The Shortcomings of Corporate Election – Thoughts on Brian Abasciano’s Article

In a response from a corporate election proponent (Leighton Flowers) I was told that I had not really dealt with this “scholarly” argument from Dr. Brian Abasciano from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (Boston) that he had cited.  Initially I was going to simply read it, and familiarize myself, but the more I read, the more I thought: how about I just write down my thoughts on an article that purports to clear up misconceptions.  I then thought I would clean it up and present it in a more polished fashion, but that looked like a daunting prospect with such a busy schedule.  So I have left it as is for now, and I hope to extend on some comments in the future.  For now, this is my reference for all corporate election proponents.

I begin a bit mid-context in some parts, and in others my thoughts are somewhat disjointed; these were notes, so hopefully that will be excused.  Quotes from Dr. Abasciano’s article will be in white, and the numbers refer to the page.  Full article can be found here: http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/ashland_theological_journal/41-1_059.pdf

Brian Abasciano, “Clearing Up Misconceptions About Corporate Election,” Ashland Theological Journal (2009), pp. 59-90.

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60: Once these misconceptions are cleared away, it should be seen that corporate election is indeed the most biblical view of election, vindicating the Arminian approach to the doctrine, even if untraditionally.

This view favors an Arminian interpretation of Scripture; which I only want to point out because many who hold to it claim they are not Arminian, or that Arminianism is not the only other option besides Calvinism.  This is a production of a semi-pelagian, synergistic, and Roman Catholic theology.  It is not the soteriology of the Reformed or the Protestant Reformation.

60: Most simply, corporate election refers to the choice of a group, which entails the choice of its individual members by virtue of their membership in the group.

Right.  There’s no way around it—in its simplest form it is those who meet the boundary qualifications that are “elected” into the “elect” corporate group.  As he says: “Thus, individuals are not elected as individuals directly, but secondarily as members of the elect group.”  And again: “Individuals are elect as a consequence of their membership in the group.”  This should be interesting to see how he proves this.  This is—no matter how one words it—conditional election at its finest.

On speaking of the Calvinist position:

60-61: In other words, the group is chosen as a consequence of the fact that each individual in the group was individually chosen.

Not entirely accurate.  This tries to frame the question in reductionist terms to deal with the issue more easily.  Christ was chosen as the head of a determined group, therefore the best explanation would be: “In other words, the group of individuals (the church) was chosen in Christ (the head) from before the foundations of world.”  That is the meaning of Ephesians 1:4 in plain language.

61: Hence, the real question regarding the election of God’s covenant people is, which election is primary, that of the group or that of the individual?

This is a false dichotomy; and Dr. Abasciano should know it.  The group and the individuals are inseparable, therefore the chosen group, comprised of chosen individuals, is elected in Christ.  Let me paint this in less theological terms:

A mason chooses his cornerstone, and he selects the exact stones he will use for the rest of the structure based off of the cornerstone.  The mason knows what the structure will look like, he knows what bricks he wants based on his chosen cornerstone.  He lays out all of his stones, but they are still in disarray, until he places them together with the cornerstone.

Scripture is the measure of an analogy, however, so one should not take any particular piece of this too far; the point is that the structure (church; group) is inseparable from the individual bricks (Christians) that the mason must choose according to his predetermined plan.  There is no group without the individual—the structure is the bricks and the bricks are the structure.  Without the bricks there is no structure—just a cornerstone and an empty lot; and without the chosen cornerstone the bricks are in disarray, and remain individualized.  Thus the group of individuals is chosen in the corporate head.

As Dr. Abasciano would have it, we believe (and some may) that election is framed in the following manner: “chosen individuals that will then comprise a group.”  This is not being fair to the position.

61: [Corporate Election] refers to the election of a group as a consequence of the choice of an individual who represents the group, the corporate head and representative. That is, the group is elected as a consequence of its identification with this corporate representative.

Because of Dr. Abasciano’s false dichotomy he has now enabled himself to make these arguments as though Calvinist do not believe this simple truth: that Christ is the corporate head and representative of the church (ekklesia: “called out ones;” i.e. a group of individuals).

So he goes on:

61: The same may be said of individuals. They are chosen as a consequence of their identification with the people, and more fundamentally, with the individual corporate head.

Dr. Abasciano balks at the idea that his position is illogical; but really, think about what’s being said here:  The individual is chosen as a consequence of their choosing.  In what sense is the individual chosen?  Why not just drop the “chosen” when you speak of individuals, it comes off as an attempt to deflect the charge of ignoring specific scriptures (i.e. Romans 8:30)—but it won’t deflect the charge of logical inconsistency.

It is necessary to quote him in full here, because this is the locus of his argument in this section:

61: God chose the people of Israel in Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel (Deut 4:37; 7:6-8).9 That is, by choosing Jacob/Israel, the corporate/covenant representative, God also chose his descendants as his covenant people. It is a matter of Old Testament covenant theology. The covenant representative on the one hand and the people/nation of Israel on the other hand are the focus of the divine covenantal election, and individuals are elect only as members of the elect people. Moreover, in principle, foreign individuals who were not originally members of the elect people could join the chosen people and become part of the elect, demonstrating again that the locus of election was the covenant community and that individuals found their election through membership in the elect people.

I’d like to notice firstly how he—by some sleight of hand—moves past the choice of the covenantal head, Abraham.  It is a well-known story that Abram grew up in the house of an idolater, in a land of idolatry, Ur.  No mention is made of his searching for God or walking in righteousness—God simply called him one day to a great calling (Genesis 11-12).  Dr. Abasciano can make all the arguments he would like for the corporate/covenantal/group nature of OT Israel, but he will need to reckon with God’s electing choice of the individual to represent the covenant people (and “it only happened once!” is not a very good answer).

Secondly, Dr. Abasciano conflates the nature of national Israel and spiritual Israel, and claims that words “election” or “chosen” need to be employed in the same way every time it is used.  We have the privilege of the full revelation of God in the Scriptures, which means we can look to Paul in Romans 9 when he responds to claims that God has failed in His promises to national Israel saying, “not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel” (v.6).  This is why those who were not descended from Israel could, in fact, join the physical people of God—and could also be a true, spiritual Israelite by virtue of a circumcised heart.  For Paul says again, “know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham” (Gal 3:7).

Because of his conflation, his conclusion is based on a false premise:

61: This notion of election is rooted in the Old Testament concept of corporate solidarity or representation, which views the individual as representing the community and identified with it and vice versa.

Dr. Abasciano has simply equivocated on the term election, and tried to refute one use of it in regard to the new covenant spiritual people by an entirely different use of it on the OT national Israel—that had the purpose of bringing forth the Messiah.

Dr. Abasciano then goes on to show that God limited His election of people further and further as time went on.  Not all of Abraham’s children, but those who came through Isaac, not all of Isaac’s but those who came from Jacob, so on and so forth until alas:

62: Finally, the Apostle Paul would argue, God limited his election even further to Christ as the head of the New Covenant (Gal. 3-4; see especially 3:16; cf. Rom. 3-4; 8), which is the fulfillment of the Old. Paradoxically, this also widened the election of God’s people because all who are in Christ by faith are chosen by virtue of their identification with Christ the corporate covenantal head, opening covenant membership to Gentiles as Gentiles.

The shift is subtle and undetectable if one does not recognize the differences in God’s national purposes for Israel and spiritual purposes for the Church.  All the while, Dr. Abasciano has still resisted comment on the personal, individual choice of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Jesus is not in discussion, because the choice of Him as corporate head is of a different nature than a fallen human) by His sovereign purposes.  A person does not “come into” the New Testament corporate people by a pledge, or outward circumcision, as they did the corporate body of national Israel; they come in by a renewed heart (regeneration) and God-given faith and repentance—this makes the incorporation into the covenant people of a different nature.  The corporate election arguments falls apart as simply as recognizing the distinctions in the make-up of the covenant people.

The OT covenant people (i.e. national Israel) had boundary conditions for admittance, which could be met by human exertion.  The NT covenant people (i.e. spiritual Israel) has boundary conditions for admittance, which can only be met by God’s gracious provision—“So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Rom 9:16).  “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).

62: Just as God’s Old Covenant people were chosen in Jacob/Israel, the Church was chosen in Christ (as Eph. 1:4 puts it). And as Ephesians 2 makes clear, Gentiles who believe in Christ are in him made to be part of the commonwealth of Israel, fellow citizens with the saints, members of God’s household, and possessors of the covenants of promise (2:11-22; note especially vv. 12, 19).

I think Dr. Abasciano shows the error in thought by his own words at this point, once the distinction is properly recognized.  And he further makes the position undesirable by offering this:

62: While this is not quite the traditional Arminian position, it fully supports Arminian theology because it is a conditional election. Most directly, such election is conditioned on being in Christ.

He moves on to the misunderstandings, and I would like to take these in turn.  But he first gives some introductory remarks:

63: [Corporate Election] is strongly supported by the fact that it was the standard biblical and Jewish conception of election with no evidence in the New Testament that its orientation had changed.

I think I’ve already sufficiently shown how it hasn’t changed, he has merely equivocated on the term
“election” and conflated its application.  Moreover, he has not demonstrated scripturally that man is capable of meeting the boundary conditions for admission into the “group” (i.e. faith and repentance) without the proactive work of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8).  Obviously the topic of man’s condition cannot be fully dealt with in his article (or this one), but his position on depravity should be understood to underlie his entire argument.

63: Moreover, the explicit language of election unto salvation is always corporate in the New Testament, continuing the approach of the Old.

I would like to see Dr. Abasciano show us how he comes to this, maybe he will later on in the article.  It would be interesting to see how he maintains this conclusion in light of Romans 8:30 or 2 Peter 1:10 (or numerous others).[1]

He says he has explained some of this in other articles, but since this was already a footnote to an article, I don’t really want to get stuck in the labyrinth of endless footnotes.  Perhaps at a later date I’ll look more into that article.

Now to the misconceptions:

63: Misconception #1: Corporate Election Excludes Individuals.

63: We have already invalidated this approach implicitly by the description of corporate election provided in the previous section.

This statement is actually false.  He hasn’t invalidated the “misconception” implicitly.  He needs to explicitly show how election (that is, God’s election) is, in any meaningful way, individual.

63: It is simply not true that the view excludes individuals; it includes individuals, but only insofar as they are part of the group.

Exactly.  “Insofar as they are part of the group” they are “elected.”  But they are not individually chosen by God—that’s the point.  That Dr. Abasciano keeps saying Dr. Thomas Schreiner has misunderstood his argument is incorrect.  Dr. Schreiner has rightly observed, “According to Abasciano, corporate election refers to God choosing a group, but the individual dimension refers to our choosing to be in the group God has chosen.” And again, “If the individual dimension of corporate election simply means that human beings believe in order to be saved, then there is no “election” in corporate election.”[2]  This has been my point; in what meaningful way are the individuals “elected” or “chosen,” other than they have chosen to join the elected group—and by virtue of their choice they become “elect” or “chosen.”  It is, simply put, playing with the language so that he may more easily deal with the clear teachings of Scripture—that individuals are elect.

63: It is true that corporate election does not refer to the election of each individual separately from Christ or the group, but this does not in any way nullify the election of each individual member of the group as a result of the group’s election.

Who says this?  Not Calvinists.  I’m comfortable using the exact language of the apostle: “even as He [God] chose us in Him [Christ] before the foundation of the world…” (Eph 1:4).

He may state that it does not nullify the election of the individual, but it does not make it so.  It does.  The rest of his paragraph at the bottom of page 63 is a mess of contradiction and ambiguity; but what else is he left with but to muddle words?

64: Misconception #2: Corporate Election Is Not the Election of People, but Merely the Election of an Empty Set.

Dr. Abasciano’s second misconception is broken down into 2 parts.  The first is:

64: Misconception #2a: The Corporate Head is the Group and Is Chosen First.

He explains:

64: Above all, God first chooses the corporate head/representative so that there is never an empty set.  Indeed, the corporate head is the foundation of the group and embodies the group in himself. To put it bluntly and in a way that undoubtedly rubs against individualistic sensibilities, the corporate head is the group, in accordance with the biblical principle of corporate solidarity. As 1 Cor. 12:12 puts it in relation to Christ, ‘For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though being many, are one body, so also is Christ.’  Christ is both an individual and corporate figure… With the corporate head as the locus of election, there is never a time that the elect people is an empty set.

I don’t know too many people that would argue against the unity of the church, or that Christ is the corporate head and representative.  The problem is not whether Christ is “enough” to fulfill all things, the problem is that the inclusion/redemption of God’s people—or the inclusion of more than just Christ—was one of His stated missions for coming into creation (Matt 1:21; John 10:16; Eph 1:4; 1 Tim 1:15; etc.).  In that sense “God’s people” is an empty set, because if no one makes the choice to belong to the chosen group, then it remains an empty set that Christ purposed to save, but [potentially] couldn’t due to man’s free will.  I don’t believe in that potentiality; I believe that Christ came to save, and accomplished it.

He uses Jacob as his example for how this is not an empty set.

64-65: …God’s Old Testament people were chosen in Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel. Jacob was chosen in the womb, and at the very same time his descendants were chosen; they were chosen in him.

He then cites Gen 25:23, and makes this conclusion:

65: Notice how Jacob is wholly identified with his people before they exist.  His election is their election; his destiny is their destiny.

This fails on a couple fronts.  1) Again, he fails to make the distinction between the manner of inclusion in the OT people (by the flesh; by birth) and NT people (conversion; by God’s action).  2) Like he did above, Dr. Abasciano conveniently skims over the fact that Jacob was chosen over Esau before they had been born; why?  Why were Jacob’s descendants to be blessed over Esau’s?  (Romans 9:11 tells us, but we’ll leave it for now).

65: Was Israel an empty set when Jacob was chosen?

Which Israel?  National or spiritual?  Children of flesh or children of promise?  Either way, no; and no potentiality existed that a nation would not exist, and that God did not know those who would belong to each.  The very fact that God gave the oracles, sacrifices, the temple, etc. to a particular nation speaks enough volumes for me.  Even if you want to make this election less personalized, the election was still made over all of the other nations on the earth, who perished with no knowledge of God.  And it all started with the election of one brother over another; one must reckon with it.

I’ll let Dr. Abasciano tell you:

65: the people Israel was chosen as a consequence of the man Israel’s election. When he was chosen, they were chosen.       

But, remember, he was chosen…individually.

At this point, I do want to acknowledge a valid observation of Dr. Abasciano: the collective understanding as opposed to the individual.  If one positive can be gleaned from his article, it is that Christianity was never meant to be a strictly individualized religious experience.  Western society in general has moved in that direction—and America is defined by its individualism.  The church is a group of individuals unified, as one body, by their corporate head.[3]  The move away from church participation, unity, and Scriptural faithfulness can be blamed in some part on the individualizing of religion.  That said, one’s personal salvation (faith and repentance) is a matter between the individual and God, which inaugurates them into the people of God.

The rest of this section can have arguments already made applied to it, so I move on.

66: Misconception #2b: The Significance of Ephesians 1:4

Ephesians 1:4 is a standard battleground for the Arminian/Synergist and Calvinist.  This is a long section of his article, and it’s really a tedious thing for me to go line by line in response, so let me say two things.  1) Some decent articles—with much more depth—on this subject can be found below.[4]  2)  Eph 1:4 is not the only verse that speaks of election, and it is not even the one I would use as my primary defense for the understanding of God’s individual, gracious election unto salvation.

There are a few statements that I think sufficiently undermine the rest of Dr. Abasciano’s point here, and so hopefully I can just highlight those.

66: It simply insists that the election of individuals comes to them as part of the elect people. Each individual member of the elect people is personally elect, but only as a consequence of his membership in the elect people, and ultimately, only as a consequence of his identification with the corporate head.

This is the point; and to this point Dr. Abasciano has continued to deny what he keeps plainly saying: incorporation into the head is a consequence of the individual’s choice to become elect.  The person is not elect in any meaningful way, other than he became chosen by his choice.  This must be kept in mind by any person who trudges their way through the rest of this section.

The Scriptures plainly teach the opposite, of course: Rom 8:29-30; 1 Thess 1:4-5; 2 Thess 2:13-14; Eph 2:1-10.

Another point that must be kept in mind is Dr. Abasciano’s rejection of the total inability of man; that man is not quite as dead, deaf, blind, unable, disobedient, rebellious, or lost as the Bible appears to indicate.

66: Election is conditional upon being in Christ by faith.

What is interesting about this line is that Dr. Abasciano does not shirk away from his position: he is an all out Arminian; however, the way I found this article was through a person who does not claim to be an Arminian, how he is able to maintain that is impossible to tell.

So far as pg. 68-69 is concerned, I find myself agreeing with most of what he says; the difference comes from his underlying presuppositions that guide him toward a salvation merited by the individual’s self-appointment into the covenant head.  I would challenge that it is God who places us in Christ; thus Dr. Abasciano is dealing with the wrong issue at this point.

I will need to take issue with one statement, however:

67: All of this is contingent on being in Christ, which is itself contingent on faith in Christ, a point underscored by the fact that some of the key blessings just mentioned are explicitly said to be by faith, namely sonship (and therefore heirship), righteousness/justification, the giving of the Spirit, and life/resurrection. (my emphasis added)

It is Dr. Abasciano’s understanding—as it is with all Synergists—that sonship (being in Christ) and all of its blessings are attained by a self-actuated faith.  This, of course, is not the Scriptural record.[5]

Because so much of Ephesians 1:4 revolved around differences in how to interpret the “in Christ” phraseology, it’s order, and so on—it would be best to take the whole of Scripture as a guide for understanding what it is to be chosen “in Christ.”  The corporate model has basically made it impersonal by focusing only on Christ’s election, and the impersonal “us” is then made elect by incorporation into Him.  The individual model recognizes that we are elect “in” (because of) “Christ.”  Based on nothing but His work, etc.

72: To sum it up succinctly, Calvinists tend to interpret Eph. 1:4 as saying that God chose us separately and individually to be put into Christ, to which Arminians quickly respond that what the text actually says is that God chose us in Christ.

This is categorically false.  Perhaps Dr. Abasciano can provide the scholars/theologians (and he might be able to find a few), but this is not the Calvinistic interpretation of the text.  It is instead that we (“us”) were chosen before the foundation of the world “in Christ.”  That is, in Him, by Him, because of Him, we are considered the children of God.  That preordained plan of God, to sacrifice the Son on the cross, included redemptive subjects (us); it was not a potentiality, it was a guarantee (Matt 1:21; John 17; Rev 5:9).  It is not that we are “put into Christ,” it is that we were chosen “in Him.”  This parsing of words confounds more than it clarifies.  I think you’ll find that verses utilizing the same phrase “in Him” are better understood when replaced with “through Him,” “because of Him,” or “based on His work/accomplishment”; i.e. Eph 2:22: “In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”  Col 1:17: “And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Col 2:11: “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands…”

If it helps, consider a phrase that I might say to my wife: “I chose you in love.”  The object of my choice is my wife, and the basis/the foundation/the limits of my choice was “love.”  I could have replaced love with “duty,” but love was the chosen qualification, prerequisite, or standard.  So it is with Christ.  He is the chosen means of redeeming the people of God; and all thanks is due God for making such a choice in perfect savior.

72: Misconception # 3: The Concept of a Primarily Corporate Election Is Illogical.     

Assuming his [Dr. Schreiner] own view, he cannot see that being elected as part of a group that is chosen to receive some benefit is still being chosen for that benefit, but he essentially, insists that one is chosen for a benefit only if that same choice also elects one to join the group.

This is, as rightly observed, illogical.  Dr. Abasciano’s insistence that it is not does not make it logical.  His sentences turn into contradictions very easily.  That said, I don’t think that the illogical nature is dealt with properly by Dr. Abasciano.  It is not illogical for a group to be elected without its individual members being so; it is illogical to say that a group is elected, and then by virtue of membership the individual is also elect.  This is not so; it is still the case that the group is elected, and the individual made the election to join the elected group.

What Dr. Abasciano continues to miss is the distinction between fleshly entrance into a “chosen people” and spiritual entrance into a “chosen people.”

75: But when we examine the evidence for which type of election is found in the Bible with respect to the election of God’s people unto eternal salvation, it is a primarily corporate election that is found.

This is simply not the case, as has been shown several times.  Especially in Romans 8:29-30 and 2 Peter 1:10: “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.”  I’m interested to see how the corporate election proponent depersonalizes this verse, and turns “brothers” (a group of men being written to) into a faceless, corporate entity that must confirm its calling and election.

75: Misconception #4: Corporate Election Empties Divine Election of Meaning and Makes Human Choice Decisive.

This misconception comes closer to the objection I’ve made several times: that there is no meaningful election of individuals at all, so they might as well drop the term.  His first two points do nothing meaningful to address the issue.

75: Third, [this] reasoning foists a predetermined hermeneutical conviction on the’ idea of election and what it has to be or involve, and then judges the corporate view by it rather than a more objective approach of trying to determine the biblical view and then assessing its implications.

Again, nothing substantial here; this is one of 4 sentences in this paragraph, and no evaluation is given.  The meaning of election is given meaning by the Bible and by common usage.  To elect something is to choose it.  The meaning of church in Greek has that idea of a called out group of individuals.  At this point the attempts appear futile, and he is merely trying to disallow common usage to make his point, and confound the reader.

76:  He [Dr. Schreiner] believes that human choice cannot play a decisive role in salvation, and then denies validity to a view that he perceives as giving such a role to human choice. But this is more of an argument from theological presupposition than from the text of Scripture.

How does Dr. Abasciano figure?  It’s a childish tactic to try to boil down a person’s belief into “theological presupposition” rather than “Scriptural” just because you don’t care to take the time to deal with his theological conviction about the depravity of man; a position easily established from Scripture.  One I think even a new Christian could easily defend, because they [should] know the wickedness of their own heart; and the gracious work of God to pull them out of it.

76: My plea would be for us to draw our view of election from Scripture rather than deciding what its implications must be and then using our assessment of a view’s implications to decide if Scripture can teach such a view. Perhaps we are wrong in our presuppositions.

Ditto to Dr. Abasciano.  He might benefit from taking his own advice.

I don’t know how scholarship is done in the field of theology (my experience is in history), but Dr. Abasciano has really left the realm of objective scholarship and moved into opinion and pedantry.

76: That he gives us a genuine choice in whether we will receive the salvation that he offers in the gospel is entirely in his control and at his discretion.

Here is a good example of Dr. Abasciano needing to heed his own advice; because he has yet to establish this point, and would truly have a difficult time doing it.  Oh, I’m sure there are verses he’d like to use, but the whole of Scripture speaks of a God who orchestrates to His ends, guiding history the way He has ordained, and knowing the end from the beginning (because he decreed it, not because he takes in knowledge of the choices of free will creatures).

The end of this section really devolves into caricature, painting Calvinists as those who do not believe in the responsibility of the creature, and his position as upholding the sovereignty of God (whatever that is) and man’s responsibility.

It is sophism at this point.  And I’m sorry, I’m not too convinced by football/baseball team examples.

77: One of the wonderful theological advantages of corporate election is that it comports with the Bible’s teaching that God loves all, calls all to believe and be saved, and genuinely desires all to be saved (e.g., John 3: 16; Acts 17:30- 31; 1 Tim. 2:4).

No.  It doesn’t.  It comports with man’s reasoning.  It takes away the objection, “You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?”  This objection does not comport with the watering down of God’s gracious, sovereign right to grant salvation to those whom He freely wishes.

[Each of those verses has long been explained by Reformed.  There is no need to do so now.]

But in case you wondered which view was the right one:

77: Thankfully, on that score, the corporate view is the most strongly supported view.

I suppose that settles it.

On to his last misconception.

77: Misconception # 5: Election Unto Spiritual Salvation in the Old Testament Was Individualistic.

This is another that attempts to deal with the problem I raised earlier.

He still confuses the individual and corporate distinction between the individual heart and the corporate nation.

78: He points to the individual election of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But ironically, these very examples are corporate in nature and support the concept of a primarily corporate election visa-vis the covenant people of God. Each of these individuals was chosen as the corporate head and representative of the covenant and his covenant descendants.

I raised the individual nature of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’s selection earlier; but Dr. Abasciano’s sidestepping of the issue is very apparent in what he says—or doesn’t say—right here.  Besides dealing with the individual aspect of Abraham’s election, or even the “individual” election of a nation, he changes the issue initially raised.

78: All agree that the Old Testament contains instances of individual divine election unto service. But the question we are dealing with is election unto salvation, the election of the covenant people of God, which establishes people as belonging to God and, at least ideally, as beneficiaries of his salvation.

Ah.  This is how it’s done.

Huge problems with this approach.  1) How is salvation conferred in the OT?  Was it necessary to be among God’s people to receive his revelation, worship, prophets, etc.  All of the things necessary to hear the word of God and be saved?  If so, then salvific election is a direct corollary to election unto “service,” or Israel’s election.  2) The choice of Abraham is undeniably salvific in nature.  Again, Abraham was taken—nay elected—out of a land of idolatry and was given a promise and God covenanted with him.  It would be silly to think that God called Abraham out of Ur, made a covenant with him, made him the father of the faithful, blessed him above others, but had no salvific purpose.  3) Even if not salvific, how does this actually deal with the problem, that God selected Abram rather than any other to make a blessing (Gen 12:3) and a great nation?  4) You must then deal with the promise, blessing, and salvation given to Isaac and Jacob and not Ishmael or Esau.  Before they were yet born…so that God’s purpose according to election might stand…need I go on?

The rest of this section is a response to varying views among Calvinists or individual election proponents, and I don’t really care to deal with positions that might not be mine.

What is important, is that Dr. Abasciano did not deal with the distinction I made earlier about the nature in Spiritual and national Israel.  There most certainly is a distinction, and the NT makes it clear.  Incorporation into one is not equal to incorporation into the other; and the means by which one is joined to the invisible church is not the same as the visible church; it is an act of a gracious God that saves wretches from their mire and filth.  Anything less has not dealt faithfully with the Scripture.

Conclusion

My concluding thought is this: Dr. Abasciano—as with any corporate proponent—really does not offer a cohesive, logical, or consistent interpretation of election in the NT (or OT).  If you need the OT example, look no further than Paul in Romans 11:2-6, and think about it before you read all of the Synergist responses (the Scriptures speak plainly of a spiritual people chosen and retained by God’s grace alone—in Christ):

“God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel?  “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.”  But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.  But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.”

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[1] It should be noted that Dr. Schreiner, in his response to Dr. Abasciano, brings up Romans 8:30 in light of individual election.  Dr. Abasciano does not reckon with it in any of his articles to this point.

[2] Thomas R. Shreiner, “Corporate and Individual Election in Romans 9: A Response to Brian Abasciano,” The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (June, 2006), 376.

[3] I would want to push this further than this current response warrants; I think the corporate nature of Israel, and the emphasis over individualism, makes a great argument for infant/household baptisms.  See J.V. Fesko, Water, Word, and Spirit: A Reformed Perspective on Baptism (Reformation Heritage Books, 2010), specifically chapter 14.

[4] http://www.monergism.com/calvin-ephesians-14-5; http://vintage.aomin.org/JWDB5.html; http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/49/49-2/JETS_49-2_373-386_Schreiner.pdf; for starters.

[5] See John 1:12-13; 3:3-8; Romans 6:17-18; 1 Cor 1;28-31 (I highlight this one especially because of the use of “in Christ”, and the manner in which we are placed “in Christ); Eph 2:1-10; 1 Peter 1:3-5; et al.  More can easily be provided and expounded upon.

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~ by TSL on January 29, 2015.

 
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