I have to give a presentation on Barth's doctrine of election on Tuesday for my seminar. I am a bit burdened right now, as it took me four hours last night to get through the first half. As my professor promised, it was dense. I wish I had the largest white board in my room so i could draw maps and diagrams. My brain can not process that much detail without photos. It was very difficult to conceptualize. However, I think, for the most part, that I have the essence of his argument.
I was a bit confused because Barth spent over ten pages in the excursus attempting to explain the difference between supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism. I have never been able to be an infralapsarian given the problems I believe it ultimately poses for the doctrine of God (placing the doctrine of providence before predestination). It seems to points out the devastating problems of supralapsarianism without offering much more than agnosticism and even more speculation. I remember reading Calvin's Institutes last semester and when the class started to discuss his doctrine of election, it was very uncomfortable. What should be the most comforting doctrine became that which caused stress, uncertainty, and doubt. It seems that in unpacking the views of supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism, Barth understands this. He heavily criticizes both but ultimately comes down excruciatingly hard on supralapsarianism. As one that believes in supralapsarianism, I was surprised, given everything I've read about Barth that he was on this path and I didn't understand why it seemed like he was going to end up on the side of the infralapsarians. I understand the terror and darkness involved in being a supralapsarian but I can't compromise on some of the basic tenets - or even the motivating factor behind holding fast to such a doctrine: to protect the utter sovereignty of God at all costs, even at the expense of a seemingly loving doctrine of God. Still, there is something very dark about the position, something that probably terrifies the supralapsarian deep inside. I was prepared to part ways with Barth, despite the devastating blows he gave to my view. But then, out of nowhere, he agrees! But only after he makes Jesus Christ the subject AND the object of election first. It was a radical reorientation of the entire view of election. The move, in all its simplicity, is sheer genius. I am guessing that whenever someone reads this doctrine for the first time, they have to have the wind taken out of them to some extent. It is like another color suddenly comes into the spectrum that didn't exist before. You sit there, in awe and shock, just thinking "how did everyone before him miss this possibility?!?" And you pace back and forth in your room thinking "what do I do with this?" Ultimately, his view has many devastating problems that might be worse than the solutions he offers. I am still sorting through the holes along his path in this section. Who knows what I'll decide.