Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Blogging with Barth: CD 2.2 §34.2 "The Judgement and the Mercy of God" pp. 205-233

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 §34.2 ("The Judgment and Mercy of God"), Barth begins in this way:
In the eternal election of the one man Jesus of Nazareth, God makes Himself the covenant-partner of the sinful man who has fallen away from Him and therefore fallen a victim to death according to His just judgment. The purpose of the election of this one man is God’s will to save this lost man and to make him a participant of the glory of eternal life in His kingdom by taking his place in the person of this one man, by taking to Himself man’s misery in Him, by making it His own concern, by clothing him in return with His own righteousness, blessedness and power. Thus the election of this one man is His election for the execution of the judgment and mercy of God (205).
Barth's begins with the observation the the election community - Israel and the Church - are to vocationally serve as a testimony and a summons to the world in service to Jesus Christ. The elect community is the witnessing community (205). The elect community is the self-presentation of Jesus Christ. This self-presentation is the common task of Israel and the Church. And like the double predestination of Jesus Christ, this common task breaks up into two specific forms of service.

First, Israel renders the specific service of reflecting the merited judgment from which God rescues humanity:
The specific service for which Israel is determined within the whole of the elected community is to reflect the judgment from which God has rescued man and which He wills to endure Himself in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. If in faith in Jesus Christ Israel is obedient to its election, if it is given to it to come to the Church and rise to life again in it, to attain in it the goal of its determination, the special contribution which it will make within the whole of the community to the work of the community will be this. It will express the awareness of the human basis of the divine suffering and therefore the recognition of man’s incapacity, unwillingness and unworthiness with regard to the divine mercy purposed in Jesus Christ; the recognition of the justice of the judgment passed on man in the suffering of Jesus Christ (206).
Israel renders this service whether it is obedient to election or not (208). As things stand, Israel is not wholly obedient its election, a point which creates a "schism" in the elect community of God:
As things stand, however, Israel as such and as a whole is not obedient but disobedient to its election. What happens is that Israel’s promised Messiah comes and in accordance with His election is delivered up by Israel and crucified for Israel. What happens further is that in His resurrection from the dead He is established as the promised One and believed on by many even of the Gentiles. What does not happen, however, is that Israel as such and as a whole puts its faith in Him. What happens, on the contrary, is that it resists its election at the very moment when the promise given with it passes into fulfilment. Israel refuses to join in the confession of the Church, refuses to enter upon its service in the one elected community of God. Israel forms and upholds the Synagogue (even though the conclusion of its history is confirmed by the fall of Jerusalem). It acts as if it had still another special determination and future beside and outwith the Church. It acts as if it could realise its true determination beside and outwith the Church. And in so doing it creates schism, a gulf, in the midst of the community of God (208).
But Israel’s unbelief cannot in any way alter the fact that objectively, and effectively, even in this senseless attitude beside and outwith the Church, it is the people of its arrived and crucified Messiah, and therefore the people of the secret (concealed from it as yet) Lord of the Church. It cannot evade its electing God nor His elected community, and it cannot therefore escape its appointed service in it (208).
Nonetheless, as Barth notes, "by their resistance to their election they cannot create any fact that finally turns the scale against their own election, separating them from the love of God in Jesus Christ, cancelling the eternal decree of God. They can put themselves in the wrong, but not God’s offering of His Son and the ordering of human affairs accomplished by it (209).

Second, the Church renders its service by reflecting the unmerited mercy of God (210).
The service for which the Church as the perfect form of the one elected community is determined, whether Israel obeys its election or not, consists always in the fact that it is the reflection of the mercy in which God turns His glory to man. The community in the form of the Church is the community of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. As the Church is elected, called and gathered from among Jews and Gentiles, the task laid upon it consists in the proclamation of its knowledge of the divine meaning of the judgment that has overtaken man in the death of Jesus, in witness to the good-will, readiness and honour of God with respect to man accepted and received by Him in Jesus Christ. This knowledge and insight it owes to its Lord, the crucified Messiah of Israel (210).
The Church form of the community reveals what God chooses for man when He elects him for communion with Himself in His eternal election of grace. He chooses for man His whole selflessly self-giving love. He chooses out of the treasures of His own nature righteousness and holiness, peace and joy, life and blessedness. He chooses for man His own self as Brother but also as Leader, as Servant but also as Master, as Physician but also as King. He therefore chooses for man the reflection of His own glory. He does this by electing flesh and blood from Judah-Israel to be His tabernacle and the Church of Jews and Gentiles to be His sanctuary, to declare to the world His gracious turning. All this happens wholly for our benefit, for our benefit (210-211).
Lest the emphasis on the differences between the elect community, Israel and the Church, and their different service seem to focus too much of the negative difference, Barth reminds us of their essential unity (211ff.).
The election of Israel, then, is not only negatively confirmed by the fact that Israel as such and as a whole has in any case to fulfil its determination and to serve as a reflection of the divine judgment, but also positively by the fact that from the very first the Church pre-exists and is prefigured in its midst. With Israel’s election in view God has, according to Scripture, acted among men from the beginning of the world in the form of election. And on the basis of Israel’s election, in order continually to reveal and attest it, God proceeds to elect men in and from its midst for special appointment, mission and representative function, as exponents and instruments of the mercy in which He has made this people His own. Their existence does not alter in the very least the determination of Israel as such and on the whole. But it sets in relief what Israel has to reveal in reflection of the divine judgment: the misery of man, not as it is left to take its course, but as it is taken to heart by God and considered and limited from all eternity; not the wrath of God raging for its own sake, but the fire of His love which consumes and yet does not destroy, but rather purifies and saves. It is, indeed, in this sense that the crucifixion of Christ is the fulfilment of the divine judgment. It is in this sense, too, that the negative side of the Church’s message (as the Word of the cross of Jesus Christ) should and will retain its actuality until the end of the world. That it has been present with this meaning from the very first is shown by the existence of the elect from the foundation of the world, and within the elected people Israel by the pre-existence of the Church in Israel.
The existence of the elect in and from Israel does not alter at all the determination of Israel as such and as a whole because these elect are exceptions which as such do not suspend the rule that Israel has to serve the revelation of the divine judgment. Again, it is only partially that in their function and mission they point beyond this rule. Again, in Israel they are only too consistently opposed by “reprobates” in whom the rule appears to be expressly confirmed. And finally, the circle of the elect grows continually smaller, or at least continually less visible, in the course of Israel’s history, until it is ultimately reduced to the person of one man, Jesus of Nazareth. Strictly speaking, the pre-existent life of the Church in Israel consists only in the light which, without changing its character, is provisionally cast on the history of Israel by this one man, who is Israel’s future and goal, making visible within this history certain individual, fragmentary, contradictory and transitory prefigurations of the form of the community which will be revealed in and with the appearance, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The pre-existent life of the Church in Israel consists in the fact that again and again in its history there is revealed a contradiction against the sin of man, an illumination and clarification of the divine judgment, an obedience and faith which are disclosed and validated in their reality, not indeed by the course and character of this history in itself and as such, but by its future and goal in the person of Jesus of Nazareth and the existence of His Church. The pre-existent life of the Church in Israel consists, then, in what the fulfilment shows to be the real prevision and prophecy of the Church itself occurring in and with the existence of these elect in and from Israel and constituting the purpose of their special election.
But if, for its part, the Church as the perfect form of the elected community has as such and as a whole the universal, uncontradicted and constant determination to praise God’s mercy, it will not refuse to recognise itself in the prototype, prevision and prophecy of the elect in and from Israel, and therefore to see its interrelationship with them. More than that, it will understand and acknowledge that in and with these elect the election of all Israel is established. It will thus regard itself as united and bound to all Israel—in spite of the very different form of its membership in the community of God. Even more, it will reckon it as a special honour to have in its midst living witnesses to the election of all Israel in the persons of Christian Israelites. And, finally, it will interpret its own existence, its calling and gathering from Jews and Gentiles, only in analogy to that of these elect in Israel. It can never by any chance fail to recognise that—in its Jewish and, above all, its Gentile members—it is snatched with them from the judgment to which (according to Israel’s mission) the whole world as well as Israel is liable, and that it no less than they is called by special mercy to proclaim to the same world (and also to all Israel itself) the victorious mercy of God. To be sure, the Church waits for the conversion of Israel. But it cannot wait for the conversion of Israel to confess the unity of the mercy that embraces Israel as well as itself, the unity of the community of God (212-213).
Barth closes the section with a detailed exegesis of Romans 9:6-29 to support his understanding.