Corporate election is the idea that election is primarily about a group and secondarily about individuals. It’s most clearly seen in the OT concept of Israel and the NT concept of the church. Philip Limborch addressed the objection that corporate election rules out individual election:
In the first place it is objected that the predestination we have defined, is not that of persons, but of faith; since faith is thereby predestined as a condition of salvation. Answer. He who elected faith as a condition to be performed by men if they would attain eternal life, has truly elected men under that condition, and in His decree has an immediate regard to people. Therefore these two things, viz., the person and his qualification, are never to be separated, but are always to be joined together. (Philip Limborch, A Complete System or Body of Divinity, both Practical and Speculative. P 344-345)
Scripture paints a manifold view of election:
- God chooses Christ as the foundation of salvation (1 Peter 1:20)
- God chooses faith as the instrument of salvation (Romans 4:16)
- God chooses to save believers (1 Corinthians 1:21, John 3:16)
- God chooses the defined group (i.e. the list of individuals) from eternity through foreknowledge (1 Peter 1:2, Romans 8:29, 1 Thessalonians 2:13) and in time as individuals enter the covenant community (Romans 10:5-13, 11:17-24)
The objection Limborch answers above is essentially that #3 is indistinct from #2 and #4. The idea is that either the list of people is defined (via foreknowledge) and so #3 is really #4,or God is only choosing a condition (i.e. faith, not works) and not a group.
Admittedly, the difference between choosing to save through faith and choosing to save believers is slight (i.e. #3 vs #4). The former is a choice of faith itself and latter is whoever has faith. The difference between #3 and #4 is sharper. “Whosoever believes” in John 3:16 isn’t a statement about God’s foreknowledge of the list of people through history who will believe, but rather a statement that regardless of who the person is, if they believe they fall into this category.
One of the best recent accounts of the relation between corporate election and the individual is Brian Abasciano’s Corporate Election in Romans 9: A Reply to Thomas Schreiner. (link)