One of the most common criticisms that I have heard against corporate election is the argument of the empty set: if God elects a group what happens if there is nobody in that group. There…
I wrote on this analogy a couple of years ago, but it is worth repeating. For many, corporate election doesn’t make sense because groups, or certain kinds of groups, aren’t real entities. James White once referred to it as a “impersonal nebulous group” in his debate with Michael Brown. This doesn’t quite make sense considering that the group is formed through personal relationship with Jesus Christ, but I digress.
My point of the baseball analogy is that one can in fact elect groups, and have personal connection to both the group and to the members of the group in a way that makes sense. So I use something which is very familiar: the election of one’s sports team, in this case baseball.
As I discussed last week, the idea of Corporate Election is that God chooses a group of people, as opposed to God directly choosing persons individually. However, an individual person who is part of God’s chosen people can still be considered chosen. I’ll get to that in a bit. First, I want to talk about how God forms His people.
Let’s start at the beginning. God’s people first formed around the person of Abraham. God said to him, “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:2 ESV) It is important to note that God chose the group before there was a group. Indeed, the group isn’t formed based off of the merit of the individuals within the group, but based off of their relationship to Abraham.
In many places in the Bible we are described as God’s elect, or God’s chosen. What does this mean? How does God choose us? There are a couple of different answers to this, but the one which I have become convinced of is called “corporate election”.
The first principle of understanding election that I use is that it needs to be grounded in the OT. The NT doesn’t develop the idea of election very much. Romans deals with the topic with the most depth, and even then it is couched in OT references and theology. Besides, my basic hermeneutic is to understand the NT from a worldview contructed from the OT. So we must start where the Bible starts: the OT.
Reputable Arminian Steve Witzki has contributed substantially to the Wikipedia article on “Corporate Election.” Steve has helped to make the Wikipedia article an excellent source of information about this biblical doctrine.
Regarding origins…in other of whether something comes from God or from man, note what John Calvin said about the *origin* of Paul’s expression of emotion towards his fellow Jews at Romans 9:1-3:
John Calvin comments: “It is no objection that he knew that his salvation was founded on the election of God, which cannot by any means fail. The more passionate emotions plunge impetuously on, without heed or regard for anything but the object on which they are fixed. Paul, therefore, did not add the election of God to his prayer, but put it out of mind, and gave all his attention on the salvation of the Jews.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, p.192)
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For you sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Brian Abasciano’s response to a review of his book on Romans 9:10-18
by Roger E. Olson, PhD
I don’t normally do this at my blog, but friend Brian Abasciano of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a leading evangelical Arminian, has written an important book on Romans 9-11 from an Arminian perspective. An early review appears to misrepresent some ideas of the book and Brian has asked me to post his response here. If you know someone who has read the review in question, please see that they read Brian’s response.
Here is the response:
Having examined the primary passages that teach apostasy we now examine the passages that the advocates of unconditional eternal security believe clearly support their doctrine:
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.
How Prevenient Grace Shapes Our Missional Presence
Written by Andrew Dragos
In his sermon, “On Working Out Our Own Salvation” John Wesley spelled out a principle that underlies one of his most important theological themes. “Since God works therefore you can work,” and “God works therefore you must work.” Although in context it offers commentary on the work of sanctification found in Phil. 2:12-13, it is a helpful way of viewing the nature of prevenient grace as understood by Wesley (John 5:17). Prevenient grace is the work of a God who refused to simply allow the world he created to continue on its destructive path, and so blesses humanity both with the ability and task of doing good here on earth.
1 John 2:18-19
Little children, it is the last hour and as you have heard that the Anti-Christ is coming, even now many anti-christs have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be manifest, that none of them were of us.
I was confused about something Arminius said in his response to Perkins so I looked it up in the original Latin. Turns out it was a mistranslation.
Greg Boyd: It’s a possibility that the chicken crossed the road.
Rick Warren: The chicken was purpose driven.
Mark Driscoll: The chicken crossed because of the rooster’s leadership.
Rachel Held Evans: We’re talking about chickens here, not pigs.
Pelagius: Because the chicken was able to.
John Piper: God decreed the event to maximize his glory.
Irenaeus: The glory of God is the chicken fully alive.
C.S. Lewis: If a chicken finds itself with a desire that nothing on this side can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that it was created for the other side.
Billy Graham: The chicken was surrendering all.
Pluralist: The chicken took one of many equally valid roads.
Universalist: All chickens cross the road.
Recent responses to Against Calvinism
By Roger E. Olson, PhD
Here I post two e-mails that typify responses I’ve received from individuals about Against Calvinism.
I’m not going to comment on them, just reproduced them here. I’ll let you, my faithful readers, decide what you think and comment on them. I’ve removed anything that would identify their authors.
Arminians and Calvinists define some theological terms differently. This has a tendency to cause us to talk past each other when discussing theological issues. Here are some of the words that Arminians and Calvinists have different meanings for:
Arminians – A plan of God to establish parameters for the way something will work. For example, God can decree for humans to have and make decisions.
Calvinists – A plan of God to cause things to happen in a predetermined way.
Arminians – God chooses Christ. Those who follow Christ benefit from his election.1
Calvinists – God unconditionally chooses certain individuals to be saved. The chosen are elected.
Arminians – Faith means to trust God. Because of God’s drawing grace, it is possible for each person to trust God.
The following is from Dr. Jack Cottrell. While he is neither a member of SEA or a self-declared Arminian, his thoughts on Ephesians 1 are very insightful.
QUESTION: Calvinists say that Ephesians 1:1-11 clearly establishes the absolute and all-inclusive sovereignty of God, including the unconditional predestination of the elect to salvation. How do you interpret this text?
ANSWER: A right understanding of Ephesians 1:1-11 begins with the recognition that God’s purpose for Israel was from the beginning limited to preparing for the coming of the Messiah, namely, for the incarnation of God the Logos as the human person Jesus of Nazareth. Once the Messiah came, it was God’s eternal purpose to merge all believing Israelites and all believing Gentiles into one new body called the church. This is the main point of the book of Ephesians, and it is the key to understanding the often misused passage in Ephesians 1:1-11.