Choosing Election

Posted By on December 11, 2010

Okay, it’s a bad pun (are there really any good puns?).

I’ve decided that it’s time for the Naked Bible to weigh in on election. I’ve hinted at this a couple of times, but I figure it’s a good way to have 2010 go out with a bang and start the New Year running. (Yes, I imagine we’ll be into this after Jan 1 turns).

To get us started, please download this PDF file on election terminology. It’s basically a running list of the verses that contain the primary verbiage for election in both testaments (the two major lemmas), along with three other items that I’ll insist you all deal with:

1. The connection (and what is it?) of election language with “before the foundation of the world”

2. Romans 8-11

3. The commands to not fall away due to unbelief in Hebrews 2-6

Here’s what I mean by insisting that these two items be dealt with. Back when I discussed baptism, I made the comment that since the NT connects baptism and circumcision is *some way* (Col. 2:10-12), whatever you want to say about baptism must be true of circumcision. For me, that sends a bunch of positional statements put forth by creeds and denominations into the recycle bin. The usual tactic is to say something about baptism, add a few proof texts, and then question someone’s faith when they don’t agree with the listing and proof texts. We do biblical theology here, not statements of faith. Same goes for election: Whatever you want to say about election *must* work in regard to these three items, or the position isn’t coherent. For newbies, this is the reason that you may quote a confession to me, but I may say it’s incoherent.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

About The Author


19 Responses to “Choosing Election”

  1. Kurt says:

    Looking forward to this!

    • MSH says:

      it beats eschatology.

      • Kurt says:

        I’ve tended to think of circumcision and baptism as equivalent in the sense that both are an outward sign of an inward reality. Paul shows us in Romans that circumcision is of the heart. Abraham decedents were obedient to circumcise outwardly as a sign they were God’s covenant people, in a similar way, the NT sign that you are a covenant member is that you are water baptized in obedience to Christ.

        I favor a ‘corporate view’ on election. In other words, I don’t think that God sorted out (double predestination) who was in and who was out with respect to ultimate salvation. Here is a fabulous article on Romans 9 that is in the flow of what I believe:

        I also don’t think that election of individuals for God’s salvic purposes necessarily excludes everyone else. Those are loaded statements, I know, but I think I can back them up. 😉


  2. Gary says:

    OK, you got Romans 8-11, but considering the statement…
    “The connection (and what is it?) of election language with before the foundation of the world”… I wonder why the word search (pdf doc) didn’t single out “destined” versus “predestined”, getting hits on specifically, Romans 8:29-30 and Ephesians 1:5 and Ephesians 1:11 … (unless I missed them)…and always an interesting issue (to me, anyway) Eph 1:5 and Eph 1:11, RSV “destined”, KJV and NIV “predestined”. To me, there is a difference, at least in English. Don’t know about Hebrew/Greek.

  3. David Medici says:

    Let me begin by disagreeing with your statement that because circumcision is “in some way” connected with baptism that therefore whatever is said about baptism must be true of circumcision. Because something is related to something else in some aspect does not mean that it must therefore be true that the two correspond in every aspect. George Washington and Barak Obama are both related in that they are/were both presidents of the United States. But, that single relational aspect does not therefore mean both men were Virginians, generals, or cut down cherry trees.

    To point #1, the Talmud’s Masekhet Pesachim 54a records the Jewish understanding of preexistence, stating, “Seven things were created before the world was created, and these are they: The Torah, repentance, the Garden of Eden, Gehenna, the Throne of Glory, the Temple, and the name of the Messiah.” Similarly the later Pesikta Rabbati 36:1 retains the thought and states, “…the Holy One, blessed be He, contemplated the Messiah and his works before the world was created…” Again, Pesikta Rabbati 152b states that “from the beginning of the creation of the world the King Messiah was born, for he came up in the thought of God before the world was created.” The Jewish concept of preexistence is one of ideal preexistence–existence in the mind and intention of God–rather than the Greek concept of real preexistence–existence in a non-physical world, whether a spiritual realm or the world of forms.

    The New Testament’s declaration that Christians (i.e., the Church) were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world needs to be understood in its Jewish context. The meaning is that it was in the mind and intent of God to bring forth at a particular time a people who would be the Messiah’s, who was foreknown (not known, but foreknown) before the foundation of the world. The Messiah would have a loyal and prepared people in union with him.

    To point #2, there is a tremendous amount of material in there and it would be very helpful if you could select (sorry for the pun) certain items for comment. But, in general I would argue as follows. Romans 8 concerns the Christian as related to Christ and the consequences therefrom. Because Christians are baptized, they have, in effect, died and been raised, the typical meaning of baptism. Having died they are no longer under judgment, the death penalty having been imposed (Rom. 6:23) by being buried in water, but having been raised to life in union with Christ, an indication of their justification. Therefore, Christians, who walk after the Spirit and not again according to the flesh, are not subject to judgment. But, having been united to Christ Christians live as he lived and are subject to the same treatment from the world that he received and also the same reward (glorification, inheritance) as Christ received (though of subordinate rank).

    Romans 9 begins to address Israel because Israel was also regarded as preexistent before the foundation of the world (Ps 74:2); rabbinic sources also list Israel as preexistent per the Jewish conception of preexistence, but I cannot recall them at the moment. I believe Paul’s use of “elect” language is to be seen in terms of preexistence per the Jewish conception, or at least his comments regarding Israel flow from his unstated recognition of the tension between an elect Church and an elect Israel. Because Paul in Rom. 8 just used language normally used in reference to Israel (e.g., sons, elect, foreknew, and perhaps predestined) but applied it to the Church/Christians, exposing the tension, he now turns his attention to Israel, also an elect people. I believe this is done perhaps to rebuff or preclude any notion that God has rejected Israel, concluding that the gifts and calling of God in reference to Israel are not to be repented of by God (Rom. 11:29). In other words, Israel and the Church are both chosen and elect peoples who exist simultaneously but for different purposes.

    To point #3, the Jewish understanding of preexistence does not mean that every individual in an ideally preexistent body (e.g., Israel) was himself individually foreknown. The elect group was foreknown, but not necessarily every individual in the group. Thus, it is possible for individuals to fall away, as Esau rejected his birthright through neglect of its value in preference for fleshly things. Thus the admonitions, especially in Hebrews, to remain faithful and, in Romans, to continue to walk/live in/after the spirit lest you die (Rom. 8:13).

    Again, because there is so much material here I hesitate to write any more and, in fact, feel that what I have written is a very insufficient summary of basic but involved ideas.

    • MSH says:

      you’ve already read into what I said – I never said “every aspect.” Hopefully what I mean will become clearer. My point is that they *are* related, and the relationships drawn in one direction (NT back to OT) need to be work in the other direction (OT to NT). Same goes for this. If we connect A to B, we cannot neglect to connect B to A, or try to connect B to A in a way that cancels out A to B. I’m not going to rehearse the baptism thing here, but the typical reformed formulations do this in nearly every confession I’ve ever read. An assumption is drawn on HOW baptism relates to circumcision, and the reverse is never tested or (in some cases) even considered. That’s why there are problems. I’ll try to illustrate what I mean in the election discussion.

      I liked your pun, too.

  4. Cognus says:

    I look forward to this one. And in preparation, I am forcing myself to write on the chalkboard 100 times: “I have no preconceptions – I have no preconceptions…..”

  5. Ben Stanhope says:

    As if you didn’t have enough people upset with you already :p

  6. Ted Copella says:

    As someong who never made it past the first year of college, I am determined to follow you guys through this discussion, hoping that I will understand half of it. I figure if I comprehend half, I will be twice as smart as I am now, so I may not have anything constructive to contribute, but I am following with interest.

  7. Doug says:

    Being a confessional Reformed Baptist, I’m not sure how the statements regarding election could be construed as “incoherent.” Wrong, maybe. I’m hoping we won’t pit Systematics against Biblical theology. The two should be best friends and should always be working on refining themselves. I’m looking forward to reading your view.

    • MSH says:

      I’ll try to post on this over the weekend yet. I don’t really care too much about systematic theology; it’s almost always English Bible-driven and “top down.” I care about biblical theology.

  8. Erasmus says:

    I also note the distinction. Biblical theology is driven by text and context (as in the “original” and it’s “original” understanding. I’m always willing to read your stuff, Mike.

    Hey, Merry Christmas


Leave a Reply

Please note: Comment moderation is currently enabled so there will be a delay between when you post your comment and when it shows up. Patience is a virtue; there is no need to re-submit your comment.