The PostBarthian
26Jun/150

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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