Since I started blogging a few months ago, I have interacted with various people who have expressed appreciation for my articles but have noted that at times their content can be somewhat technical or complex and thus difficult to fully understand. Although most of my reading and writing lives on a more academic level, my ultimate desire is to make these things – especially what pertains to Evangelical Calvinism – accessible to the average person. I know that Bobby Grow has written some posts with this intention over
on his blog, and I hope to do the same here as well. So with this post I begin a series of sorts, in no particular order and with no definite end in mind other than to put the cookies, so to speak, on the bottom shelf.
With this inaugural post, I would simply like to quote Robert Price who provides a helpful summary, around only 100 words, of Barth’s doctrine of election. While I (or other ECs) may not follow Barth down to every jot and tittle, I think that Price’s synopsis well captures the main contours that delineate the shape of election in EC. Here’s Price:
According to Barth, it is Christ himself, that is, God the Son as already determined to be incarnate, who is both the subject and the object of election. As the electing God, the subject of election, Christ himself already constitutes God’s reconciling will toward humanity and so elects himself and all of humanity to salvation. And as the elect man, the object not only of election but also of reprobation, Christ himself and Christ alone endures God’s absolute rejection of sinful humanity. Barth thus radically reconfigures the concept of double predestination around Christ himself, rather than around two separate groups of humanity.
Anyone who has read Barth’s treatment of election in Church Dogmatics II/2 will know, of course, that this summary leaves out his extensive development of election in terms of the community of God (Israel and the church) and individuals (the elect and the reprobate). What Price does offer, however, helps us to understand in a concise manner the key insight that underwrites Barth’s (and EC’s) view of election. In a word, it’s all about Jesus Christ who, as the Word made flesh, is both the God who elects and the human who is elected. Since Christ is, according to Colossians 1:15-17, the “firstborn of creation” through whom and for whom “all things were created” and in whom “all things hold together”, we can’t start thinking about election as something that simply happens between God and all humanity. This approach leaves out Christ as the one for whom and in whom all humanity exists in the first place!
Rather, God’s decision to be the God revealed in Jesus Christ as the beginning of all of his ways and works means that election is primarily about God’s choice to be this kind of God, the God who will pursue sinful humanity to the point of the death of his Son. According to Ephesians 1:4, God didn’t elect us to be in Christ, he elected us in Christ. That is to say, in his electing of Christ, God elected us all! It is no wonder that Barth believed that election was simply good news, the best news in fact! God does not will to be God without us but only “Emmanuel”, God with us, in the person of Jesus Christ through whom we have access by the Spirit to the Father. For this reason, we will never understand election unless we firmly fix our eyes on Christ and Christ alone.
 Price, R.B., 2011. Letters of the Divine Word: The Perfections of God in Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics. J. Webster, I. A. McFarland, & I. Davidson, eds., London; New York: T&T Clark. p.6.