EC Election and Donald Bloesch, Very Similar in Orientation

**Repost, this post represents kind of a stepping stone to where I’ve come in my current understanding of election and predestination; my current view has certainly been sharpened as I’ve interacted with TF Torrance, and by the help that Myk Habets has offered through some of his essays and most recently published book on “Theosis in the Theology of Thomas Torrance.” Anyway I thought this post would be interesting since it basically offers the general trajectory of an EC view of election, albeit in rudimentary and general form.**

I am going to provide three posts in a row on Karl Barth’s view of election; all three are second hand commentary, either describing his view, and/or synthesizing his view with a little critique thrown in for good measure.

Here at TEC, I am an advocate for Barth’s framing of election (but not without some helpful nuancing provided by the Scot’s Confession; which I have been introduced to through T. F. Torrance — I will be talking about this in much more detail, probably in my next postings [I will be appealing to an article by Myk Habets to make some of my points]), and thus I think this is important to describe in order for you to know where I am coming from. Some folks who I think fit within the “Evangelical Calvinist” camp (like Ron Frost), follow a more classically framed view of election (i.e. from the infralapsarian and hypothetical universalist side of things); I will have to try and nuance why I think some of these folks still fit within the “Evangelical” camp, at a later date.

You may want to read Holmes introduction first (before this one):

Holmes on Barth’s Election

then come back to this one or my other posting for the day.


Here is a good reflection and assimilation of Barth’s view on the extent of the atonement (and other things):

With Barth I hold that through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross and his glorious resurrection from the grave the human situation has been irrevocably altered. The powers of sin, death, and hell have been decisively vanquished, though they continue to resist the advance of the kingdom of God through the power of the lie. All people of, irrespective of their moral and spiritual state, are claimed for the kingdom, but only some respond in faith and obedience. Christ has reconciled and justified the whole human race but in principle (de jure), not in fact (de facto) except for those who believe. All are heirs to the kingdom, but not all become members of the church of Christ. The treasure in the field is there for all, but only those benefit who give up everything to attain it (Mt 13:44). The gates of the prison in which we find ourselves are now open, but only those who rise up and walk through these gates to freedom are truly free.

. . . Predestination is not something finalized in the past but something realized in the present and consummated in the future. We can resist and deny our predestination, but we cannot permanently thwart the stream of God’s irresistable grace. We will ultimately be brought into submission, though not necessarily into salvation. Yet predestination means life even though we may choose death. Predestination does not necessarily eventuate in fellowship with Christ, but it does mean that every person is brought into inescapable relatedness to Christ. . . . (Donald Bloesch,” Jesus Christ: Savior & Lord, 169)

Just a few points. This view on election, the extent of the atonement, and predestination certainly spins the classical understanding of such things; and I think ‘spins’ it in a way that is much more faithful to the ‘evangelical’ categories found in scripture. It makes Jesus the center of election and reprobation. It assumes that Jesus is ‘real humanity’, both in its ‘reprobate’ state, as well as its ‘elect’. Jesus becomes man’s “reprobation” at the cross, as He also becomes the “elect” at the resurrection (and logically before). All humanity, in this view is ‘elect’, objectively, as they are represented by what Christ did for all of them at the cross; now ‘elect’ humanity must choose to recognize their new status as reconciled through Christ unto the Father by the Holy Spirit (see II Cor. 5), or not!

This kind of thinking runs counter to framing the election/reprobation discussion around particular people, instead it focuses on THE GOD-MAN, JESUS CHRIST!


11 thoughts on “EC Election and Donald Bloesch, Very Similar in Orientation

  1. “Christ has reconciled and justified the whole human race but in principle (de jure), not in fact (de facto) except for those who believe. All are heirs to the kingdom, but not all become members of the church of Christ. The treasure in the field is there for all, but only those benefit who give up everything to attain it ”

    I’m kind of having a problem with this part. As I read Torrance and see him emphasizing the objective union, and the sheer objectiveness of our salvation in Christ this ‘in principle’ doesn’t seem to do that justice, as it sounds like the same old Christ made a transaction somewhere over our head, but it doesn’t really touch us until we somehow get connected to it through faith.

    I see Torrance saying all the things are already true about you ‘in fact’ apart from anything you do, and that what happens through faith by the Holy Spirit is that you are lifed up to experience this reality subjectively. When you participate the accomplishments of the cross begin to be actualized in your life and you get to experience them.


  2. Cody,

    First, this post is rather old; and so how I’ve come to understand such things has developed over time.

    I think TFT does function with somewhat of an “actualistic” metaphysic (but not as hard as Barth does). BUT, TFT did believe that there are reprobate; so then, how the reprobate become delimited from the universal atonement remains somewhat of a mystery. And of course this seems to be a question that your question is gnawing at. I believe that salvation is real for all humanity; Christ’s humanity being archetypical of what real humanity is. But, still, not all are saved. TFT has a Scottish Calvinist concept of carnal/spiritual union operating in his view; not all people are spiritually united to Christ, but all are carnally.

    Let me ask you, Cody; who ultimately decides, in your view, of who “believes” and who doesn’t? And “why” do some not believe and some do?

    I have my ideas on this, but I’d like to hear yours prior to me sharing mine 🙂 . I’m trying to promote some dialogue 😉 .


  3. Well first off I agree with the carnal/spiritual union, and TFT says that there is actually a threefold incorporation into Christ. The thing is when we are talking in this way, it is a ‘subjective’ that means not ontological, or you could say ‘experiencial’. Torrance even stresses the fact that ‘regeneration’ is not what ‘goes on in here’ but what happened in Christ, and by the Spirit we experience the ‘One’ regeneration of Christ, same with faith, baptism, etc.

    I see the ‘reprobate’ as those who refuse to accnowledge and participate in ‘reality’ not as those who are not ultimately included because they have not cone something.l To me the Spirit has been poured out upon all flesh and Christ is drawing all to Himself. It’s the fact that God’s love can be spurned, it is not automatic that because Christ has faith for me, and in my place, that I will share in that faith. Salvation is complete, and Torrance says that even the damned will be resurected because they are ontologically united to Christ and will share in the ‘One Resurection’.

    The problem is the ‘alienation’ of the mind. Everything that Christ has done is true for all people, and that means really true, not some possibility that they can somehow buy into with the ‘visa card faith’. What the Spirit is at work doing in the World is turning the light on in peoples lives so that they can see what has been done for them.

    Ultimately the individual decides if he will accept this good news or not, but it’s not Arminianism because the fact is, is that Christ has already believed for them, and is believing, so it’s not that it’s up to there faith to make it happen, because it’s not, it’s up to Christ’s faith. Though it is in the end up to them wether or not they will participate in the reality, or if they will forever reject the love of God, and experience His love as wrath,

    All are ‘saved’ ontologically, yet all will not be saved, or ‘experience’ their salvation, then again, maybe they will 😉


  4. Cody,

    I agree, that vicariousness, pace TFT, is the hinge upon which I think soteriological discussion needs to turn.

    See my response to you on the other thread about the ‘mind’ thing. I think TFT needs to be developed, constructively, further on some things. I think he needs some help with pneumatology and how that relates to thick accounting of salvation. Myk Habets has done an excellent job in developing TFT’s doctrine of theosis in his Theosis In The Theology Of Thomas Torrance, and as Myk notes, TFT does need more development in this area. I, personally, am not happy with simply leaving salvation (and our appropriation of it by the Spirit) in the realm of the noetic or the mind. Let me ask you this, Cody; do you think that Jesus needed to be enlightened, noetically, in order to become the “saved one?” Or do you think there was something back behind intellectual awareness that serves as the ground for salvation in the humanity of Christ? It seems to me that what has shaped the ‘kind’ of salvation that Jesus is in his homoousios person; is his unfettered communion, through union, with the Father and Holy Spirit. Or, his life of self-giving love for the other. If this is the shape and ground of salvation exemplified and ‘actualised’ in the person of Christ; then I wonder how this would affect how we would understand salvation itself, and our inclusion within salvation? Is the problem just the ‘alienation’ of the mind (as both Barth and TFT would say), or is there more (not less) to it than this? I want to say there is more to this than simply discussing the issue of the ‘mind’ and becoming ‘aware’ of our salvation in Christ. While this noetic aspect is certainly a part of our self-knowledge of salvation; theologically, I cannot see this as robust enough of an answer. I actually think Augustine is helpful, to a degree, on this. I think his definition of sin as concupiscence (i.e. self-love) is something that us Torranceans (and Barthians) need to avail ourselves to. I will do a post on this soon.

    Thanks for sharing, Cody. I’m glad that you appreciate TFT so much!


  5. Ok but I think you are still missing the point. Obviously there was more wrong with the human race than mere alienation of the mind. Christ came to save us from Sin, and it has had many effects on humanity and Creation. The fact that Torrance points out, is that He did actually accomplish what He set out to do, it’s not just a possibility, It is finished, in the words of our Lord. He has defeated sin and conquered Satan, hell, etc. Though right now we live in the times between the times, therefor we don’t necessarily see what Christ has accomplished, and that is where faith comes in. We are not believing in a possibility, we are trusting that Christ has done what He said He came to do, and what the Apostles proclaimed.

    We now struggle with the alienation of the mind, because we are living contrary to reality. We’re like blind crazy people, who believe there are big purple dinosaurs roaming around our homes, or something 😉 The Holy Spirit comes to mediate, and help us live Into the reality of what Christ has done.

    It really looks like the devil and sin still have not been conquered, or that we are not yet forgiven, or reconciled, or that God is anywhere around us. Then at our conversion, we are tricked into thinking that all those things happened at that moment, and that leads to all the other problems. That is where the Vicarious humanity of Christ and our participation really come in. I think Torrance’s pnuematology is just fine, he grounds it all in the finished work of Christ. Christ mediates the Spirit and the Spirit mediates Christ. Christ has done it, and it effects us wether we know it or not, after all you will be resurrected wether you like it or not, and that is only because Christ was resurrected in your sted, and you will participate in the only One resurrection that is Christ’s. The subjective aspect is the actualization that comes about by the Spirit as you participate. The benefits become yours even though they already are, yet come to be able to experience them by the Spirit.


  6. Cody,

    With due respect; I don’t think I’m missing the point at all. You’re getting a bit presumptuous, me thinks! I understand TFT on all of this quite well, I think; and my questions back to you aren’t are a result of not understanding the “point” but understanding it and wanting to push further.

    My point on the Spirit and TFT actually parrot what Myk Habets has said about TFT’s theology (amongst other Torrance scholars) in his book “Theosis in the Theology of Thomas Torrance.” It seems that you’re still at that defensive stage in your appropriation of TFT’s theology, and thus not ready to engage with TFT at a constructive level yet. I was there too, at one point, and so I understand the time it takes to move on a bit and better be able to appreciate our beloved TFT with more of a critical/constructive eye. I know what Torrance points out, but what I am pointing out is that I think there is room for TFT’s trajectory to be developed. I think it a mistake to become slavishly tied down to TFT’s corpus as the end game; I think he would think this to be the case too. There are aspects of his theological development that need more work; like the implications of his christology, soteriology, and pneumatology. It is not possible for someone, even as gifted as TFT, to say all that needs to be said; that’s the point of learning and developing. We stand on the shoulders of giants, eh?

    Have you read his book “Scottish Theology” yet?


  7. I agree that he didn’t say all that needs to be said, and we can engage him constructively, but I don’t want to go in a different direction, because I agree with what he has said. I believe giving to subjective side of salvation objective implications would be to do just that, and I don’t agree with it. Maybe I am a little defensive, my bad 😉

    No I haven’t read it yet, I actually just finishing Incarnation, and starting Atonement. Amongst also reading The Promise of Trinitarian Theology, and what ever else I can get my hands on. Maybe I will try that on next.


  8. Cody,

    I like your defensiveness and can relate to it 🙂 . It has only been just recently where I have been trying to think more critically, so to speak, about what TFT has to say. I know that even amongst Barth TFT scholars this distinction between objective/subjective is more contentious than we would like to think. In other words the hard and fast distinction you’re drawing isn’t as hard and fast once we get down into the nitty gritty of it. In principle, though, I agree with you on being clear about distinctions. The hard part about that, theologically, is making those since both realities are conjoined in the consubtantial person of the hypostatic union that inheres in Jesus Christ. We need to be careful not to get too ‘nestorian’ on this; and I’m afraid if we push this distinction too far that this could happen. I think the person of the Logos is definitive, and thus the natures of the person (and their attributes in toto) find their shape within this reality. Meaning that saying this is objective and that is subjective, at least, requires some work.


  9. Oh, if you can get your hands on it I think you would really like it. But, it sounds like you have a good start on TFT (I really like his Trinitarin Theology, his “A Christian Doctrine of God” is excellent too!). I look forward to talking to you more about your readings!


  10. I don’t understand how we can get ‘nestorian’ on this, can you explain?

    I would say the ontic reality is that Christ as both God and man and accomplished both sides, in the One Person. That would be the objective, you know that, but I don’t see how that could end up being Nestorian


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