When Circular Reasoning is Logical

When a Christian goes to college or is converted while at college—which was my case—things don’t get easier. Life on a college campus is tedious for Christians, even in the Bible Belt. The majority of the time, Christians will receive backlash over their beliefs.

When I was converted my Freshman year of college—and then throughout the rest of my college years—I didn’t experience too much flack for being a Christian. I had a couple of scenarios where you could smell the tension coming off of other students and even professors—but nothing was ever really said. Weirdly enough, I studied in the mass communications department—one of the most liberal departments of the university—and I didn’t receive any criticism. My views were known, but never challenged.

But that’s not the point of this post. My Sophomore year I took speech class. We had one project where we had to give a three-minute speech on something—anything we wanted to–with one note card.

I went up to the professor after class and asked him whether I could do my speech over the existence of God. He said, unsurprisingly, “No.” He went on to say there are issues with that. What God would I be arguing for? Although I told him the God of Scripture, he wasn’t sold on it. So much for “any” topic.

The next time we had class, he mentioned my request. He didn’t mention my name, but here’s the gist of what he said:

“I had a student ask me to do their speech over the existence of God. Well, there’s a problem with that. What evidence would you have to use in order to do this? (Class says Scripture.) Right. By using Scripture to validate God, that is circular reasoning.”

First of all, I wasn’t surprised that he mentioned my request. It’s easy to pick on Christians because my professor clearly wasn’t friendly towards the Christian faith. The guy threw around blasphemous phrases like nobody’s business during class. At the time, I didn’t see his fallacy in calling my request a fallacy, but it was there.

My professor was saying it’s circular reasoning to use the Bible to prove the existence of God. Why? Because then what makes the Bible right? We have knowledge of God through Scripture. So, I would be using the Bible—where we find the knowledge of God—to validate God.

What this professor didn’t understand was that he was using circular reasoning as well. Understand this: he was using his reasoning to validate his reasoning.

Allow me to explain. He reasoned that it was a fallacy to use circular reasoning. But think about it: he’s using his reasoning—his mind, his process of thought—to validate his reasoning that I shouldn’t use circular reasoning when defending the God of Scripture. He is using his reasoning to validate his reasoning. Hence, a circle. Cue the crickets.

What’s my point? Circular reasoning isn’t fallacious all the time. In the field of Epistemology, which deals with ultimate authorities, circularity is unavoidable.

The Bible is self-authenticating. It validates itself by internal evidence (such as fulfilled prophecy, scientific foreknowledge, etc.). This goes back to what Colossians 2:3 says, that, “…in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (italics mine). All knowledge is found in Christ. We can’t know anything for certain unless God is our presupposition. Cue the “By what standard?” retort!

Saying “Because the Bible says so,” is a perfectly reasonable answer to the question “How do you know God exists?” If I didn’t, that shows that I am not fully confident in the Word of God as the ultimate authority for all of life.

Don’t get me wrong. I think there is a time and place to argue why the Bible is true, why Jesus is God, why God exists, etc. with external evidence. We have plenty to choose from.

I wish I would have known more about logic, reasoning, etc. during that time because I would have responded. Not to rub it in his face—because I doubt he’d accept the argument—but that arguing for God’s existence would not have been portrayed as foolish.

Here’s some application: Christian, don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe in. You will be opposed one way or another in college for your faith; study up and learn how to defend yourself.

Soli Deo Gloria

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