Wednesday, February 11, 2015

On Corporate Election

The most convincing alternative to the Calvinist position of unconditional election, I believe, is corporate election. Though the perception is often to the contrary, Leighton Flowers (adjunct Professor of Theology at Dallas Baptist University) has noted that this is also the most popular view among biblical scholars of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the USA (Link).

For those unfamiliar with this perspective, the Society of Evangelical Arminians has posted A Concise Summary of the Corporate View of Election and Predestination which is excerpted from Zondervan’s NIV Life in the Spirit Study Bible.

At the bottom of the summary the SEA has included a number of articles for further reading. In particular, you may be interested in Brian J Abasciano, "Corporate Election in Romans 9: A Reply to Thomas Schreiner".  Most of us within New Calvinist circles have read Tom Schreiner's "Does Romans 9 Teach Individual Election unto Salvation? Some Exegetical and Theological Reflections" either online or in Still Sovereign: Contemporary Perspectives on Election, Fore­knowledge, and Grace.  Brian Abasciano, who is an adjunct professor of New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, provides an excellent response.  To convince you, here is his closing paragraph:

Schreiner’s critique of corporate election does not succeed at upholding the Calvinist view of individual election in Romans 9. The OT and Judaism’s view of election was corporate, Paul himself only spoke explicitly of election unto salvation in corporate terms, and Paul’s socio-historical context was solidly collectivist. Moreover, Paul, who deals with Scripture extensively in Romans 9–11 and attempts to show that his views are in accord with it, refers to a number of passages that evince a corporate view of election. Furthermore, the OT concept of corporate election embraces individual separation and entrance into the elect community without shifting the locus of election to the individual. The burden of proof must lie on those who would claim that Paul departed from this standard biblical and Jewish conception of election. If it be claimed that the shift of the locus of election from Abraham or Jacob/ Israel to Christ demands such a departure, I would point out that election in Christ is only the fulfillment of Israel’s election and that this election fits perfectly into the OT pattern. Again, if it be objected that this sets up an impossible standard because Paul nowhere directly argues for individual election in such a way that does not fit into a corporate perspective, I would respond that that is exactly the point. We would have to assume the corporate view unless there was some good reason to the contrary. Neither Paul nor the rest of the NT gives us any reason to make this leap. Quite the opposite, they, not least Romans 9, support the corporate view through corporate language, socio-historical context, and recourse to the OT. In response to Schreiner’s question, “Does Romans 9 teach individual election unto salvation?” we must answer, no, it does not. It contains a corporate view of election unto salvation that grants elect status to all who are in Christ.

More resources on Corporate Election:


  1. It should be noted, however, that Flowers' view is not the same as that proposed by Abasciano, Klein and Shank. Flowers' view does not see corporate election as entailing salvation.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I didn't realize his view was different; I know on his site he included an edited version of the SEA article, "A Concise Summary of the Corporate View of Election and Predestination" but I have not listened to the audio where he explained his view ( ). I also remember Flowers writing in a discussion forum that Dr Abasciano's articles were a significant influence for him, but perhaps his view has evolved since then.

      At the time I wrote the original post I didn't know how broad a category Corporate election is; I've since seen some writers include Barth’s, Pinnock’s, and Dr Abasciano's views each as variants of corporate election. I wonder if the views of those in the SBC to whom Flowers referred might be just as diverse.


  2. This may help to better understand my view:


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