The Western ‘Leader-concept’ in Contrast with a Genuinely Christian Christ Concentrated Doctrine of Election

The dear “Leader” concept has riled the modern mind; it has been the warp and woof of lived reality in the 18th into the 21st centuries, and is still going strong. Barth, with his characteristic predilection, contrasts the election of Jesus Christ with the election of the individualistic understanding of the Leader. He identifies how the latter functions as a ‘usurper,’ while the former as the One among and for the many. It is rather striking given the display of the Leader, particularly in our current cultural moments. We see Leaders rising and falling, ostensibly for the people, but in point of fact only ultimately for their own fame and glory. In the process, under the Leader’s “watchful eye,” the many are destroyed, and being destroyed with the carnage produced by the Leader’s vanity and self-importance.  

For Barth, Hitler, no doubt, would have been his primary referent for the Leader type, in his day and age. But clearly, this observation transverses periods, and is applicable to all periods, precisely because the Leader notion finds its rootage in and from the corrupted and polluted human heart. This is what differentiates the Leader, from the actual King; the former is ultimately fallen humanity, while the latter is resurrected humanity. Barth writes with clairvoyance: 

There is a modern concept which during the last two centuries has shown itself with increasing clarity to be a kind of secular imitation of the concept of the election of Jesus Christ—the concept of the leader. At first in a limited, but then necessarily in a limitlessly expanding sphere, in an area which must finally be nothing less than world-wide, the leader is the individual who in some fashion unites in himself the fulness of the election of grace, so that he is the elect, not on behalf of, but in place of others; he is the other, besides whom there are finally no individuals, or at least no elect individuals. The whole mystery of human power in this sphere, belong to him. He is the other, by whom is taken from the many beside him both their election and everything else with it—they mystery of their individuality and solitude, freedom and responsibility, all authority and power—and from whom they hold everything only in fee, to carry out his decisions. Emerging from the ranks of the many and elevated over them as the other who alone may be an individual, the leader is an absolute usurper in relation to other individuals. Election in the sense of the modern leader-concept has nothing whatever to do with the election of Jesus Christ except that it is its utter reversal and caricature. The individualism of the West obviously cannot evade responsibility for the formulation of this concept. All the brutality, all the murderous insolence of the usurper have been involved in it from the very outset. Mastered, as it were, by its own logic and reduced ad absurdum, it has brought down upon itself an inevitable and most terrible reaction. But this has simply disclosed the antithesis to the Christian concept of election in which it found itself even at its inception. The Christian concept of election does not involve this despoiling of the many for the sake of the one. On the contrary, when Jesus Christ is the elected One, the election and the accompanying mystery of individuality and solitude, and with it the freedom and responsibility and the authority and the power of the many, are not abrogated, but definitively confirmed in this Other. He is not the object of the divine election of grace instead of them, but on their behalf. He does not retain for Himself or withhold what He is and possesses as the Elect of God. He does not deal with it as with spoil. But He is what He is, and has what He has, in His revelation and imparting of it to the many. His kingdom is neither a barracks nor a prison, but the home of those who in, with and by Him are free. He is the Master of all as the Servant of all. Secular individualism may have reached its goal and end in the contemporary leader-concept, but in the Christian concept of election its own barely understood desire has always been defended against it, and even in face of the catastrophe which has overtaken it, it will continue to be preserved.1 

On the flipside of this, Barth goes on and develops how the Leader-concept has corollary with its other expression in Communist-collectivism, and/or Fascist-nationalism as a sub-species. No matter how this bastardization of Christian election is expressed, it is the satanic parody of the real and the ineffable, indestructible election of God in Jesus Christ.  

So many Christian leaders, particularly in evangelicalism (of whatever tradition), have attempted to copy the secular Leader-concept as the model for what it means to be a Christian leader. Sadly, they have imbibed the Angel of light’s model of election, and the concept of the “individual” in the process; and they have made disciples of the many in this image. It is a homo incurvatus in se (‘a person incurved on oneself’) image that finds its resource for life from its own satanic sense of self-possession; which of course is why there is so much carnage, not just in the world, but in the church. This is one reason why we see Christian leaders telling their people to simply get in line with the cultural mandates, particularly as those are given shape by the Leader; precisely because they have imbibed the same spirit that breathes life into the Leader[s] they follow. This is the delusion of the Antichrist, and it is seductive even to those who outwardly are supposed to be the most inoculated against such schemata. Kyrie eleison  

TF Torrance’s Copy-and-Paste of Barth’s Doctrine of Christ Concentrated Election

I have had the following quote from Thomas Torrance up at the blog (in the sidebar) since at least 2009. It reads as follows: 

God loves you so utterly and completely that he has given himself for you in Jesus Christ his beloved Son, and has thereby pledged his very being as God for your salvation. In Jesus Christ God has actualised his unconditional love for you in your human nature in such a once for all way, that he cannot go back upon it without undoing the Incarnation and the Cross and thereby denying himself. Jesus Christ died for you precisely because you are sinful and utterly unworthy of him, and has thereby already made you his own before and apart from your ever believing in him. He has bound you to himself by his love in a way that he will never let you go, for even if you refuse him and damn yourself in hell his love will never cease. Therefore, repent and believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour.1 

It is rich with ‘Chalcedonian pattern,’ and the homoousial reality of the eternal Logos, the Son of the Father become human pro nobis. Karl Barth writes something very similar—and so my guess is that he inspired TFT’s above statement—in regard to the election of God in Christ for the world: 

§ 35

THE ELECTION OF THE INDIVIDUAL 

The man who is isolated over against God is as such rejected by God. But to be this man can only be by the godless man’s own choice. The witness of the community of God to every individual man consists in this: that this choice of the godless man is void; that he belongs eternally to Jesus Christ and therefore is not rejected, but elected by God in Jesus Christ; that the rejection which he deserves on account of his perverse choice is borne and cancelled by Jesus Christ; and that he is appointed to eternal life with God on the basis of the righteous, divine decision. The promise of his election determines that as a member of the community he himself shall be a bearer of its witness to the whole world. And the revelation of his rejection can only determine him to believe in Jesus Christ as the One by whom it has been borne and cancelled.2 

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.”  

These two statements from these two men, respectively, is what has drawn me to their theologies like none other. In the past I was awash, as many still are, in the false binaries on offer, in regard to the classical doctrines of election and reprobation. I always knew there was something wrong with them, but really had no alternatives to satisfy my deepest christological inclinations and disposition. That is until I came across both Barth and Torrance, and the way they took the Chalcedonian Christology, and brought it to its rightful conclusion. These theologians, the both (Barth as the forerunner, following his friend Pierre Maury), constructively and canonically tied up the loose, and negative ends that Chalcedon leftover. Barth and Torrance, respectively, go beyond the conciliar theology, but they don’t leave it behind. Instead, in my view, they achieve a pro-level focus on the esse of what Chalcedon (among the other important Christological councils around that time) theology had only left in inchoate form.  

The focus of a genuinely framed Christian theology is what we see in nuce in both of these statements. To know God, and to know ourselves before God (coram Deo) is to first know Christ by the Spirit. It is in this knowing that we come to have capacity and orientation to know the God who alone has freely chosen to reveal Himself to, for, and in us in the centraldogma of His life with us in, Jesus Christ. This is a unilateral move of God; ie His being in becoming in such a way that ‘He who knew no sin, became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.’ This becoming has never been contingent on us in abstraction from God for us. This being has become for us prior to us, but not without us; since, as Barth emphasizes: God freely determined to not be God without us, but with us Immanuel.  

This is the Evangel, the kerygmatic reality that is so precisely encapsulated by both Barth and TFT in the aforementioned statements. If pastors, theologians, and Christian witnesses in general could come to grasp the nut of these statements the Christian Church, and world, would be the better for it. As we observe in the above Barth and TFT reduce deep dimensional theology in a way that doesn’t leave us in the lurch of a reductionism. Instead, they both, respectively, present the Gospel reality—and its sum in the ‘election of God’—in a way that respects all of the creedal theology of the ecumenical past, while emphasizing the canonical and Scriptural reality that sees Jesus as the center of everything (cf. John 5:39). They think from the Protestant ‘Scripture Principle,’ but do so in ways that are church catholic and deeply Christologically conditioned.  

 

1 T. F. Torrance, The Mediation of Christ, 94.

2 Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II/2 §35 The Doctrine of God: Study Edition (London: T&T Clark, 2009), 111.

Niceno-Predestination: God’s Pre-destination for us in Jesus Christ

If Christians knew Nicene theology, they could avoid the oft combatant atmosphere that typifies much of Western (and especially popular) theological discourse. When it comes to the locus of predestination / election-reprobation the divisiveness amplifies to an all-out battle cry. Because Christians, in the main, don’t realize that they can (and ought to) think all things from the grammar developed at the Niceno-Constantinopolitano-Chalcedony ecumenical Church councils, namely, the homoousios, the idea that the Son enfleshed in Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully human in His singular person, they devolve into an abstract and discursive mode of theological (or atheological) reasoning. When this mode of ‘theological reasoning’ is applied to the question of predestination we end up with a bi-polar malaise that results in something like the “Calvinists V the Arminians.” In other words, when people come to think that their only alternative for thinking about the complex of predestination is to defer to the philosophers, said thinkers end up thinking abstractly about God’s election (or not) of particular individual people. This is partly because the philosophers’ intellectual ambit is limited by their flatlander experience of the cosmos; that is, the philosopher, no matter how genius, can never gain the God-view vista required for accessing a reality that is purely grounded in Deus revelatus (God revealed). And so, the Christians operating out of this intellectual impoverishment end up thinking about an absolutely heavenly reality, grounded in God’s inner-triune-life, from non-heavenly categories. As such they don’t think of humanity from God’s pre-destined and elect humanity for them in Jesus Christ.

Karl Barth summarizes what I take to be the theo-logical outcome of taking Nicene theology to its reductive conclusion with reference to a doctrine of predestination:

The doctrine of election is the sum of the Gospel because of all words that can be said or heard it is the best: that God elects man; that God is for man too the One who loves in freedom. It is grounded in the knowledge of Jesus Christ because He is both the electing God and the elected man in One. It is part of the doctrine of God because originally God’s election of man is a predestination not merely of man but of Himself. Its function is to bear basic testimony to eternal, free and unchanging grace as the beginning of all the ways and works of God.1

For Barth, and for the implications of Nicene theology, when we think of predestination, the referent isn’t you and me, at a first order level; the referent is God’s life for us, as He freely elects our humanity for Himself in the Son. In this sense, a doctrine of predestination is radically re-oriented, such that the battle of “who is elect,” as if individual people were under consideration, is taken off the table; full stop. This is not to say that individual people aren’t entailed by God’s pre-destinating of Himself to be for us (pro nobis); indeed, it is to say, alternatively, that all of humanity has been invited to the ‘banqueting table of God.’ It is to say that all of humanity has a concrete place in the Kingdom of God in Christ just because God’s Kingdom is grounded in its lively center in Jesus Christ; who just so happens to be garbed with our humanity. The question remains open though, will a person repent and say yes from Christ’s Yes and amen for them, or not? In other words, a Nicene informed doctrine of predestination says that all of humanity is already elected for God, because God has already elected Himself for them in Jesus Christ.

The ‘classical’ retort to this, the one funded by a heavy-handed philosophical account, attended by its usual Aristotelian theory of causation and substance, might be that the Nicene account I am describing results in an undercut of God’s sovereignty; and thus, a notion of Divine double-jeopardy is injected into the mix. They might say this because they operate with what Barth calls the decretum absolutum (absolute decree) logic of what Thomas Torrance calls logico-causal necessitarian determinism. This is the idea that God has baked certain necessary features of causation, such as His primary and then secondary causation into the created order, which requires that certain outcomes obtain one way or the other per God’s unrevealed and arbitrary decree. On this account, this is all to make sure that God remains Sovereign, which entails His eternality, impassibility, immutability, and other characteristics.

When such thinking encounters my type of thinking on predestination it simply cannot countenance the idea that an individual human agent might have the means to “thwart” God’s predetermined predestination of all things. But of course, if this theory of causation is rejected from the get-go, as it should be, then that sort of dilemma never obtains. I clearly reject the decretum absolutum logic, and instead think from the filial-logic that funds the orthodox theology developed in the Nicene advancements.

Conclusion

A doctrine of Predestination ought to be thought from the consubstantial natures (both Divine and human) of the Theoanthropos Godman, Jesus Christ. If this is done predestination will not be thought of from an abstract center in ourselves, but instead from the concrete center of God’s free life for us in Jesus Christ. Pre-destination’s referent will be understood to be God, at a first order level, and our relationship to Him, as human beings, will only be thought from within the tremendum of the gracious movement of God for us, and us for God, as that is actualized in the One Man, Jesus Christ. This is the genuinely Christian confessional understanding of a doctrine of predestination. If you check it against Holy Scripture, as you always should—especially as good Protestant Christians—you will find that not only does the Christological and Trinitarian grammar, developed in the Nicene theology, coheres with the Scriptural witness, but that when that is applied to our current doctrine of predestination (and any other doctrine worth its Christian salt), that in corollary fashion, it also coheres with the biblical categories.

At the end: Jesus is God’s predestination for the world. This is the revelational doctrine of pre-destination. If this is accepted the typical theatrics that surrounds this doctrine dissipate into the inferno of God’s white-hot love for the world. We can get back to focusing on Jesus rather than ourselves this way. Oh, what a thought!

 

1 Barth, CD II/2:1. 

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. 

 

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. 

God’s Free Electing Grace in Christ Concentration

I will simply refer the reader to a post I once wrote with reference to ‘freewill and human agency’ in the salvific reality. That post dovetails, quite nicely, with the post I am setting out to write thusly. In this post, rather than referring to Thomas F. Torrance, Karl Barth’s, greatest and best Anglophone student, we will, indeed, be referring to Barth’s explication of the unconditional nature of God’s grace; with particular reference to that bewitching doctrine known as predestination. The simple point I want to drive home through this writing is that: God’s grace is contingent on nothing else other than God’s freedom to be gracious pro nobis. In other words, I will contend, with Barth’s help, that God’s grace is gratia aliena (alien grace) that is extra nos (outside of us); but that comes to us and transforms us from the inside out with the result that we come to have the capacity to be for God rather than against Him (with a properly Christological conditioning). I want the reader to understand, though, that this grace is just as primal as when ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ (cf. Gen 1.1). In other words, I want people to think of creation itself as funded by God’s grace, and to understand that even so called ‘nature’ is in fact an aspect of God’s grace to be for and with us rather than outwith us. My hope is that the reader might understand that both the original creation and the re-creation, in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, is ‘all grace, all the way down’; and that there is no abstract or independent notion of ‘nature’ operative in the created order. One implication the reader should take away from this is that sin (and the broader genus of evil) becomes a surd in this sort of schema. That is that the irrationality, but more significantly, the disaffectivity of sin in a world that is funded purely by the inner-life of God’s triune life of covenant-grace makes absolutely no sense. My hope is that as the reader reads the passage from Barth (that I am about to share) that all of these notions will fill their mind’s eye in such a way that they are left in bewilderment by both the un-reality of sin, and the wonderment of God’s superabundant and overflowing graciousness; even as that serves as the fund of His life for all of creation in His election in the Son to be with us as the man from Nazareth. With this prologue in mind, let’s read along with Barth about God’s grace:

The specific proof of this thesis can be introduced connectedly only in and with the doctrine of predestination grounded upon it. Our preliminary concern is to show how right and necessary it is to set up this thesis at the very outset as a kind of working hypothesis.

We may establish first a point which all serious conceptions of the doctrine have in common. They all find the nerve of the doctrine, the peculiar concern which forces them to present and assert it, in the fact that it characterises the grace of God as absolutely free and thereby divine. In electing, God decides according to His good-pleasure, which as such is holy and righteous. And because He who elects is constant and omnipotent and eternal, the good-pleasure by which He decides, and the decision itself, are independent of all other decisions, of all creaturely decisions. His decision precedes every creaturely decision. Over against all creaturely self-determination it is predetermination—prae-destinatioGrace is the divine movement and condescension on the basis of which men belong to God and God to men. Whether offered or received, whether self-revealing and reconciling or apprehended and active in faith, it is God’s dealing, God’s will and God’s work, God’s lordship, God Himself in all His sovereignty. Grace cannot be called forth or constrained by any claim or merit, by any existing or future condition, on the part of the creature. Nor can it be held up or rendered nugatory and ineffective by any contradiction or opposition on the part of the creature.

But in its being and in its operation its necessity is within itself. In face of it there is no place for the self-glorifying or the self-praise of the creature. It comes upon the creature as absolute miracle, and with absolute power and certainty. It can be received by the creature only where there is a recognition of utter weakness and unworthiness, an utter confidence in its might and dignity, and an utter renunciation of wilful self-despair. What the creature cannot claim or appropriate for itself, it cannot of itself renounce when it does partake of it, nor can it even will to deprive itself of it. The decision by which it receives and affirms grace takes place in fulfillment of the prior divine decision. It cannot, then, be asserted over against God as a purely creaturely achievement, nor can it be revoked. As the fulfilment of that prior divine decision, it redounds per se to the praise of the freedom of grace: of its independence both of the majesty and of the misery of our human volition and achievement; of the sovereignty in which it precedes and thus fully over-rules our human volition and achievement. All serious conceptions of the doctrine (more or less exactly and successfully, and with more or less consistency in detail) do at least aim at this recognition; at the freedom of the grace of God. We can put it more simply: They aim at an understanding of grace as grace. For what kind of grace is it that is conditioned and constrained, and not free grace and freely electing grace? What kind of a God is it who in any sense of the term has to be gracious, whose grace is not His own personal and free good-pleasure.[1]

On the negative side, any inkling of any type of Pelagianism, semi-Pelagianism, or synergism is defeated before the creation ever gets started. If creation’s very fund, and humanity as the pinnacle of that creation (as Christ is first humanity as the imago Dei), is begotten by the grace of God, it only follows that all of creation (protology), and subsequent re-creation in the resurrection of Jesus Christ (eschatology) is an event of God’s free choice to be for the creation in the most primal of ways. If we conceive of God’s grace vis-à-vis creation under these terms, a competition between an unconditional grace and autonomous nature never obtains. In other words, as Barth develops elsewhere, if God’s covenant life of grace is the inner-reality of the created order, then notions of an abstract nature or creation always remain in the realm of das Nichtigein the realm of the reprobate of nothingness that evil and darkness in fact are in God’s Kingdom. selah

________________________________________

[1] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II/2 §32-33: Study Edition (New York, New York: T&T Clark, 2010), 17-18.  

God’s Grace ‘All the Way Down’: How God’s Election in Christ Speaks to the Kobe Helicopter Tragedy

How does my personal theology come to bear in moments like the death of my G.O.A.T, Kobe Bryant? My theology emphasizes the grandiosity of God’s Grace as Christ. As such, when I attempt to reflect on Kobe’s eternal destiny, I can think from this grandiose position. Not knowing Kobe personally makes it really hard to know exactly what his spiritual life was. So, I must rely on the reports of him being a serious Catholic Christian. As I somewhat sketched and detailed in my last post, there is latitude, in my view, because of the expansive and personal nature of God’s Grace, for those who are outside my tradition to equally have a saving faith; albeit, these must be within some gambit of the Christian tradition. Again, and as such, it is reasonable and hopeful for me to conclude that Kobe is now in the eternal Joy of the living God; enfolded into the garb of Christ’s mediating humanity. I don’t know where the others on the helicopter with Kobe were at spiritually, save Kobe’s daughter. I do maintain that children automatically enter the presence of Christ upon their ‘untimely’ deaths (I think of aborted children this way as well); which would mean that Gigi Bryant and Alyssa Altobelli (I’ve made an inchoate argument for that here) went immediately into the presence of the risen Christ the moment the helicopter crashed.

The ground of my thinking, in regard to the grandiosity of God’s Grace for us in Christ, comes from my doctrine of election; a doctrine that was first noticed and articulated (at least in the way he does it) by Karl Barth. To summarize Barth’s doctrine of election, in a sort of in nuce way, Tom Greggs writes:

Election’s nature is . . . Gospel. The dialectic evident in Romans remains and can be seen between electing God and elected human in its most extreme form in terms of election and rejection. Humanity continues to need to be rescued by God in its rejection of Him. What is new is that this dialectic is now considered in a wholly Christological way which brings together the Yes and No of God in the simultaneity of the elected and rejected Christ. It is He who demonstrates salvation as its originator and archetype. It is, therefore, in the humanity of the elected Christ that one needs to consider the destiny of human nature.[1]

 Greggs helps us understand what is at stake in God’s choice to be for and with us in Christ in Barth’s Christologically styled doctrine of election. The ‘destiny’ of human nature itself, which bespeaks the way Barth thinks of salvation in ontological terms (albeit not abstractly from the concrete human nature of Jesus Christ), is the very ground and basis upon which all creation and its purpose finds orientation. Here is how Barth intones such things:

This all rests on the fact that from the very first He participates in the divine election; that that election is also His election; that it is He Himself who posits this beginning of all things; that it is He Himself who executes the decision which issues in the establishment of the covenant between God and man; that He too, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, is the electing God. If this is not the case, then in respect of the election, in respect of this primal and basic decision of God, we shall have to pass by Jesus Christ, asking of God the Father, or perhaps of the Holy Spirit, how there can be any disclosure of this decision at all. For where can it ever be disclosed to us except where it is executed? The result will be, of course, that we shall be driven to speculating about a decretum absolutum instead of grasping and affirming in God’s electing the manifest grace of God. And that means that we shall not know into whose hands we are committing ourselves when we believe in the divine predestination. So much depends upon our acknowledgement of the Son, of the Son of God, as the Subject of this predestination, because it is only in the Son that it is revealed to us as the predestination of God, and therefore of the Father and the Holy Spirit, because it is only as we believe in the Son that we can also believe in the Father and the Holy Spirit, and therefore in the one divine election.[2]

These might seem like weighty and technical matters, and they are. But let’s attempt to regroup. The Barth[ian] understanding of divine election—which is the bringing together of divinity and humanity in inseparably related but distinct ways—grounds the outer reality of creation in the inner reality of God’s triune life and choice to be freely with us and for us in Jesus Christ. This means that creation’s ground is God’s Graciousness ‘all the way down’ (as TF Torrance says it).

If the above is the case, as Barth presses, we have no space to ‘speculate’ (i.e. decretum absolutum) about who God is in Himself and for us, and what He is about in the creative process. So, when I attempt to think about Kobe’s eternal destiny, and the others with Kobe, my very first thought as a Christian must be to think that God’s choice has always already been for and with them; rather than against them. If this is so, there is a correspondence of faith available and waiting for each of them, or there was prior to death, wherein they could say Yes to God, from God’s Yes for them in Christ. Not knowing where these folks were at with this choice for God, clearly, it is not really possible to dogmatically state where they all went when they died in the helicopter crash (except for the exceptions already noted). What is possible though is the possibility for hope; hope because creation’s eternal destiny has always been oriented toward Christ rather than away from Him; hope because God has freely chosen to not be humanity’s enemy, but instead, to be its brother, friend, and bridegroom. As such, because of the grandiosity of God’s Grace, there is always room for eternal hope, because God is an eternal God of Grace in Himself and then for us.

True, there are things in this post that are suggestive, but hopefully some sort of gist comes across. Maranatha

[1] Greggs, Barth, Origen, and Universal Salvation, 26.

[2] Barth, CD II/2:111.

‘The Doctrine of election is the sum of the Gospel’: But Not for the classical Calvinist

Classical Calvinism follows in the pattern of Augustine’s conception of election/predestination. JND Kelley (with criticism) describes Augustine’s conception this way:

The problem of predestination has so far only been hinted at. Since grace takes the initiative and apart from it all men form a massa damnata, it is for God to determine which shall receive grace and which shall not. This He has done, Augustine believes on the basis of Scripture, from all eternity. The number of the elect is strictly limited, being neither more nor less than is required to replace the fallen angels. Hence he has to twist the text ‘God wills all men to be saved’ (1 Tim. 2, 4), making it mean that He wills the salvation of all the elect, among whom men of every race and type are represented. God’s choice of those to whom grace is to be given in no way depends on His foreknowledge of their future merits, for whatever good deeds they will do will themselves be the fruit of grace. In so far as His foreknowledge is involved, what He foreknows is what He Himself is going to do. Then how does God decide to justify this man rather than that? There can in the end be no answer to this agonizing question. God has mercy on those whom He wishes to save, and justifies them; He hardens those upon whom He does not wish to have mercy, not offering them grace in conditions in which they are likely to accept it. If this looks like favouritism, we should remember that all are in any case justly condemned, and that if God makes His decision in the light of ‘a secret and, to human calculation, inscrutable justice’. Augustine is therefore prepared to speak of certain people as being predestined to eternal death and damnation; they may include, apparently, decent Christians who have been called and baptized, but to whom the grace of perseverance has not been given. More often, however, he speaks of the predestination of the saints which consists in ‘God’s foreknowledge and preparation of the benefits by which those who are to be delivered are most assuredly delivered’. These alone have the grace of perseverance, and even before they are born they are sons of God and cannot perish.[1]

And Calvin, as an echo of Augustine, writes:

Election–but no reprobation?

Now when human understanding hears these things, its insolence is so irrepressible that it breaks forth into random and immoderate tumult as if at the blast of a battle trumpet. Indeed many, as if they wished to avert a reproach from God, accept election in such terms as to deny that anyone is condemned. But they do this very ignorantly and childishly, since election itself could not stand except as set over against reprobation. God is said to set apart those whom he adopts into salvation; it will be highly absurd to say that others acquire by chance or obtain by their own effort what election alone confers on a few. Therefore, those whom God passes over, he condemns; and this he does for no other reason than that he wills to exclude them from the inheritance which he predestines for his own children. And men’s insolence is unbearable if it refuses to be bridled by God’s Word, which treats of his incomprehensible plan that the angels adore. . . .[2]

We see development in Calvin from Augustine; Calvin has a more active place for the reprobate than Augustine. Even so, Calvin relegates a doctrine of reprobation to the secret will of God, whereas he places election into the revealed will of God (this causes problems for the coherence of Calvin’s doctrine of election, which I critique here).

People might wonder why virtuosos like Augustine, Calvin, and other latterly Reformed thinkers would operate with such a harsh view of God’s relationship to humanity. They might wonder if God is love, then where does the idea of God decreeing that the majority of humanity will be condemned to an eternally hot hell with no way of escape. It comes back to their doctrine of God; where else?! Calvinists, in the main, operate with Aristotelian conception of God. This conception starts its thinking about God from Aristotle’s pure being god, or actual infinite, or unmoved mover. What characterizes this conception of God most is that he is a brute creator God who is shaped by an Almighty power that cannot be challenged. Now, we can affirm that God is Almighty, and that He cannot be challenged. What we cannot affirm is that God is simply a brute Creator who creates, and remains unmoved by His relation to His creation in an abstract sense.

If God is triune love, which He is, then He cannot be thought of arbitrarily; we must think Him in the way He has chosen for us to think Him. He hasn’t chosen that we think Him through apparatus given to the Christian tradition by the philosophers. Instead, He has chosen that we think Him as Father. If God is Father of the Son, and we think Him this way by the comfort of the Holy Spirit, then we cannot think Him in terms provided for by philosophers like Aristotle. But this is what the classical Calvinists would have us do. Richard Muller has identified the roots of classical Calvinism, as that developed in the 16th and 17th centuries, as what he calls: Christian Aristotelianism. Aristotle’s god requires that He remain unmoved by the contingencies of the created reality. When synthesized with Christian soteriology, what this requires is that the Christians have a mechanism in place that keeps God immovable vis-à-vis creation; and the Reformed in particular, as they have adopted this conception of God, developed what is called God’s decretum absolutum (or absolute decree). It is by way of this mechanism that God can relate to the world, in all His brute sovereignty and remain untouched, unmoved by creation. When applied to thinking about election, what this determines is that some will believe in Christ, in keeping with God’s decree, and others will reject Him. The Calvinist claims that if someone who has been chosen by God to eternal salvation could reject God’s choice that they be saved, that God’s sovereignty (His Almighty bruteness) would be flummoxed thus dealing the death of God, so to speak.

We can see the ulterior motive for developing what I consider to be a heinous and anti-Christ doctrine when it comes to thinking about the doctrine of election. Classical Calvinists will defend this doctrine to the death because they know that if they cease affirming God’s power in this way, that the God they consider to be God will cease being the God of the Bible. This is a sad state of affairs, since we know that God has not revealed Himself this way. We know that God has revealed Himself as the Father of the Son/Son of the Father in the sweet fellowship of the Holy Spirit. When we know this about God we can arrive at conclusions like TF Torrance does when he writes:

God loves you so utterly and completely that he has given himself for you in Jesus Christ his beloved Son, and has thereby pledged his very being as God for your salvation. In Jesus Christ God has actualised his unconditional love for you in your human nature in such a once for all way, that he cannot go back upon it without undoing the Incarnation and the Cross and thereby denying himself. Jesus Christ died for you precisely because you are sinful and utterly unworthy of him, and has thereby already made you his own before and apart from your ever believing in him. He has bound you to himself by his love in a way that he will never let you go, for even if you refuse him and damn yourself in hell his love will never cease. Therefore, repent and believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour.[3]

When we think of election/reprobation the right way, from a proper triune doctrine of God we can arrive at the conclusion that Karl Barth does:

The doctrine of election is the sum of the Gospel because of all words that can be said or heard it is the best: that God elects man; that God is for man too the One who loves in freedom. It is grounded in the knowledge of Jesus Christ because He is both the electing God and the elected man in One. It is part of the doctrine of God because originally God’s election of man is a predestination not merely of man but of Himself. Its function is to bear basic testimony to eternal, free and unchanging grace as the beginning of all the ways and works of God.[4]

 

 

[1] J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, Revised Edition (New York: Harper Collins, 1978), 368-69.

[2] Calvin, Institutes 3.23.1.

[3] T. F. Torrance, The Mediation of Christ, 94.

[4] Barth, CD II/2:1.

God’s Wrath as Father Rather than Judge: The Judge judged in Supralapsarian Prothesis

Following Barth (and Torrance) Evangelical Calvinists, such as myself, work from a Christ conditioned supralapsarian doctrine of election/predestination. That might sound abstract and technical, and it important ways it is; but more importantly it has real life theological and practical implications in regard to who God is in a God/world relation. Cashed out properly, what we can come to see through this is that God’s wrath against sin is not something that must be arbitrarily expiated in order for something to be extinguished in God towards us. Instead it is because of God’s great love and grace that His wrath is kindled, and thus He finds a way in Himself, in the Son, to kill what would threaten the love relationship He desires to have with us. This is the source of God’s wrath; that the ‘very good’ He created in His image, imago Christi, was thrust into a world of ‘disconciliation’ to the point that this relationship with us was lost. Not only was this fellowship lost, but it was ultimately destructive and eternally damning to those who God would have eternal relationship with in the participatio He originally intended for in the creation; one that He brought back in the new-creation of resurrection in Jesus Christ. But this is the sort of theological trajectory a healthy parsing of a supralapsarian election can result in if we are careful to think it through the analogy of Incarnation.

Paul Hinlicky, as he is setting the stage for further development in his own (Lutheran) work, writes the following:

if Jesus Christ is not God’s second thought, an improvisation, as it were, then the wrath of God which God overcomes in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ is anticipated in God’s eternal self-determination to create, redeem, and fulfill the world through the missions of Christ and His Spirit. This thesis agrees with Karl Barth’s Christocentric revision of the doctrine of election on the basis of the Lutheran teaching of the universality of the atonement, as I argued in Paths Not Taken.[1] Here I would add that this grounding of God’s becoming in time in the eternal Trinity’s self-determination issues in the kind of meditation on “God’s Lover for the World” that Bethge placed at the beginning of Bonhoeffer’s posthumous Ethics, taking the word “love” with the connotation of mercy, as laid out above. “Love is the reconciliation of man with God in Jesus Christ. The disunion of men with God, with other men, with the world and with themselves, is at an end. Man’s origin is given back to him. . . . And so love is something which happens to man, something passive, something over which he does not himself dispose. . . . Love means the understanding of the transformation of one’s entire existence by God; it means being drawn into the world as it lives and must live before God and in God. Love, therefore, is not man’s choice, but it is the election of man by God.” As election is election to membership in, and service (Eph. 2:10) on behalf of, the Beloved Community (Eph. 1:3-10), the eternal divine counsel is the starting point for a new kind of Christian “ethics” (before “good and evil”) which Bonhoeffer envisaged, i.e., concrete exploration of a qualitatively new form of life, “being drawn into the world as it lives and must live before God and in God.”[2]

As we read with Hinlicky, if we are attuned to such things, we can read apocalyptic theology between the lines of what he is writing. With his emphasis on ‘Man’s origin given back to him,’ and its passive reception vis-à-vis God, we sense how creational telos is all important in Hinlicky’s thinking; even as that is being riffed on from thinkers like Barth and Luther, not to mention, Bonhoeffer.

It is this reality that I find theologically rich: when we remove ourselves from the forensic frame, in regard to who God is towards and for us, what we end up with is a much richer conception of what in fact this whole plotline of life is about. We come to understand, if we adopt this evangelical framing of God, that God is not an angry despot with bloodlust electing to reprobate particular individuals throughout the annuls of history in order to find this sort of satisfaction. We realize through viewing God in His Self-revelation in Christ that God’s whole candor has always already been to be in deep koinonially-bonded union with us, us His counterpoints in whom He has desired to shower His love upon on in unconditional bounty. God is not first Judge, but Father; and when He is Judge He has freely elected to be the Judge judged in order to restore, but more, to recreate an eternally bountiful relationship wherein His Son is the forever God-human wherein all of creation’s purpose is grounded and actualized as God, in Christ, brings us into union with Him; indeed, as He has brought that union to Himself in the hypostatic union that coinhered and coinheres eternally in the Son. This is the good news, the Evangel that a properly delineated doctrine of election ought to provide for. The evangel requires a grammar, and I think what we have been engaging with in this post presents us with a hopeful grammar that helps us to better appreciate what in fact has been accomplished as we have focused on the Who of the Gospel based in its inner logic.

There is no doubt that God has wrath, and that He is just. But it is important to understand just what in fact defines or frames that. Indeed, it is the frame itself that allows us to comprehend, in intelligible ways, why God is angry to begin with. He isn’t angry because He is a Judge, or as a Judge; He is angry as a Father is angry when their child becomes wayward, when that child gets into a prodigal morass such that they end up in the coral of cob-eating swine. This is the alternative that we have sought to offer in Evangelical Calvinism. What counts as classical theistic or classical Calvinist theology these days offers the other alternative. It presents a view of God that is grounded in a mechanistic decretive understanding of a God who is juridical to the core. He might have love, but only a love that is purchased through a payment made. The view of God we offer, and the one Hinlicky has helpfully highlighted for us, sees God as loving us first that we might love Him.

[1] I finished this book, Paths Not Taken, by Hinlicky, a few months ago. I’d highly recommend it to you the reader. It represents an even more constructive engagement than does the current book by Hinlicky.

[2] Paul R. Hinlicky, Luther and the Beloved Community: A Path for Christian Theology after Christendom (Grand Rapids, Michigan/Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010), 113-14.

The Biblical Doctrine of Election: And Some “Flowery” Engagement

I want to share some quotes from Karl Barth and Tom Greggs. All of these quotes either come from the body or footnotes of my personal chapter for our latest Evangelical Calvinism book (2017). I was prompted to this as I continue to listen to Leighton Flowers. This post, though, will not engage with Flowers directly, but insofar as I offer up an alternative version of Reformed ‘election’ and ‘reprobation’ that he is not targeting, I think he ought to take notice. When Jesus is understood as the genuine center of all theological thought a whole new world opens up in regard to the theological and thus biblical horizons possible for Christian edification. I agree with Flowers that classical Calvinism gives us a rubbish understanding of Holy Scripture and its reality in Jesus Christ; I just think contra Flowers that there is a much better and theological way to understand the implications of the Incarnation of God in Christ and how that gets cashed out in the way we ultimately understand who God is. Let’s hear from Barth and Greggs on the doctrine of election, and then close with some further reflection.

Karl Barth writes,

This all rests on the fact that from the very first He participates in the divine election; that that election is also His election; that it is He Himself who posits this beginning of all things; that it is He Himself who executes the decision which issues in the establishment of the covenant between God and man; that He too, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, is the electing God. If this is not the case, then in respect of the election, in respect of this primal and basic decision of God, we shall have to pass by Jesus Christ, asking of God the Father, or perhaps of the Holy Spirit, how there can be any disclosure of this decision at all. For where can it ever be disclosed to us except where it is executed? The result will be, of course, that we shall be driven to speculating about a decretum absolutum instead of grasping and affirming in God’s electing the manifest grace of God. And that means that we shall not know into whose hands we are committing ourselves when we believe in the divine predestination. So much depends upon our acknowledgement of the Son, of the Son of God, as the Subject of this predestination, because it is only in the Son that it is revealed to us as the predestination of God, and therefore of the Father and the Holy Spirit, because it is only as we believe in the Son that we can also believe in the Father and the Holy Spirit, and therefore in the one divine election.[1]

And Tom Greggs offers commentary on the sort of sentiment we just witnessed in Barth’s reformulation of election, as a Christ concentrated conception:

There is no room for a prior decision of God to create, or elect and condemn before the decision to elect Jesus Christ (no decretum absolutum); instead, Jesus Christ is Himself the ultimate decretum absolutum.[2]

Further:

Election’s nature is . . . Gospel. The dialectic evident in Romans remains and can be seen between electing God and elected human in its most extreme form in terms of election and rejection. Humanity continues to need to be rescued by God in its rejection of Him. What is new is that this dialectic is now considered in a wholly Christological way which brings together the Yes and No of God in the simultaneity of the elected and rejected Christ. It is He who demonstrates salvation as its originator and archetype. It is, therefore, in the humanity of the elected Christ that one needs to consider the destiny of human nature.[3]

Maybe you can infer how I would use these quotes in the chapter I wrote on assurance of salvation. But the most important point I want to highlight, currently, is that in the Barthian reformulation of election the focus is no longer on individual/abstract people scurrying around on the earth, but instead upon the ground of all humanity as that is realized in the archetypal and elect humanity of Jesus Christ. There is a universalizing underneath in the doctrine of election in Barth’s theology, with the result that our focus is not on ourselves, as if we have some sort of inherent value or worth in se; but instead the realization is always present that we find our life and being in extra nos or outside of us, only as that extra enters into us by the gift of God in the grace who is the Christ.

The shift that happens, juxtaposed with a classical double predestinarian view, is that election first and foremost is about a doctrine of God; but a doctrine of God that can never be thought of apart from or abstracted out of His choice to not be God without us. In other words, in this reified doctrine our knowledge of God and selves is contingent always already upon God’s choice to be with us and for us in Christ. This transforms the way we think humanity, for one thing. In other words, we are unable to think about what genuine humanity is without first thinking about humanity in union with God in the Son’s union with us in the vicarious humanity of Christ.

One immediate consequence of this is that the way we think people is no longer from a class structure, or from the psychological vantage point that God loves some and not others (as the classical notion of election/reprobation leaves us with). As such, we are genuinely free to look out at others and recognize a humanity, in full, that God loves; a humanity, no matter how wretched (maybe as we think of ourselves) that is valuable precisely at the point that Jesus is the Yes and not the No for them and us. This is not to suggest that a blind eye is given to the sub-humanity that people continue to live in—because we love the darkness rather than the light—but it is to alert us to the fact, in the Barthian reification, that all people have inherent value, just because God first loved us that we might love Him. It is to recognize that even if people choose to reject the election freely offered to them in Christ, that because that election is not contingent upon their choice, but God’s, they live in suspension from the imago Dei who is the imago Christi (cf. Col. 1.15), and as such continue to have inherent value, and even capacity to say yes to God in correspondence to Jesus’s Yes for them. Here, we can agree with the evangelist that ‘God so loved the world, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.’

With the above noted I think we ought to repent and understand the doctrine of election from Barth’s lights (if we haven’t already). You’ll notice a heavy emphasis on the conciliar nature of Barth’s theologizing. In other words, he isn’t resisting the ecumenical councils of the Church; nein, he is taking them with all seriousness, particularly the Nicene-Constantinopolitan-Chalcedon councils with their respective focuses on Theology Proper and Christology. Herein, for Barth, is the gateway for understanding all things theological. Folks who don’t accept this sort of prolegomenological foray of Barth’s, the one that slavishly restricts its knowledge of God to God’s Self-revelation in Christ, will of course find Barth’s conclusions on election, and everything else, amiss. But I wonder how it is possible to not follow Barth, just at a material level (which of course cannot be separated from the formal). Barth, I think, is following the Evangelist par excellence, John. John, in his Gospel, is the one who has made clear that Christ thought of Himself as the center of the whole cosmos, which includes the canon of Scripture. John is the one who has told is that Jesus alone dwells in the bosom of the Father and has come to exegete Him for us. You can’t get more biblical than this pathway. I think Barth has found something that is central to the reality of the Gospel, as that it is funded most acutely by the Gospel of John.

But I digress, a bit. I commend to you, once again, Barth’s reformulated doctrine of election. No matter what alternative someone commits themselves to, in regard to a doctrine of election, they are all dripping in deep theological commitments. I know Leighton Flowers like to present his approach as a prima facie or ‘straightforward’ “just the text man” sort of way. But the reality is that even Flowers’ approach is just as much a species of theological exegesis as anyone else’s. This is why I am so focused on making sure that we are aware of this, and as a result we seek to work from the best Christian Dogmatic as possible. Barth, in my view, offers the best theological exegetical approach when it comes to a doctrine of election. And if you understand how interlinked this doctrine is with all of Barth’s theological project, you’ll understand why appreciation of him won’t just stop with election; it can’t.

 

[1] Barth, CD II/2:110.

[2] Greggs, Barth, Origen, and Universal Salvation, 25.