Friday, July 24, 2015

Blogging with Barth: CD 2.2 §35.2 "The Elect and the Rejected" pp. 340-409

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 §35 states: "The man who is isolated over against God is as such rejected by God. But to be this man can only be by the godless man’s own choice. The witness of the community of God to every individual man consists in this: that this choice of the godless man is void; that he belongs eternally to Jesus Christ and therefore is not rejected, but elected by God in Jesus Christ; that the rejection which he deserves on account of his perverse choice is borne and cancelled by Jesus Christ; and that he is appointed to eternal life with God on the basis of the righteous, divine decision. The promise of his election determines that as a member of the community he himself shall be a bearer of its witness to the whole world. And the revelation of his rejection can only determine him to believe in Jesus Christ as the One by whom it has been borne and cancelled."

In paragraph §35 ("The Election of the Individual") and subsection §35.2 ("The Elect and the Rejected"), Barth works on distinguishing the elect and the rejected. He begins with this question: "What is it that make individuals elect men (in Jesus Christ, and by means of His community?" He answers:
We begin with a general answer. They are made this by a distinction of God’s relationship to them and their relationship to God which is in fact peculiar to themselves (though independent of their personal peculiarities and independent of their conduct and actions). It is on the basis and assumption of this distinction that the guidance granted them, and their own conduct and actions and ultimately their role and task in the world about them, find their appointed, decisive character in relation to those of others. The elect, then, do not first become this either with reference to their person or in recognition of any attributes or achievements, or even through their divine calling. Their special calling simply discloses and confirms the fact that they already are the elect (340-341).
God Himself is the mystery of the elect. It is a peculiar determination for the service of God, for the work of divine reconciliation and revelation, with which we are concerned in the special course which they have to complete as elect persons, in the historical period or sphere where their specific appearance and being have been determined. This is something which is determined by God, and its peculiarity is therefore His good will and pleasure (343).
Another distinction for the elect is their calling by the Holy Spirit.
To the distinction, peculiar to the elect, of God’s relationship to them and their relationship to God, there corresponds objectively their difference from other men. This difference is their calling. But their calling—the work of the Holy Spirit—is that by means of the community the election of Jesus Christ may be proclaimed to them as their own election, and that they may be assured of their election by faith in Jesus Christ, in whom it was brought about. This twofold possibility is the objective difference between the elect and other men. By the free event of proclamation and of faith they are placed in a special situation in relation to others, and in a ministry in which the latter do not stand. This is revealed by the fact that they are silent when others speak; they confess when others deny; they stand when others falter; they adore when others blaspheme; they are joyful when others are sad, and sad when others are joyful; at peace when others are restless, and restless when others are at peace. They are different because of their calling (345).
This calling distinguished the elect from others: the elect witness in their lives to the truth and the other lie against the same truth (346). Both are found within the sphere of God's grace, the elect in obedience and the other in disobedience (347).
It is from this solidarity of the elect and the rejected in the One Jesus Christ that there arises a very definite recollection for the elect and an equally definite expectation for others (347).
The recollection for the elect is this. The distinction of God’s relationship to them, and of their relationship to God, is originally and properly the distinction of Jesus Christ. It is He who is the Son and Friend of God. It is with Him that God is well pleased because He recognises His own countenance in Him. It is He who is the secret of God, which is the basis of the fact that there is such a distinction for others also (347).
The expectation for others is this. The original and proper distinction of Jesus Christ, which alone makes possible and actual the distinction of the elect, is the truth which also transcends, comprehends and illumines their existence, but which does not appear to be theirs because their life gives this false witness, because they are obviously involved in the evil, perilous and futile manifestation, repetition and reproduction of the life of men rejected by God. In this respect we must not forget that the distinction of the elect, which originally and properly is that of Jesus Christ alone, is also valid for these others; that they do not possess it only in so far as they do not recognise and accept it as their own distinction (349).
On this ground, Barth insists on seeing the elected and the rejected together. But of course, they are two different types of people, too. It is only in Christ that we can see both clearly (truly). And what is revealed is that we must not see either the elect or the other as apart from Jesus Christ (351-354).
It is strictly and narrowly only in the humanity of the one Jesus Christ that we can see who and what an elect person is. It is He who is the man distinguished by this special relationship to God. It is His life which is the genuine fulfilment of genuine election. It is to Him that it is truly and essentially said: “I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.” It is He who, in the midst of many others and in the same depths with them, is placed in a special situation and upon a special road (351).
But, again, it is strictly and narrowly only in the portrait of the one Jesus Christ that we may perceive who and what a rejected man is. It is He who—just because of His election—is cast out from the presence of God by His righteous law and judgment, and delivered to eternal death. In the genuine fulfilment of genuine election it is His life which is truly the life of the man who must suffer the destructive hostility of God. The peculiarity of the position which He occupies among all others is that He took it upon Himself to be this man. God has made Him who is uniquely His Son and Friend “to be sin.” It is He who is the rejected individual. If there are others who are also rejected, then it is only in the evil, perilous and futile misunderstanding and disregard of the fact that He alone is truly this; only in the godlessness which will not accept as a right the right which He has secured for them all. And if there are others who must also suffer in their own fashion—namely, the suffering which the wrath of God, wantonly and deceitfully conjured up, betokens for such as will not have it otherwise—the curse lying upon them can only be the echo of the curse which has fallen, not upon them, but upon Him in their place. Rejected individuals as such (those who live the life of the rejected) are the evidence of the sin for which He has made Himself responsible, of the punishment which He has borne. In the last resort, in so far as it seems to indicate their own perdition and abandonment by God, their witness can only be false. For to be genuinely and actually abandoned by God, to be genuinely and actually lost, cannot be their concern, since it is the concern of Jesus Christ. Therefore even this false witness cannot help pointing to Jesus Christ as the One who properly and actually was the lost and abandoned sinner, whose shadow lies upon them. Thus, for all their godlessness, they are unable to restore the perversity for whose removal He surrendered Himself, and so to rekindle the fire of divine wrath which He has borne in this self-sacrifice. In their sinning, and in their suffering as sinners, they can only be arrogant and yet reluctant participants in the rejection which He has averted from them by taking it upon Himself in the  consummation of His election. They cannot help the fact that objectively and actually they are themselves witnesses to His election. It is not without Him that they, too, are what they are. It is only figuratively and secondarily that they can be what He alone is primarily and properly. He is the Rejected, as and because He is the Elect. In view of His election, there is no other rejected but Himself. It is just for the sake of the election of all the rejected that He stands in solitude over against them all. It is just for them that He is the rejected One (in His rejection making room for them as the elect of God), and therefore the one and only object of the divine election of grace. Thus Jesus Christ is the Lord and Head and Subject of the witness both of “the elect” and also of “the rejected.” For all the great difference between them, both have their true existence solely in Him. It is in Him, who originally is both the Elect and the Rejected, that their mutual opposition finds its necessity. But it is not simply the relativity of their opposition which is established in Him, but also the fact that in all their opposition they are brothers, mutually related in their being and function, forming an inalienable and indissoluble unity. As the election of Jesus Christ finds its scope and completion in His representative rejection, and as conversely this very representative rejection confirms His election, so the elect and the rejected do not stand only against one another, but also alongside and for one another. Because they are not themselves Jesus Christ, but can only testify to Him, they stand both alongside and for one another without prejudice to their opposing character. They are mutually attached to one another. We can no more consider and understand the elect apart from the rejected than we can consider and understand the rejected apart from the elect. Neither on the one side nor the other can we overlook or ignore the hand of the One who is Lord and Head of both. And in spite of every difference, on both sides it is manifest who and what this One is. The elect are always those whose task it is to attest the positive decree, the telos of the divine will, the lovingkindness of God. And the rejected must always accompany them to attest the negative decree, that which God in His omnipotence and holiness and love does not will, and therefore His judgment. But it is always the one will of the one God which both attest. Both attest always the covenant which comprehends both, whose power is neither based upon the faithfulness of the elect nor to be destroyed by the faithlessness of the rejected, whose fulfilment is indeed proclaimed by the blessing heaped upon the elect but also announced, and therefore not denied but made the subject of a new promise, by the curse heaped upon the rejected. It is for this reason that the relationship between faithfulness and faithlessness, blessing and curse, life and death, cannot be measured as if some were simply bearers of the first and others simply bearers of the second. It is for this reason that the functions and directions and ways of the complementary figures   p 354  intersect, as do also the figures themselves. It is for this reason that in their own way the elect are to be censured, while in their own way the rejected are to be commended; that the former are not free from the judgments of God, and the latter do not lack signs of His goodness and patience. It is for this reason that the elect and the rejected, in spite of the greatest dissimilarities, can see that in many respects they are only too similar. It is not merely that in spite of the variety of their functions they operate together. On the contrary, they can exchange their functions. They are so closely attached to one another, and condition one another so intimately, that in the opposition of the two figures of the elect and the rejected the one figure of Jesus Christ is often more clearly discernible than the opposition itself. As it is the electing and calling God who distinguishes between them, the only possible distinction is that in which He alone is always the One who maintains His faithfulness towards both and for the benefit of both. It is quite impossible that anyone should escape either his responsibility to Him or God’s responsibility for him and therefore in some sense be excluded from His election and His grace. Assuredly God is no respecter of persons. If He is present to His elect, this means that they must wrestle with Him as an enemy to be partakers of His blessing. It does not in any sense mean that He is not, in another way, with the rejected also. And if God hides His face from the rejected, He does not on that account cease to be their last and true refuge. If He is their enemy, that is only His characteristic form of presence among them. Where He exalts, there is also humiliation. And where He still strikes, He has not yet cast aside. Even where He is inscrutable in His severity and rigour, the divinely drawn difference between the elect and the rejected is the confirmation of the covenant which is the divine beginning of all things, the instrument of the work in which He embodies this covenant, the prophecy and the announcement of the difference between Himself and all men which He both set up and overcame in His Word made flesh, the grace in which He both vindicates Himself against every sinner and at the same time vindicates every sinner before Himself. God loves as He makes this distinction. This is how He loves His only Son. This is how He loves us in Him. If the proper object of His love is no other “individual” than this One, then apart from this One there is none who can be consumed by the fire of His love which is the wrath of God. It is the function of the many elect and the many rejected to indicate this love of God in its twofold nature. And the authorisation under which the latter stand as well as the former is to live—in their differing functions—by the fact that God has loved and loves and will love this One, and them also in Him (352-354).
Barth closes this section with a small print exposition of Old Testament texts which explore and pre-figure the ways in which the two peoples cannot be seen apart from Jesus Christ. He notes the constant distinction of people in Genesis (355ff.). Barth then consider Christological unity and distinction through the rituals of Leviticus chapter 14 and 16 (357-366). In great detail, Barth then consider the relationship between Saul and David and its Christological significance (366-393). Finally, he masterfully exposits the story of the two prophets in 1 Kings 13 (393-409).
It may well be said that this is in fact the beginning and end, the sum and substance of 1 K. 13—that the Word of God endures through every human standing and falling, falling and standing on the left hand and on the right. But the story itself cannot tell what happens beyond this to the men who have to hear and proclaim this Word, to receive its grace and endure its judgment, on the right hand and on the left. Nor can it tell whether or how far they share in this permanence of the Word of God. The story as such, as an account of Old Testament prophets, cannot tell this within its own Old Testament sphere. Or it can do so only by speaking of the preservation of that grave and therefore of the enduring remains of the two prophets. The eternal duration of the Word of God, and the lengthened but still temporal duration of these remains, are obviously two very different things, just as the remains themselves lie side by side, but are two different things; the remains of these two so utterly different prophets, and of the two so utterly different Israelite kingdoms they represented. But since they do not continue for ever, it is clear that the question of the eternal duration of the Word of God is raised and—left open. In the same way, the problem of the reality and unity of what is attested by the story is also raised and unresolved. But this story, too, does point to one real subject if Jesus Christ is also seen in it, if at the exact point where this story of the prophets breaks off a continuation is found in the Easter story. The Word of God, which abides for ever, in our flesh; the man from Bethlehem in Judah who was also the prophet of Nazareth; the Son of David who was also the king of the lost and lawless people of the north; the Elect of God who is also the bearer of the divine rejection; the One who was slain for the sins of others, which He took upon Himself, yet to whom there arose a witness, many witnesses, from the midst of sinners; the One lifted up in whose death all was lost, but who in His death was the consolation and refuge of all the lost—this One truly died and was buried, yet He was not forgotten and finished on the third day, but was raised from the dead by the power of God. In this one prophet the two prophets obviously live. And so, too, do the two Israels—the Israels which in our story can finally only die, only be buried, only persist for a time in their bones. They live in the reality and unity in which they never lived in the Old Testament, but could only be attested. They remain in Him, and in Him the Word of God proclaimed by them remains to all eternity.
Where else do they remain? What else is chapter 1 K. 13 if it is not prophecy? Where else is its fulfilment to be found if not in Jesus Christ? These are the questions which must be answered by those for whom the suggested result of our investigation may for any reason be unacceptable (409).