For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. (Eph 1:4 – bold mine)
There is much rejoicing in Cleveland today. Cav fans provide us with a great example of corporate election(1).
Cleveland fans love the Cavs. As a result of loving the Cavs, they also love players who are on that team. Players come and go. The fans’ fondness of a particular player is typically based on whether or not that player is a member of the Cavs.
Cleveland fans were FORMERLY quite enthusiastic about LeBron James. However, when Lebron left the team for Miami, the fans were not quite as pleased with him as they once had been (to put it nicely). Their enthusiasm for LeBron was conditional on his association with the Cavs.
Corporate election is quite similar. Corporate election focuses on our association with Christ. God chooses individual corporately in Christ, rather than choosing particular individuals because of hidden reasons. If someone believes in Christ, God accepts that person as a consequence of his identification with Christ. If someone rejects Christ, God rejects that person, because the individual’s election is conditioned on being “in Christ”.
This view of election fits nicely with Ephesians 1:1-14. Notice how many times the phrases “in him” or “in Christ” are repeated in the passage. Election is corporate and Christ centered.
Corporate election is not about God choosing certain individuals, but rather about him choosing the group of individuals who trust in Christ.
(1)I’m borrowing this analogy from a similar one used by Brian Abasciano. See his article: Clearing Up Misconceptions About Corporate Election
When I was a kid I used to get a lot of enjoyment from killing ants. I loved to stir up their hills and stomp on them. Sometimes I would burn the loathsome insects with a magnifying glass. A favorite method of ant termination was to flood their hills with water. It was satisfying to watch them struggle and drown.
After starting a flood I would sometimes stick a twig in the water to let a few special ants out. They weren’t special because of anything they had done, but because I chose to let them live. It was always first necessary to terminate a massive numbers of ants before showing any mercy. I needed to express my attribute of wrath, and the elect ants had to appreciate that they were living because of my good pleasure.
Keep in mind that all of the ants I killed had it coming. Ants bite even when you command them not to.
You might wonder how the ants felt about all this? They were no doubt in awe and reverence that I let any of them live. I could have killed them all, but instead I maximized my glory by letting a few of them live. I could also make up whatever rules I felt like, because I had the power to. If the ants didn’t like it, they could always talk to the heal of my shoe.
I had two wills regarding the ants. My revealed will was that I really loved the ants and didn’t want any of them to die. My secret will was that I hated ants and wanted to kill them. If that seems paradoxical, that’s because it’s necessary to distinguish between what I wanted to have happen and what I willed to have happen.
If all this is still confusing, remember, the mind of a grade-schooler is a mystery.
[For those who are concerned, the ant sadism can be traced to two events. 1) In kindergarten I blundered into a rather large red ant hill. This did not work out too well for me. 2) When I was in fifth grade I read a short story called Leiningen Versus the Ants. Read that story and you will hate ants too. It was providential that Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull had not yet been released, or NO ants would have survived.]
I recently saw the movie When In Rome. What’s fascinating about the movie is that the plot bears a lot of similarity to the Calvinistic concept of irresistible grace.
[Warning, spoilers ahead]
In the movie, the female lead (Beth) picks some coins from out of a wishing fountain in Rome. What she doesn’t realize is that the fountain is magical. When she took the coins from the pool it put a spell over the men who threw the coins in, and they are all now passionately in love with her. The problem is there is a guy that she really does like. And he is also smitten with her. He is trying to convince her that he really loves her, but she thinks his love is not genuine because of the magical fountain. But the thing is, he never threw a coin into the fountain. He really does love her.
What makes the plot interesting is that the men under the spell all really do love Beth in the Calvinistic sense. In other words, the magic fountain worked in such a way upon the men that it changed their desires, so that they freely chose to love Beth.
So we have 1) Unconditional election – Beth picked the coins out of the pool based on her own motives. and 2) Irresistable grace – the men whom she picked now love her because their desires have been irresistibly changed.
Lucky for us, Beth is smarter than the average Reformed theologian. She understood that love is not genuine if it is not freely chosen. She recognized that if her suitor’s desires were irresistibly changed, then he didn’t really love her at all. And Beth wanted to be truly loved for who she was, not because of a magical spell. Fortunately this is a sappy chick flick, and all ends well.
Beth recognized the problem with the Calvinistic concept of irresistible grace. If we love God because he has irresistibly changed our desires, then we don’t really love God at all.
Perhaps God also wants to be truly loved for who he is, and not because of a magical spell.