Barth Overload

One more full day left of my class on the Theology of Karl Barth. If you ever want to completely up-end your theology, read Barth. Oh. My. Goodness. And up-ending theology isn’t a bad thing, in fact I think we need to up-end our theology a bit more often then we actually do.

Today we discussed Barth’s doctrine of Election. I’m not quite sure what to do with it yet, it may take some time to think and reflect, as well as a lot more reading. But the jist of it is that Barth grounds election in Jesus, not in the community, not in the individual, not in a problem, but in Jesus.

So, because election is grounded in Christ, we cannot reject it. Jesus has already borne the rejection. Our rejection of Him is canceled, rendered null and void by the work of Christ on the cross.*

Barth writes,

“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 the bearer of its witness to the whole world. And the revelation of his rejection can only determine [Bestimmen – to purpose, destine] him to believe in Jesus Christ as the One by whom it has been borne and cancelled.” {Doctrine of Election, section 35, pg 306}

To diagram this by way of a dialogue.

Christian: God loves you and Jesus came into the world to reconcile you to Him.
Angry, rebellious, doesn’t-want-anything-to-do-with-Jesus person: I reject God. I reject Jesus.
Christian: Too bad. God loves you and Jesus came into the world to reconcile you to Him.
A.R.D.P: But I reject God. I reject Jesus.
Christian: Too bad. Too late. Jesus cancels out your rejection. He came to reconcile the world.
A.R.D.P.: Grrrrr.
Christian: And what’s even better, even though you reject God, your rejection testifies to the work Jesus has wrought.

And that final sentence in the dialogue is what I find so fascinating: Even rejection of God indirectly testifies and witnesses to the work and person of Christ. How mind-blowing is that? Like I said, I don’t know what to do with his doctrine of election as a whole, but the Barth’s idea that even rejection testifies to Jesus is an amazing idea.

Okay, time to give my poor brain a break, and hope that it will recover enough to get through another 8 hours of Barth tomorrow.

* Just because we cannot reject God’s election of Christ does not mean that Barth is advocating universalism. Election does not necessarily mean salvation. To advocate universalism means we are limiting God’s free grace by telling Him that he must (based our our principle or paradigm) save everyone. If God is a universalist, then he is not free, He would be bound to the restrictions of universalism.