The PostBarthian

Karl Rahner on the Impossibility of Apostasy

karl-rahner-impossibility-apostasyWhat is the difference between a Heretic and an Apostate? And how does one become an Apostate? Karl Rahner S.J. answers these questions in his provocative essay What is Heresy? printed in his Theological Investigations, Volume V: Later Writings. Rahner defines the formal difference between heresy and apostasy this way: "Heresy is only possible among brothers in the Spirit". (p.470) and this means that only Christians may become Heretics and therefore it is wrong to call anyone a heretic who has never been a part of the Christian Faith. So calling someone a Heretic is a backhanded and ironic way of calling them a Christian! But what separates a Heretic from an Apostate? Rahner's answer may surprise you!

Rahner says that denying Christian propositions is not enough to become an Apostate! This is an alarming statement to many Evangelicals who are quick to label anyone who disagrees with them a heretic, even on inconsequential issues. Rahner in the following quotation explains that it is not enough to merely deny a proposition to become an apostate, but one must completely leave all Christian environments to truly become an apostate. If a person denies Christian propositions, but is willing to continue to living under the moral reality of those Christian propositions, have they truly denied Christianity? Rahner says in a way, these people who deny Christianity are Heretics, not Apostates! Rahner will go so far to say in the essay (not quoted below) that Christians are expected to have intentional and unintentional heretical beliefs: in other words, we all have heretical beliefs no matter how hard we try to purge them! Rahner says that we are all pluralists because the idea of acquiring universal knowledge ended in the 19th century and we must all assimilate conflicting knowledge. Ironically, these same Evangelicals that might be offended by Rahner's position are also the quickest to deny that a professing Christian is truly a brother or sister in Christ because they do not hold the exact belief sets, or if a Christian holds one belief that is deplorable to another Christian. By denying that a person is what they say they are, one only proves that a person may remain a Christian while denying Christian propositions!

Rahner's answer brings into question the possibility of Apostasy entirely, because at this point in history and with the globalization of Christianity, it is arguably impossible to completely free oneself from Christianity's influence on the world. Is it possible to live without the benefits of Christianity today? In the following quotation, the answer is not explicit, but unavoidable conclusion that if apostasy is a possibility today, in the near future the possibility of apostasy may vanish from the Earth, since all non-Christians live in some way or another as an Anonymous Christian.

If this is remembered, then it will become clear that one of the differences between heresy and apostasy—a difference which is perhaps still quite important in practice but which theologically speaking is not an essential one—consists in whether a person accepts certain (specifically Christian) propositions by an in itself purely human conviction, or whether these propositions are present for him only as a co-determining factors of the spiritual situation in which he inevitably finds himself. Where, when and as long as someone lives unavoidably in an environment which in a thousand ways (even though perhaps quite anonymously and unsystematically) is co-formed by Christianity and by the reality manifesting itself in the (rejected or still accepted) Christian propositions of faith, such a person has always still a chance of coming perhaps quite unconsciously into contact with this reality and of (perhaps quite unsystematically) becoming a Christian. This process is not essentially different in the theological sense from one in which someone takes hold of the full nature of faith and of the reality of salvation by surrendering himself to the inner dynamism of certain Christian propositions to which he had previously adhered in a merely human formation of opinion. In the one case he surrenders himself to the force of the propositions of his environment—to the external, 'public' opinion—and in the other case, to the force of the propositions of his inner, private opinion.

Hence, only where the defection can take place in such a way that the person who defects leaves the historical environment of Christianity altogether—and no longer (as far as the historical dimension is concerned) has to be in a dialogue of 'yes' or 'no' with Christianity—only then would there be a pure apostasy. Whether there can be such a case in those cultures which were at one time Christian, is a question of fact and of basic principles of theology; moreover, it is inevitably perhaps a question which today is already outdated by events. For if there is today anything like a unified planetary civilization, i.e. if today the elements and structures of every culture with their history have become—even though up till now still in different degrees of intensity—co-determining factors of this unified planetary civilization and thus of all individual cultures of the world, and if Christianity continues to exist in the world at all, then no one at all in the world today (although of course, in different but on the whole growing degrees) can withdraw himself from the outset from the dialogue with Christianity (no matter what may be the outcome). To this extent, therefore, no one can any longer live in a purely withdrawn, apo-static relationship to Christianity, but is forced to contradict it by explicitly separating himself from it by heresy. In a theological understanding, everything non-Christian and all non-Christians are somehow moving into a permanent and unavoidable role of explicit opposition towards Christianity and thus precisely of being oriented towards it. For gradually Christianity is coming to belong everywhere in the world to the roots of that (universal) history in which one still remains rooted even while in opposition. Seen in this life, we are completely justified in preferring to call the present-date world—terminologically—heretical rather than apostatical.

Rahner S.J., Karl. "What Is Heresy?" Theological Investigations, Volume V.: Later Writings. Trans. K. H. Kruger. London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1966. 486-87. Print.

Header Image Source: "Verscheiden wijzen van pijnigen bij de inquisitie gebruikelijk" by Unknown - Scanned from original. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Print Friendly


Demythologizing Biblical Manhood and Womanhood


Are gender roles a permanent fact of creation? Is there a Natural Theology of Gender? And therefore man has a unique leadership role in the Church? David Congdon, author of The Mission of Demythologizing: Rudolf Bultmann's Dialectical Theology answers a decisive "No" to all these questions. In the following quotation, Congdon reveals the danger of elevating any cultural-historical judgement or norm to a first order dogma, and includes a somber warning to those who do:

Indeed, if mythology is defined as the assumption that a certain configuration of cultural-historical judgements and norms is divinely authorized, then Brent Hege is surely right to point out that the parallel between the debate over the Aryan paragraph in the 1930s and the current debate over LGBTQ inclusion within the church. In both cases a particular understanding of a cultural-biological factor—race and ethnicity on the one hand (e.g., the German Volkstum), gender and sexuality on the other (e.g., heterosexuality)—is elevated to the position of a divinely mandated norm, one that has universal validity. Numerous other forms of contemporary constantinianism are readily apparent. At least among Protestant evangelicals, the debate over gender equality and the inclusion of women in ecclesial leadership has revolved around the question of whether there are timeless creational laws or norms.

Congdon, David W. The Mission of Demythologizing: Rudolf Bultmann's Dialectical Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2015. 684. Print.

In the footnote to this quotation, Congdon responds to the icon of complementarianism, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood by John Piper and Wayne Grudem, with the following criticism:

John Piper thus declares: "When the Bible teaches that men and women fulfill different roles in relation to each other, charging man with a unique leadership role, it bases this differentiation not on temporary cultural norms but on permanent facts of creation." See John Piper and Wayne A. Grudem, eds., Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A response to Evangelical Feminism (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991; reprint 2006), 35; emphasis added. Piper here advocates what we might call a "natural theology of gender," or to use Bultmann's terminology, a "gender mythology." Piper's claim that certain features of culture are actually permanent elements of creation itself is reminiscent of Thielicke's claim that certain mythical concepts are timelessly valid as the "crib" within which God chose to dwell in the incarnation. Piper seeks to objectify a certain gender hierarchy by finding an acultural zone free from contingencies of history. Such a zone does not exist, however, and what he calls "permanent facts of creation" is simply the constantinian essentialization of particular cultural norms under the fabricated guise of a doctrine of creation. Something analogous take place among the "new natural law" theorists who use appeals to an acultural and timeless "nature" as a way of stabilizing and objectifying certain moral precepts. All this is merely an attempt to justify one's own cultural assumptions—that is, to engage in an act of self-justification according to the law rather than the gospel—by securing a certain understanding of the kerygma. In other words, the contemporary culture wars are simply "hermeneutical wars," and as hermeneutical wars they are in fact "missiological wars." What is finally at stake in these culture wars is the question whether the church is truly and without reserve a missionary church.

Ibid. 684n271.

Header Image Source: "Lucas Cranach the Elder - Adam und Eva im Paradies (Sündenfall) - Google Art Project" by Lucas Cranach the Elder - Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Print Friendly


Most Popular Volumes of Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics


The results from my "What's your favorite volume of Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics?" are in!

The winner is a tie between The Church Dogmatics: The Doctrine of God, Vol. II/2 (CD II/2) and The Church Dogmatics: The Doctrine of Reconciliation, Vol. IV/1 (CD IV/1). I'm not surprised that these two volumes would be neck and neck and that each would receive double the votes of the nearest runners up. CD II/2 contains Karl Barth's Doctrine of Election that reconfigures the Horrible Decree of John Calvin's Double Predestination. Many may argue that CD II/2 is the high point of the Church Dogmatics, especially since that Karl Barth described the Doctrine of Election as the Gospel. And CD IV/1 is the fountain head of the fourth volume of the Church Dogmatics, and almost a Dogmatics within the Dogmatics. CD IV/1 contain Barth's introduction to the Doctrine of Reconciliation, including Justification.

Third and fourth place were also a tie between The Church Dogmatics: The Doctrine of the Word of God, Vol. I/2 (CD I/2) and The Church Dogmatics: The Doctrine of the Word of God, Vol. 1/1 (CD I/1). Many people expressed surprised that CD I/2 would occupy the third place, and eclipse both CD III/2 and CD II/1. My guess is that it was chosen because it answers questions faced by American Evangelicals today such as Religion vs Jesus, and Inerrancy of Scripture. CD I/2 contains Barth's famous paragraph 17, titled: "The Revelation of God as the Abolition of Religion" and paragraphs 19-21 contains Barth's Doctrine of Scripture.

I also was surprised to see sneak Karl Barth's The Church Dogmatics: The Christian Life, Vol. IV/4 (CD IV/4L) sneak into sixth place! These posthumously published lecture fragments by Karl Barth, were not included in CD IV/4 because Karl Barth has abandoned The Church Dogmatics before publishing them.  There was a single vote for the officially published Church Dogmatics Vol. IV/4 fragment, but I'm guessing this was a mistaken vote for CD IV/4L.

Thank you everyone who participated in the poll! Voting ended with a total of eighty votes, but I will leave the poll open, if anyone still desires to add their vote. If you would like to purchase Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics, the best price for the complete set is usually at


Print Friendly


What is your favorite volume of Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics? (poll)


What is your favorite volume of Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Image Source: "Karl Barth Church Dogmatics" by ThinkingLeaders - Own work Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Print Friendly


George Hunsinger on the Pathogenicity of Rationalistic Calvinism

B. B. Warfield's famous "The Order of Decrees" chart from The Plan of Salvation is figured above. I've colorized the chart so that the darkest swim lanes are those most endorsed by B. B. Warfield (and most exemplifying Rationalistic Calvinism.)

George Hunsinger referenced B. B. Warfield's famous "Orders of Decrees" chart (see figure above) in a footnote of his recent book: Reading Barth With Charity: A Hermeneutical ProposalWarfield's chart is famous and influential, and the following footnote caused me to have a paradigm shift regarding it, because I once saw it as the clearest assessment of Calvinism's superior Plan of Salvation, but now I understand it as symptomatic of Rationalistic Calvinism:

An interesting chart drafted by B. B. Warfield unwittingly reveals so much of an outlier rationalistic Calvinism has been within the context of World Christianity. See Warfield, The Plan of Salvation (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980, 30.)

Hunsinger, George. Reading Barth with Charity: A Hermeneutical Proposal. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2015. Xiv-Xv. Print.

B. B. Warfield devised this famous "Orders of Decree" chart in his small book, The Plan of Salvation. Warfield's endorses only the "Consistently Particularistic" plans for salvation that include the Supralapsarianism and Infralapsarianism swim lanes in the chart. Warfield believes all the Reformed Creeds are more-or-less Infralapsarian, but Supralapsarian is not explicitly excluded as an orthodox option by these numerous sixteenth and seventeenth century Reformed Creeds. Warfield places the "Consistently Particularistic" columns in juxtaposition to all other forms of Calvinism and Christianity listed in the swim lanes (with those increasing in heterodoxy to the right). Amyraldism (or as Warfield calls it, "Hypothetical Universalism") is listed within the "Particularistic" parent swim lane, however, Warfield discretely dismissed Amyrauldism as an "a logically inconsistent form of Calvinism and therefore an unstable form of Calvinism."

What is Rationalistic Calvinism, and how does it differ from non-Rationalistic Calvinism (i.e. Evangelistic Calvinism)? B. B. Warfield is only a footnote to this question, that Hunsinger aims to answer in Reading Barth With Charity. Although Hunsinger is not directly addressing Warfield (or his chart) in the following quotations, these quotations explain the difference between Rationalistic Calvinism and Evangelical Calvinism.

Hunsinger uses T. F. Torrance's definition of Evangelical Calvinism:

Evangelical Calvinism, as explained by [Thomas F.] Torrance . . . was more biblical and less scholastic. It retained a more open-textured structure as opposed to a fast for sharp distinctions and scholastic rigor. It believed that theological statements pointed away from themselves to the truth about God, which by its nature could not be contained in finite forms of speech and thought, but also that without theological statements, such truth could not be mediated. It judged, according to Torrance, that the filial was prior to the legal, that the personal was prior to the propositional, that the indicative took precedence over the deductive, and that spiritual insight placed constraints on logical reasoning.

Ibid. Xiv-Xv.

Again, Hunsinger uses T. F. Torrance's to define Rationalistic Calvinism:

The priorities of rationalistic Calvinism were more or less the reverse. Rationalistic Calvinism, for Torrance, was associated with Theodore Beza, the Westminster standards (1646-48), and the Synod of Dordt (1618-19). It was known for such extreme outcomes as limited atonement, a debate between "supralapsarianism" and "infralapsarianism," and a legalistic construal of "covenant" that tended towards synergism. These unfortunate ideas reflected a certain mode of reasoning. The legal was prior to the filial, the deductive to the inductive, and the propositional to the personal. There was a general tendency to draw logical conclusions from abstract propositions and to arrange the results in water-tight systems. As Torrance saw it, this type of Calvinism predominated from roughly 1650 to 1950 in the Anglo-Saxon world, especially in Scotland and the United States.

Ibid. Xv.

And in this last quotation, Hunsinger compares and contrasts Evangelical Calvinists to Rationalistic Calvinists:

Hilary of Poiters . . . might read, "It is not the concepts that dictate the subject matter, but the subject matter that dictate the concepts."

Rationalistic Calvinism tended to reason from the concepts to the subject matter. It argued that certain beliefs must be true because they followed logically from certain abstract propositions. In that sense the subject matter was dictated by the concepts.

Evangelical Calvinism, on the other hand, tended to do the opposite by reasoning from the subject matter to the concepts. It refrained from what it regarded as a false application of logical rigor because of constraints imposed by the subject matter, even if they had to be left in tension.

Rationalistic Calvinists, for example, argued rigorously from double predestination to limited atonement, whereas at least some Evangelical Calvinists resisted those conclusions. Instead they gave priority to scriptural affirmations that Christ died for all, even though they could not resolve all the remaining perplexities. The difference between the two forms of Calvinism was to a significant degree, the difference between deductive and inductive reasoning.

Ibid. Xv-Xvi.

Header Image Source:

Warfield, Benjamin Breckinridge. The Plan of Salvation. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub., 1966. 31. Print.

Print Friendly


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.,

Print Friendly


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.

Print Friendly


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

Print Friendly


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.

Audio and Image Source:

Print Friendly


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.

Header Source: "Christ in Gethsemane" by Heinrich Hofmann - Self-scanned by User:JGHowes from 1945 print. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Print Friendly