Sye Ten Bruggencate is one of my favorite apologists. It is not only because of his deep thinking and apologetic methodology, but because of his attitude and style when he does it. However, my desire for a little bit of righteous mockery and having a chip on our shoulders in Christian apologetics is for another blog post. One person Sye has constantly been dealing with is a man by the name of Alex Botten. He is an Atheist overseas and hosts an online show. One thing Sye always brings Alex to that he cannot deal with consistently is the demonstration that Atheism is viciously circular at its very core. Sye gets Alex there quickly in every conversation. In short, the argument is that if naturalism is true, we could never know that. If our brain is the final end-all-be-all of our decision making, how could we ever know that our brain is working properly? How do we know that our reasoning about reality is valid? The only way in that worldview to answer that question is to reason about it and give a reason for it. That’s circular. In his conversations, Alex Botten admits that’s what he does but claims he is not arguing in circles. Alex botten tells Sye that it is circular for someone to say that they know God exists because God told them He exists, but he argues that it is not circular to say that you can use your reasoning to determine that your reasoning is valid.
I hope at this point you are anxiously awaiting how Alex could possibly justify this self-refutation, and he does so by making the claim that his circularity is all he has. In other words, when Sye asks him why it isn’t circular to say “I used my reasoning to justify my reasoning”, Alex says its not circular because it’s all he can do. There is no other way to do it.
There are two main problems with that:
1) Even if we momentarily grant that (answering the fool according to his folly so that he won’t be wise in his own eyes), it still does not make the argument valid. Even if we grant that presupposition and claim it is all we have, that doesn’t mean its no longer circular. What Alex should be saying is that it is circular but there is nothing he can do about it. That is more consistent. But to say it’s all he has, therefore it’s no longer circular is silly and irrational. That is akin to having a broken gun, but thinking that because it’s your only gun, it has to work in self defense because you have no other options. Even if the gun is your only option, it’s still broken. And a viciously circular argument is invalid and circular, even if you think it’s your only option. Alex’s answer is irrelevant. It’s a non-answer.
2) However, we as Christians are holding another gun. Only, ours works. The main problem with his presupposition is that it isn’t true. We reject that the circularity he is accidentally admitting to is his only option to come to truth claims about reality (not answering the fool according to his folly so that we will not be like him). As Romans 1 says clearly, we all live our lives according to revelation from God. Revelational epistemology is the only escape from the circle. We can justify our reasoning by appealing to the God who created and uses our reasoning.
Alex Botten’s Atheism will make your head spin. We have a consistent, rational justification for our self-awareness in our worldview. Therefore, any further conversations on any topic at all must be held on the basis that the Christian worldview is true.