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Twelve Reasons Why Romans 9 is About Individual Election, Not Corporate Election

Much theological debate centers around the doctrine of election. No one debates whether election is biblical, but they do debate the meaning of election. I believe in what is called unconditional individual election (the Calvinistic understanding). Those who oppose my understanding normally believe in some sort of conditional election or corporate election (or a combination of the two; the Arminian understanding). Corporate election is the belief that God elects nations to take part in his plan, not individuals to salvation. So, when Romans 9 speaks of God’s election of Jacob over Esau, Paul is speaking of God’s choosing the nation of Israel to have a special place in salvation history. They will go on to interpret all of Romans 9-11 in light of this assumption.

However, I don’t believe that Romans 9-11 is talking about corporate election, but individual election. Here are eleven reason why:

1. The whole section (9-11) is about the security of individuals. Election of nations would not make any contextual sense. Paul has just told the Roman Christians that nothing could separate them from God’s love (Rom. 8:31-39). The objection that gives rise to chapters 9-11 is: “How do we know that these promises from God are secure considering the current (unbelieving) state of Israel. They had promises too and they don’t look too secure.” Referring to corporate election would not fit the context. But if Paul were to respond by saying that it is only the elect individuals within Israel that are secure (true Israel), then this would make sense. We are secure because all elect individuals have always been secure.

2. In the election of Jacob over Esau (Rom. 9:10-13), while having national implications, starts with individuals. We cannot miss this fact.

3. Jacob was elected and Esau rejected before the twins had done anything good or bad. There is no mention of the nations having done anything good or bad. If one were to say this is nations that Paul is talking about, it would seem that they are reading their theology into the text.

4. Rom. 9:15 emphasizes God’s sovereignty about choosing individuals. “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” The pronoun hon (whom) is a masculine singular. If we were talking about nations, a plural pronoun would have been used.

5. Rom. 9:16 is dealing with individuals, not nations. “So, it does not depend on the one who desires or makes effort, but on the mercy of God” (my translation). theolontos (desire) and trechontos (effort) are both masculine singulars that is why it is translated “the one” rather than “those.” (BTW: I don’t like ESV’s translation of this (man’s) as it is misleading and, ironically(!) supporting of corporate election). It is hard to see national implications at all here. It is about individual desire and effort. The acquisition of God’s mercy transcends the ability of man.

6. Once again, Rom. 9:18, speaking in the context of the hardening of Pharaoh, Paul summaries what he is trying to say using masculine singular pronouns: “Therefore, the one God wishes to have mercy on, he has mercy on. The one he wishes to harden, he hardens” (my translation). It would seem that if Paul was merely speaking about national or corporate election, the summary statement would change from Pharaoh to nations (plural), but the summary here emphasizes the sovereignty of God’s will (theleo) over individuals (singular).

7. The objection in Rom. 9:14 makes little sense if Paul were speaking about corporate or national election.  The charge of injustice (adikia), which much of the book of Romans is seeking to vindicate God of, is not only out of place, but could easily be answered if Paul was saying that the election of God is only with respect to nations and has no salvific intent.

8. The objection in Rom. 9:18 is even more out of place if Paul is not speaking about individual election. “Why does he still blame people since no one can resist his will.”  The verb anthesteken, “to oppose or resist,” is third person singular. The problem the objector has is that it seems unfair to individuals, not corporations of people.

9. The rhetoric of a diatribe or apostrophe being used by Paul is very telling.  An apostrophe is a literary devise that is used where an imaginary objector is brought in to challenge the thesis on behalf of an audience. It is introduced with “What shall we say…” (Rom. 9:14) and “You will say to me…” (Rom. 9:19). It is an effective teaching tool. However, if the imaginary objector is misunderstanding Paul, the apostrophe fails to accomplish its rhetorical purpose unless Paul corrects the misunderstanding. Paul does not correct the misunderstanding, only the conclusion. If corporate election were what Paul was speaking of, the rhetoric demands that Paul steer his readers in the right direction by way of the diatribe. Paul sticks to his guns even though the teaching of individual election does most certainly give rise to such objections.

10. Rom. 9:24 speaks about God calling the elect “out of” (ek) the Jews and the Gentiles. Therefore, it is hard to see national election since God calls people “out of” all nations, ek Ioudaion (from Jews) ek ethnon (from Gentiles).

11. In Paul’s specific return the the election theme in the first part of Romans 11, he illustrates those who were called (elect) out of the Jewish nation by referencing Elijah who believed he was the only one still following the Lord. The response from God to Elijah’s lament is referenced by Paul in Rom. 11:4 where God says, “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” This tells us two things: 1) these are seven thousand individuals that God has kept, not a new nation. 2) These individuals are kept by God in belief as the characteristic of their “keeping” is their not bowing to Baal (i.e. they remained loyal to God).

12. Using the Elijah illustration in Rom. 11:5, Paul argues that “in the same way,” God has preserved a remnant of believing Israel of which he (as an individual) is a part (Rom. 11:1). This “keeping” in belief of individuals is according to “God’s gracious choice” (11:5).

437 Responses to “Twelve Reasons Why Romans 9 is About Individual Election, Not Corporate Election”

  1. First off, I think you mean “corporate” and not “cooperate.”

    Though I think you’re misguided in your interpretation of Romans 9, and I think many of your points are very weak (particularly the grammatical ones, given how we use the singular to refer to the plural all the time), I would like to ask you a question:

    If Romans 9 were not in the Bible, would you still be as strong of a Calvinist as you are now?

    The only reason I ask is because this is about the only chapter I’m ever directed to when a Calvinist is trying to persuade me about their theological system. In that sense it’s like 1 Timothy 2 for the complementarian. If you take it out, are you still that dogmatic? Simple question, and I’d like an honest answer.

    • But Romans 9 IS in the Bible!!!! There is your honest answer. On a differsnt note, well written (typos and all, for none of us are perfect ;)
      ) C. Michael Patton.

  2. Dang spell check! Hit “change all” and look what happens. Thanks!

    I think people point you here because it is the most demonstrative of election. But certainly there are many other places that Calvinists, such as myself, turn to. Shesh, if only the “Those who were appointed to eternal life believed” of Acts 13:48 were in Scripture, I bet there would still be a lot of Calvinists. But John 6 comes to mind for me personally. While there are many passages to turn to beside Rom 9, I think there is also this general elective theme in all of Scripture.

    As well, we would have to do something about our depraved will and the previenient grace is hard to manufacture from Scripture.

    All of that to say that while Romans 9 is the one that stands out more than any other, it is not the only reason for being a Calvinist.

    AND having said that, there are a lot of good Arminians out there as well. I simply believe, with regard to Rom. 9, all that I listed above makes it very difficult to see anything but unconditional individual election in these verses. And I suppose if they are clear enough (which they seem to be), then this is all we would really need.

  3. Luke,

    This is kind of a big statement to just throw out there and not justify: “Though I think you’re misguided in your interpretation of Romans 9, and I think many of your points are very weak (particularly the grammatical ones, given how we use the singular to refer to the plural all the time)”

    Which points are weak and why? Remember, many are mutually dependant.

    Grammatical ones? Which? What is weak about saying that a singular pronoun refers to individuals? While it is true that singular pronouns can be collective, it is certianly not that by default! That is why they are sigular. The weight is upon the shoulders of those who claim that the singular is collective. But, as I believe I have shown, it makes much more sense to take them the way they occur naturally, singular = indivuduals (not a collection or nation).

    Finally, what about the apostrophe?

  4. CMP,
    Just a few observation I’ve come across lately in looking at the issue of free will as it pertains to Calvinism.

    There are three primary philosophical views of free will. The first is hard determinism. Under this view free will is completely non existent. Everything is caused by either a immaterial cause and effect or some causal entity. Human beings and all of creation are essentially nothing more then computer programs carrying out their programming.

    The second view is that of libertarian free will. No need to explain as we’ve discussed this many times before.

    The final view is that of compatibilism. This view holds that determinism is compatible with free will – in essence both of the prior two views are true. Human beings are both ordained to do what they do and freely make the decision to do those things.

    Compatibilism is of course the view of the vast majority of Calvinists (with the exception of hyper-Calvinists). From a Calvinistic perspective the first can’t be true since it would inescapably mean that God is the author of sin and the second can’t be true because it treads upon the Calvinistic view of God’s Sovereignty.

    Herein lies my problem. If Compatibalism is a hopelessly illogical and contradictory position then classical Calvinism fails (one must either accept that God is the author of sin or LFW exists). A number of arguments (at least in my opinion) such as Peter Van Inwagen’s Argument from Consequence appear to show forcefully that Compatibilism is in fact a completely contradictory position that is a metaphysical impossibility.

    Thus what is one left with?? Molinism perhaps – but I’m not sure that view escapes the problem.

  5. 1. I think you are making assumptions of the passage that first century readers would not have made. They would not make a distinction between individual and corporate. Paul starts of by talking about the corporate election other Jews. Israel will always be corporate, but Paul goes to define who Israel is, now that Jesus has come. That is where the individuality of faith comes in.

    2,3 The quote from the OT of Jacob and Esau is about nations in the OT context. I do not think Paul is pulling verses out off context. If anything we have not understood him properly.

    4,5 “I will have mercy on whom i will have mercy” was used by God in the OT for calling Israel as a nation. Jews when they read what Paul had written would not immediately assume that Paul was talking about individuals but rather about their election as a nation.

    I would like to respond to the rest of your points. But it would be too long. But please do consider that the Jews did not make distinctions like how we do today between corporate and individual. When we force that distinction on Romans 9-11, we misinterpret it.

  6. Just doing my Bible study prep here for tonight and read this:

    Deu 29:2-4
    2 Moses summoned all the Israelites and said to them, “You have seen with your own eyes everything the LORD did in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to his whole country–
    3 all the great tests of strength, the miraculous signs, and the amazing wonders. 4 But to this day the LORD has not given you minds that understand, nor eyes that see, nor ears that hear!

    Pretty strong suggestion of election. I suppose that people might be believers in unconditional election from this alone (at least by implication).

  7. Sam, your entire response hinges on a very obscure and undefended statement that the Jews would not have thought of individuals, only corporate entities. Without this assumption, all of your points don’t work. The purpose is justifying that assumption, and not only that, but justifying it in this context. My point show how it is grammatically best to take it as referring to individuals.

    Are you proposing that the Israelites never, philosophically or grammatically, referred to individuals?

    Let me ask you this: Is Romans 14:12 referring to individuals or corporations of people? If individuals, how did you determine such. I know what your answer will be so no real need to answer. It is individuals.

    My point is that if the context is referring to individuals, unless there is compelling reason to my the singular a collective singular, we must stick with the singular. This context (esp. that of the apostrophe) tells us that it is best taken as individuals about whom Paul is speaking.

    If nothing else, you can see this from those who were called “out of” Israel! The 700 in Elijah’s day were certainly individuals being called out of the nation. As well, Paul in 11:1 describes himself as such. These provide illustrations for the argument of Romans 9 and cannot be seen as collective singulars.

  8. Michael T, I enjoy the type of philosophical argument you’re bringing up a lot. Cool. :-)

    I can’t respond to you, since you’ve not brought an arguments, but I need to point out that compatibilism does NOT hold that Libertarian Free Will is true (you claimed that it does in your 4th paragraph). LFW holds that human will is entirely self-determining, while compatibilism holds that human will is determined by causes external to itself.

    -Wm

  9. Michael,

    Malachi one speaks election of nations re Jacob and Esau, does it not?

  10. WM,

    Forgive my lack of clarity. I did not mean to imply that compatabilism holds to the truth of LFW since it clearly does not. If you took it that way I apologize. Free will in the compatabilist understanding is quite different from free will in the LFW understanding. Still compatablism does affirm the existence of free will – just not free will in the LFW usage of the concept.

    BTW the argument I brought was Van Inwagen’s Argument from Consequence – I didn’t elucidate it because it is rather lengthy and would require chain posting. You can find information on it just about anywhere though – it’s a very well known argument.

  11. Cheryl, yes, but what I have argued above is that due to all 12 points, it seems clear that Paul is not using them in such a way. So many factors point to individual election. I don’t know how election “out of” Israel (point #10) can still refer to corporate Israel, do you?

  12. WM,
    Further note. There are two versions of the argument. If you see “Rule Alpha” and “Rule Beta” used this is an older version.

  13. hi Mike,

    I’m confused. Aren’t you giving a green light to double predestination with this argument?

    God bless,
    Martin

  14. Martin, maybe…did not notice it though. Let me know how so, so I can change my argument :)

  15. Double predestination?

    That is part of my problem with this whole thing. If God can create one vessel for honourable use and another for dishonourable use, (using the analogy of the potter), and Paul then goes on to say can’t He prepare one vessel for mercy and fit one vessel for destruction? (Speaking of people now). Sounds like double predestination to me.

    I know I asked you about this before, Michael. However, I didn’t think your answer then really got around the issue in question.

    It seems to me if you read the rest of this passage to literally mean predestination of individuals, you have to take this part of the passage to mean double predestination of individuals. I can’t get around it in my own mind. Maybe I am missing something here, but that is the way it reads to me.

  16. I think you are making assumptions of the passage that first century readers would not have made. They would not make a distinction between individual and corporate.

    You’re actually right, but this is why Paul spent so much time carefully framing the issue to clarify that he was talking about individuals, not groups. Each block of Paul’s argument eliminates another way to consider groups: first, physical descendants; next, people who follow some code of behavior (“before they had done anything”); next, people who justly deserve salvation (Rom 9:14-16); and finally he includes the people who are not even in the original promise (Rom 9:24).

    After he’s finished that list, what group remains?

    -Wm

  17. But election gives no security in salvation because many people who thought they were strong Christians have fallen away. And what is you are not one of the elect….. then your a bit screwed, but I suppose that doesn’t matter as long as your saved :) Thats what Jesus would do.

    But away from the reductioad absurdum it seems to me there is only security in the promise of Gods grace, not whether you are under the promise by Gods choice or your own. The only assurance we have is that God is love, but that is good enough.

    As for everything else I don’t mind if it doesn’t apply to nations, it just doesn’t mean that God shows favoritism (or whatever way Calvinism wishes to explain away its injustice).

    In my opinion of course. I have to say I do think thing blog is great….. I obviously at the moment have issues with Calvinism :P

  18. BTW the argument I brought was Van Inwagen’s Argument from Consequence

    After some reading… Wow, that was fun. I haven’t gotten to use that math degree in a long time.

    Three problems, then. First, the argument hasn’t been proven; it depends on the truth of what Inwagen’s “Proposition Beta”, which although it appears obvious hasn’t been proven. (I didn’t study Beta very closely.)

    Second, the argument involves a selection from an infinite set, which runs into the question of whether the “axiom of choice” is valid (despite the name, it has nothing to do with free choice). And not only has that not been proven, there’s strong evidence that it cannot be proven.

    Finally and most importantly, the “free will” he’s arguing against is libertarian free will, not compatiblist free will. Bringing this argument up completely defeats LFW and leaves compatiblism untouched.

    -Wm

  19. Cheryl,

    I am with you there. I does seem that the potter illustration leads us to double predestination (and it very well might). However, I do see that there are some important grammatical issues that might lead us to just the opposite.

    22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,
    23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory–
    (Rom 9:22-23 ESV)

    Notice the parallel here and the important differences. The vessels of mercy are modified by the pronoun “He” and “Beforehand.” This may suggest, due to their absence with the vessels of wrath, that “he” did not prepare them “beforehand.” Then who and when? They prepared themselves in time.

    I speak about this here in my Romans study: http://www.credohouse.org/media

  20. Notice, I updated #5. I was looking at this and noticed that the ESV translates it more corporately!

    5. Rom. 9:16 is dealing with individuals, not nations. “So, it does not depend on the one who desires or makes effort, but on the mercy of God” (my translation). theolontos (desire) and trechontos (effort) are both masculine singulars that is why it is translated “the one” rather than “those.” (BTW: I don’t like ESV’s translation of this (man’s) as it is misleading and, ironically(!) supporting of corporate election). It is hard to see national implications at all here. It is about individual desire and effort. The acquisition of God’s mercy transcends the ability of man.

    Here is the way some translations go:

    ESV Romans 9:16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

    KJV Romans 9:16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

    NAB Romans 9:16 So it depends not upon a person’s will or exertion, but upon God, who shows mercy.

    NAS Romans 9:16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.

    NAU Romans 9:16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.

    NET Romans 9:16 So then, it does not depend on human desire or exertion, but on God who shows mercy.

    NJB Romans 9:16 So it is not a matter of what any person wants or what any person does, but only of God having mercy.

    So much for the ESV being biased toward Calvinism!!! (At least here).

  21. But still, vessels of mercy that He has prepared for glory beforehand does not really address the how of it, only the why of it in those those passages. So, vessels of mercy prepared beforehand, in that context at least, can just as easily fit those who made the choice God already knew they would, as some Armianians point out.

  22. Michael,

    I haven’t had time to read your Romans study you linked to yet as it is almost supper time here.

    But just a couple of further thoughts here. If the Greek grammar is correct that I read for that word “fitted” it is in the passive voice, which would mean that the vessel here, i.e. the man received the action of “fitting” from somewhere else would it not? Also it is in perfect tense which as I understand it means that it was done once for all in the past and doesn’t need repeating.

    Am I correct on this? And if I am, then how in the world did the man fit himself in time?

    And besides that, how does it work with the analogy of the potter and the vessel he made? The potter did the making and preparing of the clay vessel, but the man that is a vessel of wrath makes himself?

    It seems to me that, unless I am totally mistaken in my understanding of the grammar here, that for the sake of intellectual honesty one either has to accept double predestination of individuals here or understand the whole passage to mean something entirely different.

    Would someone that knows Greek please address this situation??

  23. Michael, could you please point me to a presentation of Van Inwagen’s Argument from Consequence that you’d consider worthwhile? I spent a while on the last one, and it’s kind of disappointing that it wasn’t the right one. Just paste one into the comment box.

    (I did read some others, but didn’t see anything that appeared difficult.)

    -Wm

  24. mbaker,

    “So, vessels of mercy prepared beforehand, in that context at least, can just as easily fit those who made the choice God already knew they would, as some Armianians point out.”

    Not quite. Read vv. 11-13.

    Lee,

    Interesting that your response is exactly what Paul predicts in v. 14: “What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be!” Me genoito, Lee, me genoito.

    To all:

    I think it’s important to remember the entire context of Paul’s argument. He’s addressing why God’s promises are always fulfilled. Hence, the Roman Christians can know that God will keep His promise to them in salvation. The objection seems to be that God did not keep His promises to Israel, so why would He keep them to us? Paul’s argument back seems to be that God did keep His promises to Israel because Israel doesn’t need to be made up of physical Israelites, but instead of anyone that God chooses to be a part of Israel. In this argument is the idea that God has not chosen a large portion of Israel to believe, but instead has grafted in numerous Gentiles. Hence, Rom 9 is about God having the right to choose whomever He wishes to be a member of the saved Israel. It’s not individual or corporate. It’s both/and; but it starts with the individual being elected into the group for the purpose of salvation.

    I agree that it leads to double predestination, and as one who believes in it, I would offer John 12:39-40, if not the entire Gospel of John that argues that the Church will continue and be secure without the physical presence of Christ and the apostles because God draws His sheep to Himself effectually, to back up Michael’s point from Deut.

  25. Michael,

    I second Wm’s objection. It would be better to think of “free will” within compatiblist Calvinism as “willful choice,” i.e., whatever the person wants to do, he does. What he wants to do, however, is a result of both internal and external causes, depending upon what he wills to do as a self worshiping, fallen human being.

  26. Cheryl,

    “But just a couple of further thoughts here. If the Greek grammar is correct that I read for that word “fitted” it is in the passive voice, which would mean that the vessel here, i.e. the man received the action of “fitting” from somewhere else would it not? Also it is in perfect tense which as I understand it means that it was done once for all in the past and doesn’t need repeating.”

    You’re correct about the passive, not about the perfect. The perfect is what’s called a stative aspect, i.e., seeing something as a state rather than seeing or presenting it in procession or wholistically. It doesn’t really tell us when this takes place in time.

  27. But election gives no security in salvation because many people who thought they were strong Christians have fallen away.

    Election plus “true assurance” gives security in salvation because IF you have true assurance, then your assurance is of eternal salvation, not temporary salvation.

    If you have true assurance, but lack the knowledge that God predestines ALL that he’s elected to be conformed to the image of His Son, then you have no assurance that you will be thus conformed — you simply have to hope you can be good enough on your own.

    But knowing about election can’t give assurance. That’s not its job. John, in 1 John, says that he wrote the book to assure us that we have salvation. Read it carefully.

    it just doesn’t mean that God shows favoritism (or whatever way Calvinism wishes to explain away its injustice).

    I think you need to look at Paul — he’s the one “explaining away injustice” in Romans 9.

    -Wm

  28. Two questions I must ask Calvinists, who seem generally loathe to answer it honestly. If you indeed believe God is so sovereign (which I do) how can you on one hand say He created some for pre-election and some for vessels of wrath without saying He didn’t invent sin in the first place? Perhaps not as we consider it , ie. evil, but to accomplish His purposes?

    If we are going to use these verses as a ‘proof’ for the pre-election of Calvinism doesn’t that make God a split personality?

    And here’s the real kicker to me: if God indeed elected for Himself the vessels of mercy and the vessels of wrath beforehand, why did Christ even have to die on the cross in the first place? Wouldn’t it have been sufficient for God to just forgive His elect in the first place?

    And, please, spare me the links explaining that, because believe me I have read them all. But this is one question that still goes unanswered by the majority of Calvinists I know.

  29. Hodge,

    So, would that grammatical difference on the perfect tense change anything about the way those verses in Romans 9 read?

    Because we can’t know the time that it happened, but if it was done to the man by an outside source, does it change anything regarding election? Maybe God didn’t predestine him in the past for wrath, but only made him fitted for wrath sometime in His lifetime? I’m not sure of the implications here at all.

  30. And isn’t Calvinism itself about corporate election of a certain number of pre-chosen individuals in the first place, ie. there are only a certain number that God considers His ‘predestined’ elect? I think in this post you are actually disproving your own case!

  31. Did not the Lord say “I make peace and create evil”. God is sovereign and in complete control making one vessel unto honor and another unto wrath. God hardened Pharoah’s heart that he would sin. Had not God hardened his heart to sin against him, he would not have. God is the potter and makes us how he pleases according to his own will.

  32. Cheryl,

    I’m not sure of what the implication are for it either. I’ve never thought about it specifically in regard to the grammar there. I was just answering the grammatical question without thinking of the theology it might imply. I’m not sure if really makes a difference or not.

    mbaker,

    I think Michael’s contrast is between individual election, whether corporately decreed or not, and corporate election, where God elects a faceless body of people to be saved and not the individuals who need to choose to be a part of that body.

  33. “If you indeed believe God is so sovereign (which I do) how can you on one hand say He created some for pre-election and some for vessels of wrath without saying He didn’t invent sin in the first place?”

    Because God can decree an event to occur without being the one who directly does evil as a part of bringing it about. So God, as most Arminians will admit, decrees the death of Christ on the cross before the foundation of the world, but no one would hold Him to blame for the evil actions of the men who brought it about. He, knowing that men will do evil, chooses beforehand to use their evil inclinations to bring about events and decisions that He Himself purposes for good. He cannot, therefore, be charged with committing sin simply because He is ruler of all things, including the evil decisions of men. Otherwise, we say that it is a sin to be a sovereign God.

    The second question betrays a severe misunderstanding of salvation. God is just. He must bring justice about. He can’t just forgive someone of evil without that evil being dealt with in a just manner. That’s Allah, not YHWH. God must bring justice upon us or His Son, so electing us to trust in His Son is necessary to get self worshiping people to repent and have faith. Election is worthless unless there is a cross that is there to meet us in repentance and faith.

  34. (cont.)

    You’re question implies that believing in Jesus somehow merits for us forgiveness. That is not biblical soteriology.

  35. Hodde,

    As usual you are assuming a lot and making distractions because you can’t really address the more difficult issues that folks have regarding Calvinism. But then, who I am I, a mere Christian woman, to question you obviously superior beings?

  36. I was reading in Genesis lately the story about Dinah’s rape (Ch.34, not because of any fascination with the passage, just because that was where I was reading the Bible).

    Anyway, I was thinking about Shechem, the son of Hamor, who met a nice girl, took her home to bed, offered to marry her (he was more decent than his fellow-citizens), was prepared to be circumcised to fulfil the future in-laws’ desires, and then (with every one else in my town) was brutally murdered in their beds. Where is Shechem right now? In hell.

    It occurred to me that I’m rather glad I was not living in his time and place. Why would I have been any different (in terms of immorality) to a man like that? What hope would there have been for me to avoid hell? Next to none.

    The same goes for the millions of people who lived before Christ – next to no hope for salvation.

    Why then is it that I get to live in a time when the gospel is preached to the ends of the earth and in a situation where I was privileged to hear the gospel (my parents were Christians). Who determines such things as the time and situation in which they live (which largely determines whether they are saved or not)? Only God.

    Here’s a thought, then, for those who don’t like the idea of election. How can it be fair that Shechem (and millions of others like him go to hell), whereas you are saved?

    Why is it fair that God chose one man, Abram, and revealed Himself to Abram and His descendants, with the result that Abram was saved? (I know of Jewish Christians who cannot abide the idea of election, but that is probably the most ironic and illogical position to hold on the subject).

  37. WM,
    I’ll see if I can find a good presentation of the argument online. I’ve read about it in the context of philosophy books looking at free will. I’ll see if I can find one that gives an explanation short enough to post here, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Also the the formulation of the argument with “Rule Beta” is quite out of date.

  38. mbaker,

    I’m not sure what you’re talking about. I addressed your objections specifically. Could it be you have a blindness to this issue because it gets your goat for some reason? I hear Arminians continually talk about how THEY cannot understand this or that about Calvinism. Your objections are refuted by the Bible. I can’t help it if you’re offended by that. You addressed nothing I said. Instead, you simply responded with what is, in my opinion, a rather juvenile response to serious refutations of your objections.

  39. Hodge,
    Not sure how your proposed construction of compatibilism would avoid God being the author of sin. Since one does what they most desire, but their desires are determined by past events stretching back to God’s creation of the universe over which they have no control one must conclude that God is the author of those desires.

    1. God created the universe and exercises His influence upon the world in such a way that all events which shall come to pass have been determined by Him
    2. The events of the past which are all causally linked to the actions of God are the cause of Person A’s desire to kill Person B over which Person A has no control.
    3. Person A kills Person B
    4. Since Person A had no control over the past events which shaped their desire to kill Person B, Person A cannot be said to have authored the desire to kill Person B and since one cannot go against what one desires cannot be held morally calpable for the death of Person B. This was all simply a result of cause and effect.
    5. Since God controlled all the past events which lead to Person A’s desire to kill Person B in addition to creating a world where people do what they most desire it seems inescable that God authored the killing of Person B and therefore authored sin.

  40. Michael,

    The problem is that past events are not the only causes of an act. That’s why we can have a perfect environment made for a man and he can still corrupt it. Now, we could say that all evil decisions are a result of the past event of the Fall, but is the Fall a result of past events?
    Now, I would say that I don’t have a problem with God being indirectly the author of sin, but I do have a problem with this model saying that He must be the direct author, which is what I think the conclusion is implying. The problem is that the argument doesn’t show this. It actually sets up God as the indirect author and then seems to jump to the idea that He is the direct author.
    The other problem I would have is that all models make God the indirect author. The Calvinist model, however, sees Him as the indirect author who then purposes those evil acts that result from His creation as resulting in good and salvation for His people. In other systems, some of them must be seen as purposeless.
    In other words, if God makes a person with LFW, and that person chooses evil, isn’t God to be assigned indirect authorship for that evil that comes about simply because the evil exists because He chose to create a human with LFW who He knew would commit said evil? I don’t see how any system avoids this.

  41. Hodge,

    Is seems to me that there is a rather huge difference in giving a person LFW knowing that he will abuse it and make the choice to sin, and God deliberately determining all events that will happen which result in man sinning.

    The second scenario is, in my mind anyway, a much more direct cause of sin then the first scenario is.

  42. Hodge and mbaker,

    Are the two of you maybe talking past each other here?

    I think there is more to the question you asked, mbaker, than what has been understood here. From what I know about you, I don’t think it is at all a lack of understanding of salvation that prompted this question. Would rewording or expounding on it help?

  43. Hodge,

    In the case of a person with LFW that person is an intervening cause. God may be a “but for” cause in a remote sense, but the person with LFW is the proximate cause of the sin. This is no different then a scenario where a parent could be said to be a “but for” cause of their son murdering someone because the parent chose to have the child. The parent is not the proximate cause though.

    In the case of a person without LFW God did an action with full knowledge that this cause would causally lead to sin without any intervenor. It is no different then me programming a robot which will because of the programming build and plant a bomb which will blow up a airport.

    There is a fundamental difference between knowing what someone will do with LFW through omniscience and being the direct proximate cause of that persons actions

  44. Michael, thanks for the stimulating post. I’ve take the liberty of addressing your 12 points in some detail here: http://www.postost.net/2010/10/corporate-or-individual-election-romans-9-11. The space available in these comments was a bit restrictive.

  45. “Corporate election is the belief that God elects nations to take part in his plan, not individuals to salvation.”

    Michael, you didn’t present the facts as they are right from the beginning.
    The Arminian understanding of election has nothing to do with nations, it’s about the Church being elected as a group, and about anyone being able to enter that group (the elected Church) if they choose to enter it by faith.

    It’s not like you to present the “other side” facts wrong, but I think you should review this.

  46. When I say that everyone may “choose” to enter the elected group that is the Church I also mean that the option has been offered beforehand through the cross, not that anyone enters the Church as they like.

  47. Daniel,

    That is not necessarily true. I was arguing about a certain interpretation that is sometimes used by Arminians. But they are not monolithic in this regard. There are three ways that this passage has been taken:

    1. Corporate election…God is electing nations.
    2. Elect in Christ (Shank)….God elects Christ and, therefore, all who are found in him.
    3. Conditional election (sometimes tagged to the former)….God elects those who he foresees will elect him. (Although, this position alone does not help much with the “before they had done anything good or bad” clause. That is why many would tag it with 1 or 2.)

    Hope that helps.

  48. Michael,

    I think you may have a concept of what we believe that isn’t accurate. I don’t believe God programs an individual like a computer. I believe that man falls due to his willful choice brought about by his circumstances. I believe God creates the circumstances that will lead man to choose X instead of Y, but He does not cause the man to choose directly as though the man is restrained from choosing otherwise.
    To give an example, God wants Ahab to go up and be killed in battle, and thus, relieve Israel of his religious oppression. So God creates the circumstances that will lead Ahab to choose to go up to war. God commands an evil spirit to go and deceive his prophets (i.e., telling the evil spirit that he may go do what he also wants to do), and then sends a prophet he hates as the messenger that pronounces judgment upon him, so that he will definitely go up in rebellion against him. Ahab is then killed and Israel relieved of him. So God causes Ahab to go up, as He has determined the end of his life; but Ahab chooses to go up by his own willful decision to do so.
    God is only indirectly a cause because He orchestrates the events that will lead a person of Nature A to choose Action X, but the person is choosing the action of his own will. This is no different than the LFW position, except that the person’s choice may have no divine purpose to it. It happens simply because the person chooses to X instead of Y, but he still chooses because he was given a certain nature by God. The action he performs, therefore, is still brought about because God gave him a particular nature and not another. God still created Environment C and not Environment D. One is simply orchestrated for His good purposes and one is meaningless.
    I think you may be thinking that Calvinists believe that God MAKES the person choose one way or another contrary to his will. That is not what we believe.

  49. If I may I’d like to just list a few books that helped to solidify my understanding of this issue. Some of these books you all may have read but for those few that havn’t maybe these resources would be of interest or value:

    1. The Justification of God – John Piper
    2. Freedom of the Will – Jonathan Edwards
    3. The Death of Death in the death of Christ – John Owen
    4. The Potter’s Freedom 2nd Edition – James White

    Even though Owen’s book addresses primarily particular redemption the logic he applies to his argument I found helpful in others areas of the doctrines of grace.

  50. When we come to salvation, however, as opposed to God’s general workings in the world, God must give the individual a new mind, enlighten them, and draw them in with the truth, as He gives them a new love for God’s lordship and truth; but He giving the man an effectual desire and God restraining him to do X instead of Y is a completely different way of seeing things.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Rom.9 And Individual Election « Irishanglican's Weblog - October 8, 2010

    […] http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2010/10/eleven-reasons-why-romans-9-is-about-individual-electi… […]

  2. I love you but not this doctrine... - Page 18 - Christian Forums - November 4, 2011

    […] Twelve Reasons Why Romans 9 is About Individual Election, Not Corporate Election | Parchment and Pen __________________ Ephesians 2:8 – For it is by His unmerited favor through faith that you have been saved; it is not by anything that you have done, it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:9 – It is not the result of what anyone can do, so that no one can boast of it. [Williams NT] […]

  3. The Doctrine of Election — Willow Creek Baptist Church - February 9, 2012

    […] The doctrine of election raises many other questions and views.  For example, it is popular to argue that Romans 9 (and Ephesians 1) argue for “corporate election.”  In other words, some say that Paul doesn’t teach that God selects individuals for salvation but rather selects to within groups.  Unfortunately, this is not consistent with Scripture.  Again, Dan Wallace offers thoughts.  Another theologian offers “12 reasons why Romans 9 is about Individual Election, Not Corporate Election. […]

  4. Individual VS Corporate Election? - Christian Forums - June 25, 2013

    […] why Romans 9 is about individual election rather than the Arminian idea of corporate election: Twelve Reasons Why Romans 9 is About Individual Election, Not Corporate Election | Parchment and Pen __________________ "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My […]

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