The PostBarthian

Jesus is the Savior of Whole World: Animals, Plants and Rocks (Part 3)

moltmann-resurrection-of-natureJesus Christ is the Savior of the Whole World (1 John 2:2), but what is the Maximum Inclusion of this statement? Does this include all people, as well as animals, plants and rocks? I provided John Calvin's answer in Part One, and Karl Barth's in Part Two, and now, Jürgen Moltmann in Part Three. Moltmann provides the most inclusive and expansive definition of "Maximum Inclusion" of these three Reformed Theologians. Moltmann speaks the clearest and loudest YES to all humanity, as well to animals, plants, rocks and all Creation!

During the Q&A following Moltmann's lecture at the 2015 Barth Conference, I was able to ask him this question: "Will Non-Human Creation will be saved the same way as non-Human Creation?" He answered: "Look at 1 Corinthians 15:43-48. Where the resurrection embraces animals and flowers and all Creation. Nothing will get lost in the new Creation. So everything will be coming back." Moltmann's answer referred me to 1 Corinthians 15:35–50, which is arguably the most important passage on the Resurrection in the bible, and there in are directly mentioned seeds, animals, birds, fish, the sun, the moon, stars, terrestrial bodies and celestial bodies are all explicitly mentioned. Rather than speculate on the meaning of Moltmann's answer based on this scripture alone, I've assembled the follow quotations from Moltmann's books where I believe he repeats this same answer of hope for the Whole World that includes all humanity, as well as, animals, plants and rocks.

In this first quotation from The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation, Moltmann explains that our hope is not to escape from this world, but to be redeemed with the world. The Resurrection will not be an Gnostic escapism, but the resurrection of the flesh, which is made of the dust of the earth, so that in the resurrection of the bodies, the world will be included in it and we will not be cut off from the world:

The conflict between 'spirit' and 'flesh' in human beings is simply the anthropological spearhead of the universal apocalyptic, which says that 'this world is passing away' because the new creation of everything has already begun with Christ's resurrection from the dead. This means that we shall be redeemed with the world, not from it. Christian experience of the Spirit does not cut us off from the world. The more we hope for the world, the deeper our solidarity with its sighing and suffering.

Moltmann, Jürgen. The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation. Trans. M. Kohl. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993. 89. Print.

Bruce McCormack once said, "those who study the higher forms of primate life are eroding those differences left, right and center. And I think, one of the things we may learn from that, is that the Imago Dei is a doctrine about what makes us like god, not what makes us different from the rest of Creation." I appreciated this quotes way of saying that Humans are Creatures, we in the Animal Kingdom and above all a Creature, not a demiurge with dominion over creation. Moltmann has also discusses the Rights of the Earth in his Ethics of Hope, and in God in Creation. In the following quotation from God in Creation, Moltmann demonstrates humanity is a composite of continuous and qualitative leaps in the structure of evolutionary life. This means that for the Resurrection of any person to happen, then all of the parts of that person would be resurrected as well. Therefore the resurrection of any person would include the resurrection of his animal and non-Human components:

The structure of the evolution of life shows both continuity and qualitative leaps. Let us take as stages the following sequence:

  1. elementary partical
  2. atom
  3. molecule
  4. macro-molecular cell
  5. multi-cellular organism
  6. living organism
  7. organism populations
  8. living thing
  9. animal
  10. transitional field from animal to human being
  11. human beings
  12. human populations
  13. community of humanity . . . .

If we look at this sequence, we see that parts always give rise to a whole - that is to say, to a new structure and a new organizational principle. These are 'leaps' from quantity in a particular area into a new quality. It can also be seen that, with the complexity of the structure, the capacity for communication grows. And with this capacity for communication, the capacity for adaptation and transformation increase in its turn. This, again, wides the range of communication of the open life systems are in principle limited. And there is also little sign that the evolution of complex systems and new principles of organization is an end.

Moltmann, Jürgen. God in Creation. Trans. M. Kohl. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993. 203-4. Print.

In The Way of Jesus, Moltmann hears a divine Yes to animals, and extends hope to all Non-Animal Creation with a non-allegorical references to wolves and lambs based on Isaiah 11:6 and Isaiah 1:27 in this quotation:

He will bring righteousness and peace to the animal world as well, so that the wolves will live with the lambs (Isa 11:6). It is quite clear that the divine righteousness which is under discussion here has nothing to do with rewards and punishments. It is a righteousness that creates justice and puts people right, so it is a redemptive righteousness (Isa 1:27). 'The day of the messiah', like the day of Yahweh, is ultimately not a dies irae, a day of wrath. It is the day on which peace begins. By passing judgment on injustice and enmity, the messiah creates the preconditions for the universal kingdom of peace.

Moltmann, Jürgen. The Way of Jesus: Christology in Messianic Dimensions. Trans. M. Kohl. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993. 335. Print.

In The Coming of GodMoltmann explains peace will come to the Animal Kingdom, not just Humanity because of the theme that no individual is saved in isolatation, and individual is not isolated from the whole universe:

We are stressing this mediate position here, because historical eschatology too has too has repeatedly been viewed as 'the integral hope', and 'history' has continually been made the quintessence of the whole of reality. But if 'history' is no more than the field of human interaction, the result is an eschatology forgetful of nature, or even hostile towards it. If God's future, as the future of the Creator, has to do with the whole creation, then wherever eschatology is narrowed down to merely one sector of that creation, whether it be the individual sphere or the historical one, that contradiction has a destructive effect on the other sectors, because it deprives them of every hope. The eschatological field of human hopes and fears, longings and desires, has always been a favorite playground for egocentricism and anthropocentricism, and for the exclusion of anything strange and different. But true hope must be universal, because its healing future embraces every individual and the whole universe. If we were to surrender hope for as much as one single creature, for us God would not be God.

Moltmann, Jürgen. The Coming of God: Christian Eschatology. Trans. M. Kohl. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996. 132. Print.

Moltmann emphatically assert's God's Yes to the Resurrection of Nature in his book, Sun of Righteousness, Arise! The resurrection of of human society is inconceivable without the resurrection of nature in the New Earth. The resurrection of nature is a precondition for the eternal creation.

But if a resurrection of nature is inconceivable in a society of mortal human beings, what can such a resurrection of the natural world lead to? Traditionally, we think of a world beyond this one in a heaven of the blest or an Elysium of pure spirits. But that is closer to Plato than it is to Jesus and the New Testament. The resurrection of the dead takes place on this earth, and leads those who have been made alive to 'a new earth according to his promise in which righteousness dwells' (2 Peter 3:13). The kingdom of God is not just a kingdom in heaven; it comes 'on earth as it is in heaven'. Resurrection and eternal life are God's promises for the human beings of this earth. That is why a resurrection of nature too will not lead to the next world, but into the this-worldliness of the new creation of all things. God does not save his creation for heaven; he renews the earth. 'God's kingdom is the kingdom of the resurrection of the earth.' That puts all those who hope for a resurrection under an obligation to remain true to the earth, to respect it, and to love it as they love themselves. The earth is the stage of God's coming kingdom, and so resurrection into God's kingdom is the hope of this earth.

Are there any pointers in the created world to this future of resurrection? I believe that all created beings are created in the direction of this future, for the consummation of creation 'in the beginning' is the feast of creation in God's creation Sabbath. The seventh day of creation has no evening. God blesses everything he has created through his resting presence. On the Sabbath he is present to all. It is the Sabbath which distinguishes the concept of creation from he concept of nature. A Sabbath doctrine of creation is aligned towards the consummation of the created world in God's eternal presence. The resurrection of the dead, the annihilation of death and the resurrection of nature are the preconditions for the eternal creation which shares in the indwelling of the eternally living God. Creation 'in the beginning' is aligned towards this earth. Afterwards 'the whole creation groans in travail together with us' (Rom 8:22-23), and that is the true resurrection of nature.

Moltmann, Jürgen. Sun of Righteousness, Arise!. Trans. M. Kohl. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2010. 72-3. Print.

What about the resurrection of inanimate space and time? Once God finds his dwelling place in creation, creation loses its space outside God and attains to its place in God. Just as at the beginning the Creator made himself the living space for his creation, so at the end his new creation will be his living space. A mutual indwelling of the world in God and God in the world will come into being. For this, it is neither necessary for the world to dissolve into God, as pantheism says, nor for God to be dissolved into the world, as atheism maintains. God remains God, and the world remains creation. Through their mutual indwellings, they remain unmingled and undivided, for God lives in creation in a God-like way, and the world lives in God in a world-like way.

The mutual indwellings then in a cosmic communicatio idiomatum, a communication of idioms, to use a scholastic phrase--that is to say, mutual participation in the attributes of the other. Created beings participate in the divine attributes of eternity and omnipresence, just as the indwelling God has participated in their limited time and their restricted space, taking them upon himself. This means that for those God has created, the time (chronos) of remoteness from God and of transience ceases, and eternal life in the divine life begins. It means that for those God has created, the space (topos) of detachment from God ceases, and eternal presence in the omnipresence of God begins. God's indwelling eternity gives to created beings eternal time. God's indwelling presence gives created beings for ever the 'broad space in which there is no more cramping'.

Moltmann, Jürgen. The Coming of God: Christian Eschatology. Trans. M. Kohl. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996. 307-8. Print.

In conclusion, the answers of John Calvin, Karl Barth and Jürgen Moltmann on the definition of "Maximum Inclusion" may be harmonized into a universal "Yes" to all humanity, animals, plants and rocks (or maybe even the Multiverse!). The difference being in the confidence of their Yes to them all. John Calvin being the most pessimistic affirmation, Karl Barth is optomistic with man and pessmistic with non-Human Creation, and Moltmann has hope for all Creation without exception. What then is our hope for the "Maximum Inclusion"? It is for all Creation, such that nothing will be lost, whether man, animal, plant, rock or the entire Cosmos!

Header Source: Vienna Genesis, Country: Austria, Site: Vienna: Nationalbibliothek, Millet Number: 1.V839.8, Manuscript Number:, Folio Number: 3r, Subject: Noah: Rainbow, Date: 6c.,

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Jesus is the Savior of Whole World: Animals, Plants and Rocks (Part 2)

barth-all-humanityJesus Christ is the Savior of the Whole World (1 John 2:2), but what is the Maximum Inclusion of this statement? In Part One, I provided John Calvin's dismal answer of twenty percent of humanity will be saved. In Part Two, Karl Barth answers that all humanity may be saved, but he sadly says Nien to the salvation of non-Human Creation.

Karl Barth's YES to All Humanity

Karl Barth is a Reformed Theologian in the Legacy of John Calvin. In a personal letter, near the end of Barth's life, he defines the "whole world" as "all humanity" and this expands the scope of Maximum Inclusion from Calvins twenty percent of humanity to potentially one hundred percent of humanity!

"In the Bible, the world is all humanity. If Jesus Christ is and does what we read here, then he also prays for all men: for those who already pray and those who do not yet pray."

Barth, Karl. Karl Barth Letters: 1961 - 1968. Trans. Geoffrey William. Bromiley. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1981. 199-200. Print.

Does this mean Barth was a Universalist? No. Jürgen Moltmann recently commented to the Moltmanniac that "Karl Barth did not know whether he was a Universalist" and this letter does not prove that Barth was an Universalist either. Barth once said, "I don't believe in universalism, but I do believe in Jesus Christ, the reconciler of all." Barth is Daring to Hope that All Men Will Be Saved, as echoed by Hans Urs Von Balthasar.

Karl Barth's NO to All Non-Human Creation

We may celebrate Karl Barth's expansion of the "whole world" unto "all humanity", however, Barth's 'Maximal Inclusion' remains pessimistic because it does not include non-human Creation. In the following quotation from the Church Dogmatics III/2, Barth explains that Jesus came as a Man, not as any other Animal, Plant or Rock, and therefore, we may not speak positively for the redemption of non-humans:

It is of a piece with the particularity of human being that the problem of godlessness and therefore of sin seems to arise only in the sphere of man. We have noted that godlessness is the ontological impossibility of man; for man is as he is with God and therefore not without Him. We should have to say the same of other creatures if there were anything resembling godlessness in this sphere too. For as we have seen, all creatures are with Jesus and therefore with God. If there were godlessness in non-human creatures, it would have to be understood as an ontological impossibility. But it would not appear that there can actually. For since we do not know how non-human creatures are with God, we cannot give a categorical denial. On the other hand, we must remember that these relationships are concealed when we think that we can reply affirmatively and speak about "fallen creation" and so on as though it were something generally known and accepted. If I incline to the contrary opinion and say it would not appear to be the case that we have to reckon with any other kind of godlessness than that of man, I do so because the ontological impossibility of sin is only conceivable where the creature is confronted by its Creator in the immediate and direct manner which is the case with human beings. It is not accidental that Holy Scripture tells us a great deal about the sin of man but does not really say anything at all about sin in any other quarter. Would it not tell us plainly if on the basis of self-revelation of God which it attests it had something to say about a cosmic fall contemporaneous with the fall of man? If it does not do so because it cannot refer to any revelation of God and has no real witness to bear on the point, we may well ask whether there is anything at all to say. It is not obvious that the ontological impossibility of sin can be realized only where God is revealed and therefore known to the creature which is with Him, so that the creature can also be revealed and known to itself in confrontation with God? This is the case where Jesus as the Bearer of the uniqueness and transcendence of God is like man. This situation is the peculiarity of the human sphere. Since Jesus did not become an animal or a plant or a stone but a man, and since we have not to reckon with a corresponding identity of Creator and creature in other spheres, it does not apply in non-human spheres, where the divine Counterpart the drama which is the meaning and purpose of human life cannot be played out either in its normal or abnormal, its possible or impossible form. And in these circumstances how can the ontological impossibility be seen in actual operation? Of course even this consideration does not enable us to pronounce a final verdict. But in my view it is a clear indication that a negative answer is at least preferable to a positive.

Barth, Karl. "Church Dogmatics Study Edition 14" Ed. T. F. Torrance and G.W. Bromiley. III.2 The Doctrine of Creation. Trans. G. W. Bromiley, J.W. Edwards, O. Bussey, Harold Knight, J.K.S. Reid, R.H. Fuller, R.J. Ehrlich, A.T. Mackey, T.H.L. Parker, H.A. Kennedy, and J. Marks. London: T & T Clark, 2010. 132-3. Print. [139]

Karl Barth's No to Non-Human Creation ends with a question mark and not an exclamation point: a "No?" but not a "No!" Barth leaves the door open when he said that "We cannot give a categorical denial."

In Part One, I provided John Calvin's Commentary on 1 John 2:2, and for comparison, I've provided Karl Barth's commentary on the same verse from the Church Dogmatics III/2 §45.1, Barth says:

And there are some passages where the circle of those whom this applies still seems to be open outwards. Even in Mark 10:45 and par. the reference is to the many for whom Jesus will give His life as a ransom, and Calvin himself did not dare to give to this many the meaning of a restricted number of men. In John 11:51f. we have the remarkable saying that Jesus was to die for the people "and not for that nation only, but also that he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad." The same extension is to be found even more plainly in 1 John 2:2 : "He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the whole world." And so in 2 Cor 5:14-15 there is the twofold he died for all; in 1 Tim 2:6 we are told that "he gave himself a ransom for all"; and most powerfully of all John 6:51 tells us that "the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" -- a saying which finds an exact parallel in the well-known verse John 3:16, where we read that "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son." What Jesus is "for us" or "for you" in the narrow circle of the disciples and the community He is obviously though the ministry of this narrower circle, "for all" or "for the world" in the wider and widest circle. And in the majority of this narrower circle, "for all" or "for the world" in the wider or widest circle. And in the majority of the relevant passages this action of Jesus for others (His disciples, His community, the many, all, the world) is His death and passion. This is the primary reference of the more general expressions which speak of His self-offering for men. But we must see the work in its totality.

Barth, Karl. Church Dogmatics III.2 The Doctrine of Creation. Trans. G. W. Bromiley, J. W. Edwards, O. Bussey, Harold Knight, J.K.S. Reid, R.H. Fuller, R.J. Ehrlich, A.T. Mackey, T.H.L. Parker, H.A. Kennedy, J. Marks. Vol. 15. London: T & T Clark, 2009. 11. Print. Study Edition. [213]

G.C. Berkouwer has demonstrated in his book on Barth that elsewhere in the Church Dogmatics, hope is given for Non-Human Creation. In this quotation from Berkouwer's The Triumph of Grace in the Theology of Barth, demonstrates that nothing will be lost in Barth's eschatology.

God permits nothing to be lost -- no hue in deepest ocean depths, no wingbeat of an insect that lives but a day, nor the earliest time in earth's history, and certainly nothing in our life. God will not be alone in His eternity, but He will be together with His creature, His creature in its limited duration. "Present before God" -- in this way the creature will be and will remain." This is the way in which it will be enfolded in the great rest of God. This is its preservation in time. This is the mystery of the preservation which must be understood in the light of the expression repeated twenty-six times in Psalm 136, "For His mercy endureth forever." (KD III/3, pg102-3).

Berkouwer, G. C. The Triumph of Grace in the Theology of Karl Barth. Trans. Harry R. Boer. Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 1956. 164. Print.

In Part Three, Jürgen Moltmann will speak a definitive "Yes!" to Non-Human Creation, and to the  Whole World.

Header Source: "Asiatiska folk, Nordisk familjebok" by G. Mützel - Nordisk familjebok (1904), vol.2, Asiatiska folk [1] (the colour version is available in this zip-archive).Nordisk Familjebok has credited the image to Bibliographisches Institut, Leipzig.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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Jesus is the Savior of Whole World: Animals, Plants and Rocks (Part 1)


"And he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only
but also for the sins of the whole world." (NRSV 1 John 2:2)

Jesus is the Savior of the Whole World, but what is the maximum inclusion set of this statement? Is the "whole world" at most a select few pious men? Or may we hope for the restoration of all things, including animals, plants and rocks? In this three part series, I've chosen three great Reformed Theologians to answer this question in the order of increasing maximal inclusion: John Calvin, Karl Barth and Jürgen Moltmann.


John Calvin exemplifies the lower bounds of inclusion by defining the "whole world" as a subset of humanity. Calvin wrote in his Commentary on 1 John 2:2: "Then under the word all or whole, he does not include the reprobate, but designates those who should believe as well as those who were then scattered through various parts of the world." Calvin's pessimistic hope that Christ's death would atone for only a minority of humanity was later ossified in the Reformed Church as the Doctrine of Limited Atonement. Karl Barth has demonstrated that Calvin believed that as little as twenty percent of humanity would be saved in the following quotation from the Church Dogmatics II/2:

But in the Institutio, too, we read: "Almost every meeting of a hundred people will be the same: about twenty undertake the prompt obedience of faith, the other will either have no thought of it, or laugh, or hiss, or abominate it." (III, 24, 12). "Experience teaches that God wills that those whom he calls to himself come to their senses, just as he does not touch the hearts of all" (III, 24, 15). Indeed, the whole exposition begins with the methodologically only too revealing words: "The covenant of life is not preached equally among all men, and among those to whom it is preached it does not find the same place in equal measure or with equal permanence. In that diversity the wonderful depth of the divine judgment offers itself. For there is no doubt that even this variety serves the will of God's eternal election. If it is plain that it happens by God's approval that salvation is offered to some on the one hand, but others are kept from approaching him. Here, great difficult questions arise, which cannot be explained, except that pious minds must hold to what there is to hold concerning election and predestination established." (III, 21, 5). The answer to these questions is then strikingly given in the famous definition: "All are not created in the same condition, but eternal life is ordained for some, and eternal damnation for others." (III, 21, 5).

Barth, Karl. "Church Dogmatics Study Edition 10" Ed. T. F. Torrance and G.W. Bromiley. II.2 The Doctrine of God. Trans. G. W. Bromiley, J.C. Campbell, Iain Wilson, J. Strathearn McNab, T.H.L. Parker, W.B. Johnston, Harold Knight, J.L.M. Haire, R.A. Stewart: T & T Clark, 2009. 39. Print. [39]

Despite Calvin's pessimistic twenty percent definition for maximal inclusion, there are glimpses of Universalism through Calvin's writings (including the Institutes of the Christian Religion) that indicated that Calvin may have hoped for far more than twenty percent of humanity. I dare suggest that Calvin indulged (perhaps on sunny days?) in the hope that all people would be saved!

One such glimpse of Universalism is in Calvin's exposition of the Lord's Prayer within the petition "Thy Kingdom Come" in the Institutes (III, XX, 41-42). J.T. McNeill comments on these paragraphs that "Calvin's conception of the victory and future universality of Christ's Kingdom throughout the human race, a topic frequently introduced in the commentaries" (Note #76).

To summarize: we should wish God to have the honor he deserves; men should never speak or think of him without the highest reverence. To this is opposed the profanity that has always been too common and even today is abroad in the world. Hence the need of this petition, which ought to have been superfluous if even a little godliness existed among us. But if holiness is associated with God's name where separated from all other names it breathes pure glory, here we are bidden to request not only that God vindicate his sacred name of all contempt and dishonor but also that he subdue the whole race of mankind to reverence for it.

Now since God reveals himself to us partly in teaching, partly in works, we can hallow him only if we render to him what is his in both respects, and so embrace all that proceeds from him. And his sternness no less than his leniency should lead us to praise him, seeing that he has engraved marks of his glory upon a manifold diversity of works, and this rightly calls forth praises from every tongue. Thus it will come about that Scripture will obtain a just authority among us, nor will anything happen to hinder us from blessing God, as in the whole course of his governance of the universe he deserves. But the petition is directed also to this end: that all impiety which has besmirched this holy name may perish and be wiped out; that all detractions and mockeries which dim this hallowing or diminish it may be banished; and that in silencing all sacrileges, God may shine forth more and more in his majesty.

Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Ed. John T. McNeill. Trans. Ford Lewis. Battles. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1960. 904. Print. []


Therefore, after we have been bidden to ask God to subject and finally completely destroy everything that casts a stain upon his holy name, there is now added another similar and almost identical entreaty: that "his Kingdom come" [Matt. 6:10].

But even though the definition of this Kingdom was put before us previously, I now briefly repeat it: God reigns where men, both by denial of themselves and by contempt of the world and of earthly life, pledge themselves to his righteousness in order to aspire to a heavenly life. Thus there are two parts to this Kingdom: first, that God by the power of his Spirit correct all the desires of the flesh which by squadrons war against him; second, that he shape all our thoughts in obedience to his rule.

Therefore, no others keep a lawful order in this petition but those who begin with themselves, that is, to be cleansed of all corruptions that disturb the peaceful state of God's Kingdom and sully its purity. Now, because the word of God is like a royal scepter, we are bidden here to entreat him to bring all men's minds and hearts into voluntary obedience to it. This happens when he manifests the working of his word through the secret inspiration of his Spirit in order that it may stand forth in the degree of honor that it deserves. Afterward we should descend to the impious, who stubbornly and with desperate madness resist his authority. Therefore God sets up his Kingdom by humbling the whole world, but in different ways. For he tames the wantonness of some, breaks the untamable pride of others. We must daily desire that God gather churches unto himself from all parts of the earth; that he spread and increase them in number; that he adorn them with gifts; that he establish a lawful order among them; on the other hand, that he cast down all enemies of pure teaching and religion; that he scatter their counsels and crush their efforts. From this it appears that zeal for daily progress is not enjoined upon us in vain, for it never goes so well with human affairs that the filthiness of vices is shaken and washed away, and full integrity flowers and grows. But its fullness is delayed to the final coming of Christ when, as Paul teaches, "God will be all" [1 Cor 15:28]

Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Ed. John T. McNeill. Trans. Ford Lewis. Battles. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1960. 905. Print. []

Karl Barth may be correct that Calvin's hope was limited to only one in five people, yet I have hope that this glimpse of universalism and others like it through Calvin's writings, allows for a maximal inclusion that includes all people.

Next, we will consider Karl Barth's maximal inclusion, that will expand our hope beyond Calvin's twenty percent.

Image Source: By Maharaja Mahatab Chand Bahadur (1820 - 1879) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Jürgen Moltmann on The Election of Non-Human Creation (Audio)

moltmann-lectureWill non-human Creation be saved? Is the blessed hope of resurrection extended to non-human creation? Jürgen Moltmann believes that God has spoken a decisive Yes to not only humanity but all of Creation, such that nothing will be lost. I was able to ask the arguably greatest Theologian alive today this question today at the 2015 Barth Conference, and here is his answer:

Moderator: What does the Doctrine of Election have to do with non-human Creation? Is non-human Creation elected in the same way as humans are, is that part of God's Yes? We were wondering if you could speak to that?

Moltmann: Oh. [laughter] Do you want a two hour lecture or a short remark? [laughter]

Moderator: A short remark.

Moltmann: Look at 1 Corinthians 15:43-48. Where the resurrection embraces animals and flowers and all Creation. Nothing will get lost in the new Creation. So everything will be coming back.


Here is an expanded quotation of 1 Corinthians 15:35-50 (RSV), where the resurrection of animals, birds, seeds, and celestial objects are sourced:

But some one will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” You foolish man! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body which is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. For not all flesh is alike, but there is one kind for men, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. There are celestial bodies and there are terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.

So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual which is first but the physical, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. I tell you this, brethren: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

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Jesus Christ Prays For All People: A Letter by Karl Barth

Christ_in_Gethsemane625In the Scriptures, Jesus Christ is said to pray for the whole world. But who is the 'whole world'? I found the following letter in Karl Barth Letters: 1961-1968, where Karl Barth defines the 'whole world' as 'all humans', including all those who do pray and all those who do not yet pray. There is an element of Universalism in this letter, suggesting that Jesus is the savior of all people including those who do not yet Jesus as Savior. However, the Reformed Doctrine of Election has always allowed for people to be numbered among the elect who have not yet experienced conversion, existing as both Spiritually Alive and Spiritually Dead at once like Schrodinger Cat. Regardless of Universalism, Barth's definition of 'whole world' as 'all people' is fascinating.

Letter 203 to N.N Denmark

Basel, 1 March 1966

Dear N.N.,

My sincere sympathies in the deep sorrow you are now feeling. My reply to your question is as follows: We read in John 1:10 that he (Christ) was in the world and the world was made by him.

John 3:17: God sent his Son . . . that the world might be saved through him.

John 6:51: . . . my flesh which I (Christ) shall give for the life of the world.

2 Cor 5:19: God was in Christ and reconciled the world to himself.

Rev 11:15: Dominion over the world has been given to our Lord and his anointed (Christ).

John 1:29: Behold, this is the Lamb of God, which bears the sin of the world.

1 John 2:2: He is the expiation for our sins, yet not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

In the Bible, the world is all humanity. If Jesus Christ is and does what we read here, then he also prays for all men: for those who already pray and those who do not yet pray.

With friendly greetings,


Karl Barth

*N.N., who had lost his wife, had read in Barth's vaterunser (Zurich, 1965, p. 41) that Jesus prays for all humanity and he had asked Barth to mention some verses in the Bible which tells us this.

Barth, Karl. Karl Barth Letters: 1961 - 1968. Trans. Geoffrey William. Bromiley. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1981. 199-200. Print.

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Barth vs Bultmann: The Myth of the Whale and the Elephant

congdonKarl Barth and Rudolf Bultmann were once friends, believe it or not, before theology tore their friendship apart. It is rumored that Karl Barth abandoned his Church Dogmatics due exasperation caused by rising interest in Rudolf Bultmann despite Barth triumphantly overcoming his 'friend-turned-enemy' in his magnum opus. Barth grew exasperated with Bultmann's theology, and declared in a letter that the two them are like a whale and an elephant.

David W. Congdon's newly published book, The Mission of Demythologizing: Rudolf's Bultmann's Dialectic Theology, explores the relationship between Karl Barth and Rudolf Bultmann, and reconsiders whether Barth and Bultmann are as mythical divided as popularly presupposed. In the first chapter, Congdon quotes this famous Barthian Whale and Elephant letter:

It is clear to you how things are between us—you and me? It seems to me that we are like a whale . . . and an elephant, who have met in boundless astonishment on some oceanic shore. . . . They lack a common key to what each would obviously so much like to say to the other according to its own element and in its language.

—Karl Barth (Barth's 24 Dec 1952 letter to Bultmann).

Congdon, David W. The Mission of Demythologizing: Rudolf Bultmann's Dialectical Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2015. 3. Print.

Are Barth and Bultmann so radically different as a whale and an elephant? Are they not both mammals, and was it not the oceanic shore from which the whale returned to the ocean? Congdon's book is a mission to demythologize the myth of the Whale and the Elephant, and this thousand page behemoth of a book is a Voyage of the Beagle to boldly explain Barth's relationship to Bultmann's in a way that no man has gone before. I've recently acquired this book from Fortress Press and plan to review it as I circumnavigate its pages. Although this book is longer and larger than Friedrich Schleiermacher's The Christian Faith, it is far more accessible! (I will clarify, that the 'Schleiermarcherian' proportions of this book are due to Fortress Press graciously spacing out the text for ease on the eyes!)

Congdon explains this common ancestor between the whale and the elephant:

We can therefore trace Barth's doctrine of the Trinity and Bultmann's program of demythologizing from this common missionary starting point. Barth and Bultmann were responding to the challenges of historical consciousness, seeking to think the gospel under the conditions of modernity. Dialectical theology thinks within historical consciousness without reducing faith to history, that is, without reducing kerygma to culture. Similarly, demytholizing does not reductively accommodate or conform the gospel to modernity, as many of its critics allege.

ibid. xxvi.

And how this 'mission' of his work is explained at the end of the preface with a quote:

In the introduction to his work on Barth and Bultmann, James Smart makes the following comment:

'It might be thought that the intention in considering the two men together is to attempt once more to bridge the gap between them, to recognize their points both of agreement and of divergence, and then perhaps to establish a theological position in line with their points of agreement but reconciling somehow their separate contributions where they diverge. That would be much too ambitious a project event if it were practicable.'

Such a project is indeed ambitious, and it is the very one I have attempted here. Whether it is practicable or not is left to the reader to decide.

ibid. xxxii-xxxiii.

This conclusion is explained best in Congdon's comment:

Clarifying the faith for people in a particular cultural situation is the very definition of the missionary enterprise. In carrying out his hermeneutical program, Bultmann is nothing less than a missionary to modernity.

ibid. xxvi-xxvii.

This review is only a review of the introduction to Congdon's book, and I hope to provide a full review in the near future, after I've concluded my Magellan quest through its pages. I expect to find a Galapagos Isles along the way!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received these book free from Fortress Press in exchange for a review on this blog. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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Karl Barth’s Secular Parables: A Hidden YES to Natural Revelation?

secular-parablesAt the end of the Church Dogmatics, Karl Barth took a surprising turn in his affirmation of "secular parables" that made many wonder if Barth had reversed his resounding Nein! to Emil Brunner many years prior. In the Church Dogmatics Vol. IV/3.1, §69.2 "The Light of Life", Barth develops his own "Natural Theology", although Barth does not admit he is doing anything like Natural Theology. Barth makes this clear when he writes: "It will be seen that, in order to perceive that we really have to reckon with such true words from without, we have no need to appeal either for basis or content to the sorry hypothesis of a so-called " natural theology" (Le., a knowledge oi God given in and with the natural force of reason or to be attained in its exercise)." (CD IV/3.1, p.17).

In the following quotation, Karl Barth explains his final word on Natural Revelation in this famous passage defining "secular parables". Barth explains that these secular parables are other lights besides the one light of Jesus Christ. The other lights do not express any other word than the one word, and these other words do not oppose what has been revealed by the Bible or the Church, and do not add anything that has not been revealed. Barth's so-called Natural Revelation in CD IV/3.1 is developed throughout "The Light of Life" paragraph, and I highly recommend this reading to supplement what Barth wrote many years before in the Church Dogmatics Vol. II/1, where his 'No' to 'Natural Revelation' is famously expounded.

Presupposing that this is accepted and confessed, we now turn to the more complicated question of true words which are not spoken in the Bible or the Church, but which have to be regarded as true in relation to the one Word of God, and therefore heard like this Word, and together with it.

Are there really true words, parables of the kingdom, of this very different kind? Does Jesus Christ speak through the medium of such words? The answer is that the community which lives by the one Word of the one Prophet Jesus Christ, and is commissioned and empowered to proclaim this Word of His in the world, not only may but must accept the fact that there are such words and that it must hear them too, notwithstanding its life by this one Word and its commission to preach it. Naturally, there can be no question of words which say anything different from this one Word, but only of those which do materially say what it says, although from a different source and in another tongue. But can it ever pay sufficient attention to this one Word? Can it be content to hear it only from Holy Scripture and then from its own lips and in its own tongue? Should it not be grateful to receive it also from without, in very different human words, in a secular parable, even though it is grounded in and ruled by the biblical, prophetico-apostolic witness to this one Word? Words of this kind cannot be such as overlook or even lead away from the Bible. They can only be those which, in material agreement with it, illumine, accentuate or explain the biblical witness in a particular time and situation, thus confirming it in the deepest sense by helping to make it sure and concretely evident and certain. They can only be words which will lead the community more truly and profoundly than ever before to Scripture. Has it any good reason to refuse this kind of stimulation and direction, whatever its origin or form? In so doing, would it really be obedient to Scripture, which in both Testaments often introduces witnesses to the truth from the darkness of the nations and therefore from outside the community of the elect and called, giving them a serious message to deliver and thus displaying that which is old and familiar in a new guise? Does it not necessarily lead to ossification if the community rejects in advance the existence and word of these alien witnesses to the truth? It must test them by the witness of Scripture. But it must really hear them, although without prejudice to its own mission to preach the one Word of God in its own tongue and manner as grounded in and directed by the biblical witness. We do not refer to words which might tempt it from this task or make it unwilling or incompetent to discharge it.

Barth, Karl. "Church Dogmatics Study Edition 27" Ed. T. F. Torrance and G.W. Bromiley. IV.3.1 The Doctrine of Reconciliation. Trans. G. W. Bromiley. London: T & T Clark, 2010. 110. Print. [p114-5]

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Karl Barth: We Believe in Eternal Life, not in Eternal Hell


The Apostles' Creed is among the oldest universally accepted symbols of the Christian faith. In Karl Barth's commentary on the Apsotles' Creed, he observes that there is no mention of Satan, Hell or Eternal Death in the Apostles' Creed, there is only mention of Eternal Life. And although this creed mentions Judgement, Barth says, it is not a Judgement until Eternal Hell, but to a restoration of justice.

I've selected two quotations from The Faith of the Church: A Commentary on the Apostle's Creed According to Calvin's Catechism that include firstly, Barth's statement that we must not believe in Hell, Satan or Eternal Death, and secondly, Barth's statement that Judgment in the creed does not necessitate Hell, Satan or Eternal Death. These are not objects of faith for the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church:

John Calvin

Question 110. Why, then, is there mention only of external life and not of hell?--Since nothing is held by faith except what contributes to the consolation of the souls of the pious. Hence there are here recalled the rewards which the Lord has prepared for his servants. Therefore it is not added what fate may await the impious whom we know to be outcasts from the Kingdom of God. 

Karl Barth

For the third time, it is a question of human life under the aspect of the future that is promised to it by God, under the aspect of its eternity. Our life in the light of eternity is the life everlasting. Justified through the forgiveness of sins, sanctified through the resurrection of the flesh, human life is glorified through the life everlasting. (Cf. Rom 8.) The Holy Spirit communicates to us communion with God not only in justifying us and in sanctifying us, but in glorifying us, that is, in communicating the glory of God to us. Glory means the splendor of God, the glory of God in the life and the revelation of God such as he is. God has but to show himself to make light and to dazzle. (Cf. Question 2.) Do note that, though it is a question of glorification, this does not mean that there is a glory within us that might start to shine, but it means that we shall partake in a glory other than ours, in the glory of God. We shall be, so to speak, draped in his light. We ourselves shall shine because we shall be lighted. God will have his glory in us and that is the goal of his creation: God does not want to remain alone. It is not enough for God to shine by his own power. He wants to shine in others and he chose us to live in us. He wants to be glorious in us and through us. The "veil" of which we spoke will be removed and human life will meet its final destination visibly.

In the sense of the Bible, the term everlasting (αἰώνιος) does not mean "which has no end," but quite simply: "which belongs to the world to come." Eternity is, in the Bible, the time of this new world. Hence it is not defined first by its unlimited characteristic (indeed it is unlimited) but by its relation to the world to come, to the glorious Kingdom of God.

According to Calvin, the Creed does not speak of hell and eternal death because its author was nice enough to be willing to speak only of comfort. But Calvin, as if to restore things, reminds us that there is also hell, although the Creed did not mention it. I think that, here too, Calvin must be slightly corrected. It is not only out of kindness, out of good nature, that the Creed does not mention hell and eternal death. But the Creed discusses only the things which are the object of the faith. We do not have to believe in hell and in eternal death. I may only believe in the resurrection and the judgment of Christ, the judge and advocate, who has loved me and defended my cause.

The Creed discusses the things to be believed. To believe. It is important to finish with faith. We believe in the Word of God and it is the word of our salvation. The kingdom, the glory, the resurrection, the life everlasting, each one is a work of rescue. Light pierces through the darkness, eternal life overcomes eternal death. We cannot "believe" in sin, in the devil, in our death sentence. We can only believe in the Christ who has overcome the devil, borne sin and removed eternal death. Devil, sin, and eternal death appear to us only when they are overcome.

And let us not add: "Yes, but sin is a grievous thing" --as though hell and so many horrors were not on earth already! If one does really believe, one cannot say: "But!" this terrible and pitiful "but." I fear that much of the weakness of our Christian witness comes from this fact that we dare not frankly confess the grandeur of God, the victory of Christ, the superiority of the Spirit. Wretched as we are, we always relapse into contemplation of ourselves and of mankind, and, naturally, eternal death comes up no sooner than we have looked on it. The world without redemption becomes again a power and a threatening force, and our message of victory ceases to be believable. But as it is written: "The victory that triumphs over the world, this is our faith (1 John 5:4)

Barth, Karl. Ed. Jean-Louis Leuba. The Faith of the Church: A Commentary on the Apostle's Creed According to Calvin's Catechism. Trans. Gabriel Vahanian. New York: Meridian, 1963. 171-4. Print.

If anyone were to object, "it may not mention hell, but it does mention judgment", here Karl Barth also responds that Judgment is about restoring what is right, not about punishing those who are in the wrong.

John Calvin

Question 84. Since the day of judgement is not before the end of the world, how do you say that there will be some men still alive, when it is appointed to all men to die? (Heb 9:27). --Paul answers this question when he says that they who survive will pass into a new state by a sudden change, so that, the corruption of the flesh being abolished, they will put on incorruption (1 Cor 15:52; 1 Thess 4:17) [...]

Karl Barth

As to the judgement (Question 84), we must consider that the sense of this word is objective. Judgement means: to establish, to setup, to proclaim the lawful right. This entails two consequences: a ruling on men, some of whom will be acquitted, others condemned. But also and first: the establishment of order in the world, the public and irrefutable and victorious proclamation of the truth. In our world and time, the Gospel is proclaimed, death is overcome. But we still live as if all that had not been clarified. Good and evil, justice and injustice, seemingly amount to the same for us. But this false belief shall be refuted definitively. Publicly and irrefutably, the judge shall declare what is just, and everyone shall see it.

This judgment shall be pronounced on the living and the dead, that is, on men of all times. It will not be just any event, one historical event, nor even the last of historical events. It will be the event par excellence, the disclosure of the whole perfect truth accomplished in Christ, the judgement of all men and everyone of their lives. It is interesting to note that Calvin, who was still enough of a lawyer, did not speak of this judgment in strictly juridical terms, but presented the last judgement right off from the much broader angle of the manifestation of the truth.

Barth, Karl. Ed. Jean-Louis Leuba. The Faith of the Church: A Commentary on the Apostle's Creed According to Calvin's Catechism. Trans. Gabriel Vahanian. New York: Meridian, 1963. 115-7. Print.


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Karl Barth on the Historicity of the Resurrection

The Passion Narratives are notoriously difficult to harmonize, and despite ingenious solutions, there remains to be discovered a satisfactory harmonization of the events. A natural conclusion is that these conflicting narratives are not intended to be harmonized.  These conflicting narratives should not be smoothed out in the same way that it would be wrong to flatten the terrain of a National Park. The Early Church understood that there is beauty in diversity, and this is why the Early Church did not allow Tatian's Dissertation to supplant the four Evangelists.

Evangelicals assume a defensive pose anytime biblical criticism suggests that the Passion Narratives are any other genre than objective eye-witness reporting or that they may allow contradictory elements. If two of the Evangelists contradict each other on the exact moment the resurrection was witnessed (before dawn, at down, after dawn, etc.), will the Resurrection really be disproved? This is absurd! Karl Barth has provided criticism as such, and this has caused many Evangelicals to hastily pronounce "Aha! See, Karl Barth denies the Resurrection, because he admits that the witnesses to the Resurrection cannot be harmonized."

In The Faith of the Church: A Commentary on the Apostle's Creed According to Calvin's Catechism, Karl Barth provides a helpful remark on the Apostles' Creed regarding the Passion Narratives that is concise and easy to understand.

REMARK on the "Historicity" of the Resurrection.

Unquestionably, the resurrection narratives are contradictory. A coherent history cannot be evolved from them. The appearances to the women and apostles, in Galilee and Jerusalem, which are reported by the Gospels and Paul, cannot be harmonized. It is a chaos. The evangelical theologians of the nineteenth century--my father, for instance--were wrong in trying to arrange things so as to prove the historicity of the resurrection. Their intention deserved praise. But they should have remembered that even the early Church had not tried to harmonize the resurrection stories. She had really felt that about this unique event there was something of an earthquake for everybody in attendance. The witnesses attended an event that went over their heads, and each told a bit of it. But these scraps are sufficient to bear witness to us of the magnitude of the event and its historicity. Every one of the witnesses declares God's free grace which surpasses all human understanding. God alone can prove the truth of that history since he himself is its subject. Fortunately, God has never ceased to work in men's hearts and send the faith needed to those things.

Barth, Karl. Ed. Jean-Louis Leuba. The Faith of the Church: A Commentary on the Apostle's Creed According to Calvin's Catechism. Trans. Gabriel Vahanian. New York: Meridian, 1963. 108. Print.

For more information, see Karl Barth's demythologizing the Empty Tomb.

"Chora Anastasis1" by Gunnar Bach Pedersen - Self-photographed. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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Karl Barth’s “No” to Natural Revelation in the Faith of the Church


Karl Barth gave a series of lectures on the Apostles' Creed from 1940 to 1943 that were recorded with a stenographer and then published with Barth's permission in a book titled, The Faith of the Church: A Commentary on the Apostles' Creed according to Calvin's Catechism. As the title indicates, Barth's lectures were a commentary on John Calvin's exposition of the Apostles' Creed from the 1545 Latin edition of the Geneva Catechism (see P. Schaff's helpful introduction to the Geneva Catechism.) Barth provides each of Calvin's questions and answers on the Apostles' Creed from the Geneva Catechism and then provides his exposition of the respective question and constructive criticism of Calvin's answers.

Many of Barth's controversial views appear in The Faith of the Church, including his position on the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection, and even his famous nein to Natural Revelation that I've provided in the following quotation. Calvin's question and answer's are in italics, with Karl Barth's response immediately following.

John Calvin

Question 25. Why do you add: Maker of heaven and earth? -- Because he manifested himself to us through his works, and in them he is to be sought by us (Psalm 104; Rom 1:20). For our mind is incapable of entertaining his essence. Therefore there is the world itself as a kind of mirror, in which we may observe him, in so far as it concerns us to know him.

Karl Barth

We cannot know God in his essence. "No man can see my face and live." But God makes himself known to us in the world. Here we must make several clarifications in order to avoid some big mistakes.

First of all, the world, creation, is not a part of God as the Gnostics used to represent it. The world is not an emanation from God, but the putting into being of something different from God, which is over and against God. If the world were divine in itself, it could not be said: God loves the world, for then God would be loving himself and remain alone. Love signifies: relationship between two really different beings. The world is then a reality in itself, a proof of the mercy of God who agrees to the existence of something outside of himself. There is an absolute imparity between God and the world, but, within this imparity, there is a hyphen: creation depends on God. God upholds creation and God judges what is good and what is evil. There is no good and evil "in itself," but God judges good and evil. And the sin of man consists precisely in the fact that he himself wants to judge what is good and what is evil.

Next, what is the nature of the knowledge of God which is given us in the world? Let us beware now: Man has no possibility to know God "through nature."

There is no knowledge of God which was given along with the existence and the essence of the world. We ourselves cannot say: God is in the world here or he is there. But God himself is he who, in the world, gives himself to our knowledge, according as he pleases. We notice with what reservations Calvin speaks of this knowledge the world does not stand witness of God but insofar as God wills it and wherever he wills it. It is not the history of any people which witnesses unto God, but the history of Israel, the Bible and Jesus Christ belong to the world. The world then is a mirror that reflects something found elsewhere, that reflects it insofar as God wills it and wherever God wills it.

Barth, Karl. Ed. Jean-Louis Leuba. The Faith of the Church: A Commentary on the Apostle's Creed According to Calvin's Catechism. Trans. Gabriel Vahanian. New York: Meridian, 1963. 48-49. Print.

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