Since this is the first installment of articles in this particular category, let me address, more in-depth in this one location, something that the majority of the articles in this category will be dealing with… again and again: circular reasoning.
Circular reasoning is one of the most utilized methods used by exclusionists in arguing against the viewpoint promoted in The Town and the Mayor.
Essentially, circular reasoning is the practice of using any piece of “evidence” that can be found that apparently supports an already-decided-upon conclusion. Rather than being open to where all available evidence might lead, exclusionists, whether knowingly or unknowingly, having made up their minds about God’s position on the ultimate disposition on the whole of humanity. They then cherry pick Bible verses and passages that appear to support that point of view. [Ironically, they say that is what inclusionists do, but I digress.]
People who believe that God intends upon condemning 90+% of all of humanity into a fiery torment for all of eternity (and that, by the conscious choice of those being sent there) frequently use the false logic of circular reasoning to support that unfortunate viewpoint. Ed Elliott, President at Word of Life World Outreach, provided a good example of this in 2013.
At the website Escape to Reality – The Life You Were Made For [a site that highlights the teachings / writings of popular exclusionist Paul Ellis], we find Mr. Elliott’s short article (originally published as a comment on Facebook in 2013 and referred to as a “study note” at the Escape to Reality site). Paul Ellis contends that “inclusionism is not reflected in Old Testament types and shadows” and uses Ed Elliott’s Facebook comment as part of his intellectual backup for that idea.
Let’s look at the circular reasoning methodology at work.
Elliott argues that “[i]f Inclusion / Universalism is the gospel, then “all” of humanity would have gotten into the Ark. Instead, the only people who are there are just those who believed what Noah preached.”
So, there you have it…
Step One: “inclusionism” (the viewpoint promoted in The Town and the Mayor) is wrong;
Step Two: it has to be wrong because only eight people were spared from the watery worldwide destruction visited upon the Earth; and the knockout blow…
Step Three: from this air-tight example, we can gather that the big idea exclusionism teaches must be true; that only those who believe they they can be saved from God’s coming wrath will be spared from destruction.
This technique reminds me of the not-so-subtle suggestion made years ago by the crappy food conglomerate, Kraft, in their Jello Pudding commercials: “It’s made with real milk… so, you know it’s wholesome.”
The creative folks at Kraft knew they couldn’t come right out and make a false claim (that their product, which is filled with various sugars, artificial flavors, colors and preservatives, was a healthy product), so they used the false premise of circular reasoning to suggest it was so: You know real milk is wholesome (the word “wholesome” conveys the suggestion of healthy without saying “healthy”)… and so obviously anything with milk as an ingredient is imbued with milk’s undeniable wholesomeness.
As in the example above, circular reasoning also often seems to say, ‘This part of the premise is true. Therefore, the whole thing must be true.’
This argument is as intellectually vacant as the contention that inclusionism must be wrong because only eight people got on the ark and, thus, survived the great flood. A complete disconnect. One is not in any way related to the other.
Let us first put aside the fact that Genesis never records Noah preaching anything to anyone. Let us also put aside the even more preposterous claim made by Mr. Elliott later in his short piece: “The invitation to get into Noah’s Ark was extended to “all” but not everyone believed.” (No such invitation was made, and neither was any provision made to anyone outside of Noah’s family for avoiding the coming flood waters).
So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.”
The Bible does not represent that Noah was a type of (symbolic representation of) Christ or that the ark was a type of salvation. While Peter briefly mentions the flood in 1 Peter 3, comparing it to baptism, the baptism Peter is describing was the Earth’s baptism; there was death and destruction created by and covered by a worldwide flood, and then the world emerged out of it. It was somewhat reminiscent of a resurrection; the dead (Earth destroyed by water) brought back to life. But it doesn’t speak to questions about the eternal salvation of some, all, or none of mankind… unless, by circular reasoning, you have already determined that to be the case.
Beliefs as important as how God views you and me and eternity should not be formed by a process that involves an already-arrived-at premise. Circular reasoning is lazy. It indicates a lack of openness and a complete lack of true intellectual curiosity. And, in the case of this discussion, it leads to beliefs that have a more solid basis in Middle Age Catholic dogma than in true Biblical scholarship.