Friday, July 31, 2015

Blogging with Barth: CD 2.2 §35.4 "The Determination of the Rejected" pp. 450-506

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 §35.4 ("The Determination of the Rejected"), Barth now turns to the question of the determination of the rejected. Who is the rejected?
A “rejected” man is one who isolates himself from God by resisting his election as it has taken place in Jesus Christ. God is for him; but he is against God. God is gracious to him; but he is ungrateful to God. God receives him; but he withdraws himself from God. God forgives him his sins; but he repeats them as though they were not forgiven. God releases him from the guilt and punishment of his defection; but he goes on living as Satan’s prisoner. God determines him for blessedness, and His service; but he chooses the joylessness of an existence that accords with his own pride and aims at his own honour. The rejected man does exist in his own way alongside the elect (449-450).
Barth begins his consideration of the determination of the rejected with the assertion that God possesses one will, not two; meaning, the determination of the rejected is made by the same will as the elect.
The proposition from which we must start is that in the determination of the rejected we have to do with the will of God in what is by definition a wholly different sense than in the determination of the elect. The one will of God which determines both is here the almighty, holy and compassionate non-willing of God. No eternal covenant of wrath corresponds on the one side to the eternal covenant of grace on the other. Nor does an established or tolerated kingdom of Satan correspond in scope or duration, in dignity or authority, to the kingdom of Jesus Christ. On the contrary, just because God does not will always to chide with man, He has initiated the covenant of grace as the beginning of all His works and ways and to destroy the rule of Satan over mankind, thus opposing the kingdom of Jesus Christ to Satan in triumphant superiority. The rejection of mankind is the rejection borne eternally and therefore for all time by Jesus Christ in the power of divine self-giving. It is, therefore, the rejection which is “rejected.” Because this is so, the rejected man is from the very outset and in all circumstances quite other than the elect. He is the man who is not willed by the almighty, holy and compassionate God. Because God is wise and patient in His non-willing also, he still exists and is not simply annihilated. But although—as the object of the divine non-willing—he exists with the elect, he has no autonomous existence alongside or apart from him (450).
Only the elected knows the rejected because the elect are the only ones who can perceive the rejected supremely in Jesus Christ (451). Also, the rejected have no existence apart from the elect. The rejected as been displaced by Jesus Christ in his rejection.
With Jesus Christ the rejected can only have been rejected. He cannot be rejected any more. Between him and an independent existence of his own as rejected, there stands the death which Jesus Christ has suffered in his place, and the resurrection by which Jesus Christ has opened up for him His own place as elect. It is only as one who has been, but is no longer, that he may again proclaim or assert himself. It is bad enough that even this is not yet taken from him. But in any case, it takes place only within the divinely appointed limit and not with the absolute force of that which is properly and autonomously present (453).
This power is taken from it by what took place in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, as willed and decided from all eternity in the resolve and decree of God. Therefore even in the past, present and future godlessness of the elect the rejected himself exists only as the object of that evil, dangerous, but powerless representation—in such a way that he is denied from the very outset by his election (the election of Jesus Christ), and is now denied in practice too by his faith in Jesus Christ, being exposed and discredited as a liar. He is permitted neither respite, peace nor consolidation. He may be able to query the election of the elect, to obscure or jeopardise it, but he cannot reverse it. He can lie, but he can lie only against the Gospel. He has no truth of his own to assert against it. He can do nothing against the one truth. Even although it is no greater than a grain of mustard-seed, faith refutes and overcomes him. He can reproduce, but he cannot again perpetrate, the sins for which Jesus Christ died. He can endure a likeness of the punishment of death that Jesus Christ has suffered in his place, but he cannot—even remotely—endure death itself (453-454).
His distinctive determination is rooted in his distinctive nature. He does not have it apart from or alongside, but with that of the elect. It indicates the meaning and purpose of the determination of the elect. It is the necessary reverse side of this determination, which must not be overlooked or forgotten. And in its ultimate range it points to the very spot at which the proper and positive determination of the elect begins (454-455).
Barth suggests that the rejected has three specific functions. First, the task of representing humanity in need of the gospel.
In the reality of the existence peculiar to him, it is the determination of the rejected to manifest the recipients of the Gospel whose proclamation is the determination of the elect. The rejected has not simply vanished or been destroyed. Thanks to the divine wisdom and patience, he can take different forms within the appointed limit. And in this capacity he represents the world and the individual in so far as they are in need of the divine election. As a sinner against God, he is the lost man who in spite of his election, and the salvation and preservation which it includes, necessarily confirms this fact by his godlessness. He is the man whose salvation and preservation made necessary the self-giving of God in His own Son, and for whose salvation and preservation only this divine self-giving could avail (455).
Second, the rejected has the function of showing what is denied and overcome by the gospel.
In the distinctive character of his existence, the rejected has the determination constantly to manifest that which is denied and overcome by the Gospel. In word and voice he has to raise a Gloria Deo ex profundis in face of, and yet also in concert with, the Gloria Deo in excelsis. The rejected is the man whose only witness—and most powerfully in his false picture of God—is to himself and his false choice as the man isolated over against God, the man who at the deepest level and in the deepest sense has nothing at all to say. He is the man who lives in a false service as well as in a false liberty. He is the man who is deceived because he deceives himself (456).
Third, the rejected is the man whose function is to show (indirectly) the purpose of the gospel, that is, that a person without a future does indeed have a future.
The rejected has the determination, in the distinctive limitation of his existence, to manifest the purpose of the Gospel. We have now reached the point at which the determination of the rejected indicates the beginning of the determination of the elect. The form of the rejected is in every respect one which yields and dissolves and dissipates. He is condemned to impotence and insubstantiality by the way in which disposition is made concerning him in the election of Jesus Christ, being only an object of the victory of actuality and truth as it was decreed concerning him from all eternity, and as it has been achieved for him in the midst of time. The rejected has no future. As the man who wills to be his own master, he can only achieve his own destruction. But the purpose of the divine election of grace is to grant to this man who in and of himself has no future, a future in covenant with God (457).
It is in this way, in these functions, that we can note the determination of the rejected - that the rejected would come to hear and believe and be witness to the election of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
It is with this in view that the Gospel speaks. It is with this purpose that God turns to man, and that His Word is addressed to man. It is addressed to the man who in and of himself is rejected, who has fallen a prey and is delivered up to absolute destruction. But the concrete form of the purpose of the Gospel is its proclamation and faith in it, the work of the Holy Spirit in the summoning of the elect man, in which his whole determination to blessedness, thanksgiving and witness has its basis and origin (457).
To pull the discussion of the determination of the elect out of an abstract realm into the realm of specific example, Barth uses Judas Iscariot as an example.
The character in which the problem of the rejected is concentrated and developed in the New Testament is that of Judas Iscariot, the disciple and apostle who “betrayed” Jesus. We observe at once that—like the Old Testament, but much more unequivocally—the New Testament does not seek or find the rejected at a distance, but in the closest conceivable proximity to Jesus Christ Himself, and so not in the alien, hostile world to which Jesus Christ came and to which the witness of His apostles, the Church and the elect is to be addressed. The counterpart of the elect is not really an opponent who confronts and opposes the kingdom of God from outside. Certainly, the existence of this counterpart stands in the closest relationship to the power and effectiveness of what St. John’s Gospel calls “the prince of this world.” But, according to his manifestation in Judas Iscariot, “the prince of this world” obviously cannot be so easily and simply recognised and engaged as would be the case if he were to oppose Jesus Christ and His Church at a distance as one who is wholly foreign to the kingdom of God, if he were to oppose Jesus Christ and the testimony to Him from outside, representing, as it were, the “malice of the object.” Again, however, he obviously does not possess the authority, value and the power of this kind of objective opponent. But just as the existence of the rejected of God, the “son of perdition” (Jn. 17:12), betrays by its sinister proximity to Jesus Christ and His apostles all the intimacy of the dangerous power and effectiveness of the devil, it also reveals its relativity, and the fact that it can express itself only under the direct supervision and control, as it were, of the overruling power and effectiveness of the Lord Himself, only in the work of a disciple and apostle (458-459).
In an intricate small print excursus Barth notes that though Judas is against Jesus, Jesus is for Judas. And even though Judas hands Jesus over to the authorities and betrays Him, this action is carried out in service and fulfillment of the purpose of the gracious election of God. It is in this way that Judas, representative of the rejected, show how the rejected too serve election. As Bromiley notes, "his divine determination, as may be seen in the elect, is to come to election on the basis of the election of Jesus Christ and the handing over of Jesus to rejection on his behalf." As Barth concludes...
But to say this is to say all that we need to say about the general question of the divine will and intention for the rejected, the non-elect. The answer can only be as follows. He wills that he too should hear the Gospel, and with it the promise of his election. He wills, then, that this Gospel should be proclaimed to him. He wills that he should appropriate and live by the hope which is given him in the Gospel. He wills that the rejected should believe, and that as a believer he should become a rejected man elected. The rejected as such has no independent existence in the presence of God. He is not determined by God merely to be rejected. He is determined to hear and say that he is a rejected man elected. This is what the elect of the New Testament are—rejected men elected in and from their rejection, men in whom Judas lived, but was also slain, as in the case of Paul. They are rejected who as such are summoned to faith. They are rejected who on the basis of the election of Jesus Christ, and looking to the fact that He delivered Himself up for them, believe in their election (506).