What does Karl Barth mean by double predestination?

venbedevenbede Shipmate
He is fairly clear on what it is not: “Augustine and the Reformers represent predestination in mythological form as though it were a scheme of cause and effect, thereby robbing it of its significance.” 8.29

At 9.10 he says it “does not mean that a certain human being being or having or doing is as such approved and some other human behaviour is is as such rejected…”

Well I am glad to know it doesn’t mean God is sending lots of relatively good people to hell. And I am glad to hear the greatest Reformed theologian on the twentieth century thought Calvin was wrong. But I am not clear what Barth thinks double predestination is. What is "its significance"? Any ideas?
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  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    edited March 22
    As I understand Barth—and I offer the disclaimer that I very well may not understand Barth, who can be challenging to understand—Barth posited that predestination/double predestination is centered in Jesus, as is almost all of Barth’s theology. Individuals are not eternally elect or eternally reprobate. Rather, it is Jesus who is the eternally elect, and it is also Jesus who, by taking human nature, is the eternally reprobate. In Jesus, the Incarnation of the eternal Word of God, God both elects humanity and rejects human sin. We share in that by union with Jesus.

    For Barth, the bottom line is that God’s saving act in Jesus is the most fundamental thing, the last word, as it were. His rejection of the more traditional version of predestination and double predestination is predicated on how those versions can present the eternal decree of God with regard to the salvation of individuals as the last word. Barth sees the eternal decree as being centered on and expressed in the Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus.

    At least that’s my understanding of Barth.

  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    <snip>
    At least that’s my understanding of Barth.

    It must be pretty close, because I didn't understand it at all. ;)
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    tclune wrote: »
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    <snip>
    At least that’s my understanding of Barth.

    It must be pretty close, because I didn't understand it at all. ;)
    :lol: Success! My work here is done!

    Perhaps this from PostBarthian helps. Partial quote:
    According to Barth, Jesus is the sole subject and object of election, such that there is no longer two indiscriminate groups (i.e. the elect and the reprobate), but instead there is one man who is both the only elected one and only rejected one (CD II/2). This means that Jesus was elected to be rejected, specifically in that God sent his one and only son to die on the cross for the sins of the world (John 3:16-17). So Jesus is elected for all and rejected for all, and therefore in his resurrection, "Jesus is Victor" (CD IV/3.2) over all and has become the savior of all the world (1 John 2:2).

    Or this from Karl Barth for Dummies. Again, partial quote:
    5. In his treatment of grace in the covenant Barth develops a doctrine of double predestination in which Jesus Christ is the chosen human and the rejected human. In him the old human of our sin is rejected, but the new human we become in him is chosen to be God’s man. Predestination therefore is not just the cause of salvation, it is salvation.

    6. Barth develops his doctrines of grace and covenant and predestination within the second volume of his Church Dogmatics. They are part of his doctrine of God. That is, they are not a means to an end to rescue creation from the calamity of the fall. Instead they reveal who God is in himself. God creates in order to fulfill the purpose of his grace: to be the God of humanity.

    The concepts of election and predestination remain part of the Reformed tradition, but there isn’t (and perhaps never has been) unanimous understanding about what exactly election means or how it works, with some insisting on double predestination, while others explicitly reject double predestination. Not surprisingly, many in the Reformed tradition find Barth’s approach a welcome improvement on and corrective to Calvin’s view, or to the extremes Calvin’s view was often taken by later generations, while others find Barth’s view to be a radical and complete departure from Calvin and the Reformed tradition.

  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    Is this supposed to be in Kerygmania? I think it is supposed to be in Purgatory, but in reality, I would rather cast it to the bottomless pit.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    edited March 22
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    . . . but in reality, I would rather cast it to the bottomless pit.
    No one is forcing you to read it. I guess, though, that the opportunity to consign any hint of Calvinism to the bottomless pit provides too strong a temptation.

  • venbedevenbede Shipmate
    This Anglo Catholic is only too pleased to read both Barth and @Nick Tamen 's helpful comments.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    I’m glad you found them helpful, @venbede. :smile:
  • Gramps49 wrote: »
    Is this supposed to be in Kerygmania? I think it is supposed to be in Purgatory, but in reality, I would rather cast it to the bottomless pit.
    Agreed this thread isn't related to Biblical texts, so it's getting moved to Purgatory. If no-one posts on it then it'll be doubly predestined for the bottomless pit of forgotten threads at the bottom of the forum.

    Alan
    Ship of Fools Admin
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    edited March 23
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    As I understand Barth—and I offer the disclaimer that I very well may not understand Barth, who can be challenging to understand—Barth posited that predestination/double predestination is centered in Jesus, as is almost all of Barth’s theology. Individuals are not eternally elect or eternally reprobate. Rather, it is Jesus who is the eternally elect, and it is also Jesus who, by taking human nature, is the eternally reprobate. In Jesus, the Incarnation of the eternal Word of God, God both elects humanity and rejects human sin. We share in that by union with Jesus.

    For Barth, the bottom line is that God’s saving act in Jesus is the most fundamental thing, the last word, as it were. His rejection of the more traditional version of predestination and double predestination is predicated on how those versions can present the eternal decree of God with regard to the salvation of individuals as the last word. Barth sees the eternal decree as being centered on and expressed in the Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus.

    At least that’s my understanding of Barth.

    Waaaaah HOO!

    Do you unequivocally agree with that understanding Nick, and therefore did last time?
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    edited March 24
    {sigh}

    I don’t know that I’d say “unequivocally”—I tend not to hold onto these things too tightly—nor do I know why you feel the need to press me about what I unequivocally believe.

    But yes, what I believe is now and has pretty much as long as I can remember thinking about such things been consistent with this. I think I’ve said as much more than once on the Ship.

    My declining to answer “last time” had nothing to do with being unwilling to say so, and everything to do, as I said then, of being tired of your assumptions and of being unwilling to play the game you were setting up of “Pin the Tail on the Damnationalist”—an unwillingness that was reinforced when, upon my saying I had no interest in playing your game, you proclaimed me a “damnationlist.”

  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Thanks Nick. I'm fascinated by how we diffidently believe superpositioned beliefs. Including myself. Without the diffidence in this instance. How one could hold on to orthodox Barthian=Pauline universal salvation in Christ too tightly. And therefore(?) not have damnationism in fearful reserve. Pressingly here in Purgatory.
  • Merry VoleMerry Vole Shipmate
    I find theology interesting -but difficult. I like to think God is answering Spurgeon's prayer 'Lord save all your elect -and then elect some more!'
  • Merry Vole wrote: »
    I find theology interesting -but difficult. I like to think God is answering Spurgeon's prayer 'Lord save all your elect -and then elect some more!'

    I like that very much. It reminds me of the parable of the workers hired at the eleventh hour.
  • venbedevenbede Shipmate
    Gramps49 wrote: »
    Is this supposed to be in Kerygmania? I think it is supposed to be in Purgatory, but in reality, I would rather cast it to the bottomless pit.
    Agreed this thread isn't related to Biblical texts, so it's getting moved to Purgatory. If no-one posts on it then it'll be doubly predestined for the bottomless pit of forgotten threads at the bottom of the forum.

    Alan
    Ship of Fools Admin

    I posted here because there is not a board for discussing Theology or Doctrine, because Purgatory is generally about secular issues and because it was related to exegesis of Romans 9.10 and 8.29.
  • That's not a problem @venbede - you're not in trouble! - and hopefully shipmates will be alive to the exegetical links as well as the wider context.
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    Merry Vole wrote: »
    I find theology interesting -but difficult. I like to think God is answering Spurgeon's prayer 'Lord save all your elect -and then elect some more!'

    I like that very much. It reminds me of the parable of the workers hired at the eleventh hour.

    It makes me think of Abraham bargaining with God over Sodom.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    edited March 24
    tclune wrote: »
    Merry Vole wrote: »
    I find theology interesting -but difficult. I like to think God is answering Spurgeon's prayer 'Lord save all your elect -and then elect some more!'

    I like that very much. It reminds me of the parable of the workers hired at the eleventh hour.

    It makes me think of Abraham bargaining with God over Sodom.
    Or of Moses interceding for the people of Israel when Aaron made the golden calf.

    Martin54 wrote: »
    Thanks Nick. I'm fascinated by how we diffidently believe superpositioned beliefs. Including myself. Without the diffidence in this instance. How one could hold on to orthodox Barthian=Pauline universal salvation in Christ too tightly.
    Did Barth hold on to universal salvation tightly? As I’ve noted before, he drew the line at saying there must be universal salvation, because in his view that conflicted with salvation being the free gift of God, and for us to say that there must be universal salvation amounts to us saying what God must do with God's free gift, as though we could make some claim on it. So he held in tension two ideas—salvation is a free gift of God to which we have no claim of right, and "theological consistency might seem to lead our thoughts and utterances most clearly in [the] direction" of universalism. (Church Dogmatics, IV.3.2) Just prior to this portion of Church Dogmatics, he wrote:
    If we are certainly forbidden to count on this [universal reconciliation] as though we had a claim to it, as though it were not supremely the work of God to which man can have no possible claim, we are surely commanded the more definitely to hope and pray for it as we may do already on this side of this final possibility, i.e., to hope and pray cautiously and yet distinctly that, in spite of everything which may seem quite conclusively to proclaim the opposite, His compassion should not fail, and that in accordance with His mercy which is "new every morning" He "will not cast off for ever." (Lam 3:22f,31)

    For my own part, my hesitation in saying I “unequivocally believe” what Barth has said on the particular point of double predestination raised in this thread arises because that point address the “mechanics” of salvation as much as the objects of salvation—i.e., how salvation happens as well as who receives salvation. In my mind, at least, the “mechanics” of salvation are not like chemical formulas or the laws of physics. Rather, they are at best imperfect attempts to explain what ultimately we get glimpses of in Scripture yet see only dimly. To unequivocally believe in and insist on a particular mechanism is, it seems to me, an invitation to hubris that can lead—and has led—to its own form of judgmentalism and damnationism. I try not to hold on too tightly because I assume that even my best attempts to understand may and likely will fall short.

    What I do believe unequivocally in this regard is:
    1. God is Love—compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness (chesed) and truth;
    2. In Christ, God was reconciling the world (kosmos) to himself; and
    3. Nothing in life or in death can separate us from the love of God made known in Jesus.
    Barth’s understanding makes sense, to me at least, of the various glimpses we get in Scripture about how salvation works, and it is consistent with what I believe unequivocally. But if I were presented with a better understanding that’s also consistent with the three premises I set out, I’d be open to that better understanding.


  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    edited March 25
    Now that's an answer according to faith @Nick Tamen. And if you said as much before, and you probably did, almost certainly did; that's what you always meant, I apologize. I understand the difference between reach and grasp. I'm done with reaching, I grasp the universal saving faithfulness of Jesus the Christ the elect. as it says on the tin.
  • Merry VoleMerry Vole Shipmate
    I'm encouraged and relieved by the above posts that I don't need to understand and believe formulations, but rather affirmations and proclamations rooted in Bible passages. When a particular affirmation, like those of @Nick Tamen above, finds its 'target' in someone's spirit then for me that is prophecy.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    Please note, my reference to the bottomless pit was more of a throwaway comment.

    It comes from my mother's own story. She grew up in a community that preached double predestination. She really believed based on her lifestyle as a young woman, that she had been predestined to hell. She started dating my father and attending the Lutheran church which preaches single predestination--God wants all to come to the knowledge of the truth.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    Logically there really is no difference between single and double predestination. If there are two destinations and you only get to the nice one if it's so pre-ordained, it makes no difference to the ones not so pre-ordained whether it's expressed in that way or as "pre-ordained for the nasty place".
  • Thing is, Lutherans don't go in for logic on this subject. If it's a conflict between logic and what we find in Scripture, guess which wins?
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    Thing is, Lutherans don't go in for logic on this subject. If it's a conflict between logic and what we find in Scripture, guess which wins?

    I can't work like that.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    edited March 25
    Thank you, @Martin54.

    And thank you, @Gramps49, for the personal background, and my apologies if I over-reacted. I would say there’s a special place in Hell for anyone who would make a child believe she or he is predestined for damnation, but given what I’ve already said that might be more than ironic. My particular stream of the Reformed tradition explicitly rejected traditional understandings of double predestination over a century ago (and in many instances did so even earlier implicitly). The Canons of Dort and the Westminster Confession notwithstanding, it is not a sine qua non of the Reformed tradition.

    KarlLB wrote: »
    Logically there really is no difference between single and double predestination.
    Not necessarily. Aside from questions about what exactly is meant by predestination, Universalism is a form of single predestination.

  • venbedevenbede Shipmate
    The discussion of you good people here only confirms my belief that the classic questions of the Reformation (predestination, faith versus works and associated issues) are artificial and misleading and Christianity managed for fifteen hundred years without getting tied into knots over them.

    They are misleading because they often put all the emphasis on personal eschatological salvation/damnation, and seem to ignore, downplay or are downright hostile to two central things:

    A Active love of our neighbours and

    B God’s activity in the sacraments, active love of our neighbour being itself sacramental.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    venbede wrote: »
    The discussion of you good people here only confirms my belief that the classic questions of the Reformation (predestination, faith versus works and associated issues) are artificial and misleading and Christianity managed for fifteen hundred years without getting tied into knots over them.

    They are misleading because they often put all the emphasis on personal eschatological salvation/damnation, and seem to ignore, downplay or are downright hostile to two central things:

    A Active love of our neighbours and

    B God’s activity in the sacraments, active love of our neighbour being itself sacramental.
    Hmmm. I wouldn’t say they are artificial and misleading. Rather, I’d say they didn’t occur in a vacuum, and they are best put in perspective when the context for them is understood. Predestination and faith vs. works both arose in the context of a medieval system that put a great deal of emphasis on the things one needed to do to get into heaven and to lessen one’s time in purgatory, and that produced a great deal of anxiety for many people as to their eternal state. The “classic questions” of the Reformation were a specific response to that specific problem, which was itself a distortion of the Gospel.

    Contrary to popular conception, Calvin’s concern was primarily pastoral, and his conception of Augustinian predestination was primarily pastoral—you don’t need to worry about whether you’ve been good enough or whether you have strong enough faith. That you have any faith at all assures you that God has called and claimed you, and God will not let go of you. So don’t worry, and get on about the business of responding gratefully through love of God and neighbor, through worship and through seeking to be more and more in union with Christ.

    Of course, then details start to get extrapolated and things get taken to extremes, and we end up with ideas like God randomly damning some people, or works not mattering at all. And the context changes, and so what people are responding to changes.

    The Reformers’ ideas on predestination and faith vs. works were not at all artificial or misleading in their Reformation contexts. They were attempts at necessary correctives for the time. But ultimately, balance is needed, and that balance is lost when any particular doctrine of this kind becomes ossified and commands a centrality it doesn’t warrant.

    Which is why I find myself very much in sympathy with the Reformed idea, cited by Barth, of ecclesia semper reformanda est (the church must always be reformed). Or as it’s sometimes put these days, ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda secundum verbum Dei (the church reformed, always to be reformed according to the Word of God). Or, as Lumen gentium puts it, “the Church, embracing in its bosom sinners, at the same time holy and always in need of being purified, always follows the way of penance and renewal.”

  • venbedevenbede Shipmate
    @Nick Tamen I wish I had half your charity and kindness in debate. It is always a pleasure to hear

    I still think the Reformers were missing the point. I totally agree the Church needs to be continually reformed in the light of scripture AND the creeds and Christian orthodoxy,
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    edited March 27
    You are kind, @venbede, and perhaps too charitable yourself. Thank you.

    To be clear, I’m not one who would claim that the Reformers always got it right. They were seeking to reform a church that was also missing the point in many ways, including the regarding the “central things” you mention above. Sometimes, I think, they did get it right, or more or less right. But sometimes, human that they were, they didn’t.

    They were reacting to some very real problems, and sometimes they over-reacted. Calvin certainly did. It’s a pendulum thing—the pendulum had swung too far in one direction, and often the Reformers pulled it too far in the other direction. That’s why I think what the Reformers said and did is best considered and evaluated contextually.

    But then I am Reformed, specifically the Presbyterian variety of Reformed for my entire life. I can only say that what you said above:
    venbede wrote: »
    They are misleading because they often put all the emphasis on personal eschatological salvation/damnation, and seem to ignore, downplay or are downright hostile to two central things:

    A Active love of our neighbours and

    B God’s activity in the sacraments, active love of our neighbour being itself sacramental.
    is totally contrary to my lived experience in a tradition that flows from Calvin, Knox and others. I’ve rarely seen or experienced that ignoring, downplaying or hostility. Quite the opposite.

    Apologies for another long post.

  • venbedevenbede Shipmate
    @Nick Tamen could well believe I was giving a root and branch criticism of Protestantism. I very much appreciate that he never suggested any personal criticism of me.

    The Reformers and Paul are only too right to criticise a view of religious practice as a means to influence God rather than accept God's grace.

    I am quite sure many evangelicals and theologically informed protestants devote much energy to the active love of neighbour. My suspicion is that putting “justification by faith ALONE” at the heart of Christianity theoretically doesn’t give it any priority.

    I was very glad to have read Barth’s Romans and made copious notes of the good bits.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Whose faith? I know, I know. Ain't my place to ask. It was rhetorical.
  • anoesisanoesis Shipmate
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    As I understand Barth—and I offer the disclaimer that I very well may not understand Barth, who can be challenging to understand—Barth posited that predestination/double predestination is centered in Jesus, as is almost all of Barth’s theology. Individuals are not eternally elect or eternally reprobate. Rather, it is Jesus who is the eternally elect, and it is also Jesus who, by taking human nature, is the eternally reprobate. In Jesus, the Incarnation of the eternal Word of God, God both elects humanity and rejects human sin. We share in that by union with Jesus.

    For Barth, the bottom line is that God’s saving act in Jesus is the most fundamental thing, the last word, as it were. His rejection of the more traditional version of predestination and double predestination is predicated on how those versions can present the eternal decree of God with regard to the salvation of individuals as the last word. Barth sees the eternal decree as being centered on and expressed in the Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus.

    At least that’s my understanding of Barth.

    Just wanted to say that this is one of the most interesting things I've read in a long while. Like others, I wouldn't say that I precisely understand it, but it gives me a dog-after-a-truffle sort of feeling that there's something there, be it ever so far down...
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    edited April 2
    Superb isn't it? Just perfect. I love it. Trouble is it's come the wrong side of permanent, inextricable, perichoretic doubt. Ah well. Tears.
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