In what way is the Bible self-authenticating? How is self-authentication different from circular reasoning?Circular reasoning is an argument wherein a person begins with the point he is attempting to prove. For example, when a person says the Bible is true because it says it is from God, that is using circular reasoning. This is a flawed argument because it uses its conclusion to prove its conclusion.
On the other hand, something that is self-authenticating, authenticates itself. To say it is self-authenticating is to say the thing is true without adding additional proof. Though it sounds odd, we see self-authentication used in legal courts with notarized documents. The court doesn't need to re-prove what the notary has stamped as true. The document has been authenticated in a different context and therefore can be accepted into evidence without additional proof of its veracity—it is self-authenticating.
Some argue that the Bible is self-authenticating in this same sense because it has been proven through external means such as history or archaeology. This is true to some extent, but it is not the same as a notarized document.
Inductive reasoning is a good option for demonstrating the accuracy of Scripture—this involves gathering evidence to demonstrate the likelihood that a conclusion is true. There are several avenues of external evidence that speak to the trustworthiness of the Bible—external history that matches events in the biblical narrative, archaeology, early manuscripts found centuries later that agree with more modern and ancient ones, and other proofs. These findings provide much support that the Bible is accurate and trustworthy, but they cannot conclusively prove the Bible is inerrant.
Biblical inerrancy is based on a theological argument. The Bible claims to be God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16–17). If God is pure and true (Romans 3:4) then the product of His work, the Word of God, must be also (Psalm 19). If you already assent to the accuracy of the Bible, the deduction that the Bible is true because it claims to be true makes sense. Of course, this takes faith and belief. If a person does not believe the words of the Bible, then the words of the Bible won't be enough evidence for belief. Christians and those who desire to be Christians are required to exhibit a certain amount of faith. Hebrews 11:6 says, "And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him."
When talking about issues of faith with a skeptic, it is important to be aware of the issues of logic and evidence. Rather than make assumptions rejected by non-believers, such as the Bible being true so therefore what it says being accurate, it is best to approach a skeptic with evidence he would deem to be credible. This provides common ground for conversation and can lead to further consideration of the Bible's reliability.
How is the Bible inspired? What does it mean for the Bible to be inspired?
What theories are there of biblical inspiration?
What does it mean for the Bible to be infallible? What is biblical infallibility?
What is the canon of the Bible and how did we get it?
Are only the original manuscripts of the Bible inerrant?
Truth about the Bible