Why I Am A Universalist, § 5: The Doctrine of God, Part 4: The Doctrine of Election (Section IV)

Section IV: The election of the individual

Karl Barth says all that needs to be said on the subject of individual salvation in one lengthy passage from § 35 of the Church Dogmatics. If you are looking for Barth’s most clear and unequivocal endorsement of universalism, look no further. It is important to note that in this passage, he speaks about how the church community should present the Good News to unbelievers, to those who reject God entirely. He speaks first about the godlessness within the church and then about the godlessness of those who remain outside of it. What Barth says here has important ramifications for how we conceive of ecclesiology, to which we will return at a later time.

This, then, is the message with which the elect community (as the circumference of the elect man, Jesus of Nazareth) has to approach every man—the promise, that he, too, is an elect man. It is fully aware of his perverted choice. It is fully aware of his godlessness. It consists itself of godless men who were enabled to hear and believe this promise, and who still need to hear and believe it. It does and must reckon continually with the original godlessness of its members. It is fully aware, too, of the eternal condemnation of the man who is isolated over against God, which is unfailingly exhibited by the godlessness of every such man. It knows what his perverse choice must cost him. It knows of the threat under which he stands. It knows of the wrath and judgment and punishment of God in which the rejection of the man isolated over against God takes its course. And it also knows of the shadow into which every man does actually move because he desires and undertakes at all costs to be a man isolated, and therefore rejected, in relation to God; because he behaves and conducts himself at all costs as though he were this rejected man.

But it knows, above all, about Jesus Christ. It is the community founded by His death and resurrection. It belongs to Him as His property. Its existence is defined by witness to Him. It proclaims Him and nobody and nothing else. It knows men, therefore, only to the extent that it knows Jesus Christ. And so it knows the full extent of their godlessness, and the rejection that accompanies it. But it knows something greater than that. And it knows even that only in relation to this greater thing. It knows what has become of this threat, how and where it has been executed. It knows that God, by the decree He made in the beginning of all His works and ways, has taken upon Himself the rejection merited by the man isolated in relation to Him; that on the basis of this decree of His the only truly rejected man is His own Son; that God’s rejection has taken its course and been fulfilled and reached its goal, with all that that involves, against this One, so that it can no longer fall on other men or be their concern. [...] Their concern is still to be aware of the threat of their rejection. But it cannot now be their concern to suffer the execution of this threat, to suffer the eternal damnation which their godlessness deserves. Their desire and their undertaking are pointless in so far as their only end can be to make them rejected. And this is the very goal which the godless cannot reach, because it has already been taken away by the eternally decreed offering of the Son of God to suffer in place of the godless, and cannot any longer be their goal.

This is the contradiction with which the community opposes the godless, who do not know all this. It testifies to them that the way in which they find themselves was aimless even before they entered upon it; that their desire and undertaking were nullified before the world began. The revelation of this contradiction is the basis of the community itself. How can it meet any other man otherwise than with this contradiction? But it knows more than this. It knows that God has removed the merited rejection of man, and has laid it upon His own Son, so that He might draw man to Himself and clothe him with His own glory. It knows that God is gracious to man, not only in a negative sense, not only by the removal of his rejection, but positively, in that He elects him. Indeed, the first and essential thing that He has decreed for him in His Son is his election to covenant with Him. He loves His enemies, the godless: not because they are godless; not because they seek to be free of Him; but because He will not let them break away; because in consequence they cannot really break away from Him. What is laid up for man is eternal life in fellowship with God. (CD II.2, 318-19; paragraph breaks added for readability)
Karl Barth’s argument rests on the “But” in the second paragraph: “But it [the community] knows, above all, about Jesus Christ.” This could be a summary of Barth’s entire theological program. Jesus Christ is “above all” human concerns about our eternal state, because in Jesus all concerns are rendered null and void. In him we have our answer. In him we hear the promise of God to each individual: Because you were there in my Son—because he stood in your place—you are my beloved, my elect. This is the gospel, the “good news” which we must proclaim to the world: We belong to God, and to no one else—especially not to ourselves. No one can escape the gracious grasp of the Holy One in our midst (Hos. 11:9), the God who “loves in freedom” and displayed this holy love in the incarnation of Jesus Christ as the realization of God’s infinite grace. The verdict has been given, and Jesus took upon himself the punishment which we deserved. Apart from God we are doomed to perish. But we are never apart from God, because God claims us as God’s beloved children. Thus we may rejoice! We are not lost. We are not guilty. Our lives are hidden with God and we are promised an eternity of fellowship with our Creator as the special guests at the banquet table. Whether we all know it or not, we are invited as the elect of God, no longer rejected as God’s enemies. God determined before the creation of the world that we would share in the wedding feast for all eternity. And so we shall! Praise be to God!

After reading this passage, I am reminded of the quote I posted earlier on grace, from CD II.1:

Grace in itself means primarily that the sin of the creature, the resistance
which it opposes to God, cannot check, weaken or render impossible the operation
of divine grace. On the contrary, grace shows its power over and against sin.
Grace, in fact, presupposes the existence of this opposition. It reckons with
it, but does not fear it. It is not limited by it. It overcomes it, triumphing
in this opposition and the overcoming of it. (355)

Karl Barth proves to be a theologian of grace from beginning to end—the grace of God’s self-revelation, God’s gracious being-in-act as the “one who loves in freedom,” and now God’s election of Jesus Christ as the divine election of grace for all humanity. What is significant is that this grace is not only connected to God’s wrath and judgment but is, in fact, realized in God’s judgment of sin on the cross in the person of Jesus Christ.

I close now with a selection from an earlier section in CD II.2, but one which connects the election of individuals to the topic that will be presented next: Jesus Christ as the Judge judged in our place. Barth does not address this fully until the fourth volume, under the doctrine of reconciliation. So with this quote we finally end our discussion of the doctrine of God and move into Christology, reconciliation, justification, and the atonement.

Who is the Elect? He is always the one who “was dead and is alive again,” who “was lost and is found” (Lk. 15.21). That the elected man Jesus had to suffer and die means no more and no less than that in becoming man God makes Himself responsible for man who became His enemy, and that He takes upon Himself all the consequences of man’s action—his rejection and his death. This is what is involved in the self-giving of God. This is the radicalness of His grace. God must let righteousness reign, and He wills to do so. Against the aggression of the shadow-world of Satan which is negated by Him and which exists only in virtue of this negation, God must and will maintain the honour of His creation, the honour of man as created and ordained for Him, and His own honour. God cannot and will not acquiesce in the encroachment of this shadow-world upon the sphere of His positive will, an encroachment made with the fall of man. On the contrary, it must be His pleasure to see that Satan and all that has its source and origin in him are rejected.

But this means that God must and will reject man as he is in himself. And He does so. But He does it in the person of the elected man Jesus. And in Him He loves man as he is in himself. He elects Jesus, then, at the head and in the place of all others. The wrath of God, the judgment and the penalty, fall, then, upon Him. And this means upon His own Son, upon Himself: upon Him, and not upon those whom He loves and elects “in Him;” upon Him, and not upon the disobedient. Why not upon the disobedient? Why this interposition of the just for the unjust by which in some incomprehensible manner the eternal Judge becomes Himself the judged? Because His justice is a merciful and for this reason a perfect justice. Because the sin of the disobedient is also their need, and even while it affronts Him it also moves Him to pity. [. . .] That is why He intervened on our behalf in His Son. That is why He did no less. He did not owe it to us to do it. For it was not He but we ourselves in our culpable weakness who delivered us up to Satan and to the divine wrath and rejection. And yet God does it because from all eternity He loves and elects us in His Son, because from all eternity He sees us in His Son as sinners to whom He is gracious.

For all those, then, whom God elects in His Son, the essence of the free grace of God consists in the fact that in this same Jesus God who is the Judge takes the place of the judged, and they are fully acquitted, therefore, from sin and its guilt and penalty. Thus the wrath of God and the rejection of Satan and his kingdom no longer have any relevance for them. On the contrary, the wrath of God and the rejection of Satan, the free course of divine justice to which God Himself has subjected Himself on their behalf, has brought them to freedom. In the One in whom they are elected, that is to say, in the death which the Son of God has died for them, they themselves have died as sinners. And that means their radical sanctification, separation and purification for participation in a true creaturely independence, and more than that, for the divine sonship of the creature which is the grace for which from all eternity they are elected in the election of the man Jesus. (CD II.2, 124-25; paragraph breaks added for readability)


Shane said…
Bearing in mind your recent clarification that you do not intend 'universalism' to mean 'everyone goes to heaven', I agree with you that Barth has quite correctly shown the inadequacy of the view of limited atonement.

Barth's reworking of the concept of election is brilliant. Christ himself is the electing and the elected, in a primary sense. All individuals are elected only in their relation to Christ, who has assumed human nature and born their sins.

Yet, it is important to note that this position still does not imply that everyone will be saved. I am still waiting for the clarification you promised regarding the difference between redemeption and reconciliation, which I think will prove crucial in explaining this point.

You have shown that Barth views Grace as something irresistable. In a certain way I would agree with this. But let us draw another careful distinction. God might have the power to overcome our individual decision, but this does not imply that he actually does so.

Christ acts first to redeem us. We are capable of loving God because we are loved by God. But, Barth has not actually said that we love God only insofar as he loves us, which in my mind would completely elimate human freedom.

Let's put it this way: Grace reconciles us to God and gives us the ability to love him. But reconciliation and love occurs only between two real agents. If grace forces us to be reconciled, then what is the meaning of reconiliation? Human life seems to lose all its moral seriousness. How can we genuinely love God if we have no choice to do otherwise? The splendor of love is its contingency. God does not have to love us, but he does. Likewise, it seems to me that the love we are called to return to him--if it is to be genuine love-- presupposes our possibility to withhold that love.

It is this possibility of withholding which I think requires us to acknowledge the possibility that some will not be finally reconciled in the eschaton.


I think we need to assert that God's love for us and our love for God indeed establishes a relationship, but that does not entail reconciliation. The whole biblical witness shows that our election and reconciliation has never been in our hands. Did Abram ask God to elect him and establish the people of Israel through him? No. In a way, it was a denial of Abram's freedom, but in another way God gave Abram a radically new freedom through calling him to obedience.

God's decision went in a single direction; Abraham had no role to play in God's election. But the promises of God -- flowing from the love of God -- were such that Abraham did not want it any other way. He was promised descendents like the stars in the sky and the reality that he would be a blessing to the world. He was not coerced into this, but rejection was not a valid option. God made a decision apart from any human response, and when God sought that response, the only choice left was and is: Thank you.

The same goes for our reconciliation to God in Jesus Christ. God took this decision out of our hands and has done something to which we can only respond: Thank you. Paul affirms this time and again. I will use Romans 11:32 as the main example: "For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all." One could make the case that imprisonment is a violent image, one that deprives us of our human freedoms. But that would be a very modern liberal perspective, as if God is bound to respect what we think of as freedom. God removes us from the decision-making process so that we can make the right decision and use our freedom properly by saying "Amen" to what God has done for us. God keeps us out of the work of reconciliation in order that we might actually be reconciled, because reconciliation is a divine work which no human person is capable of effecting or completing.

What you are talking about is the subjective appropriation of the reconciliation that has already occurred. A response of love and obedience is indeed demanded from God, just as it was demanded of the Israelite patriarchs. Except then it was for a very specific group of people, whereas now in Christ the response is expected from all people everywhere of all times. And this response will come at some time, though it may not be in this life (Phil. 2:9-11). Should we feel frustrated that "at the name of Jesus" we will all bow down, as if we have no freedom to resist? No, because when that time comes we will desire nothing else but to bow before our Creator, Reconciler, and Redeemer. We will submit to this act of reverence and obedience, because there is nothing else we could possible wish to do in the face of such glorious grace.
A brief discussion began a couple days ago on Barth and election, and a person made this very astute remark which I echo wholeheartedly; I could not have said it any better:

"A Barthian 'universalist' has made his whole case once it is
admitted, contra Calvin, that there is only one election. That's all
'universalist' need mean. 'Apokatastasis,' with its hint of fate or mechanics, is a red herring. The break with Calvin's doctrine is what rocks our world. It's the ding-an-sich. We're still digesting that - or stomaching it."
Shane said…
David said, "God's decision went in a single direction; Abraham had no role to play in God's election."

Actually, I think the example of Abraham contradicts your point. I agree that Abraham did not initiate God's election, but it is also the case that Abraham had a vital role to play in the fulfillment of the divine promises to which he was elected.

Gen 12, 1-2,
"Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing . . ."

This seems like a conditional statement to me: if you go, I will bless you. Abraham could not have made God promise to bless him, but God's promise is directly tied to a commandment.

Likewise in Genesis 17 when God gives Abraham a son by Sarah, he calls it a 'covenent' between the two of them, and requires Abraham to be circumcised in recognition of the covenent.

We see the same thing also in Genesis 22, when God tests Abraham by asking him to sacrifice Isaac.

"By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son:
That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;
And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice."

Abraham's faithful response to the divine command surely has some significance. Would God have made a great nation of Abraham if he had remained in Ur rather than sojourning west? It seems to me that he would not have done so.

Another important text here is in Gen 15.6, which says that Abraham, "believed (ve-he'emin) God and it was counted to him for righteousness." If I remember rightly, this is one of those verses which has been hotly debated by the New Perspective NT scholars and those of a more Lutheran bent.

The exegetically interesting thing here is the verb. the triliteral root ('mn) seems to carry connotations of faithfulness, dependability, trustworthiness. (It is the root from which we get our english affirmation of trust in God, 'amen. The BDB lexicon gives the gloss "to trust, or believe in" someone for the hiphil stem, which seems to be pretty well attested. It would be interesting to see if there is a connotation here connecting 'believing' and 'faithfulness.' A quick glance at some of the other occurences of the verb in this stem makes me guess that there might be some connection there, which would be very theologically significant because it would mean that Abraham did have some part to play in the fulfillment of God's promises.

The Lutheran and Reformed scholars want to deny this obviously. However, the apostle James (2.20ff.) interprets this verse as an affirmation of the necessity of good works for justification:

"But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only."

It seems to me therefore, that the example of Abraham contradicts the theological position which you are wanting to take, namely saying that God's grace happens without our consent or ability to resist.
Shane said…
To say this another way:

God wants covenant partners, not covenant robots.

Shane said…
To put it in Calvinist terms

Total Depravity
Unconditional Election
Limited Atonement
Irresistable Grace
Perseverance of the saints.

You are rightly rejecting L, but you are not being radical enough! I am trying to get rid of (or at least seriously qualify) the U, I and P too.
Of course Abraham was involved in the fulfilment of God's promises, since God wants us to be covenant partners. (But being a partner with God comes after the fact of God's self-determination to be the God of the covenant and to establish the covenant with Abraham.) I never denied the importance of being a partner and not a robot, but you are treading on dangerous ground it seems by denying the irrestibility of grace, the unconditionality of election, etc. The direction in which you are heading, if you are not there already, is synergism: that humans are necessary for God to accomplish the purposes of election and salvation. Is this really where you want to go? Do you really want to say that God needs us, that God does not save anyone unless that person does something to, in a sense, save herself?

I think the Pauline witness is against such a position.
Shane said…
well, i'm no theologian, so i have relatively little to contribute in a positive way here, but it seems to me that we are called into a sort of cooperative role.

Syn-ergism is a new term to me, so maybe there is hidden baggage I don't know about, but it seems acceptable so long as we recognize a fundamental asymmetry involved. God grace precedes us and it is this alone makes our cooperation with the Spirit possible. Thus our becoming fellow-workers with God happens only in the sphere of the spirit, not the sphere of nature.

Likewise, we should not construe syn-ergism as 'earning our salvation,' much less as 'saving ourselves.' Syn-ergism should point out that we are called to cooperate with the Holy Spirit's work of sanctifying us--we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling.

Obedience to God's commands is an important part of cooperation, of course. We ought to obey God's commands because the Spirit is trying to teach us to be holy like Jesus. Our salvation does not depend upon our flawless performance of the divine law, however. It depends upon the forgiveness offered us through the cross by means of faith. Yet this faith, if it is the genuine article, involves the desire to cooperate with the Spirit more and more, to learn to live more righteously. This is my interpretation of the passage from James above.

The question about the perseverance of the saints is whether a person who has initially responded to the Grace of God and has partaken of the Holy Spirit can ultimately and finally reject the faith and be cast away by God? I think Heb 6.4-8 forces us to say yes.

I am not sure exactly what that passage is talking about, but I don't think it means that any sin after baptism is a mortal sin. Nor do I think there is any way to read this passage as saying that everyone who is elected will necessarily be saved.
I wonder, Shane, if what you are after is the distinction between justification and sanctification. We do not cooperate in our justification, but we are called to obedience in the process of sanctification by the Holy Spirit. You imply this distinction when you write: "Syn-ergism should point out that we are called to cooperate with the Holy Spirit's work of sanctifying us--we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling."

I plan to comment on 1 Cor. 1:18 in a future post, but I will mention it now. The verse states, "For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." This is a present continuous concept of salvation, but the theological term is sanctification. The NT often speaks of salvation in a present continuous sense because it emphasizes the centrality of discipleship, obedience, and the doing of good deeds in accordance with the grace shown us in Jesus Christ. But I do not think we are then free to say that if we fail to perform good works and live up to some standard of discipleship, that we are in danger of losing our election. What we would have to say then is that we were never really elect; we were simply in the process of earning that election. Is this what we really want to proclaim as the gospel? Does this actually accord with the biblical witness? I agree that verses like the one in Hebrews gives that impression, but as I have said before, the argument cannot be won by counting the number of passages but by discerning what is the overall thrust of the Scriptures.

The question you will need to address is: Where is the proper locus for human cooperation? What do humans rightly cooperate with God in accomplishing? Where is our rightful place?

The tradition through and through has answered this question by locating our involvement outside of election and salvation, in the realm of obedience, ethics, and sanctification. I can only think of three times in church history where humans could cooperate in their salvation: (1) Pelagianism (and the later development of semi-Pelagianism); (2) medieval Catholicism (with the emphasis on sacramental works as necessary for achieving and maintaining one's salvation); and (3) Arminianism (as the rejection of Calvin's doctrine of election). I think one could rightly say that the specter of Pelagius runs through all the options, the idea that humanity has to do or achieve something for salvation.

If we wish to use the idea of cooperation, then it must be passive and not active. We cooperate with God by receiving that which God has already accomplished in Jesus Christ. We do not actively do something, but we cooperate by allowing ourselves to subjectively become the new creature which God has objectively realized in the death and resurrection of Jesus. After that, we may cooperate actively in the journey of discipleship and obedience, as our lives are brought (still passively, by the Holy Spirit) into correspondence with the reality realized by God. The distinction between what we are "ontologically" (objectively) in Jesus Christ and what we are "ontically" (subjectively) is one that I employ in this regard, and it corresponds with the distinction between justification and sanctification.

You also wrote: "God grace precedes us and it is this alone makes [sic] our cooperation with the Spirit possible."

Here is where you need to be careful and think through what you want to say. If God's grace by the power of the Holy Spirit alone makes us capable of responding to God in faith, and if that grace is only given to a select group of people, then you have no choice but to affirm limited atonement.
Shane said…

You have just made several interesting points in that post. Let me try to respond to a few.

I think it is absolutely crucial to point out, as you do, that salvation is future or a present continuous idea. "to us who are being saved . . ." You are 'saved' only after the final judgment.

Now clearly we need to clarify the relationship between salvation, justification and sanctification.

It seems to me that most protestants view salvation and justification as essentially coterminous. If you are justified, then are 'saved'. Note that this is already slipping into viewing salvation in the past tense. If we take the temporal view of salvation you rightly have advocated, then we must either reject the coterminous association of justification and salvation, or claim that justification is also located in the eschatological future. I think we need to do a lot more exegesis at this point, but my instincts are that we should take the first alternative and look for a way to separate justification and salvation.

But what then is the difference between justification and salvation? Salvation is about being welcomed into heaven. I don't think this is controversial. However, I think we are going to have to find a more controversial understanding of what justification is. For Luther, it seems like justification is just a forensic declaration. As soon as you have faith, God declares you righteous. Is it Luther's view that you will be saved because you have been justified? It seems that this is all separate from the process of sanctification, because Luther wants too strongly to avoid the idea that works are sufficient to guarantee one's salvation.

On the basis of the passages we've mentioned so far in this conversation, I am inclined against this view. I am more inclined to think that it is justification and sanctification that should be coterminous and not justification and salvation. The words 'justification' and 'sanctification' themselves seem synonymous (at least in Greek): to be made righteous, to be made holy. (cf. 1 Cor 6.11 for an example where they seem to be used in apposition).

Perhaps justification and sanctification are both properly said only in the present tense too. We are being sanctified and justified as we are being conformed to the image of Christ in the Spirit. Of course, at this point we do run up against an exegetical wall, because the NT does often use the words in a past tense. But perhaps there are a different ways to understand this that don't contradict my point.

But what does this reworked understanding of salvation, justification and sanctification mean for election and for human cooperation? Well, if salvation is a future and/or a present continuous notion, then we have to acknowledge the possibility that at some future point in my life I might forsake the faith. Right now I am being saved because I have faith in Christ. By the spirit right now I am being sanctified and perhaps already am sanctified in some sense. But perhaps in 10 years I will decide no longer to be a Christian and will utterly desert the Church. At that point I will no longer be sanctified, and I will no longer be on the process of salvation. Consequently, I am no longer guaranteed to be welcomed into heaven when I die. But of course, none of this changes who God has elected to be for me, nor does it change the fact that God chose me to be redeemed (just like he chose everyone else).

I suppose what I am saying is that God would allow me to resist my election, or my salvation or my sanctification. Cooperation with the Spirit then means at least not resisting the Spirit's work. However, it seems that it probably also includes something like affirming and nurturing the Spirit's work of sanctifying us.

I don't find room for a distinction of this notion of cooperation into a passive and active sense. It seem to me that cooperation is necessarily active, insofar as it is an co-operation, but necessarily passive insofar as it is a co-operation. I don't think the two should be separated.

Nor would I ever say that grace is given only to a select group of people, by the way. I think God is continually trying to give grace to people. I also think that most of us refuse his grace most of the time.

I think what is needed is not the dissociation of justification from salvation, but rather the clarification of the word "salvation." The word salvation must be viewed as a differentiated word, one that has both past, present, and future connotations. As a reference to the past, it is connected with justification and the reconciliation achieved on the cross. As a reference to a present continuous reality, it is connected with sanctification and the journey of faithful discipleship as those who are reborn as new creatures through the Holy Spirit. As a reference to the future, it is connected with redemption and the resurrection of the body, in conjunction with the universal revelation of God's grace and the coming of the kingdom. The word salvation needs to be seen in this threefold light, and when we have this in mind, the biblical text itself is properly illuminated.

What I do not think is allowable is the notion that failure in our life of discipleship necessarily entails the loss of our salvation, precisely because salvation is not limited to what we do in the here and now — in fact, it has much less to do with the here and now and much more to do with what was accomplished by God in the past and what God will accomplish in the future. Salvation is primarily and properly in the hands of God alone, though God does call us to work out our salvation here in this life, as we should. The moment we reduce salvation to this present life, we inevitably raise ourselves over the triune God's activity in the past and in the eschatological future. We must not do this, for the sake of the gospel.

Finally, I do think very strongly that we need to hold on to the distinction between passive and active. We cannot say that we participate actively in our justification. Co-operation is prohibited in the objective realization of our salvation. We receive what we cannot accomplish, which is the righteousness of God. Co-operation is not permitted in justification, but it is necessary in the present-tense working out of this reality.
Shane said…
"What I do not think is allowable is the notion that failure in our life of discipleship necessarily entails the loss of our salvation."

I agree with what you are getting at here, but notice that this sentence also seems to be implying a present perfect view of salvation ("I have been saved"). Nevertheless, I do still think that we have to say that faith without discipleship is not true faith. We might sin after conversion without this necessarily entailing that we will be eternally damned. But to claim that we have no role whatsoever to play in the story of our salvation seems to me to imply that discipleship is utterly unimportant to your salvation (which is another thing that the popular meaning of "universalism" connotes).

I also find that I have to disagree with you about the notion of passive cooperation. It seems to me that this concept is incoherent. If a police officer stops you and asks for your driver's liscence, he wants your cooperation (i.e. taking it out of your billfold and handing it to him). If you remain passive, (i.e., sitting there looking at him and not saying anything), you will go to jail for being uncooperative.

I think the helpful thing about the word 'cooperation' is that it locates a middle space between pure activity and pure passivity. I do not save myself (pure activity), nor am I saved without my will (pure passivity), rather I being saved by Christ because I am cooperating with the Spirit.

Moreover, I think it is crucial to say that my ability to choose to obey or not to obey is conditioned by the Grace of God. God is the condition of the possibility of all human willing, so in some sense, God is acting even in our cooperating, but in such a way that our cooperation or refusing to cooperate is still genuinely our own action as well. ("in him we live and move and have our being")

I know that this will seem pelagian to you. However, I do not think that it is so. I am not denying original sin and I am not locating the initiative in the human. Moreover, I have sketched why I think that we do not make choices unaided by the divine.
I think that we all might find our thinking clarified in these matters if we left to the side the discussion of justification / sanctification / salvation and turned instead to a discussion of concursus, since the whole thrust of this argument is the 'cooperation' of the divine and human agent. Go read the appropriate section of CD 3.3.
Shane said…
thanks for the suggestion T. i'll go try to find a copy.