The Bible is indisputably the most life-changing Book in the history of our world. Kings and Kingdoms have fallen, oppressive leaders have vanished off the scene, and contemporary ideologies have come and gone in the blink of an eye.
Through it all, the Bible and the message of Jesus Christ have survived and stood the test of time.
As an apologist with 100% trust in the inspired, infallible Word of God, and one who also loves to look at the evidence for the Bible and for Jesus of Nazareth, I am sometimes confronted with the idea that I am using “circular reasoning.”
One of the reasons for this is because I largely practice apologetics from the presuppositional perspective, which many deem to be “proving the Bible with the Bible.”
Although this is actually a mischaracterization of the presuppositional approach, it does leave another question lingering in my mind: Even if we were using the Bible to prove the Bible, would that actually be circular reasoning? Is the Bible so robust that it can stand completely on its own?
Actually, I think it is.
I find that it’s always important before getting to the meat of a discussion to know exactly what we’re talking about and properly define some terms.
Webster defines “circular reasoning” as a use of reason in which the premises depends on or is equivalent to the conclusion, a method of false logic by which “this is used to prove that, and that is used to prove this.”
I don’t aim to shift the discussion away from the Bible here, but an example or two of circular reasoning would help, and honestly, I see this ALOT among atheistic groups, and also among those who believe the lie of evolution.
For example, fossil dating. Mike Riddle has an excellent video that addresses this issue. But the idea is that if you ask a secular scientist how they date rock layers, they will tell you that they do so by the age of the fossils found within that layer. However, if you ask them the age of the fossils, they will tell you that they come to that conclusion based on the age of the rock layer they were found in! This is circular reasoning at its finest.
Another good example is one who believes that all logic is based on observation, also known as empiricism. This person states that all they can know is based on their observation, but the only way they could know that that’s what they know is if they somehow observed that they could observe to know what they know. In other words, they have no standard outside of themselves by which to know what is logical vs. what isn’t. Confused yet? This is the kind of reasoning people will use to reject the God of the Bible. It’s ENTIRELY circular.
Now, lest I come across as hypocritical, EVERY coherent worldview must be circular at times in order to self-authenticate. This makes sense because if your own worldview could not authenticate itself, it would be completely invalid. I, for one, think this very thing rules out the notion of atheism. It cannot self-authenticate because if what it claims is true, there is no truth!
In the following sections, I would like to make the case for the Bible’s self-authentication, insomuch as to prove that it can self-authenticate coherently without the use of circular reasoning. You may never use a defense like this yourself, but you may. And at the very least, may it strengthen your faith concerning the Word that God gave us.
The Bible’s Historical Distinction
It is fallacious to assume, other than in the conversational sense, that the Bible is one book that claims to be divinely inspired. Now, the Book of Mormon, the New World Translation (NWT), and the Quran all fall subject to this claim, and this is why it is so easy to refute them.
Many of these “divine” books are self-contradictory rather than self-authenticating, and each of them relies on the special revelation of some “new-age prophet.” The exception is that with the NWT, it was the Watchtower Society influenced by the teachings of Charles Taze Russell that produced this translation which is the basis for their modern belief system.
The Islamic tradition (arguably the largest contender to Evangelical Christianity) has a further problem in that they invite NO critique of their texts. Many have actually been put to death for questioning the truth and accuracy of the Quran. In contrast, Christians welcome a critique of the Bible! We have nothing to hide and are quite open to answering objections and clearing up supposed contradictions in the minds of skeptics.
The Bible, on the other hand, is actually a collection of 66 books written by over 40 authors, during a time period of almost 2,000 years. Furthermore, the Bible accurately represents the history of each respective time period of writing and takes special care to authenticate itself by providing details that only eyewitnesses of the day would know.
This ensures that the details were not added later, as some may try to claim.
Today, it is not surprising to find a non-fiction book where the author does not contradict himself somewhere along the way, but what we find in the Bible is that it is ALWAYS in agreement with itself and never contradictory (this is not to say that you will find a blank screen if you search the web for “Bible contradictions”; the point is they are all easily refuted and usually based on a lack of context).
You may find a book from Lydia McGrew helpful, titled Hidden in Plain View. This book deals with “undesigned coincidences” in the Bible that are HUGELY helpful in understanding its self-authentication.
It would also be helpful to read this brief article concerning the Council of Nicea. Some objectors to Christianity believe this council essentially “invented” our religion, particularly the deity of Christ. This, again, is founded on a complete misunderstanding of the purpose of the council and has no adverse effect on the historicity of the biblical text.
Furthermore, NOT ONE archeological discovery has ever disproven the Bible. In fact, as archaeologists continue in their pursuit of uncovering ancient worlds, what they are finding only further confirms the biblical recording of history. One of the prominent discoveries was of the Hittite civilization, which up until the late 19th century, there was no evidence of having ever existed.
Truly, we can trust what the Bible teaches about the history of the world–it has yet to be proven wrong.
The Bible’s Evidential Language
Another interesting, self-authenticating feature of the Bible’s is it that usually goes out of the way to provide additional detail and context, to the extent that it NEVER makes a claim (particularly of a miraculous nature) where there was no external validation.
In other words, the Bible puts itself to the test.
Let’s look at one key example to help illustrate what I mean:
Consider the raising of Jesus from the dead. This teaching is absolutely core to the Christian Faith, such that if it were to be proven false, we would not have a Faith (a claim that the Bible itself makes in 1 Corinthians 15:17)! To illustrate this, consider what reality would be like today had the only references of Jesus’ being raised from the dead amounted to a few of the disciples saying, “He rose from the dead, honest!” I don’t mean to be facetious, but most other world religions make truth claims with not much more “evidence” than that!
In contrast with reality, here is a non-exhaustive list of what evidences the Bible itself gives to back up its claim:
- The Jews admitted His body was gone. This is confirmed by Jewish historians as well.
- Women found his empty tomb first. This is unlikely to be admitted if this story was made up, since a woman’s testimony was considered unreliable.
- He appeared to each of His disciples (who, by the way, were hiding away meeting in secret).
- The Bible teaches the skepticism of Thomas. If this was made up, why not paint the picture of confidence in all of the disciples?
- Peter takes care to mention that these stories were not “cleverly devised fables,” but that they were eyewitness accounts–a claim he validated with his life.
- Paul submits a creed that has been dated to within 5 years of the cross itself.
- Jesus appears to over 500 individuals at once and was seen by various individuals over a period of 40 days.
- Paul claims that at the time of his writing 1 Corinthians, many of these who saw Him were still alive and could have easily put any falsehoods to rest.
- After Jesus ascends to heaven, we see the miraculous conversion of the Apostle Paul–a killer of Christians who had no reason at all to convert unless it was the truth.
- The Bible’s recording of this event as well as Jesus’ life and ministry comports perfectly with what other Jewish and secular historians have recorded around these time periods.
Now when we look at these arguments above, it would seem to beg the question, “But, it was the Bible that said all of these things, which is the same Book that makes the claim–therefore, this is circular reasoning.”
But again, that question does not take into account two very important considerations:
- It is okay that the Bible makes this claims about itself. The whole point of listing out this evidence is that the Bible does not say, “take my word for it.” Rather, it goes well out of the way to provide validation for the events that happen–validation that is subject to being easily disproven by the secular world! Remember, any coherent worldview MUST be able to self-authenticate.
- Even if we entertained the notion that it was somehow “too circular” to accept the Bible’s evidence for its own claims, we must again remember that the Bible is one Book that is simply a collection of historical documents (books). What we actually have here is 66 historical documents written over a considerable amount of time that agree in totality. This alone gives legitimacy to the idea that we should allow the Bible to self-authenticate.
There are many other examples of this found in Scripture, but the point is that if the Bible makes a an important claim (miraculous or otherwise), there is always sufficient historical context and evidence to falsify it if it were not the truth. Therefore, I think we can safely conclude that the Bible’s evidential language makes a clear case for its self-authentication.
The Bible’s Scientific Accuracy
Though I am not a scientist of any sort, this particular area probably fascinates me the most. The Bible is not just a book about a religious figure, and not only is it a history book, but it’s also a science book! It is not any of these exclusively, but all of them cohesively. As Greg Koukl states, the Bible is simply the Story of Reality!
It is interesting to note that many other “holy books”, such as the Quran, also make claims about science. Therefore the validation of scientific claims has nothing to do with whether science is mentioned, but rather if the science is accurate. If you click the link just above, you will find that the science of the Quran is embarrassingly inaccurate.
Interestingly, this is another area that actually proved quite difficult for the Bible until many modern scientific discoveries. For example, there are verses in Job and also Genesis where in today’s context, it is clear that the Bible is referencing what we would call today a Dinosaur. But before the discovery of Dinosaur fossils, some of these passages (which obviously mention large and even fire-breathing creatures) were interpreted to absurd conclusions such as hippos and elephants! This is an area where modern science made sense of an otherwise confusing passage.
This notion can be abused, however. Old earth creationists attempt to take modern secular science and read it into Scripture, rather than to start with the plain and obvious reading of Scripture and THEN make sense of the discoveries. They have accused recent creationists of doing the same thing when, say, attributing the discovery of Dino’s to these passages, but I think that is a false accusation. Sure, we can use modern science as it comports with the Bible, but we recent creationists see such a clear case for that position in Scripture and ARE able to watch it cohere with modern science so that there is simply no reason to change that position.
We are particularly discussing something called the “scientific foreknowledge” of the Bible. This is the scenario where we find that the Bible made a claim thousands of years ago and only recent scientific discoveries have confirmed it and/or made sense of it. The obvious implication here is that the One who created the universe seems to know it pretty well! And this is just another line of evidence we can use to show that indeed, God’s Word is not a religious fairytale.
I believe that scientific accuracy in the Bible indeed strengthens the case for its reliability, and for our being able to confirm one area of Scripture with another.
The Bible’s Prophetic Nature
Finally, we come to one of the most convincing proofs in all of the Bible. The Bible has an extremely rich prophetic nature, and an incredible track record to boot. Let me be clear: The Bible has never been wrong about a prophecy. Ever.
In this article, Dr. Hugh Ross points out, “Unique among all books ever written, the Bible accurately foretells specific events-in detail-many years, sometimes centuries, before they occur. Approximately 2,500 prophecies appear in the pages of the Bible, about 2,000 of which already have been fulfilled to the letter—no errors.”
I don’t agree with Dr. Ross’s scientific conclusions, but I would say he has it right concerning Bible prophecies!
I would encourage you to read the article. It lists 13 different prophecies and not only gives the prophecy and its fulfillment, but also the probability of each prophecy actually occurring. Fascinating read!
Now, there are a few interesting things to note here:
The Bible passes its own false-prophecy test. We find in Deuteronomy 18:21-22 that the Bible has a strict requirement concerning prophecy. If the prophecy fails, it is not from the Lord! Why is this important? Well, obviously, if the Bible sets this standard and then makes a prophetic claim that does not come to pass, it loses ALL credibility! That would mean the revelation was not from the Lord, and therefore, neither was the Bible. This is powerful. Why would the Bible set itself up for failure?
Some present-day televangelists have erroneously inflated this. One must never confuse ACTUAL Bible prophecy with the garbage we find on some major networks today like TCT. I am sure there are some well-meaning Christians on there who sometimes get it right, but many of these are nothing more than doomsayers looking to make a buck off of the people’s insecurity. These are NOT the kind of prophecies we are referring to, as there are no modern-day prophets. The days of prophecy being uttered from the Lord are completed and have been for a very long time.
The only real objection raised is that the Bible was written after the fulfillment of the fulfilled prophecies. This is just utter nonsense. Not even secular Bible scholars and critics call into the question the approximate dating of these passages. There is just not even a case to be made for the writing of the text post-prophecy.
The conclusion here is simple: Either the 40 writers of the Bible were EXTREMELY LUCKY and just haven’t been wrong yet, or the Bible REALLY IS God’s Word and is able to authenticate itself as such.
As you have hopefully surmised, the Bible passes every test one can throw at it with flying colors. As we learn more about what the Bible says and how it accurately reflects reality, we may see the day where the self-authenticating nature of the Bible is not called into question.
In fact, since Bible prophecy is true, I KNOW we will see that day when every knee shall bow and tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!
Next time someone accuses you of making a circular argument because you believe the Bible, call some of these thoughts to your remembrance. Maybe send them here to my website so they can read the case for themselves and come to their own conclusion.
If you are a skeptic and are reading this information for the first time, I invite you to search some of my other material and feel free to ask questions! It would be my honor to point you to the Truth that is found in Jesus Christ alone.
Questions? Feel free to comment below and start the discussion, or click the blue button on the right (desktop only) to ask a question with a voicemail. We will do our best to answer in an upcoming post. Thanks!