Corporate Election = Impersonal Election?
Leighton Flowers | Professor of Theology
Dallas Baptist University
**This article was previously posted by Leighton Flowers on his website www.soteriology101.com and is used by permission.
Leighton is: teaching pastor in his local church, an adjunct Professor of Theology at Dallas Baptist University, and the Youth Evangelism Director for Texas Baptists.
Calvinists often accuse those who hold to The Corporate View as promoting an interpretation of election that is “too impersonal.” For example, Dr. James White, a notable Calvinistic apologist states,
Remember Ephesians 1:4, ‘…just as He us in Him; the direct object of the choosing is us, and that’s personal. I don’t believe there’s any way in Ephesians 1 to make it impersonal, because predestination is unto what? Sonship. And what do you have then…who is the ‘we’ who has been chosen, and predestined? The ‘we’ then in verse 7, ‘we’ have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. Now there are people who just want to make this, ‘Well, all it’s just talking about is this group, and God has predestined that there would be this group, that will be in Christ.’ It’s up to you who is in it. He doesn’t choose; it’s an impersonal thing. It’s just a group. It could be a small group, big group; God’s not really in charge of that. He does the best He can, to get as many people in there as possible. But no one really knows. Technically, He could have had just a few. And, once you get in the group, that He predestinates that if you are in the group, then you’re going to be adopted. And then once you’re in the group, you can say that you have forgiveness of sins, and things like that, but you see it’s all meant to de-personalize the knowledge of God in eternity past, and de-personalize the choice that He made. He chose a group; He didn’t choose you.
Dr. White argues that The Corporate View of Election is impersonal because God is choosing what will become of a group of individuals versus choosing individuals to be in the group. But, what Dr. White fails to recognize about those of us who hold to The Corporate View is that we also teach individuals are chosen to be in the group. As Ephesians 1:13 clearly states,
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.
How does an individual come to be “in him?” Through hearing “the word of truth” and by believing the individual is “marked in him.” So, God chooses to include the individual into the group when they believe the truth. The individual is personally included by God’s gracious choice. God is not obligated to do this; it is purely a gracious action for God to include even repentant believers in Christ. After all, God is no more obligated to graciously elect someone conditionally than He is unconditionally.
Those who are “in Him” are predestined to “be made holy and blameless” or “conformed to the image of Christ” (Eph. 1:4; Rom. 8:29) and adopted as sons upon the redemption of their bodies at glorification (Eph. 1:5, Rom. 8:23). Even though the group of individuals has been predestined to sanctification and glorification that does not negate the very intimately personal choice of the Father to show grace to whosoever humbles themselves and trusts in Christ (1 Peter 5:6, Eph. 1:13).
So, both Calvinists and non-Calvinists agree that God chooses individuals to be “in Him.” Calvinists believe the individual is unconditionally chosen before he/she is “born or had done anything good or bad,” based on their erroneous interpretation of Romans 9:11. While the non-Calvinist believes God’s choice is intimately personal because God is choosing to save someone who is admitting how bad they really are right in the midst of their shame and guilt (Luke 15:11-32; Acts 3:19; Luke 15:10; James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6).
Calvinists teach that God chooses individuals without regard to their character, behaviors or anything personal about the individual. Non-Calvinists teach that God chooses to save individuals who are humbled and broken by their guilt and shame. Which is really more impersonal?
Is a man who chooses a woman to love out of a list of names without regard to anything related to her personality, behaviors, desires or her passions more intimate and personal than a man who chooses to love a woman he fully knows, faults and all? Ask any woman that question, if the answer is not obvious.
This argument reveals a confounding paradox of the Calvinistic claims. On the one hand, they teach God chooses to love an individual without regard to knowing their behaviors (see the Calvinistic interpretation of Rom. 9:11), yet they maintain that God eternally determines all things that come to pass (including those very behaviors). So, do Calvinists believe God is determining to save an individual without regard to His own determinations for how that individual will behave, all the while intimately foreknowing these “elect” individuals from before the foundation of the world? Is God supposedly ignoring his intimate knowledge of everything about an individual, which He Himself providentially determines to come to pass, while choosing (before the foundation of the world) to save that individual?
Does God choose a man without regard to what he knows will certainly come to pass (as Calvinists interpret Romans 9:11 to mean), or does He choose them with full intimate foreknowledge of their very personhood (as they interpret Romans 8:29 to say)? Or, more simply, does God just determine what all men will do, choose to save some men and damn the rest to eternal torment so as to demonstrate His power?
Are you dizzy yet?
Regardless of how the Calvinist attempts to explain this quandary, there clearly is no grounds on which to accuse those of us holding to The Corporate View of teaching a more impersonal view of election.
For more on the Corporate interpretation of Election in Ephesians 1 please CLICK HERE.