Monday, April 18, 2016

Can you use the Bible to prove the Bible?

i) It's often said that you can't use the Bible to prove the Bible. Unless the Bible is true, you can't use it to prove its veracity, since that's the very issue in dispute!

ii) Sounds plausible, but is it that simple? For instance, reviewers praise some memoirs if the autobiographer was candid about his foibles and misjudgments. His transparency is mark of veracity. What would motivate him to say unflattering things about himself unless he was honest? 

That dovetails with the criterion of embarrassment. The Bible is chockfull of examples like that.

iii) But let's approach this from another angle. I think the apparent vicious circularity of using the Bible to prove the Bible is largely semantic. How can you use the same book to prove itself?

But that's deceptive. Although "the Bible" is a singular designation, it's actually an anthology of various writings by various writers. 

Suppose an editor compiled a history of WWII by soliciting accounts from Churchill, Dwight Eisenhower, Curtis LeMay, Douglas MacArthur, George Marshall, George Patten, Chester Nimitz, and Matthew Ridgeway. Could you use his history to prove his history? Sure. Although it would technically be one book, it's actually a collection of independent accounts by leading participants. To a large degree, their respective accounts would be mutually corroborative. 

You can do the same thing with the Bible. It's complicated, but there's nothing fallacious about the procedure. 


  1. I am currently reading through Covenantal Apologetics by Dr. Scott Oliphint and a similar issue is bought up early in the book (Just got it today).

    "During the discussion immediately after my presentation, one of the other presenters was particularly agitated. It seemed obvious to him that all I was saying with respect to the relationship of faith to reason was that such a relationship could not be truly understood unless one accepted the Bible as true. He went on to ask me just why he or anyone else should accept the Bible as an authority. He was perplexed that I seemed to be arguing in a circle. I admitted to him that I certainly was arguing in (some kind of) a circle. I was arguing that unless one accepts the Bible for what it says and what it is, there would be no real solution to the faith-and-reason problem. Then I made clear to the other presenters that they were all asking that their own views, based on their own reasoning and sources, be accepted as true. In every case, I said, every other presenter appealed to his own final authority. "So," I asked, "on what basis should I accept your circle over mine?" (pages 23-24)

    A similar point when I was listening through Michael Butler's 28 part lecture series on apologetics. A rationalist presupposes his reasoning as reliable and true, the empiricist employs special pleading since if all knowledge comes through sense experience where does the preceding fact come from and on top of that trust his senses which he knows have failed him.

  2. Hey Steve what's your thoughts on this article ?

    1. TheSire,
      While I am not Steve, I will give you my thoughts on that article :-D First, the general premise that he makes is actually accurate. Paul Manata once pointed out here on Triablogue that you can present the existence of another deity who is exactly like the Trinity in all other ways, but actually has four persons and so is a Quaternity instead of a Trinity. This Quaternity would satisfy all the requirements of TAG just as the Trinity does, but with a hidden fourth person in the Godhead. Obviously, if that is the case, you can add a fifth, sixth, etc. etc. etc. Since a Quaternity is not part of Christian theism, then TAG is insufficient to differentiate between the truth of Christianity and the truth of those other worldviews.

      So this shows that TAG does not argue for a single unique view. That said, while TAG is too strong in asserting that *Christianity* is the only worldview that is correct, I think that TAG does a fine job of showing *theism* must be true. It does an atheist no good to have to resort to, "Suppose a God exists that's different than your God. Therefore, you're wrong." And this is what you find with all the claims of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and so on, which sound good until you realize that in order for the FSM to make sense in the argument, the FSM must actually have the same foundational attributes as God. In short, the atheist must assert theism in order to deny theism.

      So I think TAG refutes atheism very well, but doesn't work at disproving alternate theistic worldviews. Those must be examined one at a time and refuted on their own grounds.

    2. To be more accurate, I should say that it's the arguments used to support TAG that refute atheism, not TAG itself.

    3. Well, Peter I can't complain about which one of the Tblog geniuses respond. I'm just grateful they do. Thank you for your thoughts and God bless.

  3. You can add on the point RC Sproul (if I recall correctly) made, which is: imagine if the Bible did *not* say it was infallible. If we claimed it was infallible, we would be saying more than what was in Scripture. And furthermore, if the Bible didn't say it was true, then what reason would any Christian have to assert it? That is to say, if God was not interested in affirming the truth of His own Word, why should we be concerned on His behalf?

  4. God can prove His Word. He does all the time. Each of you who have a conviction that causes you to confess the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead is evidence God has proved what He says He said and inspired what He said to be written by men who He inspired to say what He said.

    Further, God can prove He is God. He does it all the time. People die every day!

    Not everyone dies believing God. They do afterwards.

    I think the Apostle Paul by the writings of Luke established what I am asserting here:::>

    Act 20:32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

    Act 25:13 Now when some days had passed, Agrippa the king and Bernice arrived at Caesarea and greeted Festus.
    Act 25:14 And as they stayed there many days, Festus laid Paul's case before the king, saying, "There is a man left prisoner by Felix,
    Act 25:15 and when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews laid out their case against him, asking for a sentence of condemnation against him.
    Act 25:16 I answered them that it was not the custom of the Romans to give up anyone before the accused met the accusers face to face and had opportunity to make his defense concerning the charge laid against him.
    Act 25:17 So when they came together here, I made no delay, but on the next day took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought.
    Act 25:18 When the accusers stood up, they brought no charge in his case of such evils as I supposed.
    Act 25:19 Rather they had certain points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who was dead, but whom Paul asserted to be alive.

    God proved to Saul/Paul He's God.

    He can still prove He is God and does every day. People die every day not believing. Sadly they then believe!

  5. Is the claim here that certain Biblical passages are mutually corroborative of one another's historicity, or of one another's inspiration? I wouldn't have pegged the objection as being to internal historical corroboration since there's nothing dialectically inappropriate about it.