I’m generally a fan of apologist Sye Ten Bruggencate. Recently I ran across the following video of a conversation between Sye and one of the more intelligent atheists I have seen, Bernie Dehler:
At 14:25, Bernie Dehler asks, “Why is your ultimate authority the Bible instead of the Book of Mormon, for example?”
I think Sye makes a couple good points throughout the video, including in response to this point:
- Because any other significant worldview can be reduced to absurdity.
- Because many other significant worldviews, such as Islam, Mormonism, and even science, can be said to affirm the Bible as a presupposition.
Another response which I could picture Sye making, although he doesn’t make it, is:
- Other worldviews don’t require or entail leaning solely on their own scripture or authority.
This would do away with Open Theism and worldviews like Buddhism. However, there is a key, Bible-based point, which I think Sye omits:
That is, he could have responded along these lines: “Bernie, you may be on to something. It’s possible that I could have been born in Salt Lake City, and this may have resulted in a presuppositional lock-in to a Mormon worldview.”
Tangentially, on the other hand, Sye may have come out like Dinesh D’Souza or Ian Hutchinson:
Back to the point, I don’t think it harms Christian credibility to acknowledge the truth of Election. Nonbelievers may consider Election to be unfair, but it’s hard for me to see why.
The fact that Election is consistent with both empirical fact and theology means it makes Christianity more credible to me, not less.
Election seems consistent with reality because statistically speaking where you are born has a strong influence on the religion you will eventually assent to, and the geographic location of your birth is ostensibly determined by God. Note also that this geographic influence is not purely deterministic.
Election seems consistent with other Christian theology, and particularly Protestant theology, but stands in contrast to the theology of almost every other religion and irreligion, because it is consistent with a doctrine of justification by faith alone instead of a doctrine of justification by good works.
It may strike some as unfair that salvation isn’t awarded on the basis of good works, but in reality this is a great grace. If salvation were on the basis of good works no one except Jesus himself would have it.
A second critique might be that if Election holds then free will must fail. This is not true.
As I said, the geographic influence is not purely deterministic. By placing a person in an environment with foreknowledge of the action they will take, God doesn’t violate the fact of the free choice of the taken action.
Moreover, God can preserve free will while remaining in deterministic control of various events through or outside of time.
Suppose there is a game show where a contestant may choose door A or door B, but both doors lead to a common prize called event C. The game maker has enabled free will on the part of the contestant, even while determining the eventual outcome.
Likewise, God can accomplish the ends of election, determinism, and free will by fine-tuning the universe and our positions within it, without directly disturbing either the facts of individual free will nor the signals those free acts create which may be used to justifiably measure the quality of individuals at the time of judgement.