Marc has asked the guys in last semesters Karl Barth class to post their papers. Here is mine. When I initially began my study of Barth I did not like him. However, the more I studied the more I realized that God used him to build the playground that all protestant evangelicals are playing in, including myself. He shifted the church, that was on the highway of 19th Century liberalism, to the off ramp and back to a much more conservative, God-centered approach to theology. For this, I must say that I respect him. Although I do not agree with all of his theology, I found myself nodding my head in agreeance with much of what Barth taught. All that being said, I wanted to get a better grasp of Barth’s doctrine of election.
Barth’s Doctrine of election has three pillars:
1. Jesus Christ himself is the electing God
Jesus is the subject of election because Jesus is God. Barth here rejects the Reformed understanding of the Trinity that asserts that the Father, as the subject of election, is covenants with his Son to bring about humanities redemption. This is known as the pactum salutis. Barth asserts that this understanding of the Trinity is not cohesive enough. God does not make pacts with himself. Barth emphasize the oneness of the Trinity, and in doing this refers to Jesus as the “one divine I a second time, in a different from.” This cohesiveness in the Trinity assures the believer that God is for us, and not against us. If Jesus is not the source of our election, and only the means of accomplishing redemption, Barth argues that we still do not really know who God is. As the electing God, Jesus reveals clearly and emphatically that God is for man.
2. Jesus Christ is the elect man
The object of God’s election is not human beings, but the man Jesus Christ. In Jesus, all mankind is derivatively elect in Him. Barth appeals to Ephesians 1:4 to find support, “he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” God chose Jesus, and in doing this he determined to be gracious to all men. In Jesus we see, “the destiny of human nature, its exaltation to fellowship with God” (CD II/2:118).
3. Jesus Christ is the only man rejected or damned by God
As the elect representative of man, Christ is not only the only elect man, but the reprobate one as well. In this reprobation Christ is judged in our place, and takes our sin upon himself. (CD II/2, 123, 124)
The question is whether Barth applies the election and rejection of Christ to all men, or merely to a group of individuals? In several places Barth says that this election in Christ is applied to all men. He goes on to assert that those who desire to be reprobate, cannot because of Christ. (CD II/2, 319) This paper attempts to understand the 50 year question of whether or not Barth was a universalist. WARNING: I don’t think my paper solves the debate!
After coming to a conclusion, the final part of my paper attempts to unpack some of the missiological implications of such a theology. I would love to get feedback from anyone.