You’re Included – Calvinism, Arminianism, and Karl Barth

You’re Included – Calvinism, Arminianism, and Karl Barth


The following program is a presentation of
Grace Communion International and Grace Communion Seminary and is made possible by generous
donations from viewers like you. On this episode of You’re Included, theologian, Jeff McSwain, explores Calvinism, Arminianism, and the Reformed view of Karl Barth. Our host is Dr. J. Michael Feazell Thanks for joining us, Jeff.
My pleasure, Mike, thanks for having me. We want to talk today about Arminianism and
Calvinism. It seems that you’re either an Arminian or a Calvinist, and never the twain
shall meet. What is Arminianism, what is Calvinism, what are the strengths and weaknesses, and
are there any alternatives? I’m glad we get to have a full session to
solve all these problems about Arminian and Calvinist theology. This is something that’s
been debated for many, many years. I believe that there is another option, even a more
evangelical option, than Arminianism or Calvinism. When I say Calvinism I mean, specially five-point
Calvinism, or what we could call Dortian Theology, that comes from the synod of Dort. I think
that’s where the Tulip expression comes from, that many people are familiar with.
And could you rehearse that? The TULIP… Total depravity, Unconditional
election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace and P – Perseverance of the Saints.
We could spend a whole session talking about each one of those, which we don’t need to
do now. But there is another type of Reformed theology aside from Dortian or five-point
Calvinism, and that’s the reformulated Reformed position of Karl Barth – who, I feel, is
most consistently reformed of all Calvinists. Most people don’t think of Karl Barth as
a Calvinist, but we can talk a bit more about why he draws much of his program from John
Calvin. But to get back to the Arminian question,
what is an Arminian? An Arminian is someone who wants to make a place for the integrity
of the human response to the gospel. They chafe under any kind of program that might
have to do with predestination, the kind that de-personalizes us, and in a robotic or deterministic
way lashes us and involuntarily brings us into heaven or into any kind of decision.
A focus on freedom. A huge focus on freedom, but interestingly,
one of the weaknesses of the Arminian program could be that there is a misunderstanding
of the word “freedom.” Most people feel like freedom is a human-centered type of freedom,
more of a libertarian type of freedom, where we are free to choose against God or free
to choose God. That goes against the truth of how we’re made. Because to choose against
God is actually an anti-truth move, therefore, it’s an anti-free move. It’s more of an
enslaved move than it is a free one. The idea of what freedom is, is something
that Karl Barth hammers on continually in order to show us that freedom is actually
a unidirectional freedom. It’s the Son who sets us free. And the Spirit of truth blowing
in and through our sails is what gives us the freedom to choose God. Without the Holy
Spirit, without his work in our lives, we are not free to choose God at all. But in
and of ourselves, if we try to choose God, or if we try to choose against God, we have
to chalk that up to being an anti-truth and an anti-free movement – not a free one.
So in five-point Calvinism there’s an effort to create a formula in which that freedom
is taken care of. All the loopholes are covered and all the leaks are filled…
Right, because for a five-point Calvinist it’s very difficult to give the human agency
too much potency. That’s a dangerous thing to do, because it allows human beings to get
outside of the economy of the sovereign God and be able to make a decision that creates
the truth, which is something that no human being in actuality can do. Let me explain
what I mean by that. To create the truth would mean to believe in a dualistic fashion that
we are on one side of the ledger, unforgiven, unredeemed and separated from God. But then
when a person decides, by his human response to the gospel, to believe in Jesus Christ,
he moves himself from one side of the ledger to the other.
So that changes his decision and position toward God when he makes the confession of
faith. Right. The human being is the agent who is
able to make the decision to have faith in God and by that faith he is therefore now
a forgiven child of God, now reconciled to the Lord, now redeemed, and now no longer
separated from him – all those things that weren’t true before, are true after the
existential moment occurs, after the Jeff-moment, or the Mike-moment, you might say. And so
the “before” and “after” of the decision really changes the truth about who we are.
The problem there is that it puts on us the actual causing of our salvation to take place.
It’s left to whether or not we make the decision and make it properly.
That’s correct. It’s a question of ultimate truth and if there is ultimate truth, because
that type of approach introduces this idea of relativity that the truth is not really
true about me until I decide that it is. It’s also very easy from that paradigm to pull
justification by faith away from justification by grace. We know that justification by faith
is a corollary to justification by grace. Justification by faith doesn’t mean that
I’m not justified until I have faith. It simply means that the justification that’s
been wrought by Jesus Christ, which is purely of grace, is in play and is real, and is true
even before my own faith occurs in that moment. In both Arminianism and five-point Calvinism
you’re left with the idea that you’re not saved, not saved, not saved – then you
make a decision for Christ, and then you’re saved. In both concepts, even though they’re
coming at it supposedly from different angles, they wind up in the same position of
the sinner’s prayer is the point at which
the change from “God doesn’t love you” to now “God does love you” because you
did the sinner’s prayer, winds up being a linchpin in both cases.
Right, which is ironic, because in five-point Calvinism those folks who adhere to that doctrine
don’t really believe that those things did occur in the existential moment. They believe
that these things were established in the finished work of Christ 2,000 years ago. However,
they don’t want to give that away to everyone upfront because they believe in “Limited
Atonement.” Therefore, they have to talk more about a person’s sinful condition before
God, as being separated from God or un-reconciled to God, which is actually inconsistent with
what they believe theologically, but they say that in practice when it comes to the
proclamation of gospel truth in their minds, they say that, because they don’t know any
other way to find out who the elect are. Once they proclaim you are a sinner, therefore
repent, and then they see people who do repent, then they can say, “Well actually, you were
forgiven 2,000 years ago by the cross of Christ, actually you are already reconciled to God,
and already redeemed by the finished work of Christ. But we couldn’t tell you that
upfront because we didn’t know if you are one of the elect or not.”
The “Limited Atonement” piece is really troublesome and causes an internal conflict
for the passionate five-point Calvinist evangelist – because he does want people to know Jesus
Christ, but he’s a little bit hamstrung because he can’t get the good news out there
at the beginning. He can’t say, “You do belong to God, you are one of the elect, you
are chosen by God,” until that person shows some kind of movement toward God, and then
he can give them the goods. The advantage of the Arminian program is that
the Arminian doesn’t have that problem. In a totally consistent manner and in good
conscience, he can stand up before a room full of people and say, “Jesus Christ died
for every single one of you. And if you’re the only person alive in this world (as is
often said), Jesus Christ loves you so much that he would have died just for you.” That’s
something that an Arminian can say unabashedly. But the reason a Calvinist can’t say that
is because he doesn’t believe that Christ really did die for all. The reason a Calvinist
can’t say that in consistency with his own theology is because of the “Limited Atonement”
part of his doctrine. If you are a five-point Calvinist, how can
you be sure that you are among the elect, because if you were among the elect, then
you should be bringing forth fruits that are meet for repentance. Every time you fail in
some way, then you have to kind of look over your shoulder and say, “Well, maybe I just
think I’m elect and I’m going through the motions but I’m not really right.”
How do I know for sure? The only evidence that there is, is godly behavior, a changed
heart – so it comes back down to a lack of assurance based on whether or not you’re
bringing forth fruit. And so, if we’re honest with ourselves, most of the time we’ve got
a kernel of doubt about whether we really are. We can say, “I’m sure, I’m convinced,
I know I am one of the elect.” But there’s really no way of proving it beyond any shadow
of a doubt. That’s right, because [according to the
five-point Calvinist] God, in his sovereignty, has chosen some people from all eternity to
go to hell and some people from all eternity to go to heaven. Once that idea is introduced
and Jesus Christ is lost in the equation, Jesus applies to the elect side of the ledger
but not to the other side. It’s hard for those people to say, “Jesus Christ is God,
and Jesus Christ himself decided from all eternity that some people would go to hell
without a chance – that was his sovereign plan, but it is merciful that God would allow
a few people to be saved and to go on to heaven.” Once that idea is introduced and we begin
to read that into the character of God, we really don’t know what he thinks about us
at the deepest level. So we don’t know if we’re effectually called (as the terminology
is used) or in-effectually called. We might be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, in that paradigm.
That kind of language is actually used. It is, and when a person doesn’t behave
the way a person who is elect is supposed to behave in line with the perseverance of
the saints, many times their salvation is cast in doubt. Perhaps you are ineffectually
called; you’re tasting it but you’re not really in it and therefore, you’re more
predestined to go to hell than you were to go to heaven. You’re disqualified or maybe
even disenfranchised from the church that you belong to. That kind of thing does happen.
With Arminianism, you’re not going to have a question about the nature of God as much
as you do in Calvinism, and that’s one of its greatest strengths, is that God is love
toward everyone. A Calvinist will say that God loves everyone, but it’s very difficult
for him to really believe that, because it doesn’t make sense that God would love you
but send you to hell without a chance. We know what love is. The Bible tells us, 1 John
3:16, “This is how we know what love is; Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.”
Jesus and love and the sacrifice of the cross all go together, and you can’t force those
apart and say, God loves everyone, but Jesus Christ does it apart from them in terms of
redemption and in terms of his death on the cross.
That’s a very difficult line for a five-point Calvinist to take. If you’re consistent
as a five-point Calvinist, ultimately what you have to say is that God doesn’t love
everyone – he really loves those he died for, but he doesn’t love the reprobate and
he may even hate the reprobate. “Jacob I loved, Esau I hated” is a template that’s
often given to be able to rationalize the idea that God loves some and hates others,
when we know from Romans 9 through 11 that Paul is not trying to say that.
Let’s talk about that. What is Paul’s point with that statement?
I think it’s basically the hyperbole of contrasts. God did choose Jacob over Esau
– no doubt about it – and that was important for that time in order to usher in the Messianic
line. He chose Abraham in order to bless the whole world. The beautiful thing about the
big picture of Romans 9 through 11 is that he chose Jacob to keep the Messianic line
intact in order to eventually save Esau as well.
God’s election is not one of excluding others. It is actually meant to always include others.
In Romans 9, God says, I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy. And Paul says, in
the next paragraph, “God will have mercy upon whom he will have mercy.” It talks
about “what if some people are made unto destruction and others for life?” So all
these words are used… but I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy. Two chapters
later, we get the crescendo to it all inRomans 11:32, where he says, “God has given all
men over to disobedience that he may have mercy upon all.” So it’s beautiful: I
will have mercy upon who I will have mercy, so I will have mercy upon all.
Getting back to Calvinism and Arminianism – you mentioned an alternative in Karl Barth’s
theology, and then as that is expounded in Thomas Torrance’s theology. Let’s talk
about that. Getting back to the Arminian’s strength,
the strength is that the Arminians can say, “God loves everyone, God is love, he loves
everyone, he loves everyone equally, he died for every single person.”
Now the weakness. There was a time in my life where I did agree
with the Arminian way of thinking – I thought
of the cross more as a hypothetical – there wasn’t anything actually accomplished by
the cross and by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I could say Jesus Christ died for
every one of you, but it wasn’t true that they were forgiven or redeemed or reconciled
to God until that person, in the Jeff-moment, made that decision. As I began to realize
that, and began to understand why Karl Barth wanted to move away from that, I began to
realize that it’s a great favor to us as human beings not to be thrown back upon ourselves
in order to try to make this true or to make this real, or to make this actual, or effective.
Is my faith good enough? Did I repent properly? Right. I’m going to be going through that
revolving door all of my life, just like the five-point Calvinist will be going around
the revolving door wondering what God really thinks about him …
In both Calvinism and Arminianism, you wind up in the same spot.
Right. Arminianism puts a lot of emphasis on “do,” whereas Calvinist theology puts
a lot of emphasis on “done.” What Karl Barth wants to do is to take the best of those
two things and say, “yes.” Just like the Reformed perspective says, Jesus
Christ and him crucified did effect reconciliation, redemption, forgiveness – but not just for
the limited group of people out there. Not along the lines of limited atonement… but
for all. And the word “ALL” is used constantly throughout the New Testament to talk about
what Christ did for all. The Arminian hasn’t given due credence to
the past tense language of the New Testament, that these things have been accomplished in
the finished work of Christ. Karl Barth wants to say, “Yes, they have been accomplished.”
They’re not hypotheticals, they’re not “true if you make a decision” – they
have been accomplished, they are actual, they are real, and yet this is not in a deterministic
way that makes a person a robot – because God’s inmost being is about love, because
God is love – one may resist the Holy Spirit, grieve the Holy Spirit and go against the
reality of who Jesus Christ is and who he is in Christ.
This is thrown right out there for us in 2 Corinthians 5: “the love of Christ compels
us, because we are convinced that one has died for all, therefore all died and he died
for all, so that those who live may live not for themselves but for him who for their sakes
died and was raised.” Here we have “Jesus Christ died for all.” Here we have the fact
that “when he died, everybody died.” We know from Scripture, from this passage and
for most (like 1 Corinthians 13 and from Romans 6), that you have to keep the unity of Christ’s
death and resurrection together. Those who died with Christ rose with Christ. In Adam
all die, in Christ all will be made alive – this is the fabric of the work of Jesus
Christ. Paul is saying, “It’s not a question of
whether everybody died and rose with Christ.” The question is, “Are you going to live
for yourself, or are you going to live for him who, for your sake, died and was raised?”
There’s an objective truth, but there’s a subjective participation in the objective
truth. It goes on to say, “We no longer, therefore, look at anyone from a human point
of view. We used to look at Christ that way, but from now on we don’t, and anyone is
in Christ is a new creation. The old is gone, the new is come.”
It doesn’t say, “You could become a new creation if you make a decision.” He is
saying that because Jesus Christ has come and died and rose again, there is a new creation
– everyone is a new creation. We no longer look at anyone from a worldly point of view.
He goes on to say, “God has given us this ministry of reconciliation. God was reconciling
the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and giving us this ministry
of reconciliation. We beseech you, on behalf of God, be reconciled to God.”
Then he ends up with “do not receive the grace of our God in vain.” Today is the
day of salvation, it’s here. That dimension is here and you’re in that dimension, do
not buck that, do not kick against it. Do not fight against it. Be reconciled to God
because you are reconciled to God. This puts the subject of participation together with
the object of truth. You have been reconciled to God. You have been forgiven. The whole
world has been reconciled to God and forgiven by Jesus Christ.
So if you reject that, you’re not rejecting an opportunity, you’re not rejecting a possibility.
You’re rejecting the truth of what already is.
Right, and in that passage it shows how one might reject those things. It gives the objective
truth and it gives you an opportunity to “not receive the grace of the Lord in vain.”
That would be subjective refusal – which is possible. It’s not a deterministic, robotic
system. It is possible to receive the grace of God in vain, even though you’ve been
included in the death and resurrection of Christ.
So the point is that you have received it. You can either receive it to good, or you
can receive it in vain. You’ve been given this relationship. You
were turned away from God in your sin and rebellion against him. God has come, he has
assumed your sinful, fallen nature in Jesus Christ, and he has turned you back around
and reconciled you to God, and that means that you’ve been given a face-to-face relationship
with God in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit – you are a part of this relationship, this
is what reconciliation is. Therefore as a person who’s included in
that, you may submit to it or may fight against it. The subjective participation is to believe,
not only that you’re included in this, but every person in the world is included. This
gets past the “limited atonement” problem. If I don’t know everybody’s been included
in this, I’m not really sure if I have been included in it. Because that goes back to…
if just a few people are included, how do I know if I’m on the right side or the left
side of the ledger? But to the extent that I know this includes everyone, I’d be assured
that it includes me, too. But to the extent that I think it includes some people, I’ll
be concerned and worried about that, and my assurance would be virtually nil, or it will
go through this revolving door syndrome. The assurance is there because I believe this
happened for ALL people – that Christ not only did something for us, but he did something
with us. Now here is the point that a lot of people get to, and Calvinists really struggle
with Barth’s program, because it sounds like: If Christ has not only done something
for us but he’s done something with us, then it sounds to me like I’ll still have
to make a decision about whether or not I’m going to participate or not, and that decision
is really back to an Arminian decision. It’s back to this question of, “There’s a new
line in the sand, now the sand is not whether I’m forgiven or not forgiven, it’s not
whether I’m reconciled to God or not. It’s whether I believe in that, or whether I don’t
believe in that prior truth.” That still feels like an Arminian problem
to a Calvinist, because it’s like, “It’s still thrown back on you, because now you’ve
got to believe it, you’re the one who’s got to believe it or not.” An Arminian can
buy into the Barth program and really relish it with great intensity, and I know a lot
of Arminians who have done that, because they feel like it still gives place for a subjective
decision – do I believe or do I not believe? – and they can decide, “All this stuff
is true, there’s one truth, it’s not relative to whether I believe it or not. That’s very
refreshing, it’s all been done by Jesus Christ. Now for me, my free decision is related
to whether I believe in it or not.” An Arminian can stay right there, and that’s
great. So in this next section of our discussion, let me just say, for you who are Calvinists
and realize, “Wait a minute, that’s not good enough for me, because that belief still
feels like it’s up to me; it still feels like that’s the critical moment in which
all this stuff becomes true for me and lets me go to heaven.”
I would say, that’s a great place to be. I think everyone who’s a Calvinist who wants
to give the first and last word to God, needs to go through this strait of wrestling with
that question – because it does still seem to exalt the “do” over the “done.”
But what Barth wants to do is always keep the “do” inside the “done.” He would
say the epitome of anthropocentrism, the epitome of humanism, would be for us to objectify
God and to say from a distance, “This is the situation now (as I just described it
a minute ago), and now I’m going to decide if I believe it or not.”
Barth would say that Arminianism, at the end of the day, is humanistic. He’d say that
Calvinists are right in that it’s not good enough just to stop there, he would say that
it lands us in a place of semi-Pelagianism – where belief becomes a work. Barth will
never do that. But how does he keep the “do” inside of the “done”? He does that by
using the word “be.” As Paul says in this passage, “You’ve been reconciled to God,
therefore we beseech you: BE reconciled to God.”
This is not universalism. Universalism is way too easy. If God wanted universalism to
be the case, he would never have gone through the trouble of the cross, and allow human
suffering. He could just have said, “I love you guys so much you’re all going to go
to heaven.” Universalism is way too easy, it’s very linear and very simple. But in
this passage, Karl Barth realizes the apostle Paul is a passionate evangelist. He’s not
just some couch potato who thinks, “God’s going to bring everybody into heaven.” Rather,
Paul is thinking, “I’ve got to get this message out there.” The love of Christ compels
us – we beseech you on behalf of God, be reconciled to God. Be reconciled to God, because
you are. Not because you’re not, but because you are.
This keeps the “do” inside the “done.” It says even Christ is the one who believes
that you are reconciled to God. So instead of standing out here, aloof and looking at
this whole situation of reconciliation as if it’s in your laboratory, and you as the
almighty human being get to make a decision about this, we have to say, “Part of reconciliation
is that Jesus Christ does everything from the human side. There is not one modicum of
our independent humanity that can make a decision outside of God. We all live and move and have
our being in him.” Even our believing is a participatory event.
Grace includes the human response, Barth would say. In doing that, he is able to say, “Jesus
Christ does it all, even your believing, and even your believing in Jesus Christ does it
all, even in your believing, and even your believing in your believing in your believing
that Jesus Christ does it all … ad infinitum… you can never get outside of the brackets
of grace – where God has represented in Christ, Jesus Christ has represented God to
humanity and everything about humanity to God – you can’t get outside and quantify
that and exalt your subject-self as being the one who gets to decide about God.
Instead of fighting to get ourselves outside of that equation, just recognize you’re
inside of it. Don’t fight that, you’re inside. Submit to the ad infinitum. You can
never get to a place where you pull your belief outside of what God has done or what God is
doing to make a decision about it as if you’re quantifying God. That is actually religion.
Instead, Jesus Christ has made this decision. Your decision is really more of a non-decision.
The action step is really a non-action step. It’s important, it’s critical, but it’s
actually to submit to the ad infinitum of saying, “My decision is not that important
anymore, my decision is secondary to the decision that God has made for me and Jesus Christ
– that God has said, ‘yes’ to me and he said ‘yes’ for me in Christ.”
I might submit to that ad infinitum and say, “I don’t have to worry so much… my decision
is that I don’t have to worry about my decision, because I know Jesus Christ has done it all.”
That is amazingly freeing, once that penny drops – it still makes decision important,
but it wraps it all up into the “done,” and what is being done. Jesus Christ, as our
representative high priest, takes everything from the human side, represents us to God
and therefore he keeps the covenant of grace from both sides. We’re caught up in that,
why fight to get outside of it, why not just repose on that dynamic of Trinitarian life
that we’ve been given? The whole point about decision, sometimes
we make too big a deal out of that, and the reason is because we’re riddled in humanism,
and we often go back to this verse: “What must I do to be saved? What must I do to be
saved? What must I…” We’re so wrapped up in that, and what Paul says to the Philippian
jailer is, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Not “you’ll be saved if you believe in
Jesus Christ.” He’s actually telling the jailer, “Jesus Christ has got you, he’s
carrying you.” Just as best as you are able, surrender to that, knowing that you can never
really surrender as an independent person but only as someone in participation with
the surrender that Jesus Christ has made to God on your behalf.
I like that word “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” It’s like Jesus Christ is the
foundation for every human action to God. We can never get off that foundation. We can
pretend that we are built on the sand, but we can never really get off that foundation
and offer God anything as an independent agent. That agency question is big for Calvinists
and for Arminians alike, and it’s usually the last thing to go – our agency, our human
agency is usually the last thing to go because we are so keen to self-justify, we’re so
keen to make it happen. “What do I need to do, what do I need to do?”
Jesus is trying to get something through to us when he says, “If you want to find your
life, you got to lose it.” When you lose your agency, you lose your claim to individual
decision-making and making-it-happen, you get back your personhood and you get back
your share in the Trinitarian persons and that great dance that’s going on between
Father, Son and Spirit. Who, if they knew, would want to hold on to their individuality
and be wrapped up in themselves (which is a very small package), if they really heard
the gospel with ears to hear and could lose their individualism to become a person?
The real person that you already are, without losing your own identity.
You don’t become a drop in the cosmic sea where you become less personalized – it’s
just the opposite in Jesus Christ. More Jesus means the more of us, not the less. That’s
why T.F. Torrance calls them the personalizing person. So anytime we get into theologies
that want to get us down the de-personalizing route, we know we’re going the wrong direction.
Anytime we go down the road with theology that wants to take us to a humanistic route,
one that is elevating the human subject self outside that of Jesus Christ, we need to be
careful. Karl Barth gives us a way to move between those two – to keep the “do”
within the “done” and to “be” what we are by the grace of our Lord and Savior
Jesus Christ. You’ve been watching You’re Included,
a production of Grace Communion International.

10 Replies to “You’re Included – Calvinism, Arminianism, and Karl Barth”

  1. Interesting discussion but frankly most of the objections against the Calvinist and Arminian theologies don't really stand up. Especially the discussion on whether the believer can know that they are elect. Thanks for uploading though.

  2. There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding (willingly or not) here, especially concerning calvinism.

    You said in the beginning that the calvinist believes that when he decides for Christ, his choice changes the reality of who he is. That is absolutely not correct. The calvinist would say that while we are all children of wrath before the point of salvation, and while we are new creations in Christ after that point – the choice itself was not behind this change. We believe that the Holy Spirit applies the work of Christ on the cross in our lives, at the time of salvation – when we first believe and repent. The Holy Spirit is the person who raises us up from spiritual death, to spiritual life, and this was not our doing but His.

    The Father elects, the Son lays down his life to carry their sins and give them his righteousness, and the Spirit applies this work to their life at the point when they first believe.

    Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."
    – John 3:7‭-‬8

  3. Forget the isms and just read the books. The Institutes of Religion by Calvin is one of the most stimulating books I have read. Barth likewise has to be read to appreciate him; he has sustained my faith for 40 years. One other must book to read is Dr Albert Schweitzer's "Quest of the HIstorical Jesus". Just read the books.

  4. It seems to me that the Scriptures indeed teach that the work of God in saving the world in Jesus was complete before the foundation of the world as Rev 13:8 teaches. Humanity was reconciled to God and engrafted / made one flesh with God in Jesus. What also seems true however is that one must experience an appropriation of this finished work where the objectively reconciled humanity is subjectively transformed at an individual level. This is not from our perspective as temporal beings 2000 years ago along with all humanity but in time in the individual where the individual experiences what it is to be personally transformed and indwelt by the holy spirit and united to Christ in such a way so as to bring about the transforming reality of the indwelling Christ. This is not a common experience to all human beings. Being brought into the family of God through Christ our older brother and the bond of the Spirit is not the common experience of all humanity.
    This diverges from the position presented here which seems to hold that all human beings experience this ontological reality personally prior to their realising of this reality. This I think is the main problem with this position. All other pieces seem to fit beautifully and neatly except this particular element which diminishes personal union as a before and after experience in the individual temporally and ontologically. There will be those who never knew Christ on the last day. There are sheep and there are goats and the sheep have heard the voice of the Shepherd. If it were true that all were made sheep in Christ then this parable would not hold true and neither would there be the experience of walking in darkness and then coming into the light. This teaching is therefore inconsistent with experience although this does not automatically make it wrong. What is problematic i think also is the way language which is being used that seems familiar and biblical at first hearing but is shaped in such a way so as to run contrary to many commonly accepted notions of what the language means. Again this does not mean that the teaching is untrue either. What we have to decide is whether the reshaping of the language of Scripture toward a less familiar narrative actually holds true and is what the biblical writers wished to communicate. I believe there is a way to preserve the vicarious humanity of Jesus without taking away the lived experience of the cross in the individual life and the personal transition from darkness to light through being ontologically united to Jesus in the Spirit and transformed personally to a place of union with Christ which is the appropriation of the unity which he accomplishes on the cross but also as an outworking of the finished work on day 7. This differs i think from what has been presented but would be interested to see if others agree or could help reconcile this apparent problem.

  5. This is a great point of view of the atonement. It is fresh air that Reformed theology really needs. The atonement was never an issue, until Theodore Beza stated that Christ die not die for all, which contradicts not only what the vast majority of the early Reformers taught but even what Calvin himself taught. Let's face it I never heard a dispute between followers of Calvin and followers of Luther until Theodore Beza. The Heidelberg Catechism does not teach limited atonement (though it teaches double predestination) anywhere, and clearly Arminius himself stated he had no major issues with the Heidelberg Catechism. It is the Dort / Westminster Confession that introduced 5-point calvinism, something Calvin never taught (in particular the L of TULIP was never affirmed by Calvin). I am glad to see a Reformed position that teaches unlimited atonement. With that being said, I have some concerns with Barth position that the whole world was reconciled to God, because reconciliation requires both parties to be reconciled. That God in his Son effected the reconciliation of the entire world is in my view a misrepresentation of 2 Corinthians 5:18 which clearly refers to believers in Christ. If we read the prior verse 2 Corinthians 5:17 it is clear that Paul talks about those being in Christ (believers) as new creations that were reconciled in 2 Corinthians 5:18. The letter to the Corinthians is clearly addressed to the Church in Corinth, i.e. to believers. To imply all the unbaptized and unrepentant have been reconciled to God by Christ is going beyond what Scripture teaches. The reconciliation referred to in 2 Corinthians 5:18 clearly presupposes faith. Scripture interprets scripture, all we have to do is look at a similar verse and see what Paul says, and the closest verse I found is Colossians 1 verses 21 to 23, where Paul tells them that they were reconciled by Christ's blood "if you continue in the faith grounded and settled" (v.23). It is clear that the reconciliation that God worked at the cross, assumes faith is present, otherwise we remain un-reconciled and enemies of Christ. In Romans 3:25 the King James version summarizes Christ perfectly "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past". As everybody can see Christ death on the cross was a propitiation for sin through faith in his blood, the atoning work of Christ did not propitiate sins without faith, neither did it reconcile anybody without faith. The problem with the entirety of the work of Karl Barth is that he develop a theory of the atonement that reconciled the entire world, as if the entire world were in Christ, when in fact solely those that are in the faith are in a state of reconciliation with God, the rest are under God's wrath. This has been the biblical understanding of Christianity for centuries, until Karl Barth came on the scene. Now I have to be fair and recognize that there is one piece of scripture that is puzzling in Romans 9 verses 9 to 11 where it says before they were even born, Jacob have I loved, Esau have I hated and before they have done anything good or bad. Certainly this passage seems difficult to understand since it appears that God loved Jacob before he was converted, while other passages in scripture seem to teach that we are all enemies of God until we are converted. Again this passage can only be interpreted that the love for Jacob is based on foreseen faith, i.e. that God will call and convert Jacob who was predestined by God for salvation. Regardless, Barth failed to understand that the atonement of Christ, reconciliation, the love of God, all three presuppose faith, God does not love anybody outside of union with Christ or future union with Christ (if the sinner has not been converted yet). Romans 3:25 is decisive that the propitiation for sin is through faith in his blood, and not based solely on Christ's work on the cross which leads Barth to erroneously conclude that God is reconciled to the entirety of the sinner's population regardless whether they come to faith or not. This in my view is a faulty understanding of the scriptures.

  6. I'm Reformed, and I must say, I don't really see how Barthianism provides any real alternative to the Calvinist or Arminian positions on human agency. At the end of the day, does salvation come from divine election or our own decision? I can't discern an answer to this in Barth, but perhaps this muddiness is intentional on his part. In Barth's view, all humanity is reconciled to God through Christ, just as in Adam all sinned I presume, but ultimately some will be cast into Hell, so how can we truly say they were reconciled to God? This is still limited atonement, in the sense that although Christ's sacrifice was sufficient to save every individual, it will not effectively be applied to every individual.

    In short, I think Barthianism is interesting, and I applaud it for trying to create a space to reconcile the theologies of Reformed and Arminian brothers in Christ. I just question if it actually accomplishes anything, or if it just creates a gray area where sharp distinctions (the Dordtian and Remonstrant "points") are simply dulled?

  7. Barth sounds a bit Lutheran, which isn't surprising since he's from the Conintental Reformed tradition that was always more interested in the ordinary means of grace than in individualistic religion.

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