Saturday, May 30, 2015

Blogging with Barth: CD 2.2 §34.1 "Israel and the Church" pp. 195-205

Check here for previous posts in the "Blogging with Barth" series or check here for a detailed reading schedule for the Church Dogmatics with links to the respective posts I've written to accompany each day's reading.

The Leitsatz (thesis statement) for §34 states: "The election of grace, as the election of Jesus Christ, is simultaneously the eternal election of the one community of God by the existence of which Jesus Christ is to be attested to the whole world and the whole world summoned to faith in Jesus Christ. This one community of God in its form as Israel has to serve the representation of the divine judgment, in its form as the Church the representation of the divine mercy. In its form as Israel it is determined for hearing, and in its form as the Church for believing the promise sent forth to man. To the one elected community of God is given in the one case its passing, and in the other its coming form."

In paragraph §34 ("The Election of the Community") and subsection §34.1 ("Israel and the Church"), Barth shifts his focus from election of Jesus Christ to the election of the community.
The election of man is his election in Jesus Christ, for Jesus Christ is the eternally living beginning of man and of the whole creation. Electing means to elect “in Him.” And election means to be elected “in Him.” Yet there is “another” electing and election, not along-side or outside, but included in the election of Jesus Christ. Already we have found it impossible to speak of the latter in itself and as such without continually thinking of this “other” election. Materially, the self-giving of God determined in it concerns the man Jesus, but teleologically it concerns man in himself and as such created by and fallen away from God. It is to this man, to the plurality of these men, to each and all, that the eternal love of God is turned in Jesus Christ. And it is turned to them in such a way that in this name it is to be attested to everyone, and in this name it is to be believed by everyone. The way taken by the electing God is the way of witness to Jesus, the way of faith in Him. Included in His election there is, therefore, this “other” election, the election of the many (from whom none is excluded) whom the electing God meets on this way (195).
Barth will cover this topic, election and the community, in four sections - this first of which is "Israel and the Church." For Barth, the object of this "other" election is the community, and he starts here rather than with the individual. He finds the concept of community useful because it covers both Israel and the Church. Here's how he describes the concept:
The meaning of the concept—given here only in outline—is as follows. The community is the human fellowship which in a particular way provisionally forms the natural and historical environment of the man Jesus Christ. Its particularity consists in the fact that by its existence it has to witness to Him in face of the whole world, to summon the whole world to faith in Him. Its provisional character consists in the fact that in virtue of this office and commission it points beyond itself to the fellowship of all men in face of which it is a witness and herald. The community which has to be described in this way forms so to speak the inner circle of the “other” election which has taken place (and takes place) in and with the election of Jesus Christ. In so far as on the one hand it forms this special environment of the man Jesus, this inner circle, but on the other hand it is itself of the world or chosen from the world and composed of individual men, its election is to be described as mediate and mediating in respect of its mission and function. It is mediate, that is, in so far as it is the middle point between the election of Jesus Christ and (included in this) the election of those who have believed, and do and will believe, in Him. It is mediating in so far as the relation between the election of Jesus Christ and that of all believers (and vice versa) is mediated and conditioned by it (196).
Naturally, the election of the community does not take place outside of Jesus Christ. The idea is so laughable once one has come to this point in Barth's theology that I chuckle even as I type this (thinking, "duh!"). Nonetheless, now you know. A good way of thinking about the community is that it is a "community for the world." This will be a theme that Barth takes up later in his thoughts on reconciliation. "Reconciled for what?" "To be a community for the world."
If the community tries to be more than His environment, to do something more than mediate, it has forgotten and forfeited its election. Again, the existence of the community cannot be regarded as an end in itself with respect to the world. It has been chosen out of the world for the very purpose of performing for the world the service which it most needs and which consists simply in giving it the testimony of Jesus Christ   p 197  and summoning it to faith in Him. It has forgotten and forfeited its election if it is found existing for itself only and omitting this service, if it is no longer really mediating. The inner circle is nothing apart from the relation to the outer circle of the election which has taken place (and takes place) in Jesus Christ (196-197).
A brief comment is offered by Barth on the infamous Latin phrase, Extra ecclesial nulla salus (there is no salvation outside the church), he remarks that the phrase is true in this sense: it is only by the mediating election of Jesus Christ, and by that election one's inclusion in the elect community, that one can be saved.

Also, the elect community is one (197). And yet, the community has a two-fold form which corresponds to the double-predestination of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Messiah of Israel and the Risen Lord of the Church.
Who and what is Jesus Christ Himself in His relation to the community of God? Here already we find unity and differentiation. He is the promised son of Abraham and David, the Messiah of Israel. And He is simultaneously the Head and Lord of the Church, called and gathered from Jews and Gentiles. In both these characters He is indissolubly one. And as the One He is ineffaceably both. As the Lord of the Church He is the Messiah of Israel, and as the Messiah of Israel He is the Lord of the Church (197-198).
The community exists according to God's eternal decree as the people of Israel (both before and after Christ's birth) and as the Church of the Jews and the Gentiles.

Of Israel, Barth asserts,
Israel is the people of the Jews which resists its divine election. It is the community of God in so far as this community has to exhibit also the unwillingness, incapacity and unworthiness of man with respect to the love of God directed to him. By delivering up its Messiah, Jesus, to the Gentiles for crucifixion, Israel attests the justice of the divine judgment on man borne by God Himself. Encountering the fulfilled promise in this way, it remains only its hearer without pressing on to faith in it. In its existence it can only reveal the passing of the old man who confronts God in this way. But Israel as the Jewish people resisting the divine election is at the same time the secret origin of the Church in which alone God’s mercy can be praised only by faith in God alone, in which faith itself is simply obedience, the perfect hearing, in which the coming of the new man becomes true only in the passing of the old (198-199).
Of the Church, Barth asserts,
The Church is the gathering of Jews and Gentiles called on the ground of its election. It is the community of God in so far as this community has to set forth to sinful man the good-will, readiness and honour of God. As Jesus Christ the crucified Messiah of Israel shows Himself in His resurrection to be the Lord of the Church, the latter can recognise and confess the divine mercy shown to man. And as it recognises and confesses that the divine Word is in its fulfilment stronger than the contradiction of its hearers, it can believe and keep and do it. It can reveal in its existence the coming of the new man accepted and received of God. The Church, however, as the gathering of Jews and Gentiles, called on the ground of its election, is at the same time the revealed determination of Israel, which is established by it, as elected to bring forth Him in whose person God makes all human sin and need His own concern, as marked out by the hearing of His Word, which must in any case precede faith in it, as the form of the old man who in his passing makes room for the new and coming man (199).
Israel is the people of the Jews which resists its election; the Church is the gathering of Jews and Gentiles called on the ground of its election (199).
But then, importantly, Barth notes,
This is the formulation which we have adopted and this or a similar formulation is necessary if the unity of the election of the community (grounded in the election of the one Jesus Christ) is to remain visible. We cannot, therefore, call the Jews the “rejected” and the Church the “elected” community. The object of election is neither Israel for itself nor the Church for itself, but both together in their unity. (In speaking of elected Israel or of the elected Church, we must be clear that we are speaking “synecdochically.”) What is elected in Jesus Christ (His “body”) is the community which has the twofold form of Israel and the Church (199).
For both Israel and the Church, Jesus Christ is both elector and elected. Though there is a differentiation in the two forms, there is also an indissoluble unity.
It is, moreover, implicit in the nature of the case that only in the knowledge of Jesus Christ and of His election, i.e., in the faith of the Church, is the differentiation as well as the unity of the elect community knowable and actually known. The bow of the covenant over the two is not a neutral area and observation point between them but the history which takes place between Israel and the Church. The way of this history is, however, the way of the knowledge of Jesus Christ. It leads from Israel to the Church. Only in this movement, i.e., in practice only from the standpoint of the Church, can it be perceived, described and understood as the living way of the one elect community of God (200).
Thus with respect to the apprehension of this relation of unity and differentiation between Israel and the Church everything is based and depends on whether in both cases Jesus Christ and the election that has occurred in Him are believed and apprehended. To this extent it is self-evident that everything we have said can be said and understood only in the light of the Church as the New Testament form of the community of God. Israel and the Church in this unity and differentiation are the mediate and mediating object of the divine election (201).
Barth closes this small section with a running commentary on Romans 9-11 (203-205). There are of course blessings here for Israel in Barth's dogmatic theology, but there are aspects of Barth's theology which are darker, which suggest Israel is elect for rejection. This darkness, I feel, is ultimately redeemed by Barth's treatment of the topic of Judas. I believe Barth's doctrine of Israel finds its richness and depth in the typological reading of Judas. But we have not yet arrived at that reading. It is for another day.