Written By Thomas Perez. December 1, 2010 at 9:53PM. Copyright 2010
In our previous study we found ourselves asking the question; “Therefore what is one to make of all this?” Perhaps, we need to look at some outside resources, other than the Holy Scriptures. As one can look outside the Scriptures (secular sources, historical quotes, etc) in reference to the validity of Christ and His Gospels, one can also look at some of the rejected material deemed unworthy of Canonical acceptance as judged by the early Christian Church.
One should not be surprised to know that they are many books that were and are not considered worthy by the Church. Such issues were judged and discussed already in various universities, books, debates, and local churches. Therefore, the authenticity of such esoteric writings will not be discussed here. Moreover, to discuss ancient esoteric texts such as the ‘Pseudepigrapha,’ some of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Kabbalah, the Nag Hammadi, and other sources is to deviant from our topic (soteriology) and lose focus. While the established Church rejected such books; certain texts, quotations, and chapters, nevertheless, remain topics of discussion and debate today.
Why did the Church reject certain material? And furthermore, why would the Church reject certain books; especially books that make reference to universal reconciliation? While we know the traditional mainstream answer to the questions posed above, most of us know very little about the very books that we criticize and reject. Moreover, when we examine the similarities of Jude, II Peter, Enoch, and the Apocalypse of Peter, the evidence pertaining to universal reconciliation followed by punitive judgment is astonishingly apparent and similar. They are similar in most respects; for Jude himself quotes from Enoch (Jude 13-15). This can only mean that at some point, the Apostles themselves considered the writings of Enoch similar to their own doctrines. Yetagain, as mentioned before; such question cannot be discussed here, for it is far to extensive.
However, I do consider it necessary to make mention of three notable contenders for the purpose of this study; the APOCALYPSE OF PETER, and SECOND BOOK OF THE SIBYLLINE ORACLES, 190-338 and the BOOK OF ENOCH. We begin with the Apocalypse of Peter. The following is taken from the Apocalypse of Peter “The Apocryphal New Testament” M.R. James-Translation and Notes Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924:
‘Peter opened his mouth and said to me: Hearken, my son Clement, God created all things for his glory,’ and this proposition is dwelt upon. The glory of those who duly praise God is described in terms borrowed from the Apocalypse: ‘The Son at his coming will raise the dead…and will make my righteous ones shine seven times more than the sun, and will make their crowns shine like crystal and like the rainbow in the time of rain (crowns) which are perfumed with nard and cannot be contemplated (adorned) with rubies, with the color of emeralds shining brightly, with topazes, gems, and yellow pearls that shine like the stars of heaven, and like the rays of the sun, sparkling which cannot be gazed upon.’ Again, of the angels: ‘ Their faces shine more than the sun; their crowns are as the rainbow in the time of rain. (They are perfumed) with nard. Their eyes shine like the morning star. The beauty of their appearance cannot be expressed. Their raiment is not woven, but white as that of the fuller, according as I saw on the mountain where Moses and Elias were. Our Lord showed at the transfiguration the apparel of the last days, of the day of resurrection, unto Peter, James and John the sons of Zebedee, and a bright cloud overshadowed us, and we heard the voice of the Father saying unto us: This is my Son whom I love and in whom I am well pleased: hear him. And being afraid we forget all the things of this life and of the flesh, and knew not what we said because of the greatness of the wonder of that day, and of the mountain whereon he showed us the second coming in the kingdom that passeth not away.’
Next: ‘The Father hath committed all judgment unto the Son.’ The destiny of sinners – their eternal doom – is more than Peter can endure: he appeals to Christ to have pity on them.
And my Lord answered me and said to me: ‘Hast thou understood that which I said unto thee before? It is permitted unto thee to know that concerning which thou askest: but thou must not tell that which thou hearest unto the sinners lest they transgress the more, and sin.’ Peter weeps many hours, and is at last consoled by an answer which, though exceedingly diffuse and vague does seem to promise ultimate pardon for all: ‘My Father will give unto them all the life, the glory, and the kingdom that passeth not away,’…’It is because of them that have believed in me that I am come. It is also because of them that have believed in me, that, at their word, I shall have pity on men.’ The doctrine that sinners will be saved at last by the prayers of the righteous is, rather obscurely, enunciated in the Second Book of the Sibylline Oracles (a paraphrase, in this part, of the Apocalypse), and in the (Coptic) Apocalypse of Elias.
Ultimately Peter orders Clement to hide this revelation in a box, that foolish men may not see it. The passage in the Second Book of the Sibylline Oracles which seems to point to the ultimate salvation of all sinners will be found in the last lines of the translation given below.
The passage in the Coptic Apocalypse of Elias is guarded and obscure in expression, but significant. It begins with a sentence which has a parallel in Peter.
The righteous will behold the sinners in their punishment, and those who have persecuted them and delivered them up. Then will the sinners on their part behold the place of the righteous and be partakers of grace. In that day will that for which the (righteous) shall often pray, be granted to them.
That is, as I take it, the salvation of sinners will be granted at the prayer of the righteous.
Compare also the Epistle of the Apostles, 40: ‘the righteous are sorry for the sinners, and pray for them.…“And I will hearken unto the prayer of the righteous which they make for them.”
I would add that the author of the Acts of Paul, who (in the Third Epistle to the Corinthians and elsewhere) betrays a knowledge of the Apocalypse of Peter, makes Falconilla, the deceased daughter of Tryphaena, speak of Thecla’s praying for her that she may be translated unto the place of the righteous (Thecla episode, 28). My impression is that the maker of the Ethiopic version (or of its Arabic parent, or of another ancestor) has designedly omitted or slurred over some clauses in the passage beginning: ‘Then will I give unto mine elect’, and that in his very diffuse and obscure appendix to the Apocalypse, he has tried to break the dangerous doctrine of the ultimate salvation of sinners gently to his readers. But when the Arabic version of the Apocalypse is before us in the promised edition of MM. Griveau and Grebaut, we shall have better means of deciding.
The following quotes are take from The Oracles, 190-338…
190 Woe unto all them that are found great with child in that day, and to them that give suck to infant children, and to them that dwell by the sea (the waves). Woe to them that shall behold that day. For a dark mist shall cover the boundless world, of the east and west, the south and north. And then shall a great river of flaming fire flow from heaven and consume all places, the earth and the great ocean and the grey sea, lakes and rivers and fountains, and merciless
200 Hades and the pole of heaven: but the lights of heaven shall melt together in one and into a void (desolate) shape (?). For the stars shall all fall from heaven into the sea (?), and all souls of men shall gnash their teeth as they burn in the river of brimstone and the rush of the fire in the blazing plain, and ashes shall cover all things. And then shall all the elements of the world be laid waste, air, earth, sea, light poles, days and nights, and no more shall the multitudes of birds fly in the air nor swimming creatures any more swim the sea no ship shall sail with its cargo over the waves;
210 No straight-going oxen shall plough the tilled land; there shall be no more sound of swift winds, but he shall fuse all things together into one, and purge them clean.
214 Now when the immortal angels of the undying God Barakiel, Ramiel, Uriel, Samiel, and Azael, [These names are from Enoch.] knowing all the evil deeds that any hath wrought aforetime -then out of the misty darkness they shall bring all the souls of men to judgment, unto the seat of God the immortal, the great.
220 For he only is incorruptible, himself the Almighty, who shall be the judge of mortal men. And then unto them of the underworld shall the heavenly one give their souls and spirit and speech, and their bones joined together, with all the joints, and the flesh and sinews and veins, and skin also over the flesh, and hair as before, and the bodies of the dwellers upon earth shall be moved and arise in one day, joined together in immortal fashion and breathing. Then shall the great angel Uriel break the monstrous bars framed of unyielding and unbroken adamant, of the brazen
230 gates of Hades, and cast them down straightway, and bring forth to judgment all the sorrowful forms, yea, of the ghosts of the ancient Titans, and of the giants, and all whom the flood overtook. And all whom the wave of the sea hath destroyed in the waters, and all whom beasts and creeping things and fowls have feasted on: all these shall he bring to the judgment seat; and again those whom flesh-devouring fire hath consumed in the flames, them also shall he gather and set before God’s seat. And when he shall overcome fate and raise the dead, then shall Adonai Sabaoth the high thunderer sit on his heavenly seat.
240 throne, and set up the great pillar, and Christ himself, the undying unto the undying, shall come in the clouds in glory with the pure angels, and shall sit on the seat on the right of the Great One, judging the life of the godly and the walk of ungodly men. And Moses also the great, the friend of the Most High shall come, clad in flesh, and the great Abraham himself shall come, and Isaac and Jacob, Jesus, Daniel, Elias, Ambacum (Habakkuk), and Jonas, and they whom the Hebrews slew: and all the Hebrews that were with (after ?) Jeremias shall be judged at the judgment seat, and he shall destroy them, that they may receive a due reward and expiate all that they did in their mortal life.
And then shall all men pass through a blazing river and unquenchable flame, and the righteous shall be saved whole all of them, but the ungodly shall perish therein unto all ages, even as many as wrought evil aforetime, and committed murders, and all that were privy thereto, liars, thieves, deceivers, cruel destroyers of houses, gluttons, marriers by stealth, shedders of evil rumors, sorely insolent lawless, idolaters: and all that forsook the great immortal God and became blasphemers and harmers of the godly, breakers of faith and destroyers of righteous men.
And all that look with guileful and shameless double faces – reverend priests and deacons – and judge unjustly, dealing perversely, obeying false rumors…more deadly than leopards and wolves, and very evil: and all that are high-minded, and usurers that heap up in their houses usury out of usury and injure orphans and widows continually: and they that give alms of unjust gain unto widows and orphans, and they that when they give alms of their own toil, reproach them; and they that have forsaken their parents in their old age and not repaid them at all, nor recompensed them for their nurture; yea, and they that have disobeyed and spoken hard words against their parents: they also that have received pledges and denied them, and servants that have turned against their masters; and again they which have defiled their flesh in lasciviousness, and have loosed the girdle of virginity in secret union, and they that make the child in the womb miscarry, and that cast out their offspring against right: sorcerers also and sorceresses with these shall the wrath of the heavenly and immortal God bring near unto the pillar, all round about which the untiring river of fire shall flow. And all of them shall the undying angels of the immortal everlasting God chastise terribly with flaming scourges, and shall bind them fast from above in fiery chains, bonds unbreakable.
And then shall they cast them down in the darkness of night into Gehenna among the beasts of hell, many and frightful, where is darkness without measure. And when they have dealt out many torments unto all whose heart was evil, thereafter out of the great river shall a wheel of fire encompass them, because they devised wicked works. And then shall they lament apart every one from another in miserable fate, fathers and infant children, mothers and suckling’s weeping, nor shall they be sated with tears nor shall the voice of them that mourn piteously apart be heard; but far under dark and squalid Tartarus shall they cry in torment, and in no holy place shall they abide and expiate threefold every evil deed that they have done, burning in a great flame; and shall gnash their teeth, all of them worn out with fierce thirst and hunger (al. force violence), and shall call death lovely and it shall flee from them: for no more shall death nor night give them rest, and oft-times shall they beseech in vain the Almighty God, and then shall he openly turn away his face from them. For he hath granted the limit of seven ages for repentance unto men that err, by the hand of a pure virgin.
But the residue which have cared for justice and good deeds, yea, and godliness and righteous thoughts, shall angels bear up and carry through the flaming river unto light, and life without care, where is the immortal path of the great God; and three fountains, of wine and honey and milk. And the earth, common to all, not parted out with walls or fences, shall then bring forth of her own accord much fruit, and life and wealth shall be common and undistributed. For there shall be no poor man, nor rich, nor tyrant, nor slave, none great nor small any longer, no kings, no princes; but all men shall be together in common. And no more shall any man say ‘ night is come ‘, nor ‘ the morrow ‘, nor ‘ it was yesterday ‘. He maketh no more of days, nor of spring, nor winter, nor summer, nor autumn, neither marriage, nor death, nor selling, nor buying, nor set of sun, nor rising. For God shall make one long day.
And unto them, the godly, shall the almighty and immortal God grant another boon, when they shall ask it of him. He shall grant them to save men out of the fierce fire and the eternal gnashing of teeth: and this will he do, for he will gather them again out of the everlasting flame and remove them else whither, sending them for the sake of his people unto another life eternal and immortal, in the Elysian plain where are the long waves of the Acherusian lake exhaustless and deep bosomed.
Another example of universal reconciliation is found within the writings of Enoch. According to the book of Enoch; Enoch is taken into Heaven, a place where the righteous receive their reward according to their deeds. Similarly, Enoch is also taken to a terrible place, a place of judgment, sorrow, misery, and pain. When I read of Enoch’s account pertaining to what he saw, I think of many things; two in particular, the story of the rich man and Lazarus and how thrilled mainstream Christianity should be when reading of such awful consequences with regards to the unrighteous. Therefore, in most respects they should include it within the Canon, yet they didn’t. Why?
Perhaps the answer to that question lies in history, history that goes back to the 3rd and 4th centuries; when counsels, and bishops decided what is truly Canon/Biblical or inspired and what is of no use as seen according to the status quo of that time. One needs to only do the research in reference to what the Apostles, post Apostolic fathers, and Apostolic defenders of the faith, in general, believed and practiced. And upon doing so, we will discover that many of them disagreed as to what should be in or out of the Canon. Many of the Apostolic fathers disagreed with many books that we consider today as inspired. Such books included James, Revelation, Luke, and Mark. Some favored the Apocalypse of Peter over John’s apocalypse. While yet others favored the book of Enoch and some of the Oracles of Elias.
Perhaps, these books were rejected, certainly not because of the gloom and disdain that will fall upon evil men; but possibly because of the happy outcome of such individuals at the end of the age’s – for it is within these books that the idea of ultimate reconciliation can be found. Moreover, when we compare them with the received Canon, men that see, can see the same story – ultimate reconciliation, where God is all and in all!
Such happiness can be found in Enoch’s book called 1Enoch. Seeing the bliss of the righteous and the misery of the sinner, God reveals two ages. One age is in reference to judgment of both the elect and the sinner, while the other age speaks of unlimited atonement – (as opposed to Calvin’s 3rd supposition, limited atonement) – and happiness for the sinner, whom God now calls – The Children of Goodness. They are called good as in His creation. They are deemed good, not of themselves, but of the mercies of God and His Christ…In other words God wills it and deems it so, thus calling the sinner good as He did once pertaining to all things He created. He purges them. It is not salvation per se, as we know it, it is reconciliation – it is making things right – things not covered in the blood of Christ is now made whole through the fire, as one passing through. For this is their salvation, so to speak.
There seems to be no way around the classic teaching of ultimate reconciliation. It indeed provides reasonable doubt pertaining to the status quo and at the same time triggers all to re-examine the Scriptures overall message of ultimate reconciliation. To call such a viewpoint heretical is to deny early accepted Christian truth and tradition. As mentioned before, four out of six theological schools of thought from the 2nd to the 4th centuries; the belief of Universal Reconciliation was recognized as a popular school of thought. However, history would have it muzzled by the hand of the Caesar, now called the supreme Pontiff/Pope or Bishop. This brute muzzle ushered in what is known in history as ‘the Dark Ages’.
CONCLUSION AND SUMMERY
Thus far we have read suppositions, responses, and rebuttals, yet we have only began to scratch the surface pertaining to the mind and purposeful plans of God. Yet in all this, we believe as St. Paul said, “For we shall see Him as He is.” All things will be revealed onto us eventually. Yet, I believe that we are not permitted to know the ‘why‘, but only the ‘ who.’ John Calvin wrestled with the thought of the ‘who’, and in so doing developed his theology on predestination and election in order to help him explain, “why some individuals respond to the gospel, and others do not.” The only logical explanation for Calvin, was that God must have predetermined and chosen individuals to respond and not have chosen others. This would develop into the Calvinist concept of double predestination, which Calvin defined as, “the eternal decree of God, by which he determined what he wished to make of every person. For he does not create everyone in the same condition, but ordains (elects) eternal life for some and eternal damnation for others.” Calvin goes on to affirm that in scripture God is said to have elect or have, “ordained from eternity those whom he wills to embrace in love, and those upon whom he wills to vent his wrath.” Recognizing the implications and how this decree of God sounds, Calvin himself writes that it is a “horrible decree.”
The followers of Calvin established a five-point doctrine on election, at the Synod of Dort in 1618. The five points of Calvinism are more commonly known by the acronym TULIP. It stands for the: Total depravity of sinful human nature, in that sinful man is unable to do anything to obtain salvation; Unconditional election, God’s sovereign choice of only certain individuals to salvation, the elect, that is not based on a person’s merit or foreseen faith; Limited atonement, in that Christ’s redeeming work is only for the elect, therefore the positive effects of the cross only apply to the elect; Irresistible grace, by which the elect are infallibly called and redeemed; and Perseverance of saints, in that those who are truly elect by God cannot in any way defect from that calling. All five of theses points are founded upon the Calvinist view of the sovereignty of God. Since Calvin stressed the absolute sovereignty of God, he attributed all of election to God’s efficient will. Therefore, Calvin noted characteristics of the election in Christ.
The five points of Calvinism are therefore connected based on God’s sovereignty to unconditionally elect a limited amount of totally depraved people to election and salvation from his wrath. The sovereignty of God is the basis for the Calvinist theology of election, therefore all of salvation is of God; the whole of “salvation is from the Lord.
Though this doctrine of election was quickly accepted, it did not sit well with all. Jacob Arminius could not stand for the Calvinist doctrine of election. For he viewed this as a ‘horrible decree’ that was unworthy of God, for, “How could God be fair, he reasoned, if he condemns persons who have no opportunity to alter their situation because they are not sovereignly elected.” Against reform thinking, Jacob Arminius developed a theology of conditional salvation and general atonement. Arminius believed that Christ had died for all, that his atonement was efficient for all and not merely for the elect.
Instead of teaching the Calvinist doctrine of election, Jacob Arminius in his writing ‘Declaration of Sentiment,’ proposes his four decrees of election. First, God unconditionally elects, not certain individuals, but Jesus Christ to be the Savior of humankind, “what is unconditionally predestined is Christ or the way of salvation.” Second, God further decrees that a group of people who have faith and accept his grace will be saved, “He decreed to receive into favor those who repent and believe, and, in Christ…to effect the salvation of such penitents and believers as persevere to the end.” Unfortunately, people are totally depraved and therefore cannot believe. But this is where the third decree states that God administers prevenient grace to all people.
Prevenient grace diminishes original sin, which enables sinners to respond to the gospel, “God confers on all people grace (prevenient) sufficient for salvation; it’s up to the individual to believe or not believe, to be saved or not be saved.” Finally, God therefore in his foreknowledge decrees to elect and save individuals he foreknows will believe and punish those who will reject Him, “This decree has its foundation in the foreknowledge of God, by which he knew from all eternity those individuals who would, through preventing (prevenient) grace, believe, and through his subsequent grace would preserve.” Based on these four decrees Arminian theology believes that God’s grace is available to all, but God elects conditionally only those he foreknew would believe.
The Arminian view of predestination and election is therefore based on the theological presupposition of two wills, God’s and man’s. God’s will is that He desires for all men to be saved and come to know the truth (1 Tim 2:4), but this does not happen and though it is contrary to God’s purpose, some will never repent and therefore will perish (2 Pet. 3:9). Though God has a desire and wills all people to be saved, He also made the sovereign decision to create man with free will to make decisions. In Arminianism there is the agreement that humans have the freedom of making decisions, including accepting or rejecting Christ. Arminians believe that their strength comes from the synergy of God’s will for all to be saved, and God’s decision to allow humans free will to make decisions, including their salvation. In his theology Arminius decided to uphold God’s desire and human free will in synergy with one another as the foundation of his theology. Arminians believe that election is synergistic, “both divine grace and the human will are causes of salvation.
In this synergy, salvation is still based on God’s election. But in Arminianism God’s election is based on God’s foreknowledge of human choice. Arminians believe that God “Before he created the world, he knew-foreknew- every human decision, including those related to each individual’s salvation. As a result of this foreknowledge, ‘from all eternity; he predestined some to heaven and the rest to hell.” Arminius wrote that God’s will to save certain individuals is founded “in the foreknowledge of God, by which he knew from all eternity” who would accept his grace. It is because of the synergy of God’s will and human choice, that the theological concepts of the predestination of Christ as Saviour of humanity, who makes unlimited atonement available to humans, but conditionally elects only some to salvation, based on God’s foreknowledge of those who will accept or reject him, are connected.
In Arminianism God predetermines To give salvation to all believers, but he does not predestine certain unbelievers to become believers and the rest to remain in their unbelief. Those who accept Christ through faith do so of their own free choice. Their choice of Jesus Christ is not predestined. That choice, however, is foreknown; and as a result in choosing ones become the chosen ones, who are then predestined to receive the full blessing of salvation.
The ones who choose God, therefore become the elect. Hence atonement is unlimitedand sufficient as it is available to all through prevenient grace. But that election isconditional and therefore efficient only for those whom God elects in his foreknowledgeof those who will believe in faith. There are many scriptures that are debated between Calvinists and Arminians on election, but Ephesians 1: 3-14, is of most interest. For the Calvinist the main purpose of this scripture is that all of salvation is from the Lord, and it establishes the fact that election of those whom God will save is God’s choice. God’s election of us, ‘before the foundation of the world’ is, an election that is unconditional. But Arminians on the other hand view this text, as evidence that election is based on God’s foreknowledge of human choice, election is “based on his foreknowledge. He knows who will believe in Christ and has chosen them in Christ (Eph 1:4).
Not satisfied with either the Calvinist or Arminian approach to the doctrine of election, Karl Barth believed that a true doctrine on election must be Christologically oriented. For Karl Barth the clearest understanding of the doctrine of election lied in Jesus Christ. Barth’s thoughts on election and predestination found in ‘Church Dogmatics’, is based upon, “two central affirmations”: Jesus Christ is the electing God and Jesus Christ is the elected human being.” Like Calvinism, Barth believed in a double-predestination. But unlike Calvinism, Karl Barth held that this double predestination is found in the election of Jesus Christ. Also Barth agreed with the Arminian idea that Christ is the one who is elected, but Barth adds to this that Christ is also the elector. Barth writes, “In its simplest and most comprehensive form, the doctrine of predestination consists of the assertion that the divine predestination is the election of Jesus Christ.
But the concept of election has a double reference – to the elector and the elected To understand Barth’s theology, the person of Christ must be first understood. Barth and his follower believed that their theology followed in the footsteps of the early Church fathers. Barthians argue that their Christology is not new, but follows more or less inline with the teachings of Irenaeus, Athanasius, Cyril, the early church councils, and the doctrine of Chalcedon. As written in the Chalcedonian statement, Christ is: Truly God and also truly man…of one being with the Father as touching his Godhead and also of one being with us touching his humanity, being like unto us in all things except sin, begotten of the Father before all times according to his Godhead, and also in the last days born for our sake and for our salvation, of the virgin Mary the bearer of God according to his humanity, one and the same Christ, the Son, Lord only begotten, of two natures, without confusion, conversion, division, and without separation.
The foundation for Barthianism is that Christ is both, ‘fully God and fully man’. Following the Chalcedon document and scriptures, Barthians believe that in Christ both human and divine natures are found in hypostatic union in his person. As the scriptures show, Christ is fully God, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”, “He is the image of the invisible God”, “For in Christ all the fullness of Deity lives in bodily form”, and as Christ said himself, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” Not only in his person did God fully dwell, but also all of humanity. Scripture observes that Christ humbled himself and took on our humanity: “but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness”, “who as to his human nature was a descendant of David”, “The Word became Flesh and made his dwelling among us.”
In his person Christ not only assumed our fallen humanity, but he assumes it in such a way that humanity finds its creation and existence in Jesus, “Through him all things were made, without him nothing was made that has been made” and “by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…all things were created by him and for him…and in him all things hold together.” Christ in his person therefore represents both God and man. Not only are both present in Jesus Christ they are also united, “The Lord Jesus Christ was and is God and Man in one Person, for in him divine and human nature were and are hypostatically and forever united”. And in following the Chalcedon statement as well, Barthians believe that these two natures of Christ cannot be separated. Jesus Christ is both ‘fully God and fully man’ and these two natures in his person cannot be separated. Since the person of Christ can not be divided, than neither can the work of Christ be distinguished from the person of Christ. As the author of Hebrews writes: In brining many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers…Since children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death.”
Karl Barth believed that the person of Christ could not be separate from his work, since Christ represents both God and man in his incarnation and his atonement. Since the person of Christ cannot be separated the range of representation in both the incarnation and the atonement are the same. It is because Christ is ‘fully God and fully man’ that he is able to represent and redeem all, “ For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross…But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight” Thomas Torrance, a pupil of Barth, writes: Atonement and incarnation, however, cannot be separated from one another and therefore the range of representation is the same in both. In both, all people are involved. In the incarnation Christ, the eternal Son, took upon the nature of man and all who belong to human nature are involved and are represented, all men and women, without exception, so that for all and each, Jesus Christ stood in as a substitute and advocate in his life and death.
God’s predestination and election therefore takes places in the complete deity andhumanity of Christ. Being both God and man, Christ is therefore the elector and theelected. It is because of this election that Barthians view what Paul writes in Ephesians, as speaking not just to the limited elect, or just those God foreknew would believe, but instead see this scripture as speaking to all who are elected in Jesus Christ, which is all who belong to humanity: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ…In him we have redemption though his blood, the forgiveness of sins…And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ…to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.
The election, which can only take place in Christ, as he is both the elector and the elected, still has a double-predestination in Barthianism. For Barth this double-predestination of election and rejection happens within Christ, “But for Barth double-predestination does not refer to a dual determination of humans but to Jesus Christ, who is the one ‘elect and reprobate man.’ For Barthians election means: Nothing more and nothing less than the complete action of God’s eternal love…It is the eternal decision of God who will not be without us entering time as grace, choosing us and appropriating us for Himself, and who will not let us go. Election is the love of God enacted and inserted into history in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, so that in the strictest sense Jesus Christ is the election of God. His is the one and indivisible act of divine love. There is therefore no decree of predestination which precedes this act of grace or goes behind the back of Jesus Christ, for that would be to split the act of God into two, and to divide Christ from God. Christ is therefore the elected and rejected man, in double-predestination. For it is God himself who bears ours sins, “God becomes man and taking man’s place, standing with humanity under divine judgment, God the judge becoming himself the man judged and bearing his own judgment upon the sin of humanity”.
God elects to take humanity’s sin and judgment upon himself, for he desires for the whole world to be redeem, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only ours but also for the sins of the whole world” and “This is good and it’s acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth. For, there is one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all.” Christ took our punishment on himself, for it is God’s nature to love the whole world, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Unlike Calvinism, Barthians believe that to limit the atonement is to limit the range of the nature, being, and love of God.
The Calvinist might say that God loves all humanity, “but that for them is another thing than to say that Christ died for all humanity. Christ’s love for all mankind is not translated into action.” However, the atonement that takes place in the election of Christ involves and applies to everyone without exception, for to limit the range of his activity as God and man in his incarnate life, death, and resurrection, would be to introduce a limitation into his eternal being as love, and a schism or contradiction into his incarnate person as God and Man.
To hold that some people are not included in his incarnate and redeeming activity is to cutat the very root of his reality as the Creator incarnate in space and time, as he ‘in whom all things in the universe, visible and invisible, were created, hold together and are reconciled by the blood of Christ.’ The Calvinist statement of limited atonement, that it ‘was sufficient for all, efficient for some’, implies a limited assumption of God’s incarnation of our humanity.
If it is only a partial assumption of humanity, then God in Christ only takes on the burden of sin and judgment for the elect. But, “if it is truly God himself the Judge becoming the man judge, then we cannot allow any divorce between the action of Christ on the cross and the action of God. How is it at all possible to think of the divine judgment in the cross as only a partial judgment upon sin, or a judgment only upon some sinners, for that is finally what it amounts to if only some sinners are died for and only some are efficiently implicated in atonement? The concept of a limited atonement thus rests upon a limitation of the very being of God as love”. The doctrine of limited atonement then allows for a judgment on a part of humanity outside of Christ; for the reprobate theirs is still a wrathful God who will judge the rest of humanity apart from the cross. But that goes against the biblical proclamation that God has committed all judgment to Christ, “Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son.” Barthians also do not agree with the Arminian stance on conditional grace.
In Arminian theology all that God provided was the possibility of salvation on the cross, therefore, “each person has to translate that possibility into actuality in their own case”. If this is the case election and salvation are conditional on the individual choosing their own atonement, “and to teach that ultimately every one is their own Saviour, in so far asthey have to co-operate with Christ for their salvation.” Barthian theology takes the best of Calvinism and Arminian theology. Barthianism takes the idea of unconditional election found in Calvinism and put it together with the Arminian idea of unlimited atonement.
Like Calvinists, Barthians believe that Christ in his atoning work has actually accomplished the atonement for everyone for whom he elected and died for; it is a finish work. But like Arminians, Barthians also believe that Jesus loves everyone He created and that He died for all humanity on the cross. Barthians, then add to this connection, that all of humanity is elected in Jesus Christ, therefore the atonement is not only sufficient but efficient for all! But isn’t this just universalism? To this question, which Barth often received, Barthians yell, ‘NO!’ Barthians claim that both “universalism and limited atonement are twin heresies.” Universalism, according to Barthians, is a heresy because there is not a shred of biblical evidence that can support the impossibility of damnation. Universalism doesn’t hold water in two aspects; it doesn’t take seriously the doctrine of election, and the reality of hell – again, this is said according to Barthian theology.
The concept of subjective choice in election is neglected in universalism, for “the biblical doctrine of election is the very doctrine which expresses the universal action of God’s grace in such a way that, far from dissolving the personal elements of choice and decision, it establishes them.” Though the atonement is a final, complete, universal, and an objective act of God in the election of Christ, Barthians still allow for a subjective choice. There is a personal choice, but it is a subjective decision of a decision already made in and by the elected man, Jesus Christ. For in Christ: God has taken the great positive decision for man…God does not withhold himself from anyone, but he gives himself to all whether they will or not – even if they will not have him, he gives himself to them…Christ died for all humanity, and no human being can undo or escape the fact that every one has been died for, and no one can evade the fact that they are loved by God. Therefore when they do the inconceivable thing in the face of divine love, namely refuse it, that unavoidable self-giving of God is their very judgment.
Each person may choose to refuse the choice that Christ has made for all of humanity in his election. As 2 Peter 2:1 mentions, that those who reject God’s grace will go as far as, “even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them- bringing swift destruction on themselves.” But as Psalm 139:8 reminds us that even if we do the unconceivable, God’s love will still embrace us, “If I make my bed in hell, you are there.” Or as Torrance writes: To choose our own way in spite of God’s absolute choice of us…To choose our own way and yet in that choice still be chosen by God would be hell…But God’s love is eternal and God’s love has been once and for all enacted as an event that divides between love and what is anti-love. Love will not let go. Even when a man has made his bed in hell, God’s hand of love will continue to grasp him there. To choose finally and for ever- unfathomable mystery of iniquity- to say ‘No’ to Jesus is to be held in a hell of one’s own choosing and making.
Though even in Barthianism hell is still a reality, it is a lesser a reality. It is a reality that God does not choose for us, but one that we may choose for ourselves. God’s choice for us though, is one of love, grace, salvation, and it has been already accomplished in the person and election of Jesus Christ, “The great fact of the Gospel then is this: that God has actually chosen us in Jesus Christ…and because that is once and for all no one can ever elude the election of His love.” Now that is good news, that is Gospel.
Barthian theology is the third side of the election coin, which brings together concepts from both the Calvinist and Arminian sides. In the Barthian view of election the best of Calvinism and Arminianism comes out and are connected. The great news found in both of these theologies are able to be united together in Barthianism, without being universalism. This is only possible because of Karl Barth’s belief that a true theology of election must take seriously the person of Christ. In an evangelical setting, this makes the proclamation of election fun and exciting. There is nothing more thrilling than looking into a crowd of people who don’t know who Jesus is and say, “The great fact of the Gospel then is this: that God has actually chosen us in Jesus Christ…and because that is once and for all, no one can ever elude the election of His love.”
Some would argue that the challenge is going to be putting Barthianism in an evangelical setting at all. There is a lot of metaphysical and epistemological baggage in Barth’s theology, much descending from Kantian critical philosophy and the irrationalism of Kierkegaard that is very difficult to get rid of. Barth’s view of election is possible due to his view of paradox in his dialectical approach to theology. One of the results is that the only way to avoid universalism as Barth claimed is to assert that many of the elect finish up damned to hell for eternity. How one reconciles that to Scripture is an interesting question. It is difficult to see how this view avoids falling back into the Arminian side in the end, since the subjective element introduces an essentially Arminian notion of free-will in the end Anyway, this is a valiant effort, but I don’t think it succeeds in the end.
As mentioned before, the paradox; nevertheless, still exists in Barthian theology – the paradox of ultimate reconciliation and the freewill concept are at odds with each other. However, when we consider that Barth himself admitted that his views led to universalism, we are left with deciphering his noble intent. Though he rejected the Arminian position due to his romanticism with Christian reformed ideologies and concepts, the fact remains in both; the Canical and esoteric writings, that the BIGGER picture of the Gospel is this….The Christ, the Messiah, the Son of Man, the Son of God, Lord, Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth, died and rose from the dead for all humanity. From the foundation of the world to the end of the age’s, this is an accomplished fact believed by faith; what men do with it in between is left to the righteous justice and mercies of Christ and his saints. For it is written and believed in some circles that…
“We shall judge the world and the angels” Or as some would put it, already have; as we bear witness to the fact of the Gospel. “For it is the power of God onto salvation”
That the Scriptures teach the doctrine of “election” I do most fervently believe. But that this implies endless “reprobation,” as taught by those of the Calvinistic churches, I do most solemnly deny. In my view, Paul’s Epistles are most shockingly mutilated, every time they are summoned to testify in behalf of Calvinism proper.
But we shall be told, that we do read of the “elect” of some who were “chosen before the foundation of the world,” of being “ordained,” “predestined,” etc. This is all so; but when we are told that this “election” implies the endless ruin of some, I discard the thought as blasphemous, and call for proof.
The plain truth is this: God elects people (not to curse others, but) to benefit and bless the whole world! Christ was “elected” (for what purpose?) to be “the Savior of the world.” John 4:42. The Apostles were chosen and elected to preach the gospel to all mankind, to the end that all might be blessed.
To use a well known simile, the Bible doctrine of “election” may be compared to the election of the Governor of any state or the President of the United States. They, it is true, are “elected” from among the people, but the object steadily kept in view, is the good of the whole. This, in my opinion, is the only just and impartial view of “election” as spoken of in the Scriptures.