The circular argument is so persuasive that many people seldom realize the error, no matter how often it’s pointed out to them. As a younger man I was a prime candidate for this. In many cases, I honestly thought that a circular argument was valid, or didn’t even realize that it was circular in the first place. What is a circular argument? When a series of statements in an argument is made such that the conclusion is assumed in one or more of the premises, the argument is circular. For example,
“The Book of Mormon is absolutely true. How do I know this? Because The Book of Mormon says so.”
If scholars were to set out to verify if the Bible (or any other religious book) is truly divine and perfect, they would make inquiries and comparisons with an independent, rational, and logical source. They would not let the men and the process of the Nicene canonization go unchecked simply because the church says so. Likewise, the same scholars would not accept the authenticity of a newly found Shakespeare manuscript until examination and verification take place.
It’s called a circular argument because one aspect (the premise) gives the illusion of creating or reinforcing another (the conclusion). The following example illustrates a circular argument:
Miracles happen and many ministers have witnessed them.
We know that ministers witnessed miracles because many ministers say so.
If the miracles were not witnessed, ministers would not say that they were.
Therefore, the miracles happened and were witnessed.
Most of us would never want circular logic to be used against us in a court of law. It simply isn’t logical, practical, or fair. Religious tradition often influences people to abandon normal, reasonable, and critical thinking. The religious consensus of people also causes others to evade analysis of testimony. If the Bible was inspired by a Supreme Being then it stands to reason that it would not contain even the smallest of errors. I examine the problem of biblical contradictions in a different essay
In order to accept that the Bible is the inspired word of God you must accept the process by which it was written and canonized. That process includes ordinary (fallible) men. As we shall see, those men voted on the books that would become the Bible. To accept the Bible you must also accept those church men as an inerrant council (men who were perfect in their choosing). After all, they placed their seal of God’s authority on the books now called the Bible.
To make the statement “this person heard from God but that person didn’t” is the process I am discussing here. If you decide who heard from God and who didn’t then you are using the same process as those who canonized the Bible. To accept the Bible’s inerrancy is to accept the group of men who canonized it as an inerrant group. Therefore, by making this choice you also are determining what is inerrant and what is not. You have become a part of the process that dictates to the world what God’s inerrant word really is. Logically, you are claiming that your judgment is inerrant! For example, if you say that the Book of Mormon is false but the Bible is true then you are claiming to know God’s voice. How do you know God’s voice? If your answer is “because the Bible (or my priest) says so” then you are again using circular logic. If you are known to make mistakes (and you are) then how can I trust your opinion as inerrant? I simply should not and cannot. This is very reasonable and practical.
Religious folks proclaim that a god communicated with prophets. If a god decided to send a message to people, then a universal method could have been used. According to the above-listed faiths, that is not the case. Hidden, select, and sectarian methods are usually ascribed to gods. Historically, this has been very convenient for religious, economic, and political purposes. Religious leaders have many times made the following statement: “It is true because God told me,” etc. It is very difficult to argue that point when you are a peasant with no education, money, or ability to defend yourself. During the Middle Ages, 80-90 percent of the people were illiterate and the Bible was written in Latin guaranteeing that only the religious elite could read it. So when military force and the religious threat of hell knocked on your door, you answered.