I am going to provide three posts in a row on Karl Barth’s view of election; all three are second hand commentary, either describing his view, and/or synthesizing his view with a little critique thrown in for good measure.
Here at TEC, I am an advocate for Barth’s framing of election (but not without some helpful nuancing provided by the Scot’s Confession; which I have been introduced to through T. F. Torrance — I will be talking about this in much more detail, probably in my next postings [I will be appealing to an article by Myk Habets to make some of my points]), and thus I think this is important to describe in order for you to know where I am coming from. Some folks who I think fit within the “Evangelical Calvinist” camp (like Ron Frost), follow a more classically framed view of election (i.e. from the infralapsarian and hypothetical universalist side of things); I will have to try and nuance why I think some of these folks still fit within the “Evangelical” camp, at a later date.
You may want to read Holmes introduction first (before this one):
Here is a good reflection and assimilation of Barth’s view on the extent of the atonement (and other things):
With Barth I hold that through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross and his glorious resurrection from the grave the human situation has been irrevocably altered. The powers of sin, death, and hell have been decisively vanquished, though they continue to resist the advance of the kingdom of God through the power of the lie. All people of, irrespective of their moral and spiritual state, are claimed for the kingdom, but only some respond in faith and obedience. Christ has reconciled and justified the whole human race but in principle (de jure), not in fact (de facto) except for those who believe. All are heirs to the kingdom, but not all become members of the church of Christ. The treasure in the field is there for all, but only those benefit who give up everything to attain it (Mt 13:44). The gates of the prison in which we find ourselves are now open, but only those who rise up and walk through these gates to freedom are truly free.
. . . Predestination is not something finalized in the past but something realized in the present and consummated in the future. We can resist and deny our predestination, but we cannot permanently thwart the stream of God’s irresistable grace. We will ultimately be brought into submission, though not necessarily into salvation. Yet predestination means life even though we may choose death. Predestination does not necessarily eventuate in fellowship with Christ, but it does mean that every person is brought into inescapable relatedness to Christ. . . . (Donald Bloesch,” Jesus Christ: Savior & Lord, 169)
Just a few points. This view on election, the extent of the atonement, and predestination certainly spins the classical understanding of such things; and I think ‘spins’ it in a way that is much more faithful to the ‘evangelical’ categories found in scripture. It makes Jesus the center of election and reprobation. It assumes that Jesus is ‘real humanity’, both in its ‘reprobate’ state, as well as its ‘elect’. Jesus becomes man’s “reprobation” at the cross, as He also becomes the “elect” at the resurrection (and logically before). All humanity, in this view is ‘elect’, objectively, as they are represented by what Christ did for all of them at the cross; now ‘elect’ humanity must choose to recognize their new status as reconciled through Christ unto the Father by the Holy Spirit (see II Cor. 5), or not!