Why I Am A Universalist, § 5: The Doctrine of God, Part 4: The Doctrine of Election (Section II)
Section II: Jesus Christ, electing and elected
In the following sections I will mostly quote from Barth and then offer some reflections on Barth’s statements regarding election. Here I address the center of the doctrine: Jesus Christ, the electing God and elected man. We have no doctrine of election, no knowledge of God at all, apart from this locus, the focal point of all that we do and say. The following quotes come from Church Dogmatics II.2 (The Doctrine of God), § 33: The Election of Jesus Christ, and they serve as expatiations on what I presented in the first section.
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, as 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 fulfilment 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. (94-95)After his exposition of John’s prologue, Barth writes about predestination and election. I will offer some more passages on the topic of predestination and election in the next section.
In its simplest and most comprehensive form the dogma of predestination consists, then, in the assertion that the divine predestination is the election of Jesus Christ. But the concept of election has a double reference—to the elector and to the elected. And so, too, the name of Jesus Christ has within itself the double reference: the One called by this name is both very God and very man. Thus the simplest form of the dogma may be divided at once into the two assertions that Jesus Christ is the electing God, and that He is also elected man.Barth is here at his most profound and revolutionary. By thinking through the doctrine of election from a center found in Jesus Christ, Barth not only broke with the ancient and Reformed traditions, he broke from his earlier writings on election. Yet at the same time he was attempting to be faithful to the biblical witness. The following are some observations based on these passages:
In so far as He is the electing God, we must obviously—and above all—ascribe to Him the active determination of electing. It is not that He does not also elect as man, i.e., elect God in faith. But this election can only follow His prior election, and that means that it follows the divine electing which is the basic and proper determination of His existence.
In so far as He is man, the passive determination of election is also and necessarily proper to Him. It is true, of course, that even as God He is elected; the Elected of His Father. But because as the Son of the Father He has no need of any special election, we must add at once that He is the Son of God elected in His oneness with man, and in fulfilment of God’s covenant with man. Primarily, then, electing is the divine determination of the existence of Jesus Christ, and election (being elected) the human.
Jesus Christ is the electing God. We must begin with this assertion because by its content it has the character and dignity of a basic principle, and because the other assertion, that Jesus Christ is elected man, can be understood only in the light of it. (103)
1. Jesus is identified as God’s self-revelation. God reveals Godself in Jesus of Nazareth; Jesus is the one in whom we see and know God. Jesus is the focal point which determines all our knowing and speaking concerning God. There is nothing about who God is or what God does that is not determined by the person of Jesus Christ.
2. Jesus is the sole mediator between God and humanity (1 Tim 2:5). The mediating role of Christ is absolute and not occasional; Christ mediates from incarnation to resurrection. Jesus does not mediate only on the cross, but throughout his life and ministry. Jesus is God before the world (Deus coram mundo) and the world before God (mundus coram Deo)—electing God and elected human.
3. Jesus is the electing God and the elected man, because of his identity as very God and very man. The hypostatic union forms the basis of Jesus’ dual role as both electing and elected. Jesus is both subject and object of election.
4. Jesus, as the incarnation of God, is the enfleshment of God’s being and will, or God’s being-in-act. Because one cannot justifiably separate God’s essence from God’s will, by incarnating God’s essence, Jesus also incarnates the will, decree, and election of God. Jesus is the embodiment of who God is and what God decrees—the God whose eternity and omnipresence includes time and space, whose immanent being includes economic becoming, whose constancy includes suffering and death, whose infinite freedom includes infinite love.
5. Jesus is the divine election of grace. The culmination of all that Barth has to say concerning Jesus is found here: he is God’s grace made manifest, known, and effective. Jesus is the divine election incarnate, the electing God who loves in freedom and elect humanity who is reconciled to God in him alone.