The following is Stephen Holmes describing an account of Karl Barth’s view of election. I am going to simply quote Holmes on Barth, and later, when I have time, I will interact with some of the strengths and weaknesses provided by Barth’s viewpoint (for the most part I see strengths). As you read this account you will note that Barth basically re-works some of the classical theistic/Reformed categories on double-predestination, and ends up with a more faithful Christocentric focus, in my view. Anyway here is Holmes on Barth:
Famously, Barth will discuss the election of particular human beings only after considering the election of the community in its twofold form, Israel and the Church. In willing to be gracious in the particular way God in fact wills to be gracious, the Incarnation of the Divine Son, there is both a ‘Yes’ and a ‘No’, election and reprobation. God elects for humanity life, salvation, forgiveness, hope; for himself he elects death, perdition, even as the Creed has said, hell. This self-reprobation of God is indeed the primary referent of the doctrine of election, in that God’s determination of himself is formally if not materially more basic than his determination of the creature, and so is considered first by Barth. In the eternal election of grace, which is to say in Jesus Christ, God surrenders his own impassibility, embraces the darkness that he was without—and indeed impervious to—until he willed that it should be otherwise. ‘He declared Himself guilty of the contradiction against Himself in which man was involved . . . He made Himself the object of the wrath and judgment to which man had brought himself . . . He took upon Himself the rejection which man had deserved. So says Barth. The apostle put it more succinctly: ‘He became sin for us.’ This is the full content of the divine judgment, of the ‘No’ that is spoken over the evil of the world and of human beings. God elects for himself the consequences of that ‘No’, in saying ‘Yes’ to, that is, in electing, us. That is the whole content of the double decree, the whole content of the ‘Yes’ and the ‘No’ that God pronounces as one word, the whole content the election of grace.
What of our election? We are elected ‘in him’, but not immediately. Our election in Chirst is mediated by the elect community. There is here a high ecclesiology: the Church is not the post factum conglomeration—or even communion—of those who have been elected in Christ; rather, there is a historical community which forms the context for the particular environment of Jesus Christ, and as such is called to witness to him. Just as the single election of Jesus Christ has a twofold form, a ‘Yes’ and a ‘No’, so the single elect community presents a double aspect. Jesus Christ is both the Messiah of Israel and the Lord of the Church, thus the elect community, the body of Christ, is both Israel, which handed over its Messiah to the Gentiles to be crucified, and the Church, which received its risen Lord from the dead. In the one aspect the single elect community thus witnesses to human rejection of God’s election, and in its other aspect it witnesses to God’s rejection of this human rejection, to God’s election of humanity. The one aspect is the community in its passing form, the other the community in its coming form. Israel and the Church are until the eschaton bound together in the one community which exists between these two poles, witnessing to the world both the state of human disobedience and the divine mercy which refuses to accept that state. (Stephen Holmes, “Listening to the Past,” 132-33)
He is advocating a universalism of sorts; in the sense that Christ takes the sins of all humanity upon Himself, thus the objective nature of the atonement applies to all humanity, while the subjective realization of the atonement can be “rejected” by an individual or community. I am not sure if Barth believed that an individual had to “subjectively” recognize their election in Christ in order to be “eternally saved”; to be clear I do believe that an person must “subjectivize” the atonement for themselves, and cease their “rejection” of election in Christ—if not then I do not believe that “elect person” will end up in Heaven.
I think this view of election is a better and more biblical way forward than the typical frame offered by Classically Reformed views of ‘double-predestination’. I think Barth’s perspective, by way of method, is much more astute by placing Christ and the life of God at the center of the discussion on ‘election’. This is contrary to the position the typical double predestinarian understanding which speaks of humanity, apart from Christ, as the ‘center’ of election — which gives us an ‘man-centered’ understanding. T. F. Torrance tweaks Barth’s view a little further, and I am more in line with his appropriation of Barth here — i.e. Torrance avoids the “universalist” implications of Barth’s view of election (I’ll have to try and flesh that out later).
Anyway, I just wanted to provide this alternative understanding of ‘election’, I think it might be enlightening for some; even if you disagree with it 🙂 .