For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
I love it when people quote the Bible. I really do. I see it all the time – blogs, message boards YouTube, football games. People state it so matter-of-factly, as if it was factually true and irrefutable. John 3:16 says it, so it must be true. Do Christians understand that this is a presuppositional argument? Do they even know what this is?
In a nutshell, a presuppositional argument is this: One makes a claim/statement with an unstated premise, which has not yet been proven true. In other words, an assumption is being made – one that is not universally understood to be true.
In stating the John 3:16 verse above, the presupposition is that the Bible is correct. This is not proven on any level. Not only is there no scientific evidence that the Bible (1) is historically accurate, (2) agrees with modern scientific knowledge, or (3) proves that any God exists, let alone the Christian one, assuming that it is true would be an insult to every other religion on Earth, because if the Bible is true, all others must be false. Somehow, I suspect the Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, and Scientologists would take offense to this. However, each of their claims to the truth is as valid as the Bible: NONE.
The fact is that ANY argument made by a Christian, or any theist in general to prove the validity of their texts, or the existence of their god, requires presuppositions. At this point, I would expect a theist to claim that an atheist argument against the existence of a god (or disbelief based on a lack of evidence) is presuppositional as well. And my response to that would be…you’re absolutely right!
Absolutely every godly debate requires assumptions. The proper questions should be: “Are my assumptions valid and reasonable?” That’s where the debate begins. Most theist arguments require some sort of logical fallacy, such as begging the question (the conclusion is inherently part of the premise), special pleading (granting yourself an exemption to a rule without justifying the exemption), straw man (misrepresenting your opponent’s argument), or argument from ignorance/”God of the Gaps” (assuming that an unknown must be God), in their assumptions. But mostly, theists must, in an attempt to prove the existence of God, already assume God exists. Atheists make no such assumption.
However, atheists do presuppose certain things – reasonable things. For example, atheists assume that evidence is required to substantiate a claim. Atheists generally believe that the scientific method is the best way to find truth. If a theist can prove that 2,000-year-old texts are a better pathway to truth than physical evidence, testing, and peer review, then let’s talk. Otherwise, I think it’s a pretty safe bet that an atheist’s assumptions are more valid than theists.
Another issue relating to the “Read the Bible – It’s True” argument is the question of whether a book alone can be sufficient evidence to conclude that is something true. My response to that would be “absolutely not, in any case.” No book is evidence of anything but the existence of a book. The Bible does not make Christianity true, just as the Qur’an does not for Islam, and The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin does not for Evolution. Whether a book is true is dependent upon whether the underlying facts support the claims made in the book. For the Bible, there is no evidence that the Bible is true. There are no historical accounts outside the Bible,and no archaeological, geological, or cosmological evidence supporting many of the claims of the Bible. On the other hand, Darwin’s book is supported by plenty of observable evidence, and the evidence has been mounting for well over a century.