(Please read Introduction first)
Four Major Flaws of Arminian Corporate Election (CE)
I have a lot of respect for the Arminian view of CE. It presents a scholarly and fairly plausible interpretation of the doctrine of election. There are certain aspects to that position that I agree with. I think it has the right basic idea, but I believe it misses the mark where it matters the most, in four places, actually — which I believe invalidates the whole position. I’ll discuss each point in separate posts.
One: Arminian Corporate Election (CE) fails to recognize the true relationship between the corporate Body of Christ and the individual members that comprise the Body.
Therefore, it fails to recognize the true nature of corporate election.
It’s a view that separates the choosing of the group from its members. While it acknowledges the sovereign choosing of the group (Christ/Church), it rejects the idea that the individuals themselves are sovereignly chosen to join the group. It sees election as one of union and identification, rather than the actual Divine choosing of the individuals to be in union. It acknowledges the Divine election of the group, but not its members. It sees them somehow outside of the group when God chose the group. It sees the group as Divinely chosen in Christ (the one true elect), but not its members. It views the choosing of the group as primary and the choosing of the individual members as secondary as they’re added to the Church in union with Christ.
In other words, when God chose His people, the individuals were not actually in view, at least not in the same way the corporate Body was. The corporate people of God was specifically chosen, but the individual members were not, but only on the basis of whoever happens to place their faith in Christ and brought into membership of the group. Thus according to Arminian CE, when God chose His redemptive people, He had no one particularly in view, except His Son. Arminian CE rejects particular redemption. It views the atonement as “unlimited,” available to all who choose Christ, rather than Christ choosing them.
We must consider the fact that Jesus is the Savior of the Church, the corporate Body. That means He did not die for the concept of a Church, but actually for the Church (Eph 5:23-25). Jesus did not die for an empty shell. Since Jesus could only die for actual people, and since salvation can only be experienced by actual people, then the Church must be composed of actual people. Therefore, Jesus had to have died for every individual within that Body. The Church is not an idea or a thing that Jesus died for, but a living organism, composed of real people.
Nor did Jesus die for just a few members of the Church or an incomplete Church. In other words, Jesus did not die for the idea of the Church, and that it’s becoming a Church as believers are being added in real time, just as individuals become elect as they’re added to the Church — as Arminian CE teaches. No, when Jesus hung upon the cross, it was the complete Church that Jesus had in mind — as seen in Rev 5:9; Rev 7:9; Rev 19:6-9, with all the individual members present. The idea that Jesus died for a mere concept, yet to be filled, doesn’t make any sense. Jesus died for the whole Church, which means He had to have died for every member that comprise the Church. Again, Jesus did not die for mere possibilities (those who may or may not come to faith). He died for actual individuals, who will certainly come to faith in Christ.
Nowhere does the Bible speak of the Church or the Body of Christ separately from its members (Ro 12:4-5; 1 Cor 10:17; 1 Cor 12:12-27; Eph 2:16; Eph 3:6; Eph 4:11-16; Eph 5:30; Col 3:15). Therefore, just as the salvation of the Church (of whom Christ is Savior) cannot be independent of the individual members, so the election of the Church cannot be independent of its members. We must conclude, if the Church (the people of God called out of the world) is the elect of God, and if Christ is the Savior of the elect Church, then election must be the election of the individual members for salvation.
We must also conclude that each member of the Church comes into the world as the elect members of the Church for whom Christ died. The Body of Christ is perfect. Thus there’s no way for any part of the body to be missing — at any point in time or eternity, for all are foreknown by God (Ro 8:29; Eph 1:4-5). All are present and none will ever be lost. True, believers are being added to the Church in real time, but they are the elect members of the Church that Jesus had in view when He hung upon the cross.
If Christ died for His Church – which includes every member of His Church – how then could He have died for everyone else too? The atonement of Christ is directly connected to the election of His people. The atonement was perfect, both in substance (provision) and in scope (application). The provision of the cross was applied to all for whom it was intended, which was every member of the Body of Christ. Not one drop of blood was unaccounted for, but every drop is applied to them. The atonement of Christ is comprehensive (inclusive) in nature, in that it saves all for whom it was meant. Particular redemption makes perfect sense.
When discussing election, the Bible never uses the terms “primary” or “secondary” — as Arminian CE does. Nor does it ever describe it that way. It never divides it up like that. This is strictly Arminian terminology, an Arminian invention. I believe the reason why it’s often difficult to determine if a verse or passage is talking about corporate election or individual election is because to speak of one is to speak of the other. Just as the corporate people of God was unconditionally chosen, so must the individual members be unconditionally chosen (foreknown and predestined). The two cannot be separated. The idea that the election of the corporate Body is primary and the election of individuals is secondary, is nowhere found in the Scriptures. The election of one is the election of the other. Both are predestined by God. They are one. Therefore, anywhere in the NT where it speaks of election or of choosing, both are essentially in view.
Arminian CE is a position that can’t see the forest for the trees. Or in this case, it can’t see the trees for the forest.
In John, chapter 10, we see the Church and its members described as “flock” and “sheep” (John 10:14-16). To round out this discussion (this part of the series), I encourage you to read my commentary on John 10, as well as my study on Ephesians 5:22-33. Links below: