XFiles Friday: The theistic 12-step program

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, p. 28)

Having given us a taste of things to ensue, Geisler and Turek introduce the 12-point outline they use in their live seminars. They claim it gives them a structured, evidence-based framework leading from the existence of truth to the conclusion that Christianity is true (and takes less faith than atheism), but a quick look at the 12 points reveals a rather glaring circular argument. I’ll give the complete list below the fold; see if you can spot the circular reasoning.

1. Truth about reality is knowable.
2. The opposite of true is false.
3. It is true that God exists. This is evidenced by the:

a. Beginning of the universe (Cosmological Argument)
b. Design of the universe (Teleological Argument/Anthropic Principle)
c. Design of life (Teleological Argument)
d. Moral Law (Moral Argument)

4. If God exists, then miracles are possible.
5. Miracles can be used to confirm a message from God (i.e., as acts of God to confirm a word from God).
6. The New Testament is historically reliable. This is evidenced by:

a. Early testimony
b. Eyewitness testimony
c. Uninvented (authentic) testimony
d. Eyewitnesses who were not deceived

7. The New Testament says Jesus claimed to be God.
8. Jesus’ claim to be God was miraculously confirmed by:

a. His fulfillment of many prophecies about himself;
b. His sinless life and miraculous deeds;
c. His prediction and accomplishment of his resurrection.

9. Therefore Jesus is God.
10. Whatever Jesus (who is God) teaches is true.
11. Jesus taught that the Bible is the word of God.
12. Therefore it is true that the Bible is the word of God (and anything opposed to it is false).

Did you spot it? How do we know that the Bible is the word of God (step 12)? Jesus says so (step 11). And how do we know that what Jesus says is true? Jesus is God (step 9 and 10). And how do we know that Jesus is God? The Bible says so (step 7). And how do we know that the Bible is reliable? The Bible is the word of God (step 12, return to start for remainder of argument).

Sorry, did I skip step 6 (The New Testament is historically reliable)? We’ll get to that later, I’m sure. But isn’t it interesting to note Geisler and Turek’s confidence in the historical evidence for the Bible’s accuracy? They say they have evidence that the New Testament is historically reliable, yet for some reason they felt that their case wasn’t strong enough to stand on its own. No, it needed to be supplemented by a circular argument. We’ll reserve judgment until we actually see their case, but when your argument is so bad that it’s improved by the addition of a logical fallacy–well, it doesn’t bode well, eh? Especially considering that the New Testament hadn’t even been written at the time Jesus made his remarks about the Bible.

They did at least include step 2, “The opposite of true is false”. That’s not quite a clear statement of the principle that truth is consistent with itself, but it’s close. Did they really mean it, though, or was it just a set up to step 12, “the Bible is the word of God and anything opposed to it is false”? Did they really mean that everything inconsistent with the truth is false, or were they merely setting up for a claim that the Bible (and by extension, anyone who bases his opinion on the Bible) has absolute authority regarding what’s true and what isn’t?

We’ll see. I don’t want to get too far ahead of the book, and Geisler and Turek promise to develop each of these 12 points in the remaining chapters. But let’s just look at the evidence this list provides for us on its own. Twelve steps. Twelve (pseudo-)logical steps, just to get from the idea that truth is knowable to the idea that Christianity is true. If this argument convinces you, will you have faith in God? No, you’ll have faith in what Geisler and Turek say about God. If you buy Geisler and Turek’s argument, you’re putting your faith in them, not in Him. You’re trusting that they’ve got the right twelve arguments, and that they’ve adequately supported each point, and that they haven’t left out or glossed over any other relevant points (such as the fact that God universally and consistently fails to show up in the real world).

Can you imagine an astronomer needing to construct a corresponding 12-point philosophical argument in order to convince people that the universe exists? Or a meteorologist needing to begin with “Truth is knowable” and “The opposite of true is false” in order to establish the fact that there’s really such a thing as the weather? Or look at step 4, above: “if God exists, then miracles are possible.” If God really did exist, and really were as involved in the daily affairs of men and tangibly and verifiably as the Gospel describes, would we even have (or need) the concept of “a miracle”? One of the defining characteristics of a miracle is that it describes something unheard of, that virtually never happens. If God loved us, and was willing and able even to die (and rise again) just so that He could be together with us forever, as He was with Adam and Eve, we wouldn’t think in terms of miracles, we’d be accustomed to God doing things around us. It would be normal, not “miraculous.”

I could go on, but the point is this: the reason Geisler and Turek have to present us with a (fallible, human) argument for God’s existence is because God does not show up in the real world. They can’t document God’s existence by pointing us to any objective, verifiable manifestation of God in reality, so they appeal to us to believe based on human argument and philosophy. That in itself is consistent with the atheistic assessment that God is the product of men’s imagination or superstition, and is inconsistent with the Gospel claim that God is willing and able to show up in real life to participate in a genuine, personal, interactive relationship with each of us. And since the opposite of true is false, that apparently means that Christianity is false. At least in terms of Geisler and Turek’s 12 points.

2 Responses to “XFiles Friday: The theistic 12-step program”

  1. gaysolomon Says:

    Frankly, I could not get past Step 3.

    Even if I accepted Step 3 to be true, I have no way of linking Step 3 to 4. You simply cannot say anything meaningful about the nature of god (i.e. that this god is capable of miracles) from a teleological or ontological proof of god.

    An old debating trick is get one to accept that there must be some kind of god, and then once accepted, you are expected to unpack all of the qualities normally attributed to the traditional concept of the word “god”.

    You can’t logically get from there to here.

  2. The Professor Says:

    Yeah, I noticed that there wasn’t a whole lot of logical sequence to these 12 steps. It’s more like a recitation of 12 points that Christians want reassurance on than a genuine logical progression. I expect this will come up again as we proceed through the book.

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