Monday, March 22, 2010

Term Paper Topic.

I apologize for my lack of posting. Life really has been quite busy and it is coming down to crunch time in the next week or so. All of my presentations are finished, I think my professor favored the last one (Lord-willing), and now I just have to focus on my last two research papers - one for the Barth seminar and one for my Luther class. Should be interesting.

This is my idea about my Barth paper:

Barth was not pleased with Calvin's view of election due to fact that double predestination implied a "hidden decree" of God before the foundation of the world. And this decree was made outside of Christ. He didn't find any value in such a doctrine, especially pastorally, since the individual could never have assurance that they were considered among the elect given the hidden nature of the decree. As such, Barth believed that the place where God is most revealed to humanity - via the eternal Word of God made flesh in Jesus Christ - should not contain any such existentially repugnant mysteries.

Therefore, Barth states that before the foundation of the world, Jesus Christ as God HImself was the electing God AND the elected man. He was the one that elected and He was the one who was elected. He took the reprobation that humanity deserved upon Himself. Consequently, all humanity was elected IN Christ (Eph. 1:4).

Given the reformulation of the reformed doctrine of election, Barth has been called a universalist, most notably by Emil Brunner ("soft universalism" to be exact). This is the most classic objection held by the traditionally reformed. And for reasons I don't feel like explaining (most of them are obvious), the traditional reformed view has no room for universal salvation.

Barth has two responses to this objection:

1) He will not affirm universalism because Scripture does not affirm it, even if such a view is the logical consequence of his position. He stops where Scripture stops.
2) To suppose that God will surely save all human beings is to impose an obligation upon God (hope that is clear). This defies the freedom of God. Ultimately, he is free to save anyone that He wants to save and there is no necessity in God to save any individual.

I am fine with the first point. He stands in the reformed tradition by appealing to such boundaries. However, I realized that his second response is problematic. I don't make this objection as one that has something to prove against Barth. I think the man was a genius, and I don't have to defend my admiration for his unapologetic appeal to the freedom and sovereignty of the most merciful, holy, and gracious God. However, it seems like by using this reply, he falls right back into a type of hiddenness that is even more severe than Calvin's. As Anthony Yu writes, "Is God, therefore, exercising another freedom beyond and above what he has concretely determined and accomplished in Jesus Christ?" ("Karl Barth's Doctrine of Election, 'Foundations', 259).

Those are my thoughts. Perhaps my objections stem from my less than sophisticated skills of interpreting the genius of Barth. While I admire his unwavering commitment to the freedom of God, it doesn't seem helpful in this particular situation. Hopefully when I meet with my professor tomorrow, he won't totally shut down my paper idea. He is a kind and gracious man so I won't expect the worse (like I always do!).

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