No Decree Behind the Back of Jesus: Barth’s ‘Actual’ Doctrine of Election

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. -Ephesians 1.3-6

The doctrine of election has plagued the Christian churches for centuries; but that is because they haven’t more accurately thought this doctrine from the hypostatic union of God and humanity in the person of Jesus Christ. When a person is able to finally distantiate themself from the speculative hubris that has surrounded this doctrine for so long—one grounded in the optics provided for, primarily, by Aristotelian causation and actus purus (pure being) theology—it is finally possible to think about God’s relation to the world, with humanity as His principal focus, through the Christic lens He has freely ordained for us, for Himself. Once the foreign grammars have been shed all we are left with us what Scripture is left with: Jesus Christ. Karl Barth saw this, particularly with regard to a doctrine of election, more keenly than anybody prior. Following along the impetus provided for him through the work of his French connection, Pierre Maury, Barth launched out in what I would contend was finally a genuinely Protestant and Nicene doctrine of election grounded in the double homoousios Son of man, Jesus Christ. He writes:

2. THE ETERNAL WILL OF GOD IN THE ELECTION OF JESUS CHRIST

Starting from Jn. 1.1, we have laid down and developed two statements concerning the election of Jesus Christ. The first is that Jesus Christ is the electing God. This statement answers the question of the Subject of the eternal election of grace. And the second is that Jesus Christ is elected man. This statement answers the question of the object of the eternal election of grace. Strictly speaking, the whole dogma of predestination is contained in these two statements. Everything else that we have to say about it must consist in the development and application of what is said in these two statements taken together. The statements belong together in a unity which is indissoluble, for both of them speak of the one Jesus Christ, and God and man in Jesus Christ are both Elector and Elect, belonging together in a relationship which cannot be broken and the perfection of which can never be exhausted. In the beginning with God was this One, Jesus Christ. And that is predestination. All that this concept contains and comprehends is to be found originally in Him and must be understood in relation to Him. But already we have gone far enough from the traditional paths to make necessary a most careful explanation of the necessity and scope of the christological basis and starting-point for the doctrine as it is here expanded.

1 We may begin with an epistemological observation. Our thesis is that God’s eternal will is the election of Jesus Christ. At this point we part company with all previous interpretations of the doctrine of predestination. In these the Subject and object of predestination (the electing God and elected man) are determined ultimately by the fact that both quantities are treated as unknown. We may say that the electing God is supreme being who disposes freely according to His own omnipotence, righteousness and mercy. We may say that to Him may be ascribed the lordship over all things, and above all the absolute right and absolute power to determine the destiny of man. But when we say that, then ultimately and fundamentally the electing God is an unknown quantity. On the other hand, we must say that elected man is the man who has come under the eternal good-pleasure of God, the man from whom all eternity God has foreordained to fellowship with Himself. But when we say that, then ultimately and fundamentally elected man is also an unknown quantity. At this point obscurity has undoubtedly enveloped the theories of even the most prominent representatives and exponents of the doctrine of predestination. Indeed, in the most consistently developed forms of the dogma we are told openly that on both sides we have to do, necessarily, with a great mystery. In the sharpest contrast to this view our thesis that the eternal will of God is the election of Jesus Christ means that we deny the existence of any such twofold mystery.1

Jesus, for Barth, is both the electing God (equals subject of election), and elected man (equals object of election). In his subsequent point #1 we see immediately how this, for Barth, impacts a knowledge of God, and humanity (think Calvin). This is why Barth (and Torrance) believe revelation is reconciliation; it flows organically from Barth’s doctrine of election, from his actualism. There is no unknown quantity in Barth’s theology; no potentia absoluta or ordinata; no decree behind the back of Jesus. This is quintessential Barthian theology: in God’s Kingdom in Christ, for Barth, there are no secrets; it is a genuinely revealed Kingdom that comes populated with God’s furniture as that is all shaped by the face (prosopon) of Jesus Christ.

This is what the critics of Barth don’t get. He is simply working within the Nicene frame of cataphatic theology, exhaustively. There is no uncertainty of who God is in Barth’s theology. There is a Divine vulnerability, revealed in God’s humanity and humility in Jesus Christ; but this vulnerability is not an uncertainty, it is simply an aspect of God’s freedom to be with and for and in us. Classical theologies typically operate with speculative thinking as the fund by which they think theology and its verity of implications. This is what Barth’s doctrine of election overcomes as it thinks all things from God’s Self-revelation; thus, bypassing unnecessary “shiny-things” generated by the imaginative machinations of witty ‘theological’ people.

1 Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II/2 §32-33: Study Edition (New York, New York: T&T Clark, 2010), 156. 

 

‘My God, You Have Forsaken Me!’: Gregory of Nanzianzus, Karl Barth, and Psalm 22

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? -Psalm 22:1

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” -Matthew 27:46

περὶ δὲ τὴν ἐνάτην ὥραν ἀνεβόησεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς φωνῇ μεγάλῃ λέγων, Ηλι ηλι λεμα σαβαχθανι; τοῦτ’ ἔστιν, Θεέ μου θεέ μου, ἱνατί με ἐγκατέλιπες; – ΚΑΤΑ ΜΑΘΘΑΙΟΝ 27:46

Here is how Gregory of Nazianzus or Gregory the Theologian (329 – 390 A.D.) understands this passage:

He who destroyed my curse was Himself called a curse for my sake (Gal. 3:13). He who takes away the world’s sin was Himself called sin (2 Cor. 5:21). He who took the place of the old Adam was called a new Adam (1 Cor. 15:45-47). Likewise, He makes my disobedience His own, as the Head of His whole body. For as long as I am sinful and rebellious, by my rejection of God and by my sinful passions, for just so long Christ Himself is called sinful on my account! But when He has brought all things into obedience to Himself, through their acceptance of Him and their own transformation, then His state of humble obedience to the Father will be over, as He brings me to God in a state of salvation…

Thus in carrying our salvation, Christ makes our condition His very own. This, I think, is how to understand the words, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46). It wasn’t the Son, in His own person, whom the Father forsook. Nor was He forsaken by His own divinity, as some think, as if His divine nature were frightened of the cross, and fled from Him in His sufferings. After all, one forced the divine Son to be born on earth in the first place, or to be impaled on the cross! But as I said, Christ was, in Himself, representing us — and we were the ones who were forsaken and rejected, before He came to save us. But now, by the sufferings of Him who could not suffer, we have been reconciled to God and saved. Likewise, He makes our foolishness and our sins His own. This is why He says what we read in the Twenty-First Psalm. It’s very clear that the Psalm is speaking of Christ.1

In the first paragraph we see the theme of mirifica commutatio (‘wonderful exchange’), and doctrine of the vicarious humanity of Christ that motivated Karl Barth in his doctrine of election. He writes (as we have observed in a recent post):

The election of grace is the eternal beginning of all the ways and works of God in Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ God in His free grace determines Himself for sinful man and sinful man for Himself. He therefore takes upon Himself the rejection of man with all its consequences, and elects man to participation in His own glory.2

This is an important aspect to emphasize, in a history of interpretation sense, with particular effort to demonstrate that Barth wasn’t making a novel claim in his doctrine of election; even if it was ‘novel’ in its juxtaposition with scholastic Reformed and modern readings.

But beyond that, and this is what I want to underscore most prominently in this post: we can see how someone as early as Nanzianzus was wrestling with the relationship between the two-natures in the singular person of Jesus Christ. He doesn’t defer to a Lutheran sort of communicato idiomatum, but instead operates with an almost Nestorian-like (which the Lutheran would charge Calvinists or the Reformed with latterly, relative to Nanzianzus) focus on the vicarious humanity doing the suffering [on the cross] whilst the ground of His person, in the eternal Logos, remains untouched. Here’s a nice summary of how the various traditions understand the ‘communication of properties’ (communicatio idiomatum), and how that implicates the Christ’s ‘forsakenness’ on the cross:

Roman Catholics and Lutherans hold their respective views based on their shared understanding of the communicatio idiomatum, the communication of properties or attributes of the two natures of Christ. For both traditions, the divine nature of Christ communicates (or shares) divine attributes such as omnipresence to His human nature; thus, Christ’s physical body can be in several locations at once.

Reformed theology rejects this view of the communication of attributes as violating historic, orthodox Christology. According to the Council of Chalcedon, the two natures of Christ are inseparably united in the one divine person of the Son of God without confusion, mixture, or change. The divine nature remains truly divine and the human nature remains truly human, each retaining its own attributes. This must be so. If Christ’s humanity acquires a divine attribute, Jesus is no longer truly human and cannot represent other human beings before God or atone for their sin.

For Reformed theology, the communicatio idiomatum means the attributes of each of Christ’s natures are communicated to the person of Christ. We can predicate what is true of each nature to Christ’s person. So, the person of Christ is omnipresent, but not according to His human nature. He is omnipresent according to His divine nature because only deity is omnipresent. Likewise, the person of Christ died on the cross, but Jesus experienced death according to His human nature, for the divine nature is not subject to death and decay.3

According to the above description, Gregory is simply being a good proto-Chalcedonian Christologian; that is prior to the convening of the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D. For the Chalcedonian, or more accurately, the Reformed perspective, the natures of Christ, both human and Divine, find their predication in and from the singular personalis of Jesus Christ. So, from this frame, Christ’s humiliation in the incarnation and atonement has grounding in the single person of the whole Christ, but within the whole Christ (think from a qualified Christus totus) it is possible, and necessary, to think in terms of the operations of both his Divine and human natures per those natures as defined by Christ’s person (so there is a dialectic afoot). This gets into the Reformed understanding of what has been called the extra Calvinisticum as well; but let us simply acknowledge that for the moment, and develop that later.

I think the Theologian’s take above is adequate, but requires further theological development; which my friend Darren Sumner does in his book titled, Karl Barth and the Incarnation: Christology and the Humility of GodSumner offers a constructive, and yet Reformed retrieval of this important doctrine; in regard to thinking about the ‘forsakenness’ of Christ, from both Lutheran and Reformed trajectories. But of course, Darren does so, admirably, from within the Christological dialectic that Barth offers in his theology in general, and in his doctrine of election, in particular. Suffice it to say, what remains the major thrust is the significance of emphasizing how the natures of Christ are predicated within the person of Christ, and to think these things from there; even if that negates (or not) what some have called the Logos asarkos. 

Conclusion

I sort of got lost in the underbrush of the trees in my sketch of things here. But hopefully the reader can appreciate the complexities involved with thinking about how the sui generis reality of God become human in Jesus Christ ought to impact this discussion. What remains true, from my perspective, is that the Son of Man freely chose our forsakenness, so that we might ultimately participate in his exaltedness through His resurrected and re-created humanity (pro nobis). God surely ‘suffered’ in the incarnation and crucifixion, and yet His divinity remained divine; and this is the mystery of it all. God has humanity in Jesus Christ, and chose freely to forever be defined by that humanity for-our-sakes (Deus incarnandus). And yet, His choice to be defined by Christ’s elected humanity, for-our-sakes, is grounded first in who He eternally is as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So, God is who God has always already been, it is just that within His who-ness as God, because of this, He freely chose to become something ‘new,’ in the sense that enfleshment is distinct from God, but now eternally who God has chosen to be for us in Christ. It is within this remaining mystery that God suffered; and He did so, as Nanzianzus rightly underscores, as the Theanthropos, or as the God-man, who came to have capacity to suffer as a human insofar as God has humanity in Jesus Christ.

Does this solve things for you? Probably not in the way you would like, or the way I would like. But this is what happens when us plebeians are confronted by the Novum of God’s life for us in Jesus Christ. I prefer to worship at the majestic reality of God’s forsakenness for us in Christ. But to do so with some understanding; which includes his exaltedness in the same breath. He is the God who makes the impossible possible, and it is because of this that we have been allowed to participate in the eternal life of the triune God; that is because He chose ‘to become us that we might become Him’—this is God’s Grace.

1 Gregory Nazianzus, The Early Church Fathersedited by Nick Needham (Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2017), March 16th reading. Gregory refers to Psalm 21 rather than 22. That is because he was referring to the LXX or the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament that he would have had available at his time. The chapterification was off by one relative to our translations today. 

2 Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II/2 §32-33: Study Edition (New York, New York: T&T Clark, 2010), 99. 

3 Ligonier Ministries, A Communication of Attributesaccessed 06-10-2021.

 

 

Why Did God Create Us: Jesus is the Answer, What’s the Question?

Just yesterday I was having a discussion with my wife and sister on Divine aseity. In the midst of that discussion my sister perceptively asked: ‘why did God create us to begin with?’ This is a good and basic question that most Christians gloss right past in the haste of their daily lives; but we shouldn’t! My on-the-fly response was that He created us because it is fitting with who He is as the relational God of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is fitting that a God full of Grace would want to share His eternal fellowship with the ‘other,’ since indeed the ‘other-in-the-One’ is definitive of God’s very life by His natural status as the Monarxia. As it so happens, rather fortuitously, in my Church Dogmatics reading Barth hits upon this very question visà-vis his doctrine of election: 

Augustine and his followers emphasised quite rightly that the man Jesus as such has nothing to bring before the electing God which would make Him worthy of divine election or make His election necessary. He is the Son of God only by the grace of God. That this is indeed the case may be proved conclusively by the absoluteness of the gratitude and obedience with which this man stands before God and submits Himself to Him. It is thus that the creature lives before God, its freedom consisting in the fact that in its autonomy it recognizes and acknowledges that it is wholly and utterly responsible to God. And so this man Jesus, as the object of the divine decree, is the beginning of all God’s ways and works, the first-born of all creation. In Him it comes to pass for the first time that God wills and posits another being different from Himself, His creature. Be it noted that this determination of the will of God, this content of predestination, is already grace, for God did not stand in need of any particular ways or works ad extra. He had no need of a creation. He might well have been satisfied with the inner glory of His threefold being. His freedom, and His love. That fact that He is not satisfied, but that His inner glory overflows and becomes outward, the fact that He wills the creation, and the man Jesus as the first-born of all creation, is grace, sovereign grace, a condescension inconceivably tender. But this determination of the will of God is eminently grace to the extent that in relation to this other, the creation of God, God’s first thought and decree consists in the fact that in His Son He makes the being of this other His own being, that He allows the Son of Man Jesus to be called and actually to be His own Son. In and with His lordship over this other, in and with the creaturely autonomy of this other—and even that is grace—God wills and decrees and posits in the beginning both His own fatherhood and also the sonship of the creature. This is more than mere kindness and condescension. It is self-giving. And that is how the inner glory of God overflows. From all eternity it purports and wills its own impartation to the creature, the closest possible union with it, a fellowship which is not to its own advantage but to that of the creature. It is in being gracious in this way that God sets forth His own glory. It is in the election of the man Jesus that His decision to be gracious is made. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (Jn. 3.16). In a first and most important way we can now understand the extent to which, in the light of the election of the man Jesus, all election can be described only as free grace. The man Jesus is the elect of God. Those whom God elects He elects “in Him,” not merely “like Him,” but in His person, by His will, and by His election. Those who God elects, the One blessed of God elects also. What can this election be, then, but more grace, a participation in the grace of the One who elects, a participation in His creatureliness (which is already grace), and a participation in His sonship (which is eminently grace)? From its very source the election derives from the man Jesus. And as election by Him it is indirectly identical with that beginning willed and posited by the condescension and self-suffering of God. It is “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.”1 

For Barth, as is typical, the answer is ‘Jesus’; no matter what the question is! The question of why God created us isn’t a worldview question according to Barth. Indeed, the question itself presupposes its own answer: God. But to leave the question to a generic God will never do, not for Barth, and not for me as a Christian. The question, for the Christian, must always be specified by its confrontational ground that comes for the Christian by encounter with their Lord; afresh and anew. The question of why God created us, for Barth, starts and begins with who God is in the election of the man, Jesus Christ. It is this election that is grounded in the who of God’s inner-life, that serves as the primordial beginning of what man/humanity is. Humanity, as understood from the election of Christ, is a creature intended to find its warp and woof in and from the bosom of the Father; indeed, as that is grounded in the burps and Holy babbling of the Son for us. This is why God created: because He freely chose to have fellowship with a creature who He first elected to be the Creature of God from within the very inner-life of God’s organic life of life as One-in-the-Other. God desired to include an-other in the resplendence of His eternal life as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit because God is overflowing Grace in His very life of superabundant love.  

In order for the creature, us, to find such a response adequate, we must ‘seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these other things will be added unto us.’ It isn’t curiosity that is determinative for the Christian imagination, it is God’s Self-determinative revelation for us in Jesus Christ that ought to shape any and all of our questions. If He is the Alpha and Omega of God for us, then insofar as we are circumscribed by His life for us in Jesus Christ, then Jesus must be the whence and wane of our lingering questions. It is as we ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of God in Christ,’ that our ‘telos’ as creatures before God, as creatures in the elected man of Jesus Christ, that we can begin to grow into the eternal life that God has adopted us into by the Grace of the Holy Spirit, who is Jesus Christ.  

1 Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II/2 §32-33: Study Edition (New York, New York: T&T Clark, 2010), 129-30.

Barth’s Doctrine of Election: In His Own Words

I am transcribing the following directly from Barth on his doctrine of election. This is the clearest word you will get from him on what his reformulated doctrine of election entails. What you should notice is how it thinks from the patristic homoousion in patterned ways.  

§ 33 

THE ELECTION OF JESUS CHRIST 

The election of grace is the eternal beginning of all the ways and works of God in Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ God in His free grace determines Himself for sinful man and sinful man for Himself. He therefore takes upon Himself the rejection of man with all its consequences, and elects man to participation in His own glory. 

1. JESUS CHRIST, ELECTING AND ELECTED 

Between God and man there stands the person of Jesus Christ, Himself God and Himself man, and so mediating between the two. In Him God reveals Himself to man. In Him man sees and knows God. In Him God stands before man and man stands before God, and is the eternal will of God, and the eternal ordination of man in accordance with this will. In Him God’s plan for man is disclosed, God’s judgment on man fulfilled, God’s deliverance of man accomplished, God’s gift to man present in fulness, God’s claim and promise to man declared. In Him God has joined Himself to man. And so man exists for His sake. It is by Him, Jesus Christ, and for Him and to Him, that the universe is created as a theatre for God’s dealings with man and man’s dealings with God. The being of God is His being, and similarly the being of man is originally His being. And there is nothing that is not from Him and by Him and to Him. He is the Word of God in whose truth everything is disclosed and whose truth cannot be over-reached or conditioned by any other word. He is the decree of God behind and above which there can be no earlier or higher decree and beside which there can be no other, since all others serve only the fulfillment of this decree. He is the beginning of God before which there is no other beginning apart from that of God within Himself. Except, then, for God Himself, nothing can derive from any other source or look back to any other starting-point. He is the election of God before which and without which and beside which God cannot make any other choices. Before Him and without Him and beside Him God does not, then, elect or will anything. And He is the election (and on that account the beginning and the decree and the Word) of the free grace of God. For it is God’s free grace that in Him He elects to be man and to have dealings with man and to join Himself to man. He, Jesus Christ, is the free grace of God as not content simply to remain identical with the inward and eternal being of God, but operating ad extra in the ways and works of God. And for this reason, before Him and above Him and beside Him and apart from Him there is no election, no beginning, no decree, no Word of God. Free grace is the only basis and meaning of all God’s ways and works ad extra. For what extra is there that the ways and works could serve, or necessitate, or evoke? There is no extra except that which is first willed and posited by God in the presupposing of all His ways and works. There is no extra except that which has its basis and meaning as such in the divine election of grace. But Jesus Christ is Himself the divine election of grace. For this reason He is God’s Word, God’s decree and God’s beginning. He is so all-inclusively, comprehending absolutely within Himself all things and everything, enclosing within Himself the autonomy of all other words, decrees and beginnings.1 

So let it be written, so let it be done. 

 

1 Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II/2 §32-33: Study Edition (New York, New York: T&T Clark, 2010), 99-100. 

Pelagian Creation and the Regnum Christi

Pelagian Creation is a neologism I just thought of as I was reflecting on the piece we will be reading along with from Barth’s Church Dogmatics. I have written, over the last few months, on the locus of Pelagianism with reference to a particularly popular soteriological movement online. But I don’t want to get swamped down by that focus too much in this post, since functional Pelagianism is a pervasive phenomenon that is present throughout a variety of theological and philosophical frameworks today. I think what Barth is onto undercuts Pelagianism, in all of its forms, even if in this particular pericope from him, it is indirect. In other words, he doesn’t mention Pelagianism here, but if we internalize what he writes, and if we have any notion of Pelgianism operative in our wandering theological thoughts and acts, this should correct that; repentance should be forthcoming; and a freshness of life just around the corner.  

The following is taken from Barth’s CD II/2, which of course is the infamous section where he reformulates a doctrine of Reformed double predestination; more pointedly a doctrine of election. That is the context of this passage, which you will see momentarily. Hopefully what you will grasp is just how central a proper doctrine of election is to a proper Protology and doctrine of creation. It is fitting that with how we start theologically will shape how we end, and all things in-between. Often times people simply start midstream, say with soteriology, without first attending to ‘first things,’ as Barth does here. What I wonder is if the reader will see, as I have, how what Barth is communicating might defeat Pelagianisms and other forms of Pure Nature. He writes: 

Again, if the doctrine of election is treated as something secondary and supplementary along the lines of the three possibilities mentioned, this means that it may well appear as if we could deal at least with creation and sin without any previous consideration of this decisive word, this mystery of the doctrine of reconciliation. But in this case creation takes on the character of a presupposition relatively independent of reconciliation and redemption. It becomes self-sufficient. It has its own reality and must be considered in and for itself. But this makes it appear as if the universe and man might well have been created and sustained without any inner necessity of the continuation and completion of the divine work in reconciliation and redemption. They may, then, be considered directly, apart from the divine election and decision, apart from the kingdom of Christ. But in this case there arises the concept of a realm whose existence allows us at least to question the infinity and divinity of this kingdom, opposing to it the parallel kingdom of nature. But this means that sin, the mishap which takes place in this separate kingdom of nature, acquires the character of an unforeseen incident which suddenly transforms the good creation of God into something problematical, breaking and shattering it in such a way that only a few traces of the original remain and what virtually amounts to a different world is brought into being. On this view God Himself appears in a sense to be halted and baffled by sin, being pressed back into a kind of special “world of God.” From this it might easily appear as if reconciliation is the corresponding escape from this dilemma, a mysterious wrestling with what is almost a rival God, a reaction against a different power, something not at all in keeping with the unity and omnipotence of God. In the whole of the divine work, however, it is really a question of only a single act of divine rule. This act is, of course, differentiated and flexible within itself. But it is not arrested or broken. It fulfils itself step by step, and at each step it is irresistible. We can and should recognise that in his unbroken grace and truth the one and omnipotent God is the One in whom there is neither error nor mistake, neither weakness nor compromise, but who in and through everything lets His own goodwill be done. We can and should recognise that the regnum Christi is not one kingdom with others, for in that case it might well be merely hypothetical. On the contrary, it is the kingdom of all kingdoms. We can and should recognise the fact that however we regard man, as creature, sinner or Christian, we must always regard him and understand him as one who is sustained by the hand of God. Neither in the height of creation nor in the depth of sin is he outside the sphere of the divine decision. And if we see in this decision the divine election, this means that he is not outside the sphere of the election of grace. At no time and in no way is he neutral in the face of the resolve and determination which are proper to the will of God in virtue of the decision made between Father and Son from all eternity. For this reason we must see the election at the beginning of all the ways of God, and treat of the doctrine accordingly. We believe that in so doing we shall not be disloyal to the intention which activated Calvin especially as he drew up those different outlines. We shall rather be taking up and realising this very same intention.1 

For Barth, and I’d suggest for us, the way we approach all things theologically ought to be theological. In other words, we shouldn’t engage in Ramist locus methodology and read and think things theological from logically-deductive schemata; but instead, we ought to allow the whole of God’s organic and triune life to pressure us into thinking things wholistically from who God is as revealed in Christ. This is what we get in the above passage from Barth. He is attempting to show how central God’s inner life and free choice to be for and with us is to the creational matter. Without Christ as telos and protos for all of creation all we are left with is an abstractly hot-mess wherein ‘we’ are left to construct a bridge (metaphysic) between God and humanity wherein God’s life in a God-world relation becomes predicated by our choice to construct said metaphysic—that is methodological Pelagianism.  

Pelagianism, in a theological sense, is the idea that nature has a functional non-contingent independence of its own. That nature has the capacity to be for God or against Him of its own self-determined freewill. To think creation in general, and humanity as a subset and yet pinnacle of creation, in particular, in terms that are outside of God’s primal decision to be for creation, for us (pro nobis) is to operate outside of the confessional norms required by a proper theology of the Word. As Christians, in name even, we are such because we are in Christ by the Spirit; just as Christ was in the womb of Mary by the Spirit. He is the pre-conditioning reality of all that was, is, and ever will be. To think otherwise is to think heretically in quite proper ways.  

1. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II/2 §32-33: Study Edition (New York, New York: T&T Clark, 2010), 95-6.

Barth Against the Semi-Pelagian Arminians and Renaissance-Man: What Hath Election to do With Christ?

Barth, in the preceding section, to what we will be reading from him here, has laid down the gauntlet against the doctrine of election as found in Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Bullinger et al. He offers the right amount of praise, for all of them, insofar as they attempted to offer a proper christological reference in regard to their respective doctrines of election; but then notes that each of them, respectively, failed to carry through the necessary theo-logic on an actual christological doctrine of election. We pick up with Barth just as he has been making this same critique against both the Dutch Remonstrants (the Arminians and Arminius), and their opponents found in the Synod of Dort. As you will see, and this interests me greatly, Barth sees the Remonstrant solution to the Dortian understanding of election as falling into the category of Semi-Pelagianism and as a forerunner to the Neo-Protestantism that blossomed more fully in post-Renaissance Western Europe. We will read along with Barth for a bit, and then I will offer some closing comments (and some application to contemporary referents). Barth writes: 

We can say that it would have been good if the orthodox majority at Dort had let the (in any case) remarkable wording remind them of the problem to which the Calvinistic and in particular the Reformation conception of the doctrine had returned so unsatisfactory an answer. But the general tenor of the Remonstrant theology laid down in the Five Articles was so bad that in effect they failed to give the stimulus which they might have given in this respect. The only result was a hardening of the conception inherited from the Reformers. There can be no doubt that the Remonstrants were, in fact, the last exponents of an understanding of the Reformation which Erasmus had once represented against Luther and later Castellio against Calvin; an understanding which can and should be interpreted in the light of the persistence of mediaeval semi-Pelagianism no less than in that of the Renaissance. And as the last exponents of that understanding they were also the first exponents of a modern Christianity which is characterised by the very same ambiguity. They were the first Neo-Protestants of the Church, and it was their basic decision which gave unity to all subsequent developments along this line (from the end of the 17th century onwards). The basic decision which they made was this—that in the understanding of God and His relationship with man, in the question of the formulation of Christian doctrine, the criterion or measure of all things must always be man, ie., man’s conception of that which is right, and rational, and worthy, therefore, of God and man. It was in the light of this basic decision that the Remonstrants opposed to the Calvinistic doctrine of the decretum absolutum the assertion that we cannot and must not state that God elects (and rejects) whom He wills solely upon the basis of His own free beneplacitum [decree] and without reference to conduct, and particularly to belief or unbelief, obedience or disobedience. On the contrary, the divine election is made with due consideration of the conduct of men as foreseen by God from all eternity, ie., of the use which, according to God’s foreknowledge, they make of their freedom, whether in belief or unbelief, whether in obedience or disobedience. It is to this context, unfortunately, that there belongs the intrinsically so remarkable statement of the Remonstrants that Christ is the fundamentum electionis [basis of election], a statement which was obviously meant to outbid and correct the Calvinist statement that Christ is the speculum electionis [mirror of election]. We cannot take the statement to mean that as Christ is the Subject of the saving decree of God, so, too, He is the Subject of the free election which underlies it, an election independent of and preceding and predetermining absolutely all creaturely decisions. It is simply a polemical assertion in the battle against the servum [bondage] and for the liberum arbitrium [freedom of the will]. It does not mean, unfortunately, what in itself the wording might well mean: that in concreto the Calvinistic and Reformation magnifying of the freedom of the election of grace must consist in the magnifying of the sovereignty of Jesus Christ, who in His own person is Himself the God who freely elects and then acts towards the creature, the One behind and above whom there is no other God and no other election. As directed against the decretrum absolutum [absolute decree] the statement does not contend for the dignity of Jesus Christ, but for the dignity of man standing over against Jesus Christ in an autonomous freed of decision. Read in the context of the general teaching of the Five Remonstrant Articles it unfortunately means nothing more than that Christ is the essence of the divine order of salvation. It is in Him that the grace of God is offered to men. It is by their belief or unbelief in Him that the decision is made—according to God’s foreknowledge, but independently—whether the grace of God profits or does not profit them. The Remonstrants did not say that Christ is the electing God. They can never have wanted to say that. What they did want to say, and what they actually did say in this statement, was that in the distinctive sense of the word there is no divine decision at all. There is only the establishment of a just and reasonable order of salvation, of which Christ must be regarded as the content and the decisive instrument. Above and beyond that, there is no more than a divine foreknowledge of what individuals will become as measured by this order of salvation and on the basis of the use which they make of their creaturely freedom. It might almost be called fate that a statement which is so interesting in its wording should engage the attention of Calvinistic orthodoxy, and the Synod of Dort in particular, only in the form of an argument for so revolutionary an error, and that in the mouth of the Remonstrants it should not be a more accurate or Christian definition of the mystery of the election of grace, but an attempt to deny it altogether; an attempt to make of divine predestination something more akin to a religious world-order. [1] 

For Barth, it ought to be clear, that any doctrine of election that attempts to think of it as something ‘behind the back of Jesus’ is not a doctrine worthy of its name. With reference to a comparison between the Remonstrants or ‘Arminians’ and the Dortians or ‘Calvinists,’ clearly Barth believes the better of the two is the latter. Even so, he is just as critical of the Calvinistic and Lutheranistic teachings on election as he is of the Arminians. But within this frame he rightly sees the doctrine put forward by the Remonstrants as semi-Pelagian; that is, insofar that they make God’s election (or rejection) of them contingent on their abstract choice to be either for Christ or against Him; and this from their own liberum arbitrium (freedom of the will).  

In my view, Barth also rightly draws a connection between the Remonstrants and the Neo-Protestants of Renaissance ilk. In other words, there is an emphasis, among all of these groups, respectively, on an abstract human agency (and thus latent rationalism) that leads the ‘Renaissance-man’ to the conclusion that he/she is the terminus upon which all of reality is contingent; for the Arminian all of reality would find its reference in the eternal salvation that Christ is. But this is to the point: for the Arminian logic, whether or not they identify the necessity for a ‘regenerating-grace’ or not, they still operate from a synergist understanding with reference to the salvific event. In other words, ‘their salvation’ is purely contingent not on an absolute Christ-determination, as if election is solely funded by and from Him, as both the Electing God and Elected Man; for the Arminian (and the subsets under them such as the popular movement today known as Provisionism) their election or reprobation is purely attenuated by their choice to cooperate with God in the appropriation of their salvation or not. This gives us a doctrine of election/reprobation that is not Christ-conditioned, from thinking His vicarious humanity into this doctrine, but a doctrine that is solely abstract-human determined making the Christ merely the organon or instrument who meets the conditions required in order for the Arminian to have the “free-choice” to be for God or against Him on their terms rather than His (ie they decide the when and the where that salvation is actualized for them, thus their choice conditions His foreknowledge in regard to whether He elects or rejects them). 

__________________________________________________________

[1] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II/2 §32-33: Study Edition (New York, New York: T&T Clark, 2010), 70-1.   

 

God’s Supertime: Hope for the Christian Life

The relationship between time and eternity is of utmost importance, and yet nary a Christian seems to contemplate it; at least not that transparently (like when was the last time you heard a sermon series on the relationship between time and eternity?). As an Evangelical Calvinist, or more pointedly, as a Barthianish Reformedish typed, my way into this locus will always be oriented by a Christ concentration. With the recent death of my dad (which I still reel from) this particular locus has taken on new gravitas for me. Clearly, this side of the eschaton our vision will always be delimited by faith rather than sight, but it is a delimitation that allows room for spiritual growth; precisely because we must rely on the One we cannot see, but who raises the dead. In this vein, Karl Barth opines some wonderful insight in regard to “God’s time” pro nobis. He notices what most Christians don’t; that is, he observes that without God’s supra-temporality or super-time the Gospel itself has no concrete shape or character—at least no shape that has extra or alien ‘substance’ for us. Barth notices that outwith God’s grounding of temporality for us we are only left with a vacuum wherein the abstract human heart will seek to fill it with its own vain, and even demonic imaginations (we see this in the world over, currently). Barth writes:

It is only if they are true and legitimate that the whole content of the Christian message—creation as the basis of man’s existence, established by God, reconciliation as the renewal of his existence accomplished by God, redemption as the revelation of his existence to be consummated by God (and therefore as the revelation of the meaning of His creation)—can be understood as God’s Word of truth as  not as the myth of a pious or impious self-consciousness, the comfortless content of some human monologue which lays no real claim upon us, the substance of a well-meant pastoral fiction, mere wishful thinking or a terrifying dream. The Christian message cannot be distinguished from a myth or dream of this kind unless God’s eternity has temporality in the sense described, and God is really pre-temporal, supra-temporal, and post-temporal. If God’s eternity is not understood this way the Christian message cannot be proclaimed in any credible way or received by faith. For the content of this message depends on the fact that God was and is and is to be, that our existence stands under the sign of a divine past, present, and future, that in its differentiation this sign does not point away into space, to a God who, in fact, is neither past, present nor future. Without God’s complete temporality the content of the Christian message has no shape. Its proclamation is only an inarticulate mumbling. Therefore everything depends on whether God’s temporality is the simple truth which cannot be attacked from any quarter because it has its basis in God Himself, which is not then a mere appearance, a bubble constructed by human feeling or thought. And it is as well to consider this whole matter from the other side too. In the temporality of all its statements the Christian message is the truth which binds and comforts men. In the One who, according to this message, was and is and is to come we have to do with the true God Himself, The message calls us to faith in virtue of its own weight. It attests itself as God’s Word and therefore destroys, so to speak, from within the suspicion that we have to do only the imaginative drama of a myth. But because this is the case, it is quite impossible to deny to God’s eternity the possession of preparedness for time and therefore temporality. It is for this reason that this is true, and the concepts of pre-temporality, supra-temporality and post-temporality are legitimate because they simply spell out and analyse what the Christian message guarantees to be the Word of God and therefore the truth. This message can neither be proclaimed nor believed as the truth without the proclaiming and believing of these statements about God. They are not simply inferences from the Gospel. As certainly as the Gospel tells us the truth about God, they are elements in the Gospel itself and as such. The Gospel itself and as such cannot be spoken and take shape without these statements being made and this understanding of the divine eternity forcing itself upon us—not indirectly, as a scholastic parergon, but directly, because the Gospel must either remain unproclaimed or be spoken in the form of these statements. We shall go through them quickly to remind ourselves of the two aspects—that the truth of God’s Word depends on their truth, and that they themselves are base on and preserved by the truth of God’s Word.[1]

There is an asymmetrical continuity between God’s time and our time, but this continuity is all important. Time requires God’s eternity, but God’s eternity does not require our time; no, He freely chose it and created it for us in the primacy of Christ’s humanity for the world. Personally, this brings me peace because I know that the life I live as a Christian isn’t one that is lived apart from my dad’s life (or any other Christian’s); it is only life lived in the humanity of Christ, and the triune life He mediates us into in the triune life—just as sure as He is the eternal Logos, the Son of God. We need God to be God, but if He simply remained God without time He would be God without us; and this is precisely what He is not, indeed He is Immanuel, God with us!


[1] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II/1 §31: Study Edition Vol 9 (London/New York: T&T Clark, 2010), 190.

Grace All the Way Down: Contra Analogia Entis and Pelagian Modes of Theologizing

It is either all of grace, all of God unilaterally for us in Jesus Christ, or it isn’t grace at all. This is what the incarnation declares loud and clear, and thus what contradicts any systems of theological reflection that would attempt to give any place for an abstract humanity to approach God in any way. If it is all of grace, then it is not possible for humanity to cooperate with God whatosoever. This is what a good theological ontology will tell the Christian; but it ultimately isn’t an ontology at all, it really is a sound Christology that informs all else. Without this frame of reference the Christian will be prone toward developing Cassianistic or Pelagian hermeneutics, and this will shape the way they exegete Holy Scripture and do the subsequent theologizing that follows biblical exegesis. Karl Barth saw all of this unfolding in the Catholic church’s systems of both Molinism and Thomism; he saw an analogia entis (analogy of being) present in the midst of both of these systems. He identified in these systems a space for humanity, in the salvific reality, wherein the would-be Christian could cooperate or even compete with God’s own Self-givenness for the world in Jesus Christ.

For an effective denial of Molinism is possible only when we cease to think in a God-creature system, in the framework of the analogia entis. It is possible only when theology dares to be theology and not ontology, and the question of a freedom of the creature which creates conditions for God can no longer arise. But this can happen only when theology is oriented on God’s revelation and therefore Christology. It has to be determined to think and teach about the relation between God and the creature only in the way prescribed by the fact of the assumption of the flesh by the divine Word in the person of Jesus Christ and the consequent assumption of sinful man to be the child of God. Where this is the case, there is no question of speaking of a being that embraces both parties, or creation’s grasping at itself and therefore at God. There can be no dream of a freedom that belongs to the creature in face of God. It will necessarily be seen that the decision about the existence and nature of the relation between God and the creature lies exclusively with God, as does the validity and continuity of this decision. God competes and co-operates with the creature in Jesus Christ. But in Him there cannot be any competition and co-operation of the creature with God. For a theology orientated on God there can be no question of the inversion made by the Jesuits. Everything depends, of course, on whether or not there is this orientation. Only if it begins with the knowledge of Jesus Christ can theology so think and speak that the divine and the creaturely spheres are automatically distinguished and related in a way that makes wholly impossible the replacement of the order A-B by the order B-A. It must be wholly and from the very first, and not merely occasionally or subsequently, a theology of revelation and grace, a christological theology, if it is to speak at this point conclusively and effectively. If it is not this, or not this absolutely, then the protest against the inversion will come too late and can never be effective. It will be forced to admit that within the complexio oppositorum [creative tension] the counter-theory is always possible. Indeed, if it is to speak in wider terms it will somehow have to fit the counter-theory in with its own position.[1]

We can see Barth’s critique of the ‘Jesuits’ (middle knowledge), which he later applies equally to the Thomists; which he argues has taken on the Jesuit character, even while maintaining the Thomist mode. But the point is that any theology, whether Catholic or Protestant (which he is getting to in all of this, as far as critique) that allows for this sort of ‘inversion’ of placing human being before God’s being for us in Jesus Christ will result in a purely grace-less theological system all the way down. To the extent that the Christian thinker appreciates this, is the extent that they will be living genuinely from the Grace of God in Christ, or not.


[1] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II/1 §31: Study Edition Vol 9 (London/New York: T&T Clark, 2010), 151-52.

Pelagianism and the Flowers

It is almost impossible for certain evangelical types to get their heads around the idea that they engage in theological exegesis of the text of Holy Scripture; i.e. that they aren’t simply just reading the Bible de nuda. I have been having an ongoing engagement with Leighton Flowers, and his so-called provisionist soteriology for a couple years now. This engagement has been almost completely one-sided, but he just responded to me on Twitter. I tweeted out, once again, that I do not see how he escapes the Pelgian label. Historically he does not. But he wants to dismiss the history of interpretation tout court. He wants to start from scratch, from a tabula rasa when it comes to biblical interpretation. He doesn’t want to be bogged down by the ‘man-made’ labels that might arrest what he is attempting to do with his soteriological offering (which ironically is steeped in philosophical anthropology—i.e. libertarian free agency etc.). Here is his last response to me on Twitter from earlier today: “You broaden the definition to make us fit in the “species” of semi-Pelagianism and some work to fit you under “semi-Gnosticism”. Who cares? Tell us what’s unbiblical about the claims and drop the manmade labels.”[1] Flowers, as can be observed, is allergic to “manmade labels,” until of course he identifies himself as a Provisionist; but let’s not quibble, eh. Since Flowers wants the theological and biblical problems of Pelgianism spelled out then I thought it apropos to do that for him. I am sure this will not meet his expectations, since he doesn’t like people making reference to other people (unless he’s doing that); he just wants us to reference Scripture (de nuda). Be that as it may, let me share, at some length, from Karl Barth (surprise!). Coincidentally, or better, providentially, as the case may be, I just ran across a paragraph in my CD reading that explains what theological Pelagianism looks like, conceptually; and what its multitudinous problems are. Leighton, this one is for you (be warmed).

Within this sphere, which is itself the only sphere of being, God wills everything. God’s willing something can therefore mean that He loves, affirms and confirms it, that He creates, upholds and promotes it out of the fulness of His life. His willing it can also mean that in virtue of the same love He hates, disavows, rejects and opposes it as that which withstands and lacks and denies what is loved, affirmed and confirmed by Him and created, upheld and promoted by Him. He still wills in it in the sense that He takes it seriously in this way and takes up this position over against it. He wills it in so far as He gives it this space, position and function. He does not do so as its author, recognising it as His creature, approving and confirming and vindicating it. On the contrary, He wills it as He denies it His authorship, as He refuses it any standing before Him or right or blessing or promise, as He places it under His prohibition and curse and treats it as that from which He wishes to redeem and liberate His creation. In this way, then, in His turning away from it. He wills what He disavows. It cannot exist without Him. It, too, is by Him, and is under His control and government. There is nothing that is withdrawn from His will, just as there is nothing hidden from His knowledge. There is no sphere of being or non-being which is not in some way wholly subject to His will. For such a sphere would inevitably be that of another god. Anything withdrawn from His will can only be pure nothing. Whatever exists belongs either (as it is affirmed by Him) to being or (as it is disavowed by Him) to non-being. In either case it is subject to His will. Thus nothing that exists is withdrawn from His will. His will is therefore done in all and by all. There is no escape from what is done by His will. Again, of course, there is the desire to escape. But there is no goal where this desire can be realised. We can adopt an independent attitude to the divine Yes and No. We can hate what God loves and love what He hates. We can accept what He rejects and reject what He accepts. This is our sinful will. But it does not lead us to a sphere where we have withdrawn from the will of God or hidden and secured ourselves against its realisation and fulfilment in us and by us. If we will to sin, we enter the sphere of the divine prohibition and curse, disavowal and rejection; the realm of death. We can certainly attain this goal. But even if we do, we do not leave the sphere of the divine will or escape from God. Here, too, we cannot actually govern ourselves. In fact we are under no other government than that of the will of God. By our decision, our decision against God, we merely fulfil God’s decision. Besides willing and deciding for God or against Him there is no third possibility of choice or decision. There is no neutrality in which we can slip between the divine Yes and the divine No (which circumscribe the area of being), thus saving ourselves in this neutrality from the will of God in a middle position between faith and belief. There is no such place outside that area. The Yes and No of the divine will are absolutely and definitely the true circumscription of the area of being. There is nothing beyond. If we want to be neutral, we definitely want to be disobedient. For to struggle against adopting the position of agreement with the divine Yes and No, to look instead for a third possibility beyond the antithesis set up by the divine decision, to make a refusal to will the object of our will is a piece of folly in which we have already hated what God loves and loved what He hates and therefore sinned. If there is no neutrality towards God, we are already against God if we will to remain neutral. It is, therefore, impossible—really impossible—to fall out of or escape from the lordship of the divine will. His will is done in heaven and on earth both when we are obedient and when we are disobedient. This is no less true when our disobedience take the form—as it usually does—of trying to avoid the decision marked out for us in the divine pattern. But God’s will is God Himself, and God is gracious and holy, merciful and righteous. Therefore, again, to say that God is the One to whose will all things are subject is a word which is full of warning and yet at the same time full of comfort.[2]

Ultimately, sharing this isn’t for Leighton Flowers; it is for those who can see through the theological problems that Flowers is presenting to those who might be under his spell. Flowers himself is a lost cause, and is drunk on his subscriber’s count on YouTube. But I digress. Barth’s basic premise in the whole of the aforementioned is to think all things from a doctrine of creation (protology). In nuce, for Barth, all of reality is sustained by the singular will of God. There is no going outside of it; there is no independent wills in competition with God’s. The moment a theological position claims human beings have an individual and natural capacity to be for or against God, even as that might be externally aided by ‘grace,’ this position has strayed outside of God’s singular will and now is asserting its own independence (which as Barth rightly notes, is an illusion); this is theological Pelagianism, and is grounded in the idea that humanity has some modicum of independence and neutrality from God. This is the heinous danger of what Flowers is peddling his little buddlings. He is giving them a theology based on the idea that humanity has a natural in-built capacity to be for God or against Him; but of course, as Barth develops, this is an impossibility, and only reduces that person into the sphere of pure and demonic idolatry.

Flowers has demonstrated to me that he is un-teachable. He is full of bluster, and no substance. His arguments are made in appeal to the people and not the theological implications of Holy Scripture as he claims. I engage with him, not because he is theologically capable, but because he sells himself to the people as if he is. He is a theological Pelagian; he fits Barth’s description above, in regard to human neutrality vis-à-vis God. I pray he repents.


[1] Leighton Flowers, Twitter comment, accessed 12-27-2020.

[2] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II/1 §31: Study Edition Vol 9 (London/New York: T&T Clark, 2010), 122-23.

Barth’s Nein to the Two-Powers of God: ‘No God Behind the Back of Jesus’

Barth is just finishing up a really strong critique of nominalism, and the two powers of God theology (potentia absoluta/ordinata) of late medievalism. I will not detail what nominalism entails in regard to its theory on God’s two powers, other than to say that it presents a real rupture between who God might be in His inner life (in se) and who He is seen to be in His outer life (ad extra) in the economy of salvation history. It is this type of thinking that brings Thomas Torrance to assert: ‘There is no God behind the back of Jesus.’ Barth writes:

God and God alone has real power, all the real power. This is the statement of the Christian knowledge of God. The alternative that all the real power that we encounter (what we think real) is God’s power is the statement of a blind deification of nature or history or fate, and finally of man himself. The identification of God’s omnipotence with His actual omnicausality drives us to this deification, which is more or less concealed in it. That is why it is to be rejected. Certainly all true reality is based on God’s omnipotence as the only true possibility. But what this true reality is, and therefore what may and must be the occasion and object for our glorification of the divine omnipotence. If we do not know this distinction and therefore the omnipotence proper to God, we have no protection against the temptation which constantly threatens to bestow our praise of God’s omnipotence, and the awe and trust which we owe it, on one or other of the powers of falsehood and apostasy which are to be understood only as impossibilities, as powers of impotence; or on the epitome of all such impossibilities, the power of the devil.[1]

We see Barth’s themes of reprobation, and anti-natural theology most evidently in what he writes contra the nominalst god. In agreement with Barth Jesus says to both Philip and Thomas, respectively:

If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. –John 14:7-11

In other words, we shouldn’t make a distinction between God’s inner/outer life, other than recognizing that the former is antecedent to the latter; that when we see the Son enfleshed, we see the whole triune God on display in His person and works. This is what Barth is ultimately saying, albeit while interacting with a foreign philosophy that has been imposed upon the Christian God. And yet what Barth is responding to in his day, still remains just as pernicious of a reality today. Reformed theologians, along with some Lutherans and others, are attempting to retrieve nominalist and then realist Aristotelian conceptions of God that present us with a God who has this sort of rupture between His inner and outer life. Thus, when we attempt to think God in these ways, the ways that Barth and Jesus rightly rebuke, we think God from our own speculative determinations about who God must be; we separate His works from His person, and then attempt to synthesize those with the power of our own wits. Quite tragic.


[1] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II/1 §31: Study Edition Vol 9 (London/New York: T&T Clark, 2010), 96.