Logical Fallacy Series -- Part 10: Begging The Question
This is part 10 of a series I'm writing on logical fallacies. A logical fallacy is when a mistake is made in reasoning and argumentation. Fallacies come in 2 types; formal and informal. A formal fallacy is when a logical mistake is made in the form of an argument; that is to say; when it doesn't follow 1 of the 9 rules of logic. An informal fallacy, by contrast, has to do with the content of the argument itself.
So far, I've only been addressing the informal fallacies. I will address formal fallacies later in this series, but I wanted to do the informal fallacies first. So far, I've talked about The Ad Hominem Fallacy, The Fallacy Of Equivocation, The Straw Man Fallacy, The Genetic Fallacy, The Red Herring Fallacy, The Poisoning The Well Fallacy, The Fallacy Of Composition, The Argument From Silence Fallacy, and The Anecdotal Fallacy.
In this blog post, I'll be talking about....
The Begging The Question Fallacy
This logical fallacy goes by 2 names: Begging The Question and Circular Reasoning. This fallacy is committed when the conclusion is implicit in one of the premises of the argument. If your conclusion is contained in one of the premises of your argument, then you are reasoning in a circle.
Examples Of Begging The Question
Sadly, a lot of Christians are guilty of committing this fallacy. Many Christians, when asked how they know The Bible is true will respond that they know The Bible is true because it is the word of God and God does not lie (Numbers 23:19, Titus 1:2), so therefore it must be true. However, when the unbeliever asks "but how can you be sure it's the word of God?" the Christian will respond "Because The Bible tells us so." to which the unbeliever will ask "But why believe The Bible" to which the Christian will respond "The Bible is infallible" to which the unbeliever will respond "But how do you know it's infallible?" to which the Christian will respond "Because The Bible is the word of God."
This argument for The Bible being true is logically fallacious because the Christian is reasoning in a circle. His conclusion is implicit in his initial premise. The rational unbeliever will not be convinced by an argument like this, and sadly, far too many Christians justify their belief in The Bible in this way.
There are good arguments for The Bible's divine inspiration and infallibility, but this is not one of them. In my article "5 Reasons To Believe The Bible Is Divinely Inspired", I listed 5 reasons for believing that The Bible is inspired by God and is therefore true. The first reason is that the Natural Theology arguments for God's existence are a good reason to believe that The Bible is divinely inspired. The arguments from Natural Theology, such as The Kalam Cosmological Argument, and The Fine Tuning Argument, and The Moral Argument, and The Ontological Argument prove the existence of a supreme Being that has certain attributes. The being that these arguments prove exist has certain properties or attributes that only the God of The Bible has. When you compare the God of Natural Theology with the God of The Bible, they have exactly the same attributes! And when you compare the God of Natural Theology with the gods of the other religions of the world, you'll find that all of them are totally unlike the God of the Natural Theology arguments. None of them look anything like the God of The Kalam Cosmological Argument or The Ontological Argument. Only The Bible's God is 100% identical to the God that these various arguments prove exist.
My point is this; these men were not philosophers. They did not know of the existence of these various arguments for the existence of God, and in fact, these arguments hadn't even been formulated until some time after The New Testament era. If these men were simply making up a god like other religions have done, then how could they get all of the right details of this God spot on. We know the arguments are logically valid, have true premises, and commit no informal fallacies, so their conclusions follow that such a Being exists. It's extremely improbable that these "bronze aged goat herders" could accidentally describe the God Of Natural Theology so perfectly. The best explanation is that The God Of Natural Theology and The God Of The Bible are one in the same, and that the reason the biblical authors describe Natural Theology's God so perfectly is because He is the one who inspired their writings. I go into more detail of this argument in "5 Reasons To Believe The Bible Is Divinely Inspired" and I go into great detail on this topic in my book "Inference To The One True God: Why I Believe In Jesus Instead Of Other Gods" which will be out sometime this year.
A second reason I give in the article "5 Reasons To Believe The Bible Is Divinely Inspired" is that Jesus believed the Old Testament was divinely inspired, and the historical evidence shows that He believed that He was God and that He died and rose from the dead. Given that Jesus made such lofty claims about Himself, God would never resurrect Him from the dead if He were not telling the truth. God would never raise a heretic and a blasphemer. If Jesus rose from the dead as the historical evidence indicates, then we can put a lot of stock into what Jesus taught regarding spiritual matters, such as the divine inspiration of The Old Testament.
I also argue in the article that we can believe The Bible is divinely inspired because of fulfilled prophesies and the scientific accuracy of Genesis, as well as the evidence of people whose lives were transformed when they gave their lives to Jesus Christ.
As you can see, none of these reasons for the divine inspiration and truth of The Bible beg the question. And so, the rational unbeliever would be justified in coming to believe that The Bible is the holy word of God for these reasons.
Another Example: Okay, so we looked at one circular argument from a Christian. Now let's look at one often given by atheists!
"Miracles don't occur"
"How do you know that?"
"Because all miracle reports are false"
"How do you know that?"
"Because there is uniform experience of miracles"
"How do you know that?"
"Because Miracles don't occur."
"But how do you know miracles don't occur?"
"Because all miracle claims are false."
"But how do you know all miracle claims are false?"
"Because there is uniform experience against miracles."
"But how do you know there is uniform experience against miracles?"
"Because miracles don't occur."
Are you getting just as dizzy as I am? Oh good. It's not just me. We got dizzy because this atheist's argument against miracles is a vicious circle. The questioner isn't getting a justified conclusion because the atheist objector's conclusion is his very first premise. He believes miracles don't occur because he believes every report of a miracle occurring is false. But he believes that every report is false because, he claims at least, that there is uniform experience against it? But how does he know that? Has he closely investigated every single miracle claim ever made and arrived at this conclusion. No. He came to this conclusion because he believes miracles don't occur.
This is a fallacious argument against miracles. It begs the question. And as I said above, there's good historical evidence that at least one miracle has occurred; the resurrection of Jesus.
"If God does not exist, our reasoning faculties would not be reliable."
"That's nonsense. Of course they'd still be reliable."
"But how could you know that unless you assumed that a wise Creator made them?"
"I know my reasoning is valid because I checked the validity of my reasoning using my reasoning therefore, I know that my reasoning is valid."
Yes, I am a fan of the transcendental argument. One reason is because atheists claim to be the champions of logic and reason, and they act like they have a monopoly on it. It's extremely ironic, because if atheism is true, then there's no way we could trust our reasoning. As C.S Lewis wrote:
"Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It's like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can't trust my own thinking, of course I can't trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God." - C.S Lewis
But the atheist tries to prove the reliability of his reasoning by using his reasoning! He's using the very thing he's trying to prove is reliable. But how do we know that his reasoning to the conclusion that his reasoning is reliable is sound since the reliability of his (and ours) is the very thing in question? The atheist, in trying to prove the reliability of his reasoning, is appealing to his reasoning to prove that his reasoning is reliable! We cannot prove that our reasoning is reliable, but we can believe they are if we assume that they were made by an infallible and wise Creator. If we believe that our reasoning faculties emerged as a result of chance and necessity, then the reliability of our thinking is questionable at best. I plan on writing a full blown article on The Trancendental Argument (a.k.a The Argument From Reason) at some point in the future.
Well, that does it for today's blog post. Come back to Cerebral Faith tomorrow to learn about another logical fallacy. It's important that we, as Christians, learn how to spot logical fallacies. Believers in Christ all over the world are being talked out of their faith by non-Christians who use bad reasoning. Their arguments, to the untrained mind, sound persuasive when they really shouldn't because they're logically fallacious. Therefore, if we can spot logical fallacies when they're committed, then we can avoid being fooled.