Saturday, June 10, 2006

Prophecy and Biblical Authority

For reasons inscrutable to my wife, I often listen to local Evangelical radio. On purely moral matters, I sometimes hear something wise, something of use. But when talk turns to the authority of Scripture, the relation of science to religion, such basic theological issues as the purpose of Christ's passion and death, I almost never find anything to uplift or enlighten.

Yesterday I caught a bit of an argument for the authority of Scripture. It concerned prophecy.

Let me make clear that the argument was aimed at ones such as me, ones who either doubt or reject the truth of Scripture. It is an argument meant to persuade the doubters and the rejecters. Thus it cannot assume the truth of any part of Scripture. Rather that it what is was intended to prove.

The argument's author (an evangelical minister - forgive me but I can't now recall his name) says that fulfillment of prophecy is the best evidence of Scripture's truth. Indeed prophecy's fulfillment he called the very 'signature' of God. (Other forms of evidence of Biblical truth were relegated to a lesser status. They were called 'fingerprints of God'.)

What are the prophesies of which he speaks? We need not say specifically. Rather all we need say is that they are prophesies recounted in the Bible itself. Moreover, their fulfillment is too recounted in the Bible. Do we have any other source for these prophecies? No. All are recounted only in the Bible. Do we have any other account of their fulfillment? Again no. All are recounted only in the Bible.

What then will our evangelical say if we ask him why we should believe these Biblical accounts? He cannot merely assume that we believe them, for he undertake to prove that the Bible is true. But assume this he did. He had nothing to say in response to this question.

This is a quite egregious error. In his attempt to prove the veracity of Scripture, he assumed that very thing. He assumed the veracity of the Scriptural accounts of prophesy and its fulfillment to prove the veracity of Scripture.

Logicians have a name for a fallacy of this sort. It is called 'circularity'. Circular arguments, needless to say, prove nothing at all, for the very thing that they hope to prove they assume in the course of that proof.

We have an irony here as well. Our evangelical no doubt believes - indeed he said in his discourse - that Christianity is paradigm rationality. But at the very start of his defense of it, he quite obviously commits one of the most basic of logical errors. Of course this does not imply that Christianity itself is irrational. But it does cast grave doubt upon the rationality of our evangelical, at least in theological matters. (He might act perfectly rationally when no engaged in theological discourse. I of course have no idea.) He claim to a more perfect rationality is pure pretense, pure bluff.

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