Does Romans 9 Teach Individual or Corporate Election?

If you have read my previous exegetical blogs on Romans 9 you will understand that I believe Romans 9 discusses individual salvation and the election of individuals by God unto salvation. Yet some still try to insist that Romans 9 does not speak about this. They claim two things (cf. Baugh):Bright beyour Easter

  • Paul is simply addressing the historical destiny of Israel in its redemptive role in Romans 9, not the eternal destinies of individuals;
  • Paul is pointing to corporate election of the Church, not to God’s choice of individuals.

In an effort to deny individual election they deny clear biblical truth and preach that error to their congregations. Through proof-texting, straw-man arguments and rhetoric devoid of truth they deny that which is clearly articulated in Scripture. The bottom line is simple, those who deny individual election are in error because their position is exegetically indefensible.

In response, I would like to offer a few resources which will clearly demonstrate that Romans 9, and Scripture as a whole, speak about individual election unto salvation. The articles I am providing here are by exegetes, theologians and scholars of the highest class and reputation. Throughout history, the Reformed tradition has been blessed with the very best of these individuals dating back to the New Testament – from Jesus to Paul to Augustine to Calvin to Turretin to Owen to Murray and on and on I could go. The clear witness of Scripture is to the reality that God individually and unconditionally elects unto salvation.

Some of what you will read below is quite scholarly, others are more readable. Enjoy them all to the benefit of your soul.

Does Romans 9 Teach Individual Election Unto Salvation? Some Exegetical and Theological Reflections by Thomas Schreiner

Corporate and Individual Election in Romans 9 by Thomas Schreiner

God’s Purpose According to Election: Paul’s Argument in Romans 9 by Steven M. Baugh

Israel and the Plan of God – Romans 9:1-29 by Douglas Moo

Corporate Election by Daniel Wallace

The Arminian Concept of Election by Sam Storms

The Calvinistic Concept of Election by Sam Storms

See also the following commentaries on Romans:

The Epistle to the Romans by John Murray

The Message of Romans by John Stott

The Epistle to the Romans by Douglas Moo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 thoughts on “Does Romans 9 Teach Individual or Corporate Election?

  1. If Calvinism is so CLEARLY taught in scripture, than why are there so many wise men on both sides of this debate?? Men on both sides who know how to exegete scripture equally well, and yet arrive at different conclusions? Men like Dr. Jerry Walls, Dr. Ben Witherington, John Piper, and the list goes on. You say here that “In an effort to deny individual election they deny clear biblical truth and preach that error to their congregations.” But isn’t this based merely on your opinion of what clear biblical truth is? Couldn’t some say the exact same about Calvinism? That in order to defend it’s claims, Calvinism denies clear biblical truth?

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    1. Hey Nathan, thanks for the comment. You raise an issue that is at the heart of hermeneutics and exegesis. As Ben Witherington (an Arminian) argues, multiple interpretations of a text does not solve any problem nor lend credence to one interpretation or another. It’s really a point of fact and no more. He states that there are only good and bad interpretations and not just a series of multiple, equally valid interpretations. This means, ultimately, that the text must decide which one is right and which one is wrong. John Piper (a Calvinist) would agree with this. Thus to say that there are ‘wise men’ on both sides of the debate is true, but does not solve anything. Somebody is right in their interpretation and somebody is wrong. But the text will decide that. So to answer your question, someone could indeed say that Calvinism denies clear biblical truth, but this will have to be shown from right exegesis and good interpretation of the biblical text, not by an appeal to the reality that some interpret Scripture differently.

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  2. I totally agree that saying Calvinism denies clear biblical truth bears no weight aside from right exegesis and good interpretation of the biblical text. My point is that the definition of right exegesis and good interpretation seems to be the gray area. I have read and listened to smart men on both sides of this teaching, and they all used the same methods for defending their interpretation. I have read work by former Calvinists and former Arminianists, and they all state clear biblical reasons for leaving one ‘camp’ for the other. This is what makes it hard for me to understand how one can be so sure that their interpretation is the correct interpretation on this issue?

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    1. You raise a difficult hermeneutical question; one over which many pages have been written. I think that whenever there are ‘camps’ there needs to be conversation. As a critical realist I admit that truth is singular and it can be known objectively. But I also admit that I may not have grasped it the way I should. Thus continued dialogue, grace and diligence are needed as we seek the meaning of Scripture. As you acknowledged, not everybody is right. The text alone will determine who is and who is not. Not to be a jerk or anything, but how would you answer your own question?

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  3. I really don’t think it’s possible, when it comes to this type of disagreement, to objectively know whether you are right or wrong. My convictions about the proper interpretation of the Bible, regarding Calvinism and Arminian theology, are shaped by my relationship with Jesus. Even reading my own answer, I can see how it could be very disappointing to someone seeking a way to discern the proper interpretation of scripture correctly. But if we are each working towards deepening our experiential relationship with Jesus, and if we focus on abiding in God(1 John 4:17-2-) I believe he will guide us as we try to honor his call for us to study his Word. Personally I believe that whoever is right, or wrong, both Calvinists and Armenians qualify for entry into eternity with Jesus. Whether we need to or not, followers of Christ will bear fruit. Most if not all Calvinists love God and love people, and I would say the same about Armenians. I guess this is why I find it so confusing when these disagreements become breaking points within the church.

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    1. I would agree with most of what you have said. I would, however, caution you not to allow subjectivism to be your guide when interpreting a text or evaluating a viewpoint. Don’t give up on objectivity too quickly. Truth lies outside of how we feel about it, or how it affects / effects us. We are to shape our lives to the truth that is revealed in Scripture and not the other way around. Our relationship with Christ is to be determined by the truths that we know about him, the truth is not to be shaped by our ‘relationship’ with Christ. If that makes sense. I’m not accusing you of doing this, but I fear that this is the case with too many Christians. Truth is to shape us, not us it.

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  4. I try as much as possible to let truth shape me. But I wonder if it’s truly possible to completely block out all subjectivity when discerning truth. It seems like everything enters our minds through a filter of some sort, consciously or subconsciously.

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    1. This is why we need the community of God’s people to help us. By that I don’t simply mean our current church or the churches today. I mean that God has been enabling his people through the Holy Spirit to interpret scripture for 2000 years (and more if we include the apostles when they wrote scripture). We would be wise to follow their lead. Historical ignorance is one of the main reasons for misinterpretation.

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