May 28, 2012

Memorial Day


Today is Memorial Day. It is important to remember that this is not a Christian holiday, but a American holiday. We are specifically remembering American soldiers who have died during war.

Today is a day when we set aside our religious and political differences. Irregardless of how you feel about war itself, there is a special kind of respect you should have for those who are willing to sacrifice their lives for others. This is especially true when they die, not only for their loved ones, but for their country. There is honor in that, and that honor deserves respect.

So let us remember, always, what these men and now women have done for us, and let us not have their sacrifices be in vain.

May 21, 2012

Corporate Election Analogies


I wrote on this analogy a couple of years ago, but it is worth repeating. For many, corporate election doesn't make sense because groups, or certain kinds of groups, aren't real entities. James White once referred to it as a "impersonal nebulous group" in his debate with Michael Brown. This doesn't quite make sense considering that the group is formed through personal relationship with Jesus Christ, but I digress.

My point of the baseball analogy is that one can in fact elect groups, and have personal connection to both the group and to the members of the group in a way that makes sense. So I use something which is very familar: the election of one's sports team, in this case baseball.

My father grew up on Staten Island, which is Yankees territory, and seeing how I fell in love with baseball watching it with my father, naturally I am a Yankee fan. But I didn't choose a bunch of players, and then thoe players were my team. I chose a group.

And it isn't like I have no attachment to the players either. But my attachment to Jeter or Petite is due in part to their being Yankees. It is a natural part of being a baseball fan.

Not it is not exactly the same thing. That's what makes it an analogy. The sole point that I am making here is that electing corporately does make sense, and an individual being part of that group recieves affection through the group.

Old Testament: Rahab

Now I want to talk about two biblical examples of corporate election unto physical salvation. These go beyond simply being analogies to being examples of how corporate election works. They are only analogous in the sense that they are physical salvation instead of spiritual salvation.

Onto my OT example:
Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and that you will save us from death." "Our lives for your lives!" the men assured her. "If you don't tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the LORD gives us the land." -Joshua 2:12-14
If I were to ask you why Rahab was saved, what would you answer? It is rather simple really. She was saved because she preserved the spies. So what is corporate about her salvation? Not much.

But let us think a little broader than this. Let's say that Rahab had a brother, let's call him Achrahab. What about Achrahab's fate? He was saved as well. So why was Achrahab saved? Answer: because of his relationship to Rahab. In this way, Rahab operates as a corporate head, and all those connected to her are saved corporately. Achrahab did nothing to deserve his salvation. All he did was when his sister came to him and told him to stay in her room, he trusted her. That's it.

Now Achrahab could have ignored his sister. He could have said, "Sis, you're crazy. I need to help in the defense of the city." Perhaps she had some relatives who did precisely that. But instead he trusted his sister and stayed with her. So he was saved, not because of anything that he had done, but because of what his sister did.

This is how salvation works. We are not saved because of what we have done, but because of what Christ did, and our salvation comes by us being with Him. It is in this what that salvation is in Christ, by Christ, and from Christ.

New Testament: Paul in the Boat
But after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss. And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of [any man's] life among you, but of the ship. -Acts 27:21-22

This is an interesting little analogy/example. Considering that we are talking about election, and election presumes that there are other options as far as people who could be saved, we have to ask how this is an example of election. In can be answered by framing the context with this question: why does God save the people of this boat, and not those who are on other boats which are caught in similar storms? In this case, it is for the preservation of Paul, thus an election unto salvation of a group through association with one member of that group, Paul.

One of the things which makes this example really worth talking about is what Paul says later:

And fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let down four anchors from the stern and prayed for day to come. And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, and had lowered the ship's boat into the sea under pretense of laying out anchors from the bow, Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, "Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved." Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship's boat and let it go. -Acts 27:29-32

This talks a little bit about eternal security, or, as it is often refered, OSAS (Once Saved Always Saved). A large portion of the texts that advocates of OSAS point at deal with the group at large, and yet there are texts is Scripture which directly warn or discuss individual who fall away from the faith. Here we see a similar kind of comparison. Paul initially says that no one's life will be lost, then he says that anyone who leaves the group would die. Was Paul wrong earlier?

No, and here's why. Initially he was expressing God's promise, and God's promise was to the group. Once someone leaves the group, the promise no longer applies, hence the apparent contradiction. Likewise, our security isn't in some unknown decree where are names are individually listed, but instead our security is in Christ Himself, and as long as we remain in Christ, our salvation is secure.

This concludes my recent run of posts relating to corporate election. I hope you found it enjoyable and elucidating.

May 14, 2012

The Empty Set Criticism of Corporate Election

One of the most common criticisms that I have heard against corporate election is the argument of the empty set: if God elects a group what happens if there is nobody in that group.

There are a number of problems with this argument. First of all, the group isn't empty, so the question is moot. This isn't something which God generally does, but something which He has done once (with some redactions as history has progressed). These kinds of hypotheticals are only really worth considering if alternative possibilities are possible. But God isn't going to choose another people, so why worry about what would happen if God's chosen people had no people in it?

Second it was created with members already within it so it being empty isn't even possible. In the OT, when God first chose His people, it already had Abraham in it. So, it wasn't empty then. If you want to think about the church, the church began with the remnant of Israel: not just the 12 apostles but also the 120 in the upper room. The actual design of corporate election is that a person is chosen to start the group, and then the group expands around that person. The group isn't formed empty and then filled.

Therefore this entire argument is not only moot, but ignorant in terms of understanding what we are saying.

May 7, 2012

Faith as the Evidence of Things Unseen

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. - Hebrews 11:1

I have often heard this verse used to define faith as believing in something without evidence. In fact, the NIV rendering has that feel. However, I don't really believe that is what the verse is pointing to.

If you look at the context, the author of Hebrews isn't discussing what faith is, but what faith does. It is by their faithfulness to God that God is pleased by the saints of the OT. It is by faith that those things that we hope for comes to pass.

The word translated as 'substance' above is the Greek word 'hypostasis', which literally means substance. It refers to the fundamental aspect of something; its core, its foundation, its essence. Thus faith makes those things which we hope for manifest. It brings them into reality.

The word translated as 'evidence' is the Greek word 'elegchos' which is derived from 'elegcho' which means "to convict or try". Thus 'elegchos' is a legal term referring to those proofs by which a conviction is made. It can also refer to the conviction itself. However, the meaning "conviction" is unlikely considering that when it is used in this sense it is meant in a condemning sense. However, there is nothing condemning about faith. Therefore it is far more likely that "proof" or "evidence" is more likely. So what does it mean to be "the evidence of things unseen"? It means it is by faith that the unseen things are tested for validity.

If you think about it, all of this makes sense. Faith is essentially trust. You can have faith in seen things and unseen things, but irregardless of what it is you have faith in, your faith is the basis upon which you act. I sit on a chair because I trust that chair to support my weight. I married my wife, in part, because I had faith that she would be true to me.

Therefore, when I have faith in something hoped for or unseen, I act on that faith. If what I hope for is valid, then my actions will bring it about. When that happens, it becomes evidence for acting on it in the future. Indeed, if we look at the rest of Hebrews 11, we do not see saints who hold onto their faith despite evidence, such as Job or Joseph (in the prison). Instead we see men who acted based on their faith in what God had told them and who changed the world through those actions.

This is essentially a call for anecdotal evidence. Paul is calling us to go out and live out our faith for the sake of collecting that anecdotal evidence for the gospel. You want to convince people of the truth of God? Go out and live it. When you do, you will receive confirmation after confirmation of God working in your life that you can then use to tell people of the faithfulness of God. Each day, each moment we have an opportunity to demonstrate the wonders of God if we choose to live His way.

So go out and spread the word by living out the word. As James said, show people your faith by what your faith can do.