Bruce McCormack provides analysis and articulation on Karl Barth’s view on election, and the corrective his view provides for the extra Calvinisticum and the relegating of Christ, or better subordination of Christ to the decretum or decrees of God; typically found in John Calvin and the rest of the “classically Reformed tradition.” Lets here from McCormack on Barth, and in closing I will provide a brief response:

Barth’s claim that Jesus Christ is the Subject of election carried with it a massive correction of the classical Reformed doctrine of predestination. For classical Reformed theology, the decree to elect some human beings and to reject others (i.e. election and reprobation) precedes the decree to effect election through the provision of a Mediator (viz. Jesus Christ). But if this logic holds, then what it means is that who or what the Logos is in and for himself (as the Subject of election) is not controlled by the decision to become Mediator in time; that the identity of this Logos is, in fact, already established prior to that eternal act of Self-determination by means of which the Logos became the Logos incarnandus. And if all that were true, then the decision to assume flesh in time could only result in something being added to that already completed identity; an addition which has no effect upon what he is essentially. Being the Redeemer, in this view, tells us nothing about who or what the Logos is in and for himself. It is merely a role he plays, something he does; but what he does in time has no significance for his eternal being. The question which such a view raises in dramatic form is: how coherent can one’s affirmation of the deity of Jesus Christ be if his being as Mediator is only accidentally related to what he is as Logos in and for himself? Is Jesus Christ ‘fully God’ or not? (John Webster, ed., “The Cambridge Companion to Karl Barth: Chpt. 6 Grace and Being [Bruce McCormack],” 97)

In other words, the problem for the classical Calvinist is that your articulation on election, decrees, and salvation flows from an apparently incoherent Christology. If Jesus’ incarnation was “in response” to the decree of the ‘Fall’, and not “in response” to who He already was, in eternity, in His relationship to the Father, and Spirit; then who Jesus was in time and space was not essentially tied to who God really is in His ‘eternal form’. In this situation Jesus’ incarnation is not a result of His own Self-determination as God, but of a predetermination shaped by the decree of election. In this sense Jesus would only be an ACTOR not necessarily disclosing who God is, but instead meeting the preconditions set by the determination of election; which He simply follows as a script.

The primary problem that this sets, is that this view of election creates a rift between the Logos who is Deus incarnandus and Deus incarnantus (viz. “the God who is ‘to be’ incarnate” & “the God who became incarnate”), in other words who we see revealed in time, in Jesus of Nazareth, is not necessarily the same God in eternity; so in fact the Logos asarkos (the Word/Jesus without flesh in eternity) was not really, in His being, ever intended to be incarnate—thus the consequence, when we get to the Logos ensarkos (the Word/Jesus with flesh in time/space), we end up with a God man who has necessarily “changed” by “adding” something to His essential nature that prior to the decree of election was never part of who He Self-determined Himself to be within the intra-trinitarian relationship.

Anyway the challenge to the classical Calvinist, is how to overcome this conundrum while still maintaining your current ordo decretum (order of the decrees); and avoiding the implication of presenting an “accidental Jesus” in time and space (who is determined to be who He is by the decree of election, instead of His own Self-determination in eternity).

(repost)

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