Election and Grace

The history of the doctrine of predestination has at times viewed humanity as the recipients of a stark dual decree of God: some are predestined to life, others to destruction.

As Karl Barth lays out his project for a revisionist assessment of the notion of election, he demands that the focus of election be the electing grace of God in Jesus Christ. In other words, predestination is not about God creating two categories of salvation and reprobation and populating those before all time (Church Dogmatics ยง32.1).

Instead, predestination is God’s free choice, from all eternity, to enter into an eternal relationship with humanity through the election the one man, Jesus of Nazareth.

Opening his discussion of election, Barth can even say that election is the gospel. Why? Because it is conceived as God’s free act of love toward the creature, the choice God makes not to allow the “No” that humanity perpetually flings at God be the last word, but instead to overcome it with a divine “Yes” that is mediated through the Man who himself said “Yes” to God throughout his life.

When Barth moves to discuss three facets of God made known in election (freedom, mystery, and righteousness) the exposition seems to fall into the sort of topical theologizing that Barth overcomes at his better moments.

However, the stage is set for a reimagining of what the Bible never hesitates to affirm (but which we all too often feel skittish about embracing ourselves): the people of God are, also, the elect of God.

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