Wednesday, April 19, 2006
More Thoughts on Barth: A Barthian Corrective to Augustinian Thought
Barth holds the Person of Christ as the central category of all theological reflection and inquiry. With respect to election, instead of an abstract impersonal decree we have the eternal will of God to give himself in the incarnation of his Son. Hence the hollow, contextless decretum absolutum of Augustinianism takes on personhood in Christ and a relational context in the will of the Persons of the Trinity.
This is helpful in orienting predestination, which otherwise views the incarnation as an after-thought of man-oriented divine decrees. Barth's christocentricity ensures that Jesus Christ is not merely the remedy of the Fall, but the “Lamb slain before the foundation of the world.” The divine decree of election is none other than Immanuel, "God with us." Furthermore, that Christ is both the subject and object of election wipes away the abstract notion latent in some Augustinian systems (e.g., Reformed thought) that divides the Godhead by picturing Christ as the victim of the divine will. As the subject of election he is the electing God. As the object of election, he is the elect Man in whom all others find their election. Barth's christocentrism also clarifies so-called “double predestination” by presenting Christ as both the Reprobate and the Glorified One.
For the Catholic thinker, Barth's understanding of election as mediated through the community of faith in its witness to Christ in the world also opens up a consideration of the Church and the Sacraments (even if Barth did not take us there himself). The Catholic understands Baptism as the sacrament of our incorporation into the Body of Christ, who in his Person is the constituting means of election. The Church declares the individual’s election, but not all will avail or prevail themselves of it as they reject or defect from the mediation of Christ.
Until next time.