Election and Reprobation According to Barth
We now will, first of all, present a brief summary or outline of what Barth has to say about election and reprobation. This outline covers pages 175 to 563.
On pages 175 to 214 he writes about “the eternal will of God in the election of Jesus Christ” (Die ewige Wille Gottes in die Erwghling Jesu Christi). This is rather important as we hope to see presently.
In the next paragraph, pages 215 to 336, he discusses the election of the Church (Die Erwahlung der Gemeine). Under this he speaks about:
1. Israel and the Church.
2. The Judgment and the mercy of God.
3. The heard and believed promise of God.
4. The passing away and the coming man.
In paragraph 35, pages 336 to 563, he writes about the election of individuals; and under this he discusses:
1. Jesus Christ, the promise and its receiver.
2. The elect and the reprobate.
3. The destination (bestimmung) of the elect.
4. The destination (bestimmung) of the reprobate.
First of all, then, what does Barth mean when he speaks of the eternal will of God in the election of Jesus Christ? He briefly defines this as meaning that God delivered Himself in favor of man who was created by Him and who fell away from Him. This it is what was realized in the incarnation of the Son of God, in His suffering and death, and His resurrection from the dead. This it is what we must understand by the eternal foreordination of God. The gracious election of God as the beginning of all things is God’s Self-deliverance in His eternal counsel. God’s Self-deliverance: for God gave indeed His only begotten. And this is not first realized in time, but this is the eternal foreordination of God. By this He has given Himself over, abandoned Himself, and that not for nothing, but in favor of man, created by Him and fallen away from Him. That is the eternal will of God.Dogmatik, II, 2, p. 175, 176.
With this we can all agree, provided we understand that this refers, not to God as such, not as God in the divine nature, but to the incarnated Son of God. It was, indeed, God that suffered and died and rose again the third day, but, of course, not in the divine, but in the human nature, which the Son of God assumed from the virgin Mary. In that nature God came in the flesh, in that nature God suffered and died and rose again on the third day and was exalted in the highest heavens on the right hand of the Most High.
Hence, this we all believe.
But, as for the rest of this paragraph, I cannot agree with Barth, not only, but I must again accuse him of arbitrarily giving a different content to terms that have always had a definite meaning in Reformed theology. He speaks, namely, of double predestination. He himself mentions that in Reformed theology predestination has two sides, is “zweifacher,” and that the eternal fore-ordination of God is a double foreordination.
Now, in Reformed theology, this refers, of course, to the decree of election and the decree of reprobation. By the former, the decree of election, is meant, according to the Canons, I, 7: “the unchangeable purpose of God, whereby, before the foundation of the world, he hath out of mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of his own will, chosen, from the whole human race, which had fallen, through their own fault, from their primitive state of rectitude into sin and destruction, a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ, whom he from eternity appointed the Mediator and Head of the elect, and the foundation of salvation.”
In the same Canons, I, 6, election and reprobation are mentioned together: “That some receive the gift of faith from God and others do not receive it proceeds from God’s eternal decree . . . . And herein is especially displayed the profound, the merciful, and at the same time the righteous discrimination between men equally involved in ruin; or that decree of election and reprobation, revealed in the Word of God, which though men of perverse, impure and unstable minds wrest to their own destruction, yet to holy and pious souls affords unspeakable consolation.”
And as to reprobation, of it the Canons speak in I, 15, to which I already referred in a former article and which, therefore, I will not repeat here.
But let us note here, in the first place, that according to Reformed theology and the Reformed Confessions, as well as according to Scripture (for which I could quote many passages), predestination is personal. By this I do not mean that, especially election, is individualistic, for this is not the case: election is organic, it concerns the body of Christ. But I do mean that predestination, both election and reprobation, concerns some definite persons. Certain persons are chosen to everlasting life and glory; others are ordained to everlasting damnation: the former, not because of, but in the way of faith; the latter, not because of, but in the way of sin.
Secondly, we may also note that predestination, both election and reprobation, is absolutely sovereign, which means that the reason of election and reprobation and their ground is not to be found in man but in God alone. God in His sovereign good pleasure has determined from all eternity who shall be saved and who shall be damned.
Thirdly, this also implies that the decree of predestination is an absolute and, therefore, also an unchangeable decree. Barth repeatedly emphasizes that predestination must not be viewed as an absolute decree. But, according to the Word of God and the Reformed Confessions it certainly is: once an elect is always and eternally an elect; once a reprobate is always and eternally a reprobate.
Now, what does Barth, who pretends to believe in the Reformed doctrine of predestination, have to say about this?
This we find in “Die Kirchliche Dogmatik,” page 176 ff. I will not quote him in German for this would not be very edifying for the general reader, nor will I translate him literally, but I will paraphrase what he writes on this subject as faithfully as possible. Hence, I call your attention to the following:
1. What, according to Barth, is meant by double predestination? I confess that his answer to this question is somewhat difficult to understand and that not because his language is not clear, but because he gives an entirely different content to the term “double predestination” than we find in Reformed theology. If you ask any Reformed theologian or, if you please, any somewhat advanced catechumen what is meant by the term “double predestination,” he will answer that this refers to the fact that, according to His eternal counsel, He chose some to everlasting life and glory and rejected others. Not so Barth. According to him there are two sides to predestination. The one is that “God chose, God decided and determined above all over Himself. God determined to give His Son. God determined, to speak His Word. With Himself is that beginning, in which the Son became obedient unto the Father.” Such is, first of all, the election of Christ. The whole Being of God, all His freedom and all His love become identical with this decree, with the election of Jesus Christ. This is the one side of double predestination. But the other is Man, the Man, Jesus Christ. Because of this God was no more alone. Thus predestination does not only mean that God determined something concerning Himself, but also that He determined something about Man. And this is the second side of predestination. The one side is that God decreed to determine for Himself to enter into communion with man; the other side is that God determines for man to enter into that communion.
Briefly, therefore: God chose Himself.
He chose the man Jesus Christ.
He chose fallen man.
Again, I ask: what right has Barth to use the Reformed term “double predestination” in a sense that is completely different from the only meaning the term has in Reformed theology and dogmatics?
More about this next time, D.V.
Exit, the Rev. R. Veldman
And now the Rev. R. Veldman apostatized from the Protestant Reformed truth, left our churches, joined the Christian Reformed Church, expressed himself in agreement with the “Three Points” of 1924, and justified the deposition of faithful ministers of the Word of God by what at that time were Classes East and West of the Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids. He did all this without the knowledge of his consistory, while he was still chairman of that consistory and while he was still preaching from the pulpit of the Southeast Protestant Reformed Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
How is it all possible?
How is it possible from a spiritual viewpoint?
Does the Rev. Veldman pray? I suppose he does. But did he and does he ever pray, not in general terms, but specifically?
Does he ever say to the Lord: Thou knowest, Lord, and I believe with all my heart, that the First Point of 1924 is in harmony with Thy Word and in conformity with the Reformed Confessions? Thou knowest, Lord, and I believe with all my heart, that, in the preaching of the gospel, Thou art gracious to all that hear? This is what, in essence, he said in the gathering of the classis of the Christian Reformed Church that examined him and that met in Ada, Mich. Thou, Lord, Who knowest my heart, also knowest that I am sincerely sorry that I ever remained so long in the Protestant Reformed Churches, and that from now on I intend to preach the truth of common grace. Does he ever say to the Lord, as he did in the above mentioned gathering of classis, according to reliable reports, that God restrains sin so that sin does not develop as fast as it would apart from that restraint? Does he in his prayers confess that, in all the years he was minister in the Protestant Reformed Churches, he was in error or he was a hypocrite in not preaching that God restrains sin, but that now he will faithfully preach it?
Does he ever, in his prayers say to the Lord that the natural man in virtue of God’s restraint of sin can do good and perform civic righteousness?
And does he ever, in his prayers, ask the Lord to cause me to repent for my sin of refusing to sign the “Three Points,” because of which I was deposed from the ministry of the Word in the Christian Reformed Church. For, as I understand from reliable sources, he also said, in his examination before the classis, that, in 1924. Classes Grand Rapids East and West were justified in deposing Revs. Danhof, Ophoff and undersigned from the ministry.
Again I ask: how is this possible?
But I can now understand the speech which the Rev. R. Veldman delivered at Synod and which is included in the report of the Synodical Committee which was appointed for this matter and which reads as follows:
“That the Synod adopt the following expression in re the remarks:
“Synod with sorrow records in its minutes that in its session of Wednesday morning, June 13, the Rev. R. Veldman, pastor of the Southeast Church of Grand Rapids:
“1. Declared himself in basic disagreement with our churches:
“a. In regard to the decisions of Classis East in re the two literally heretical statements of Rev. H. De Wolf.
“b. In regard to the suspension of Rev. H. De Wolf and the deposition of his supporting elders, and related actions of consistory and classis.
“c. In regard to the procedure in Classis West in 1953-’54 in connection with the schism and the reorganization of classis—proceedings which were approved by Synod in March 1954.
“2. That he declared to Synod, among other things:
“a. That he has reached the point of no return with respect to his own position of disagreement in regard to the decisions of our churches concerning the schism of 1953.
“b. That as a consequence of the stand of our churches in re the schism of 1953, our churches are spiritually bankrupt.
“c. That if our churches adopt this stand (referring to the stand in the Creston-Southeast case) they are sectarian.
“3. That he himself admitted that he did not walk the orderly way of protest and appeal set forth in Article 31 of the Church Order. This statement he qualified by declaring:
“a. That he thought it useless, especially at that time, to protest against the stand of our churches.
“b. That he tried to see the position of our churches for a long time.”
This speech, I say, I can now understand, because at that time he had already applied for admittance to the Christian Reformed Church.
But this whole procedure on the part of Rev. R. Veldman I consider wicked. In the first place, how can anyone for years preach the Protestant Reformed truth, as his elders testify, while, as is now evident, he does not believe a word of it? And, in the second place, why must he create trouble in our churches in this way rather than follow the orderly church-political way? Why not inform his consistory and also Classis East that he is no longer in agreement with the Protestant Reformed truth and that, therefore, he can and will no longer preach in Southeast Church or in any of our churches?
And thus we could continue.
And, therefore, I must consider this entire procedure wicked.
“Christians” or Schismatics
It appears that the Rev. Jerome De Jong is bound to have a controversy with me in the Missionary Monthly. Although that magazine is hardly the proper place for such a controversy, yet the Rev. De Jong uses it for that purpose. In its number of June 1962 appears a rather fiery article, the chief contents of which concerns a quotation from one of my editorials in The Standard Bearer of April 15, 1962. The quotation, as the Rev. De Jong has it reads as follows:
“May we not call those, who in 1953 left Classis East in order they might form another church by their proper name: schismatics? May we call them Christians? God forbid! This certainly is not according to the Bible. Just listen to what our Lord Jesus Christ calls them inMatthew 23.”
The above is the quotation which is the occasion of the article written by the Rev. Jerome De Jong. According to him: “the Spirit has laid it upon my heart to write this article.” And I believe that he thinks this, but I do not believe that it is true. If this were the work of the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit would have laid it upon the heart of De Jong to qudte me correctly and in proper context. And this he does not do. Note:
1. In the first place, I refer to the fact that I put the name “Christians” in quotation marks but De Jong does not do this. He omits one of these quotation marks. This is very important. For:
a. This means that the term “Christians” is not mine but is used by those who prefer the term “Christians” instead of the term “schismatics.”
b. This is evident from the context, where I wrote: “This is really always the case when one commits the error of not calling anything by its right name. But this is emphatically the case when the church of our Lord Jesus Christ is concerned. First we say that the name ‘schismatics’ should not be used. Then we criticize the use of that name and claim that we had better simply call them Christians. Lastly, we act upon this view and contention, especially also as pastors and consistories and gladly receive these ‘Christians’ in our midst without demanding that they make confession of their sin of schism before the consistory and congregation.”
c. You see, therefore, that the term “Christians” is not mine but is used by those that want to employ the term in distinction from using the term schismatics.
d. And as for myself I would use the term “schismatic Christians”, by which I mean that I hope that as “Christians” they will make confession of their sin of “schism.” If they persist to walk in that sin, after being repeatedly admonished they are to us as “a heathen and a publican.” This is Scripture, Matt. 18:15-17.
2. The.Rev. De Jong also misquotes me when he writes: “May we call them ‘Christians’?” I did not write “May” but must we call them “Christians”? In the light of “d” above, it will be clear to Rev. De Jong what is the difference between the two verbs, We may, indeed, call the schismatics Christians as long as there is hope of repentance, but after that hope is gone we cannot and must not call them Christians anymore.
I could write much more about the article of De Jong, but let this be sufficient.
The fundamental trouble with De Jong is that, principally, he agrees with the schismatics as is also evident from the article. He is not Protestant Reformed. That is his privilege.