Thursday, October 13, 2016

Corporate election

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. Thus, individuals are not elected as individuals directly, but secondarily as members of the elect group. Nevertheless, corporate election necessarily entails a type of individual election because of the inextricable connection between any group and the individuals who belong to it.6 Individuals are elect as a consequence of their membership in the group.
We have already noted that God’s Old Covenant people were chosen in Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. More specifically, God chose Abraham and his descendants, but limited his election of Abraham’s descendants to only some of them by his choice of Isaac as the head of the covenant through whom Abraham’s covenant descendants were to be reckoned. He then limited his election of the covenant descendants even further by his choice of Jacob as the head of the covenant. At the same time, and as already pointed out above, people not naturally related to Jacob and so not part of the elect people could join the chosen people, becoming part of the elect. On the other hand, individual members of the elect people could be cut off from the covenant people due to violation of the covenant, rendering them non-elect.
 For Israel was chosen in Jacob. That is, the people Israel was chosen as a consequence of the man Israel’s election. When he was chosen, they were chosen. As Gen. 25:23 indicates, it could be said that the nation was in Rebekah’s womb because Jacob was. And as Mal. 1:2-3 affirms, God loved/chose the people Israel by loving/choosing Jacob. 
In the New Covenant, God’s people are chosen corporately as a consequence of their union with Christ, which is effected by faith.12 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. But then being in Christ is itself conditioned on faith, meaning that the divine election of God’s people and the election of individuals for salvation is ultimately conditional on faith in Christ.
A critical part of the answer to that is provided by the incorporative, qualifying phrase, “in Christ.” It means that God chose us as a consequence of being in Christ. There is no denial here of the election of human beings, just that the election of human beings is individualistic and unconditional.

Several issues:

1. Abasciano admits right up front that corporate election entails individual election. It's just an indirect result. The question at issue is how individuals become party to the collective. 

2. Before commenting on that, let's illustrate the general principle:

i) For the (temporary) duration of the Mosaic covenant, every lineal descendent of Jacob was obligated to abide by the terms of the Mosaic covenant by virtue of being a descendent of Jacob. The covenant applied to an entire class of individuals. 

The fact that covenant-breakers could be excommunicated is no exception, for that, in itself, was a covenant sanction. You already had to be a member of the covenant to be liable to that sanction. 

The further fact that foreigners could be incorporated into the covenant community is no exception, for the terms of the covenant make provision for that possibility. 

ii) To take a few secular examples, a citizen is someone who satisfies the conditions of citizenship. All and only those individuals who satisfy the conditions of citizenship are citizens. The conditions of citizenship select in advance for who can and can't be a citizen. That can include birthright citizenship, where an individual is a citizen, not by choice, but by virtue of where they were born or to whom they were born. 

Another example would be draft registration. Suppose the government stipulates that all males must register for the draft when the reach age 18. Yet another example might be an Indian treaty. It allocates land to members of a particular tribe. It stipulates the borders. It stipulates who counts as a member of the tribe. Say, an individual must have one grandparent from that tribe. 

Although it doesn't directly pick any particular individual, it designates a class of individuals. All and only those individuals who are covered are included. 

3. In the secular examples, the government doesn't know in advance who will be included. But apart from open theists, other freewill theists must concede that God had the affected individuals in mind. God knew who the concerned parties would be. Moreover, the terms of corporate election select for who the concerned parties will be. The terms of corporate election determine who can be a concerned party. Their status is a result of the stipulations. God knows the affected individuals, the specific individuals whom he's including or excluding, by how he defines the terms of corporate membership. His prior knowledge of that outcome is the logical consequence of his prior action, effecting that outcome. 

4. It's true that this, in itself, doesn't make election unconditional. However, the fact that God is said to choose Christians before the foundation of the world, or to choose them beforehand, or to predestine a chain of events resulting in their ultimate salvation, implies unconditionality. God is acting on behalf of people who did not exist. He is making decisions for them before they were conceived, or their parents were conceived, or their grandparents were conceived. That, in itself, implies a unilateral action. It depends on God, not on them. 

I don't mean "imply" in the sense of logical necessity, but implicature. What are the connotations of "predestination," "chosen beforehand," "chosen before the foundation of the world"? How would Paul expect his readers to register that terminology? I think they'd naturally take it to mean that they are beneficiaries of a choice they had nothing to do with. 

To take a comparison: suppose a man strikes it rich at age 20. He draws up a will. At the time he is childless. His will stipulates that if he has a grandson, the grandson will inherit a lump-sum (exact amount specified in the will). At the time of the will, his grandson doesn't exist. Indeed, his son or daughter doesn't exist. They have no say-so. 

By the same token, Paul's predestinarian language implies that Christians are impacted by a divine decision over which they had no control, since they were in no position at the time to say, think, or do anything about it one way or the other. They are entirely on the receiving-end of that transaction, just as children don't consent to their conception. 

In theory, union with Christ might be effected by faith. But Paul's antemundane framework removes that from consideration. Rather, individuals are in union with Christ by virtue of the Father's predestinarian choice. Faith happens in time rather than timeless eternity–before they even existed, except as divine ideas. 

5. Abasciano is arbitrarily selective about his emphasis on the "collectivist mentality" of Scripture. Making membership contingent on faith is individualistic. 

6. To say that salvation is contingent on faith is no alternative to Calvinism. That merely pushes the question back a step. Why do some people have faith while others do not? For that matter, why does God make salvation contingent on faith in Christ when that preemptively excludes many people who lived and died outside the pale of the Gospel? 

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