a reason to believe it. Such a claim would show an understanding of human fallibility. It is very unlikely that any book or theory is completely true. Our theories, models, and explanations are only inexact models of what actually is.

    Science operates on the understanding that what is has to say isn't "truth", and it's perfectly reasonable to believe what science has to say. It may not be "truth" but it is the best we have.

    Two: The “Bible” as we know it was only bundled together in around 363 AD. The “circular reasoning” should instead be treated as cross referencing and corroboration from multiple sources. Not one self referencing source.

    Circular reasoning via multiple steps is still circular reasoning.

    You make another mistake. Just because a collection of related superstitious writings from a culture are compiled in a single book doesn't give the beliefs more credibility.

  5. Well it annoys us that Christians make this argument that the bible is true because it says so. It's not that we think it is the only reason you believe in the bible, it's that when many other arguments are shot down this card is pulled out of the deck as if it means anything.

    Why are you arguing against arguments that haven't been put forward?

    Circular reasoning via multiple steps is still circular reasoning.

    I take it then, that any journal article which references another article published in that journal is simply circular reasoning then?

    1. "Why are you arguing against arguments that haven't been put forward? "

      But they have been put forward.

      I assume you are claiming that Christians don't argue that the bible is true because it says so. That however is false.

      Here is an example, "Is the Bible True?"

      See the section titled "The Bible Claims to Be True".

      "First, consider what the Bible claims about itself. The Bible claims to be true. Jesus taught that the Bible was true. Jesus prayed to God, “Sanctify them through your Word. Your Word is truth.” (John 17:17.) Jesus said, "The Scripture cannot be broken" (Jn 10.35). Not only does the Bible claim to be true, it also claims to be God’s Word in written form. It declares that its words bring us “the very Word of God” (Romans 3:2). Over 1,400 times the Bible claims to be God speaking to us. This is significant because the Bible also declares that God is true and that God does not deceive us or mislead us. This means that the Bible also possesses the truth of God’s nature. "

      This is a perfect example of circular reasoning. Sometimes it's "The bible is true because it says so", and sometimes it's "The bible is true because it is gods word, and we know god exists because the bible says so."

      There are many variations.

      Here's a poll at BaptistBoard.com where the question is "How do we know the bible is true?" with a small sample size of 40 baptists and 60% chose the answer "because it claims to be true — it is self-attesting".

      If that is representative it is no wonder I've gotten this argument from so many Christians over the years.

      To answer your other question. Articles in scientific journals are not allowed to reference other articles in the same journal for support. They must reference previously published articles.

      Mere references are not truly evidence of anything either. The third book of the Lord of the Rings trilogy references events in the other books, but that doesn't mean they are true. Same goes for the Star Wars movies. They contain all sorts of backwards and forwards references and allusions. So what?

      Such references have nothing to do with the complaint in the first place. It's the actual circular reasoning that is being complained about. Which is faulty whether it is via a single step or multiple steps.

      Here is an example of a multi-step circular argument from that link:

      "Think about it this way. If the Bible is not the Word of God, yet claims to be, it is not just false, but also deceitful. Yet these things are the very things the Bible says God cannot be. Untruthfulness and deceitfulness cannot be attributed to God who is complete in knowledge and perfect in moral character. If God is true and speaks the truth, so His written Word in the Bible must be true and speak the truth as well. If the Bible is God’s Word, it must also be true because God Himself is true."

      Don't act like Christians do not make such arguments. They do. I've seen this myself for decades, plus it is recorded as an problem going back centuries.

      1. But they have been put forward.

        I assume you are claiming that Christians don't argue that the bible is true because it says so. That however is false.

        Not on this thread they haven't.

        To answer your other question. Articles in scientific journals are not allowed to reference other articles in the same journal for support. They must reference previously published articles.

        So you will never ever see an article in, say, Science reference an article in a previous volume of Science?

        Mere references are not truly evidence of anything either. The third book of the Lord of the Rings trilogy references events in the other books, but that doesn't mean they are true. Same goes for the Star Wars movies. They contain all sorts of backwards and forwards references and allusions. So what?

        No one has said 'that means it's true' but it does point to internal consistency, as you so aptly demonstrate with your LOTR analogy. Of course, there is the difference of multiple authors, which makes the internal consistency more astounding. Noting internal consistency and multitudes of cross-references is far from the circular reasoning you allege.

        Don't act like Christians do not make such arguments. They do. I've seen this myself for decades, plus it is recorded as an problem going back centuries.

        I'm not doing any such thing. But responding to arguments I've not made is somewhat of a waste of time, I would suggest. (And just so you know, if the sample is 'small' as you note, then it's a fallacy of insufficient sample, or hasty generalisation)

        1. Andrew,
          "Not on this thread they haven't. "
          In the article he talks about it.

          Read the article and become enlightened as to what I was commenting on. Perhaps you can come up with a quote where an atheist claims that the only reason Christians believe the bible is true is because it says so. I gave Nathan the benefit of the doubt by dropping the "only". His claim would be much easier to support that way.

          1. "In the article he talks about it. "

            As a misrepresentation of the Christian position made poplar by atheists. Nobody believes the Bible is true just because it says it is true.

            But the fact that some books of the Bible (edited together much later) verify other books of the Bible is not "circular reasoning"… bringing volumes together for easy reference does not negate the claims made within the volumes.

          2. In fact Christians do use circular reasoning. I gave specific examples of Christians doing exactly that.

            "Nobody believes the Bible is true just because it says it is true. "
            But there are Christians out their claiming they believe the bible is true because it says it is true. Not "just because", but "because".

            Now your job is to find an atheist who has made the claim with "only" or "just". I don't think there are any atheists out there that think Christians believe the bible ONLY because it says it is true. I've never heard an atheist say that. What Christians do, stupidly, is use it as a supporting fact. Like a claim to truth somehow bolsters an argument. In fact, any all encompassing theory is bound to be wrong on particulars so a claim to infallible "truth" shows hubris and a lack of appreciation of human fallibility.

            "But the fact that some books of the Bible (edited together much later) verify other books of the Bible is not "circular reasoning"… bringing volumes together for easy reference does not negate the claims made within the volumes."

            This has nothing to do with the atheist argument. Those specific examples I gave made no claims about references between volumes.

            You are making a different argument here that would be addressed in a different way. The supposed fulfillment of messiah prophecies has nothing to do with circular reasoning, nor the retelling of the resurrection by different authors in the bible, etc. That isn't about circular reasoning. One cannot however, be considered some kind of independent verification when in fact the stories are contradictory on important points.

            Drawing a bunch of rainbow lines like your chart has no semantic content. As I said references might well be contradictory. For example, the sermon on the mount may reference stone throwing in older texts but be against such activities. It says nothing about the truth of either position. In fact is is a contradiction. Both can't be true so the bible as a whole isn't "true" as a moral guide. It tells you do do one thing in one place and another in a different place, even if one refers to the other.

          3. In the article he talks about it.

            Which article, and where? (For I see not such comment in the source page of the graphic, nor my post which Nathan references, nor this post or in my comments).

            Read the article and become enlightened as to what I was commenting on.

            I did read the 'article', and in fact, as I just noted, was Nathan's source for the graphic. Unless you're referring to one of the irrelevant links of someone else's argument which you posted? I've no doubt that some, if not many Christians would argue that the bible is true because it says so, but so what? I'm not making that argument. I'm sure you wouldn't appreciate it if I simply assumed you were going make any argument I happened to find at http://www.wehatechristians.com now would you?

          4. This article:

            "One of the lines from atheists that annoys me is that Christians only believe the Bible is true because it says it’s true (circular reasoning).

            I have two things to say to that.

            One: If the Bible said it wasn’t true that would be reason not to believe it.

            Two: The “Bible” as we know it was only bundled together in around 363 AD. The “circular reasoning” should instead be treated as cross referencing and corroboration from multiple sources. Not one self referencing source.

            That is all."

            The article is all about circular reasoning with regards to the bible. How could you miss it? Nathan is acting like there is no circular reasoning going on but there is. The article obfuscates in two ways. 1) It claims that atheists argue that circular reasoning is the ONLY reasons Christians believe in the bible, which is not true. 2) It creates a straw man distraction. Atheists have specific circular reasoning in mind, not mere cross "referencing" and "corroboration". I put that in quotes because it's a misuse of the term in order to imply some scholarly method, when in fact it is mere reuse of characters, allusion, etc.

            Therefore I gave specific examples of actual circular reasoning being used by Christians. Which supports the fact that Christians do use circular reasoning, in part, to support their belief in the bible.

            I also requested a specific example of an atheist claiming "that Christians ONLY believe the Bible is true because it says it’s true (circular reasoning"

          5. The article is all about circular reasoning with regards to the bible. How could you miss it?

            Yes, it is discussing it, but my point is that it is not making the argument that you required external sources to make.

            Nathan is acting like there is no circular reasoning going on but there is.

            Well I don't think you've shown that any has.

            The article obfuscates in two ways. 1) It claims that atheists argue that circular reasoning is the ONLY reasons Christians believe in the bible, which is not true.

            Don't you think you're treating the wording of the post a little pedantically? Do you thus agree that Christians don't just believe the bible because it claims to be truth?

            2) It creates a straw man distraction. Atheists have specific circular reasoning in mind, not mere cross "referencing" and "corroboration". I put that in quotes because it's a misuse of the term in order to imply some scholarly method, when in fact it is mere reuse of characters, allusion, etc.

            Ah of course… theology is not a "real" scholarly discipline, now, is it!
            But I don't see how the definition of Cross-Reference does not apply:

            A cross-reference (noun) is an instance within a document which refers to related or synonymous information elsewhere, usually within the same work.
            corroboration.

            Therefore I gave specific examples of actual circular reasoning being used by Christians. Which supports the fact that Christians do use circular reasoning, in part, to support their belief in the bible.

            You referred to some circular reasoning by other Christians which merely supports the fact that some Christians do use circular reasoning, in part. My point remains, that neither Nathan, nor I have made such a circular argument.

        2. I didn't claim you were making the argument that the bible is true because it says so. I'm suggesting you stop bitching about atheists complaining about this argument because it is being made by others.

          Analogy:
          Christians are walking up to atheists and punching them in the nose for no reason, and then atheists complained, and then you said, "Stop complaining, it's not the only thing Christians do they also sing songs". Then I said, "The atheists don't care about the songs, and are complaining about getting punched, and here are two police reports on where this has happened". Then you exclaim, "It wasn't me! What are you complaining about!"

          Your position is that ridiculous, and your thinking that bizarre. No wonder you can believe in the bible. You don't have the mental tools to figure out it's false.

          1. I didn't claim you were making the argument that the bible is true because it says so. I'm suggesting you stop bitching about atheists complaining about this argument because it is being made by others.

            Well then you weren't very clear!

            Your position is that ridiculous, and your thinking that bizarre. No wonder you can believe in the bible. You don't have the mental tools to figure out it's false.

            I've discussed with a number of atheists who don't make this kind of ad hominem, and several who do. Do you think it would be fair to those who don't to ask them to defend your fallacious methods of debate? To use your analogy, no one has punched anyone in the nose here, so what are you complaining to us about?

      2. Why should we believe that anything is true? Why should we accept your comment as true?

        Why is claiming to be truth a negative? It's not the only reason most Christians believe the Bible to be true. They also believe in God – not necessarily because of the Bible but because they don't buy into wacko theories about "blind watchmakers" and everything being the product of randomness applied to eternity.

        Once you believe there might be a God it's natural to start looking at claims that might have been made by God or about God.

        We don't start out believing that the Bible is true because it says it is. But it is a natural conclusion of belief.

        1. "Why should we believe that anything is true? Why should we accept your comment as true? "

          You shouldn't but that's a little out of your depth.

          "Why is claiming to be truth a negative?"

          I already told you why. The more absolute the claim the more likely that it is false, and it doesn't square with human fallibility.

          "…wacko theories …"

          Yes, also get that you don't understand the theory of natural selection. Unfortunately for your beliefs one can write simulations of natural selection that produce order from randomness in less than an eternity.

          However, you'd prefer to believe that the first woman was make from a man's rib, that human's were fashioned from clay, and that an old man and his small family could build a wooden boat big enough, and provision it in such a way that every species on the planet could survive on it for a year.

          I think you don't understand the term wacko.

          1. "I think you don't understand the term wacko. "

            For the theist your views on the origin of life are pretty wacko. Perhaps it's a cultural thing?

            "Yes, also get that you don't understand the theory of natural selection. Unfortunately for your beliefs one can write simulations of natural selection that produce order from randomness in less than an eternity."

            I'm not necessarily talking about natural selection here. That's an assumption based on your prejudice. That would be limited to biology. I'm setting the bar a little higher and suggesting that the anthropic principle can not be explained away as a product of randomness and infinite time – well, it can be "explained" but I don't buy it, and don't see it as particularly likely.

            "However, you'd prefer to believe that the first woman was make from a man's rib, that human's were fashioned from clay, and that an old man and his small family could build a wooden boat big enough, and provision it in such a way that every species on the planet could survive on it for a year."

            I'm fairly sure that if you read my views on Genesis in the Friendly Atheist thread you'll find that this is an incorrect assumption. But I would be happy to believe that before I believed that everything miraculously appeared out of nothing.

            You are happy to believe that two particles randomly collided in space with enough energy to create a universe which then spontaneously created life, which then lived in a swamp and grew legs… etc, etc and then it eventually decided to become human and hasn't really done much since…

            I say this not because I think evolution is untrue – but because I think evolution without direction is equally unlikely. I'm not sure why you find theism so risible and Christianity so worthy of scorn.

          2. The more absolute the claim the more likely that it is false, and it doesn't square with human fallibility.

            Absolutely! Oh wait…

            Axioms are great, huh?
            The claim "If it claims to be truth then it probably isn't" is somewhat self-refuting don't you think? And we wouldn't like to see this axiom help up against some of the more dogmatic so-called 'New Atheists" now, would we?

          3. No the statement is not self refuting as it makes no explicit claim to truth itself.

            You added the "absolutely", not me. In fact, my statement has an overall qualifier of "likely" not "absolutely". Do you every tire of disingenuous word games?

            Also, the statement "Dogs bark." is not the same as "Dogs Bark, and that is really true, I'm not making that up". There is no independent truth claim in the simple statement "Dog Bark" statement.

            Usually, Lily Tomlinish, statements of "blah, blah, blan .. and that's the truth, ppppphhhhbbb" are made about fantastic and unbelievable stories, like Noah's Ark.

            I don't recall making any claims that everything I say is the absolute truth, or infallible. In fact, I'm a liar and make mistakes just like most people. You will have to take each and every statement I make with a grain of salt. You will need to apply your own independent critical thought processes (if you have any) to determine if you wish to hold them tentatively until you find contradictory evidence.

  6. One could take this blog, the Friendly Atheist, and a bunch of other blogs, pack their disparate content into a single document, then produce a visualization of the "cross references" that would look exactly the same as the one pictured. It would say nothing about the truth of the document as a whole or help you to tell want to believe or not believe about particular sections.

    The guy never even defined what a "cross reference" was.

    1. t would say nothing about the truth of the document as a whole or help you to tell want to believe or not believe about particular sections.

      I don't recall anyone suggesting that. The blog I took the image from (Nathan got it from me) suggests it shows the internal consistency, which is not to say that it must necessarily be true.

      The guy never even defined what a "cross reference" was.

      Most theologians, (and indeed lay-people) are pretty familiar with what a "textual cross reference" is. It's a bit like expecting the author of a poster on the frequency of character names in Italian Opera to define what a character is.

  7. Well Brian, I for one am sick of my email inbox being clogged up with your comments (let alone my blog).

    I'm going to end the discussion here as we seem to have degenerated into a state of name calling and pointless clarifications that serve to do nothing but justify further name calling.

    I will say, in a bid to clarify the position expressed in the original post, that the internal consistency of the Bible via cross references creates a situation where a Christian might say: I believe one part of the Bible is true because it fulfills another part.

    For example, I am convinced that Jesus is the Christ because of the way his crucifixion specifically fulfills passages in the Old Testament. I believe the parts of the Old Testament to be true because I am convinced of the historical death and resurrection of Jesus. So, in a reductionistic presentation of that statement – I believe that the Bible is true because it says it is true.

    This is the kind of statement that less scrupulous atheists might describe as circular reasoning. What I'm trying to point out is that it's not actually circular reasoning because the documents were originally written and presented as separate accounts of history that inform and predict each other.

    This internal consistency spread across thousands of years is also, in my opinion, enough for some people to be convinced about the truth of the document. Some people do, in fact, only believe the Bible because the Bible says it is true.

    But to present the Bible as one book – edited, fabricated, revised – etc of God bothering propaganda and then to refute it as inherently fatally burdened with circular reasoning etc – does no justice to what the Bible actually is. A beautifully (some would say artfully) cross referenced and consistent presentation of theology. That is what this image demonstrates.

    It also, in my opinion, demonstrates the folly of suggesting that somehow the God of the OT is different to the God of the NT.

    As this is my blog, this is the last word on the matter. Feel free to chime in on future (or existing) threads.

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