Willimon’s Understanding of Barth’s Rationalizing of his universalism

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Among the first things which I learned as a ‘biblioblogger’ (or rather from a biblioblogger?) is to understand the speaker, the audience, and the interpreter and the role which they play in shaping our own understanding of the text upon which we now gaze. (Thanks to Dr. Gayle for this)

In doing so, I find it interesting to read Willimon reading Barth while professing a Wesleyan lens. It is also interesting to note that Willimon, a conservative United Methodist Bishop and Theologian, has said more in the first three chapters on his book regarding universal restoration than Rob Bell, as far as I know, ever has and does so while quoting Barth. This is interesting because ]] has named Barth as among his theological heroes as well. Anyway, as I recently read Crisp’s short essay on Barth, he was able to put Barth’s future expectation into focus, but I think that Willimon, at least for me, centers that focus and removes any of the haziness which remained. Willimon writes,

What Barth denied in the idea of apolatastasis was to make universal salvation inevitable. To in any way imply that God must save would be to make our salvation a law or a general principle and to do so would be to limit the freedom and sovereignty of God.

This is about the clearest means of addressing Barth’s double-minded words on this topic which I have seen. While Barth hoped for and believed that their would be a universal restoration, a New Creation, it was God’s gift and not God’s law which would do so, placing everything upon God and rescuing God’s sovereignty from various theological positions. If God must saved everyone, they it was no longer a gift and the cross of Christ is pointless; yet, if God does redeem all of Creation, then is His choice, not ours. Barth saw God’s sovereignty, it would seem to me, as a central doctrine in Scripture/Theology which all other things feed to and from. God is Sovereign.

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