Sunday, February 28, 2010

Logical Fallacy: "Begging the Question" a.k.a. "Circular Reasoning"

Probably one of the most frequent logical fallacies you'll come across in debates or dialogue is referred to as "circular reasoning" or "begging the question." In Latin it is called petitio principii which means "request for the source." This fallacy may take several forms but one of the most common occurs when the arguer assumes the truth of the conclusion he is trying to prove.

For example, some Christians have wrongly argued this way:

Skeptic: How do you know God exists?
Christian: Because the Bible says He does.
Skeptic: How do you know the Bible is true?
Christian: Duh! It's the Word of God!

Notice in this dialogue the Christian is assuming that God exists and wrote the Bible in order to prove that God exists. This commits the logical fallacy known as "begging the question." The arguer cannot assume the truthfulness of the conclusion he is attempting to prove.

However, non-Christians are just as prone to logical fallacies and the following are some common examples.

"Miracles Can't Happen."

Well known Scottish skeptic David Hume stated in On Miracles, "A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined" (My emphasis).

Unfortunately Hume is begging the question. Notice he makes the claim that a firm and unalterable experience counts against the belief in miracles. In other words, testimony and experience count 100 percent against miracles! But how would Hume know this? C.S. Lewis addresses this nicely in his book Miracles:

Now of course we must agree with Hume that if there is absolutely "uniform experience" against miracles, if in other words, they have never happened, why then they never have. Unfortunately, we know the experience against them to be uniform only if we know that all the reports of them are false. And we can know all the reports of them to be false only if we know already that miracles have never occurred. In fact, we are arguing in a circle.

"Jesus Never Existed."

Another example of circular reasoning can be seen in the claim made by some skeptics that "Jesus never existed." Given the ample amount of historical evidence for the life of Christ, how could anyone ever support the claim that Jesus never existed? The only way you could show that Jesus never existed is to prove that every account of Jesus that exists is false. Of course the only way you could prove that every existing account of Jesus is false is if you knew He never existed in the first place! This begs the question.


The entire abortion debate centers around one question: What is the unborn? Many arguments in favor of the pro-abortion choice position beg the question by assuming the unborn is not a human being.

For example, some pro-abortion choice advocates argue that "A woman has the right to do what she wants with her own body." This begs the question by assuming the woman's body is the only one involved. If the unborn is a human being there are two human beings and two human bodies involved. Furthermore, it is never the woman's body that gets aborted. The woman survives the abortion, the unborn doesn't.

Conclusion: If all else fails, remember this: circular reasoning works because circular reasoning works because circular reasoning works because circular reasoning works...

Saturday, February 27, 2010

An Objectively Good Night

Success!!! Despite a few hiccups in pre-event planning, last night's McDowell-Corbett debate went incredibly well. Saddleback College was buzzing with students, families, scholars, and local citizens lucky enough to get a seat in an event that sold out weeks in advance over a period of about 10 days. Sadly, we had to turn away over three times the number as our room could hold but the webcast was viewed by over a 1,000 people from around the globe. In fact, Conversant Life told me that so many people logged in at one time that the server crashed three times (sorry about that livestream viewers). I would be remiss not to thank Karla Westphal (Saddleback College Freethinkers Club faculty advisor) for hosting the event and handling lots of logistics. I wouldn't have wanted anyone else in her role.

Both speakers were articulate and dynamic which kept the audience captivated the entire 95 minutes without a break. Craig Hazen set the tone with his trademark wit and cordial demeanor. I witnessed first hand his unbroken contact with the timekeeper and even-handed treatment of speaker time limits. The only exception was when he granted Corbett an additional response in the Q&A portion. He even kept the course on track to about three minutes of our planned end time. Amazing work, Dr. Hazen! My only fear is the backlash I'm going to get from all those unable to attend now that Craig and Sean gave away free books and DVDs to everyone there (again, sorry webcasters).

Sean spoke first, as is customary of the positive debate position, and set the bar high for his opponent. Sean layed out his case in outline form stating two key contentions to frame the debate. 1) If God does not exist, we have no solid foundation for moral values, and 2) If God does exist, we do have a solid foundation for moral values. Sean carefully made the distinction between subjective and objective with Greg Koukl's famous ice cream illustration. He told the story of a terrible teen gang rape to show what it means for something to be objectively wrong. Sean argued that any ethical system must account for three things: 1) Transcendence, 2) Free will, and 3) Human value. Concluding that God makes the most sense of moral values, Sean then challenged Dr. Corbett to offer a better explanation.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Case for Apologetics

Brian Auten at Apologetics 315 has posted an excellent resource entitled A Case for Apologetics:

What is apologetics? Is it Biblical? What is the purpose of apologetics? In this audio, the listener is introduced to the discipline of defending the faith and presenting reasons to believe Christianity is true. A case is made for apologetics from the New Testament and some common objections to apologetics are addressed. A useful introduction to the subject for those new to apologetics.

Full MP3 Audio here. (20 minutes)

PDF Transcript here (non-copyright, suitable for distribution)

Also, Brian has recently posted a number of audio interviews with some top Christian Apologists:

William Lane Craig

Ken Samples

Frank Turek

Check out all his Apologists Interviews here.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

"The Bible Was Only Written by Men...and Men Make Mistakes."

(Stand to Reason) by Greg Koukl

Greg Koukl offers a very helpful response to this common objection to biblical accuracy, authority and authenticity:

First, it doesn’t follow that because the Bible’s written by men, that it therefore must be in error. Human error is possible, not necessary. If human error were always necessary in anything man said, this challenge would be self-refuting (“suicide tactic”). If all human claims were necessarily in error, then the claim that the Bible was written by men and men make mistakes would also be in error because it’s a claim made by men who err, defeating itself. It is possible for human beings to produce something without errors. It’s done all the time. What is 2+2? What is the formula for nuclear fission?
Second, this is circular reasoning. If there’s good evidence the Bible can be trusted, then the issue of man’s involvement is moot. A simple question illustrates this: “Are you suggesting with this objection that if God does exist, He’s not capable of writing what He wants through imperfect men?” This is hard to affirm. If the answer is “No,” then the objection vanishes. If the answer is yes, then ask, “Did you ever own a dog? Could you get your dog to sit? If you can get a dumb dog to sit, what makes you think an all-powerful God can’t get a man to write just what He wants him to?” If you first establish that the Biblical record can be trusted, then the second problem—human involvement is irrelevant. If God inspires it then it doesn’t matter if men or monkeys did the writing; they’ll still write exactly what God intends.
Another way of stating it: God can’t err; the Bible is God’s Word; therefore, the Bible can’t err, even if men are involved.

Check out Greg's book Tactics for more great apologetic material.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Was the New Testament Influenced by Pagan Religions?

This is an excellent article by Ronald Nash which appeared in the Christian Research Journal, Winter 1994. It is just as relevant today with the appearance of such internet movies as Zeitgeist which make the claim that Jesus is simply a copycat Messiah and that the New Testament borrows from pagan mystery religions.


Many Christian college students have encountered criticisms of Christianity based on claims that early Christianity and the New Testament borrowed important beliefs and practices from a number of pagan mystery religions. Since these claims undermine such central Christian doctrines as Christ's death and resurrection, the charges are serious. But the evidence for such claims, when it even exists, often lies in sources several centuries older than the New Testament. Moreover, the alleged parallels often result from liberal scholars uncritically describing pagan beliefs and practices in Christian language and then marveling at the striking parallels they think they've discovered.

During the first half of the twentieth century, a number of liberal authors and professors claimed that the New Testament teaching about Jesus' death and resurrection, the New Birth, and the Christian practices of baptism and the Lord's Supper were derived from the pagan mystery religions. Of major concern in all this is the charge that the New Testament doctrine of salvation parallels themes commonly found in the mystery religions: a savior-god dies violently for those he will eventually deliver, after which that god is restored to life.


If you are interested in reading more on this topic, here are a few more resources:

The Case for the Real Jesus by Lee Strobel (chapter 4)
The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas and Michael Licona (chapter 5)
The Gospel and the Greeks by Ronald Nash (chapters 7-11)
Reinventing Jesus by J. Ed Komoszewski, M. James Sawyer, and Daniel Wallace (chapters 16-18)


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Stand To Reason Launches New Student Website

Stand to Reason launched a new website today designed to help Christian students form a confident Christian worldview and be able to explain it clearly and gracious to others.

STR Place helps students "just think" about Christianity.

STR Place has a variety of resources:

* Videos dealing with timely issues
* Articles providing clear, concise explanations
* A video blog answering questions
* How to schedule in-person training STR offers
* Information about unique mission trips led by STR student impact director, Brett Kunkle
* STR Place's Twitter and Facebook pages
* You Tube videos
* Parent and teacher resources to support Christian students
* Online store with resources specifically for Christian students

Bookmark STR Place ( and visit often as they will be adding content regularly. And please email others to let them know about this critical, new training tool - especially students and youth leaders.

Originally posted by Melinda at STR BLOG

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Temporal Consequences of Atheism for Christians
by Gary DeMar, Feb 02, 2010

There are temporal consequences for theists as there are eternal consequences for atheists. If as Christopher Hitchens believes Christianity is not good for the world, will laws be passed to outlaw or at least suppress religious expression? This has already been done in public schools. There are signs that such oppositions to religion are spreading:

[A] man talking to two willing strangers in a shopping mall was arrested because the subject of the conversation was God. The case developed several years ago when a youth pastor was arrested at the Galleria Mall in Roseville, Calif., for having a conversation about religion with two other people. Matthew Snatchko, who works with youth at his church, was interrupted in the middle of a conversation by a security guard. A second guard joined the confrontation and told Snatchko he was being placed under citizen’s arrest for “trespassing.” . . . Besides the ban on conversations with strangers about religion or politics, the mall also bans any clothing with religious or political messages.[1]

It’s one thing to have a policy that prohibits proselytizing, standing on a soapbox and preaching, or carrying a sign around that says “Repent!” Malls are private property. We’ll have to see how the courts rule on this one, but the fact that there is such a written policy is frightening. If you live in an area where malls owned by these companies, you might want to consider shopping elsewhere. By all means let the company know why you no longer will do business there: Fear of getting arrested because you might happen to strike up a conversation with a stranger in the food court that leads to a discussion about religion.

Those who believe in God could be marginalized, and if atheists get their way politically, we might find some very bad laws passed. Here’s what prominent atheist Daniel C. Dennett wants to happen:

If you insist on teaching your children falsehoods—that the Earth is flat,[2] that “Man” is not a product of evolution by natural selection—then you must expect, at the very least, that those of us who have freedom of speech will feel free to describe your teachings as the spreading of falsehoods, and will attempt to demonstrate this to your children at our earliest opportunity. Our future well-being—the well-being of all of us on the planet—depends on the education of our descendants.[3]

If enough of these guys gain political power, will any of our children be safe? Could teaching falsehoods like creation be considered child abuse? It’s not a far-fetched fear. Hitchens broaches the subject in chapter 16 of his book God is Not Great: “Is Religion Child Abuse?” Doug Wilson comments, “Hitchens puts infant baptism, the learning of a catechism, the practice of confirmation, Sunday School lessons, and family worship into the same category that we use to describe the making of child pornography, starvation, locking up in closets, blacking eyes and breaking bones.”[4] Nicholas Humphrey writes something similar, and Richard Dawkins is not far behind:

“So we should no more allow parents to teach their children to believe, for example, in the literal truth of the Bible or that the planets rule their lives than we should allow parents to knock their children’s teeth out or lock them in a dungeon.”[5]
The American Vision on Facebook

Yikes! Atheists rail against theocracy, but they don’t see that their worldview is oppressively theocratic with no hint of restraint. Man is god, and man’s law must be imposed on every area of life in the name of Darwin through the power of the State using reason and science as the twin authorities. These revelatory pillars of evolution—the old and new testaments of their man-centered worldview—are as infallible in their eyes as the Bible is in ours. There is no question that this is the truth.

Education is used to promote their theocratic worldview. An academic setting is viewed as far less oppressive, a neutral, fact-alone approach to truth, if you will. The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) has issued a report that says British Columbia-based Trinity Western University falls below the standard of proper academic freedom because it requires that its faculty sign a statement of Christian faith before being hired. It has also put the organization “on a list of institutions found to have imposed a requirement of a commitment to a particular ideology or statement as condition of employment.”[6] Just imagine if a Christian who did not believe in evolution applied to a state school. Do you think he would be accepted to teach in the biology department? I don’t think so.


[1] Bob Unru, “Mall to Christians: God talk banned!” (January 30, 2010).
[2] On the “flat-earth myth,” see Gary DeMar, America’s Christian History: The Untold Story (Atlanta, GA: American Vision, 1995), 221–34; Gary DeMar and Fred Douglas Young, To Pledge Allegiance: A New World in View (Atlanta, GA: American Vision, 1996), 75–82; Jeffrey Burton Russell, Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians (New York: Praeger, 1991).
[3] Daniel C. Dennett, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meaning of Life (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995), 519.
[4] Douglas Wilson, God Is: How Christianity Explains Everything (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2008).
[5] Quoted in Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006), 326.
[6] Charles Lewis, “Faith as a guide in higher learning: Can academic freedom exist in overtly religious universities?” (January 30, 2010):