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.
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.
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.
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.
 Barth, CD II/2:110.
 Greggs, Barth, Origen, and Universal Salvation, 25.