Every now and then I like to reflect on where I am at, relative to various points of doctrine. This will be one of those posts. In this post I am going to be reflecting on my salvation view, rather stream of conscience.
From the outset I would say that my view of election fits best within the framing provided by a tradition reflected within the Scottish Reformed perspective, with a bit of Karl Barth’s view thrown in. In fact this is where I have some tension in my soteriology. The reason I like Barth is because of his christocentrism in regards to election, but the reason I like the ‘Scots’ (some of them) is because of their evangelicalism. In other words, for me, some of Barth’s stuff comes off less than ‘winsome’, and instead I, at points, walk away from him with a feeling like, “wow, Barth is brilliant, but what did he just say[?]”. To clarify further (told you, stream of conscience), it seems like his views are highly abstract, and way way up on the ‘top shelf’; so that what he is saying, like I said, is brilliant (and maybe even sound), but not necessarily appealing—maybe because I am just more simple than that.
As far as the ‘Scots’ they offer a soteriology that, to me, seems more geared for the laity (the thinking laity that is). Like Barth, and even Calvin (at points) they share a belief in ‘universal election’, but their parsing of this is more overtly ‘particularized’—unlike Barth. They stress an ontological incarnational model (drawn from some patristics), so that they see the incarnation itself imbued with ‘redemptive’ shape; which is contrariwise to the English-Federal Calvinists who emphasized the ‘cross’ as the apex of the incarnation, and thus the redemptive event. Furthermore the Scottish view runs sideways from English Calvinism, in the sense that the ‘English’ (some of them, not Sibbes) model (the one Westminster gave us) emphasizes a legal-forensic-juridical viewpoint—thus their emphasis on the cross as ‘justice’—which is very ‘law-based’, and thus emphasizes the “external-behavioral” problems of sin. The ‘Scots’ on the other hand, given their ontological incarnational perspective, looked at the issue and problem of sin much deeper; that is, they realized that redemption is not just a ‘legal-transaction’ (outward view), but that the real problem of sin is one of the heart—and thus our whole being is in need of apocalyptic reorientation.
Consequently the ‘Scots’ view lends itself much more smoothly toward a relational-trinitarian-gospel oriented salvation viewpoint; versus the more rigid-contractual-monadic-law shaped perspective offered by ‘Dordrecht’ (the Westminster divines). I would be remiss if I did not mention the influence that Affective Theology has had on me, a la Richard Sibbes (thanks Ron), and others. In fact the framing that ‘Affective Theology’ has is much more attuned, and more scripturally based, than the legal-contractual construct that ‘Calvinism’ provides, in my view (albeit I do believe that there is a ‘legal’ component to salvation, but I don’t believe it is the primary frame provided by scripture). Affective theology goes to passages like Ephesians 5, and picks up on the marriage framework as the best way to talk about our relationship with Christ (I won’t try to elaborate on that here). I think this is the best way forward here.
So let me summarize my rambling. I like the Scot’s emphasis on universal election, their stress on an ‘ontological incarnation’; I like Barth just because he is Barth, and offers some tempering for me. I like Affective Theology, primarily because of its relational tone (trinitarian), and its ‘marriage framework’ towards thinking about salvation (at a macro, covenantal level).
As far as election, and here is where Barth brings some helpful temperment, and conceptual framing for me; I like his thoughts on Christ as both the object and subject of election, so that Jesus is both the electing God, and the elected God—being both election and reprobation for us. Barth never was able to parse out his view, in regards to ‘personal salvation’ (which was secondary, methodologically, for him). Ultimately, the way it sits, I think it lends itself, logically, to ‘universalism’ (i.e. all humanity ultimately will be ‘glorified’). This is where the ‘Scots’ are helpful for me, at this point I part ways with Barth, and simply ‘plug in’ (not really that simple) the Scots, who didn’t, necessarily see a logico-causal relationship between election, the atonement, and salvation. Negatively put, the Federal-English-Calvinist sees a decree that separates the elect from the reprobate (you know, [U]nconditional Election –>[L]imited Atonement, all that jazz) in eternity, so that Christ only, and particularly, died for the elect, and not the reprobate—thus the elect WILL BELIEVE (so [I]rresistable Grace, and [P]erseverance of the Saints—I forgot the [T]otal Depravity). So this makes me supralapsarian, in regards to election, albeit qualified by Barth, and then some of the ‘Scots’.
Okay, I could could keep going, but I better stop, ‘my stream’ is running shallow at this point 😉 !
Here’s a one line encapsulation of my salvation view: “whoever calls on the name of the LORD will be saved!”