Reviews Of Books -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 21:1 (Nov 1958)
Article: Reviews Of Books
Author: Anonymous

Reviews Of Books

Karl Barth: Church Dogmatics. Volume II: The Doctrine of God, Part 2. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark. 1958. xi, 806. 55/-. New York: Scribner’s.

With the translation of the second half-volume of Volume II of Barth’s Kirchliche Dogmatik English readers now have available to them what Barth calls the “sum of the gospel”. “The doctrine of election is the sum of the Gospel because of all words that can be said or heard it is the best: that God elects man; that God is for man too the One who loves in freedom” (p. 3).

But, asks Barth, is not the doctrine of election always accompanied by an equally ultimate doctrine of reprobation? Does not the God of Calvinism predestine men to life or to death regardless of what they do? Does not his decree, covering whatsoever comes to pass, including sin, precede and therefore mechanically determine all history? And did not Calvinism create in men a self-righteous attitude?

Yes, all these things, says Barth in effect, were true of this doctrine in the past. But he himself advocates a more biblical and therefore a more evangelical form of the Reformed Faith. He holds to a supralapsarianism but not of the older kind in which God sometimes assumed the face of a demon. His is a purified supralapsarianism.

This purified supralapsarianism is based on the idea that Christ is both the subject and the object of election. The truly evangelical view of election substitutes for the decretum absolutum that was the source of election for the older forms of Calvinism the doctrine of the decretum concretum. It is this substitution that, says Barth, keeps us from looking past and beyond the Christ into the secret and unknowable counsel of a Godhead by itself for the certainty of our salvation. “The electing God of Calvin is a Deus nudus absconditus. It is not the Deus revelatus who is as such the Deus absconditus, the eternal God. All the dubious features of Calvin’s doctrine result from the basic failing that in the last analysis he separates God and Jesus Christ, thinking that what was in the beginning with God must be sought elsewhere than in Jesus Christ” (p. 111). The “false start” of the decretum absolutum also controlled the Synod of Dort (p. 113). “It merely repeated, more harshly if anything, the unsatisfactory answer already given by Calvin” (p. 111).

From this root error of the “older theology” sprang other faults. When the object of election was discussed it was not seen that this is the elected

man, Jesus Christ. The interest of both the infra- and the supralapsarian parties centered exclusively on individu...

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