Reasoning in a circle

Faith & Inspiration

As I was saying Friday, all reasoning is in a circle. All reasoning is circular---no exception---at the fundamental level.

I am not talking about common logical fallacies people commit, such as begging the question, or tautologies, or other ways of assuming the very conclusion one is trying to prove: "Philadelphia is in Pennsylvania because it's not in Michigan." "The use of cell phones while driving can't be wrong because it's legal." "God does not exist because the universe evolved from nothing."

Everyone has a final reference point that he relates all stray "facts" to. At the end of that enjoyable philosophical discussion at Starbucks, one always returns to his starting point (unless God breaks into the circle with grace to open his eyes). If you begin with the presupposition that there is no God, or that He is not knowable, then everything you see and hear and read will confirm your presupposition. That is reasoning in a circle. No miracle will persuade you, as Abraham told the rich man in hell who begged for a miracle as proof (Luke 16). "Between us and you a great chasm has been fixed" (verse 26). This is not only a chasm of space and time but of epistemology.

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My college boyfriend said to me, when I showed incipient interest in Christianity, "I don't believe in Christianity because men don't rise from the dead." If Talero had been a C student, I would have thought he really didn't see the silliness of that argument. But he was the smartest kid on campus, so I can't help but think that he himself was aware of the irony of his statement, and said it just to get my goat.

John Frame writes in The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God:

"No system can avoid circularity, because all systems (as we have seen)---non-Christian as well as Christian---are based on presuppositions that control their epistemologies, argumentation, and use of evidence. Thus a rationalist can prove the primacy of reason only by using a rational argument. An empiricist can prove the primacy of sense-experience only by some kind of appeal to sense-experience. A Muslim can prove the primacy of the Koran only by appealing to the Koran. But if all systems are circular in that way, then such circularity can hardly be urged against Christianity. The critic will inevitably be just as 'guilty' of circularity as the Christian is. . . ."

Are we all hopelessly lost in our respective "circles" then, the Muslim and the Rationalist and the Empiricist and the Christian? No, the God of Truth reveals Himself to the one who comes to Him in repentance and submission and faith. If that seems backwards to you, your quarrel is with God. In my experience, the certainties of His kingdom come post-facto. This is God's doing, because He is God and draws us to Himself on His terms, not ours.

He says to those who would come, "Taste and see," not "See and taste."

To hear commentaries by Andrée Seu, click here.

Andrée Seu
Andrée Seu

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again.


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