No begging at the table

Aristotle has this to say about question-begging with respect to the allegedly self-evident:

[W]henever a man tries to prove what is not self-evident by means of itself, then he begs the original question. (Prior Analytics, II.16)

For a theological example, we could point at the Protestant perspective on the canon. Some of them (I read this in a seminary textbook; sorry, I do not remember the name) are so blunt as to say that Scripture and the canon are “self-authenticating.” I am not making this up. They are not bothered, evidently, by the fact that the claim to be God’s Word does not entail the truthfulness of the claim. Others are less bold, recognizing that self-authentication is a dead-end road. RC Sproul instead makes the much less grandiose claim to “a fallible collection of infallible books.” I am thinking, though, that this is not a sword he would want to fall on.

A fallible collection of infallible books is a contradiction in terms. The actual substance of Sproul’s claim is that the Bible is infallible, but the canon might not be. But if the canon of Scripture is fallible, there is no reason whatsoever to believe that any particular book or books in the canon are infallible. Fallibility necessarily implies the possibility of being 100% wrong, and so Sproul’s claim demolishes any possibility of confidence in the notion that the Bible is God’s Word. In short, he is either hoping that no one thinks very carefully about his claim, or he is begging the question by assuming that the fallible collection managed somehow to include all and only the divinely-inspired Word of God. In any case, he most certainly has not resolved Protestantism’s problems with respect to the canon of Scripture.

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Posted in Apologetics, Aristotle, Canon of Scripture, Fides et Ratio

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