We begin a series of eleven (eleven?!) articles on Barth’s doctrine of grace with this short orientation to his approach. Barth articulates his view in chapter 7 of his Church Dogmatics (found in the second part volume of the second volume) titled “The Election of God.” A few introductory remarks should be made:
1. The word “election” in the title of this chapter summons the ghost of the doctrine of predestination for some people and frightens them straight away. This is fair enough. Barth is not afraid of the word predestination and talks of it freely. But if readers are familiar with the conservative Reformed doctrine of predestination, they will find Barth’s treatment almost unrecognisable.
2. For Barth “election” means the choice of God. God chooses to be the God of humanity and that humanity will be his people. The Father chooses his Son Jesus Christ. He chooses humanity in his Son Jesus Christ. He then chooses to create humanity so that he may be with them and they may be with him.
3. The choice of God demonstrates his initiative in creation and salvation. This is God’s grace in a nutshell. We belong to him because God first chose to belong to us.
We belong to God because God first chose to belong to us.
4. Therefore, the grace of God is expressed in a relationship of belonging. It is the covenant. Grace is the Word of God which says, “I will be your God and you will be my people.” In other words, grace is Emmanuel, “God with us”, it is Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.
Grace is Emmanuel, “God with us”
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.
God creates in order to fulfill the purpose of his grace: to be the God of humanity.