God loves. And God loves freely. When God chooses to set his affection on creation, on people, on you, on me, God does this because God chooses, freely, to bestow God’s love upon his creatures.
This is the summary of Barth’s doctrine of God.
And this is why Barth presses the point that the doctrine of election lies at the heart of the doctrine of God.
When we say “God loves freely,” we make a claim about God, not only in Himself, but as one who is postured toward the world. If God is, in fact, the one who loves in freedom, then God must from all eternity be postured toward the creature in free love.
To be postured toward us in love from all eternity is to be not only the one who loves eternally, but the one who elects eternally. Election, for Barth, homes in on God’s free choice to love people.
God loves in freedom, as God is from all eternity. This is not merely a function of the earthly event of Jesus’ appearance to bring salvation. The act in history depends upon, and indicates, a prior eternal election.
I confess to having a few caution flags go up in Barth’s discussion of the place of election in dogmatics (§32.3). Mostly, they sprung from this: I worry that Barth wants to put so much in eternity that the reality of God responding to the world in its brokenness, sinfulness, and enslavement is minimized.
When we put so much of God’s activity in eternity, I worry that the reality, as it’s depicted throughout scripture, that God truly responds to the world and to the cries of God’s people, and to the promises and agreements made is rendered illusory.
When Barth shuns the notion that God is rescuing us from what might be a rival god, is he so focusing on the ideal reign of God that the reality of a conflicting dominion that must be displaced is, in essence, denied (p. 90)?
Coming up next: Barth will develop his doctrine of election on the election, first, of Jesus Christ. This, no doubt, gave rise to the thought among many that simply saying, “in Christ,” seals the deal in favor of a corporate, rather than particular and individual election. The subsequent section discusses the election of the community, and finally the individual is dealt with.
I’m curious: what do you do with election? Does a traditional Reformed outlook work for you? If not, how do you interpret the passages that speak about predestination and election without simply writing them off?