Arun Shourie, 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 & Circular Reasoning? (Part 2)

In a previous post, I mentioned that I came across something in Arun Shourie’s book, Harvesting Our Souls: Missionaries, Their Design, Their Claims that just did not make sense. He charged Paul with circular reasoning in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19.

In my previous post, I analyzed the passage to the best of my ability and could not find any circular reasoning in it. So, in this post, I am going to take a look at Arun Shourie’s “reasoning” on the matter. Perhaps he is able to see something that I am not able to.

On page 153 of Harvesting Our Souls, Shourie quotes 1 Cor. 15:12, saying that Paul has asked a question. Then Shourie goes on to quote v.12-19, saying that this is Paul’s answer to the question. Regarding this, Shourie then says:

“A textbook example of circular ‘proof’! Jesus must have risen. For if he did not rise, we, the Apostles, have been spreading falsehood; and you – that is, those who believe what we have taught you to believe – continue in sin; those who have died believing that he rose are imperiled; and we are deprived of any ground of hope beyond this life. As it cannot be that we are false, as it must not be that your faith has been misplaced, as those who have already died must not be left to perish, as the reason for hoping beyond this life must somehow be sustained, Jesus did rise! QED”


Ok. So let us take a look at some of this. Lets dissect the above and clean it up a little (e.g. get rid of any extraneous comments) so that we can see the argument clearly.

Jesus must have risen.
For if he did not rise,
we, the Apostles, have been spreading falsehood;
and you – that is, those who believe what we have taught you to believe – continue in sin;
those who have died believing that he rose are imperiled;
and we are deprived of any ground of hope beyond this life.

As it cannot be that we are false,
as it must not be that your faith has been misplaced,
as those who have already died must not be left to perish,
as the reason for hoping beyond this life must somehow be sustained,

Jesus did rise! QED”


In Shourie’s argument there is a conditional (i.e. if-then statement) whose consequent (the then part) is not stated explicitly. For purposes of clarity, I will make it explicit. I will also add some labels (c1, c2, etc.) for the listed consequences. Ok. Here it is…

 


[X] Jesus must have risen.
[1] For IF he did not rise,
[THEN] (c1) we, the Apostles, have been spreading falsehood AND (c2) you – that is, those who believe what we have taught you to believe – continue in sin [AND] (c3) those who have died believing that he rose are imperiled AND (c4) we are deprived of any ground of hope beyond this life.
[2]
As it cannot be that we are false,
as it must not be that your faith has been misplaced,
as those who have already died must not be left to perish,
as the reason for hoping beyond this life must somehow be sustained,
[3] Jesus did rise! QED”

Ok. Two comments:
a) C is the conclusion. It is not a premise! Note that Shourie’s next statement begins with a “For”
b) Shourie means for [2] to contain a set of contraries matching up with the consequences in [1]. He has not written this out very well but for his argument to work that has to be the case. Otherwise things get even worse for him.


I know that this is a bit laborious but lets do another cleaner rewrite and use logical notation for the AND.

[X] Jesus must have risen.
[1] For IF Jesus did not rise, THEN ((c1) ∧ (c2) ∧ (c3) ∧ (c4)).
[2] As it cannot be that ((c1) ∧ (c2) ∧ (c3) ∧ (c4))
[3] It must be that, [X]! QED


A final go again and let us use ‘C’ to stand for c1, c2, etc.

[X] Jesus must have risen.
[1] ~X → C
[2] ~C
[3] [X]. QED!

Now… If anything, what we have up above is not a “A textbook example of circular ‘proof’!”. No. What we have is rather, a textbook example of a reductio ad absurdum! This is a form of argument wherein you assume the negation of a conclusion and then demonstrate that what follows is absurdity.

Jesus must have risen, for if He had not risen, then … these consequences follow. But we know that that cannot be the case. Reductio…

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