(And other pressing concerns generated by Church Dogmatics §33.2)
Question 1: Is it faithful to Scripture to say that the Son, Jesus Christ, elects, such that in the God-man the one who elects and the one who is elected are one?
Or, is it more faithful to scripture to say that the one who elects is, properly, God the Father, who makes known to the Son that the Son has been elected for a certain task?
Barth’s whole program, as he presents it, hangs on Christ being both the subject and object of predestination.
I like the idea, but I’m not sure it’s how the NT presents God’s election. It’s all well and good for us, in our more developed Trinitarian Theology, to think “Father, Son, and Spirit” when we think “God.” However, this is not what the NT writers were thinking. For them, when they say “God” they mean the one to whom we refer to as “Father.”
More specifically, when election is assigned to a person, it is most often the Father (e.g., 1 Peter 1:1-2) rather than the Son; unless, that is, the Son is seen as agent of electing those (not himself!) whom the Father has chosen.
Indeed, Ephesians 1 itself, the great “in Christ” celebration that provides the clearest indication that Jesus Christ is the one through whom any others are seen when they are elect, places the whole in the provenance of the Father:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us… Just as he (i.e., the Father!) chose us in him (i.e., the Son), before the foundation of the cosmos… Having predestined us (i.e., the same Father predestines as chooses and blesses) to adoption through Jesus Christ…”
I don’t think that John 1:1, “the Word was God,” provides the kind of leverage Barth demands of it to assign to the son what is clearly assigned to the Father throughout scripture.
Or, to put a different spin on it, when KB says that the son’s suffering is something Jesus speaks of “not as a necessity laid upon Him from without, but as something which He Himself wills,” I wonder what Bible he’s reading. The Son wills it as the will of the Father placed upon him.
I do not think, however, that this is as fatal to Barth’s project as he would lead us to believe. Jesus Christ can still be the primary object of election, focusing the choosing of God on the Son who as Elected One responds faithfully in electing God as well, and much of what Barth wants to maintain is upheld.
Question 2: If Barth wants the election of Jesus Christ to be the sum substance of election, such that all of us can look to Christ and take confidence in our standing before God–has he not cut off any defense he might have had against a charge of universalism?
If not every single person can so look to Christ and be comforted, then election cannot serve this purpose, which Barth says it surely has. I know, I’m not saying anything new here. And I’m happy for KB to be a Universalist based on the capacious nature of Christ’s work on our behalf.
Question 3: is it really all potential loss for God and all potential gain for humanity that God would choose to become incarnate, to become a man who must elect God in order for humanity to be truly God’s people?
I get this idea: we suck, God is awesome, God takes care of our suckiness, but at the possible expense of some of his awesomeness.
However, what if God really loves people?
What if God, creating people in his own image and likeness loves us in the same way that, say, Adam loved Seth–one born in his own image and likeness.
In other words, what if being in the image of God means that we are God’s children and therefore beloved of him, and God has something magnificent to gain from this whole business–a beloved, faithful, loving family?
I love how Barth is moving away from double-predestination (although, again, I think a revisionist hermeneutic is involved here) and creating a doctrine that is radically christological in its focus. I think that much of this is a salutary corrective to predestinarian thinking.
But more work is going to have to be done if this is going to be a revision that stands up to biblical scrutiny.