The Chosen People: A Corporate View Of Election, by William W. Klein; Zondervan Publishing House, 1990; 314 pp., $15.95. [Reviewed by Prof. Herman Hanko.]
This discussion of election is presented to the reader as new light shed on a difficult doctrine. The author is of the opinion that neither Arminianism nor Calvinism has succeeded in solving the problem of election, and that a new look at the doctrine will demonstrate that both are wrong. This “new look” results in the author’s idea that election is corporate.
This is a strange thesis to pursue and quite contrary to the facts in the case. He accuses both Arminianism and Calvinism of being individualistic. While this serious accusation is brought against Arminianism with considerable justification, anyone who knows anything about Reformed and Presbyterian theology (especially as it came to expression in the Canons of Dordt and in the Westminster Confessions) knows too that, from the beginning of the Reformation, a corporate view of election was taught in the church.
And this is exactly why the author’s insistence on corporate election is surely by no stretch of the imagination a new insight into biblical teachings.
But the author’s troubles are not over. He uses his erroneous analysis of Calvinism to launch a fierce attack against the biblical and Reformed doctrine of predestination. This is done, interestingly enough, by way of an analysis of all the texts both in the Old and New Testaments which could in any way be quoted in favor of the doctrine of election and reprobation. He does not miss one passage of importance. But when the analysis of these passages emerges from the writer’s hands, they are completely twisted so as to teach exactly the opposite of what they clearly teach, or they are dismissed with remarks like this: An interpretation which teaches the historic doctrine of election is impossible because that “would be totally out of character . . . for Jesus’ ministry” (p. 150). His rejection of the Reformed view is explicit when he rejects Dr. W. Hendriksen’s interpretation of such key passages as Matthew 18:14, although, interestingly, he puts a finger on a weakness in Dr. Hendriksen’s position when he takes Henriksen to task for his “two-will theory” of the will of God.
Klein’s plea for a corporate view of election turns out to be a plea for a conditional view of election in which foreknowledge becomes prescience, and God’s determination to save or to damn is based upon man’s faith or unbelief. And so, after all, the author presents a view of election (and reprobation) which was taught some 375 years ago and which has been consistently condemned by all Reformed and Presbyterian churches which have remained faithful to their creedal heritage.
An interesting question, though, is: How does the author square his conditional predestination with a corporate view of election? This is an interesting question because the simple fact of the matter is that this cannot be done. His effort to do so is found in different places in the book, but especially on pp. 266, 267. It is stressed that election is for service (which a man may refuse to do and thereby fail to become elect) or for suffering. But it is never for privilege of any kind. So it all comes down to the fact that a corporation is the object of election, into which corporation one enters by a choice of his own will and a decision which he makes to believe.