Monday, July 27, 2015

Blogging with Barth: CD 2.2 §35.3 "The Determination of the Elect" pp. 410-450

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 §35.3 ("The Determination of the Elect"), Barth tackles the question, "for what purpose was man elected?" 
The election of a man, the distinction of his relationship to God, operative and visible in his differentiation from other men, takes place with a very definite purpose. It means that his life is given a definite goal and content. As his election is fulfilled in his calling, it is seen that in and with his election itself and as such a determinate expression and fulfilment of his being are planned and executed; that its determinate meaning and order are not due to chance or to his own caprice, but tliat all these things are the concern of the divine good-pleasure which elects him. What is this determination of the elect? To what is he elected? We must now consider this question further (410).
In this consideration by Barth, he announces (not surprisingly) that the election of man means that  elect man is elect in and with and for Jesus Christ (410) and individual election takes place in the community of Jesus Christ (410). Not only that, but humanity is loved by God in Jesus Christ in this election (411).
This is indeed the determination of Jesus Christ Himself—in our flesh to be the One loved of God from and to all eternity. This is the determination of Israel and of the Church: they are the people and congregation of those who are loved by God in Jesus Christ. Obviously no man can be anything other or better than this—one who is loved by God. This is what God wills with him—to love him. And this is what He wills from him—to allow himself to be loved by Him. It is for this purpose that He elects him. He may and shall live as a partner in the covenant which God of Himself willed and established, of which God Himself is the Lord and Guarantor, the continuance of which is ensured by the omnipotent faithfulness of God. Whatever else this may signify, it signifies love. Severe, wrathful, burning love—but love; and love that is eternal, not bounded by the limitations of creatureliness, forgiving his sin, giving the creature a share in the glory of the Creator. This participation, provided and executed in free grace, as present promise and hoped for fulfilment, is the goal and content, the expression and fulness, the meaning and order of the existence of the elect (411).
The determination of the elect to be the object of the love of God is undoubtedly his determination to blessedness, which results in a congregation of the elect of Jesus Christ who live in gratitude (412). This congregation of the elect is drawn into the will of God and is beckoned to serve God. Gratitude is the response to God's kindness. The vocation of the elect is to serve God and to witness to His graciousness.
And what else can His community be but the people and assembly which, as they are created by the grace of God, declare this their creation, exhibiting and glorifying their Creator, not according to their own imagination or invention, but as He is and as He wills, as the One He has shown Himself to be in relation to them? So, too, it is with the elect individual. He is what he is by the divine election of grace. The election of Jesus Christ is his own election through the mediacy of His community. His determination is to be its witness, and this is the purpose which God has for him, and in the execution of which the meaning and order of his being consist. The gracious good-pleasure of God is not merely achieved in him but through him, and it is in this way that it is effectively achieved in him. He is its real object as he is its witness, and therefore its subject. The elect is, therefore, one who stands in the service and commission of the gracious God. As a result of his election, he is summoned by the operation of the Holy Spirit. His election as it has taken place in Jesus Christ can be declared to him. By faith he can appropriate the promise given. But if this is the case, it is not merely his private calling but also and as such his official calling. Not only are his salvation and blessedness disclosed and promised to him, but at the same time he is introduced to his service and commission as a witness (414).
'Witness' is such an important word in the theology of Karl Barth. The church, the elect, is to be/are to be witness(-es).
Each elect individual is as such a messenger of God. This is his service and commission. It is for this purpose that he may represent and portray the glory of the grace of God. It is in this that he may be grateful and blessed. He is sent. He is an apostle. The reason for this is the election of Jesus Christ to be an apostle of grace. Its context is the apostolate of grace which is the meaning and order of the life of His whole community. The determination of the elect is to allow the light which has kindled within himself to shine; to pass on the good news of God’s love for man which he himself has received; and to make the calling, in which he has been given a share, his own concern in respect of all others (415).
As they do this, "the ongoing of the reconciling work of the living God in the world...takes place" (417).
And now, if we may venture a final word, the determination of the elect consists in the fact that in and with his election and calling, in and with the service for which he is intended and which he has to perform, the ongoing of the reconciling work of the living God in the world is included and takes place. The election of each individual involves, and his calling completes an opening up and enlargement of the (in itself) closed circle of the election of Jesus Christ and His community in relation to the world—or (from the standpoint of the world) an invasion of the dark kingdom of the lies which rule in the world, a retreat and shrinkage of its godless self-glorification. The existence of each elect means a hidden but real crossing of frontiers, to the gain of the kingdom of God as the kingdom of grace. It is the concern of God that there should be these frontier-crossings (417).
Pulling all this together, Barth makes a determinative statement about the election of man ... he is fundamentally a witness to the Yes of God.
The elect man is chosen in order that the circle of election—that is, the circle of those who recognise and confess Jesus Christ in the world—should not remain stationary or fixed, but open up and enlarge itself, and therefore grow and expand and extend. What is given him in his election and calling is undoubtedly the task not to shut but to open, not to exclude but to include, not to say No but Yes to the surrounding world; just as he himself is undoubtedly one to whom it was opened, who was included, to whom Yes was said—the Yes of the unmerited, free and eternal grace and love of God. It is by and in this Yes that he must live with others. He represents and reflects the gracious God, and Jesus Christ and His people, as he causes them to hear this Yes. If he says No he also says Yes; even when he closes he opens; even when he excludes he includes. He will face others wrathfully but never contemptuously, with indignation but never with malice, angered but never embittered, a guest and a stranger but never an enemy. He will never renounce the recognition of their (and his own) lost condition. But he will also never renounce the obligation by which he is bound to them, as a lost soul to whom the grace of God has been revealed and come. Nor will he renounce the confidence that the same grace is addressed to them too. He will not weary in his service towards them, nor will he ever be disloyal to it, because of any self-made judgments of his own concerning them. It belongs to God Himself to determine and to know what it means that God was reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Cor. 5:19). The concern of the elect is always the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18), and no other. This is the determination under which he has to live (419).
For support of this calling and witness, Barth turns to the evidence of witness to Christ in the New Testament. This begins with a small print section which reviews the scope of Jesus Christ's work (421-423) and an examination of the evidence by which Barth can suggest we are called to witness and service (423ff.). He concludes the section with a significant small print review of the apostalate in the New Testament (431-449). He concludes in this way:
To what does God elect a man? The New Testament answers this question with its portrayal of the existence of the apostles; their calling, appointment and mission. It is in them, in their being and their deeds, that the Church can and should recognise itself as the assembly of the elect for all time. It is in them that each individual member of the Church can and should recognise the meaning and purpose of his own election. He who is elect of God is elect in Jesus Christ. For Jesus Christ is the original object of divine election. He is the one Elect, apart from whom there can be no others. He who is elect of God is elect through Jesus Christ. For Jesus Christ is also the original instrument of divine election. It is through Him, as the object of His election, and through Him alone, that others are also elected. It is in this way, in and through Him, that the apostles and those gathered into the apostolic Church are elect. But what is their determination? According to the New Testament it is simply the transmission of the assurance and promise which have come upon themselves. It is therefore the attestation, the proclamation of Jesus Christ in the sphere of the world and among the men who have not yet heard His name, who have not yet come to believe in Him, who have not yet been benefited by the work which as God’s Prophet, Priest and King He performed for them too, who certainly stand under His lordship, but have not yet recognised and confessed Him as Lord, or given thanks to Him as Lord. The determination of the apostles is to go into this world with the task of baptising it. Through the apostles this is the determination of the Church, and in the Church it is the determination of all its members, of the elect. If God elects a man, it is that he may be a witness to Jesus Christ, and therefore a proclaimer of His own glory (449).