Sometimes we fail to give credit where credit is due. Prior to the explosion of the transcendental method of apologetics known today popularly as Presuppositionalism, Dr. Wayne Grudem had argued transcendentally in his famous Systematic Theology (orig. 1994). In Chapter Four of Grudem’s textbook, Dr. Grudem has already shown the basic “circular” nature of worldviews. Here we quote him at length under the discussion of the Doctrine of the Word of God where Grudem shows how ultimate commitments must of necessity finally exhibit a circular character:
“Objection: This Is a Circular Argument. Someone may object that to say Scripture proves itself to be God’s words is to use a circular argument: we believe that Scripture is God’s Word because it claims
to be that. And we believe its claims because Scripture is God’s Word. And we believe that it is God’s Word because it claims to be that, and so forth.
It should be admitted that this is a kind of circular argument. However, that does not make its use invalid, for all arguments for an absolute authority must ultimately appeal to that authority for proof: otherwise the authority would not bean absolute or highest authority. This problem is not unique to the Christian who is arguing for the authority of the Bible. Everyone either implicitly or explicitly uses some kind of circular argument when defending his or her ultimate authority for belief.
Although these circular arguments are not always made explicit and are sometimes hidden beneath lengthy discussions or are simply assumed without proof, arguments for an ultimate authority in their most basic form take on a similar circular appeal to that authority itself, as some of the following examples show:
“My reason is my ultimate authority because it seems reasonable to me to make it so.”
“Logical consistency is my ultimate authority because it is logical to make it so.”
“The findings of human sensory experiences are the ultimate authority for discovering what is real and what is not, because our human senses have never discovered anything else: thus, human sense experience tells me that my principle is true.”
“I know there can be no ultimate authority because I do not know of any such ultimate authority.”
In all of these arguments for an ultimate standard of truth, an absolute authority for what to believe, there is an element of circularity involved”
This just reaffirmed my love for Grudem’s textbook as my personal choice for a single volume book (despite the many qualifications I may have with the book) on Systematic Theology. With the trend of presuppositionalism in the Church today, we must guard against the notion that we are the original proponents or pioneers of the apologetic and give credit where credit is due even if respects someone with whom we may not be in full agreement with various theological points. Although “trends” can often carry a negative connotation, “Presup”, is one for which I am thoroughly grateful and would not discourage.
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This may simply serve as a humble reminder to us all that we need to acknowledge those who have come long before us.
Emilio Ramos is the preaching pastor of Heritage Grace Community Church. Pastor Emilio is committed to the expository and exegetical teaching of the Word of God. Emilio is also the author of Convert, From Adam to Christ and the founder of redgracemedia.com- a media ministry devoted to the glory of God’s redemptive grace through Jesus Christ. He and his wife Trisha live in Dallas, TX.