Atonement and Election, some theses


With utmost fear and trembling,

  1. Models of Atonement and Election (A/E) that posit some sort of epistemological gap between election and assurance can only lead to spiritual death.  In other words, can I really know I am elect?
  2. Simply saying “Look to Jesus as the Mirror of My Election” only begs the question.  We all know people who appeared to fall away after years of faithful living.
  3. Nonetheless, Arminian accounts of election are unsatisfactory.  If predestination means God foresaw that I would believe, how does that really solve the problem?  God’s knowledge is eternal, and presumably unchanging.  If he saw I would believe, and he doesn’t have any false beliefs himself, then it’s hard to see how I could have done otherwise.
  4. If we are going to stay on the federalism route, some model like hypothetical universalism is necessary.
  5. There can be no absolute decree independent and behind the back of Jesus.
  6. If per Athanasius that Jesus is the willing of God, then any talk of God’s will to elect must always be in Christ.  Our knowledge of this cannot be anything other than that found in Jesus Christ. 
  7. Jesus is the Eternal Decree.
  8. Any form of supralapsarianism that is anchored in the decretum absolutum is borderline Origenism:  God needs to create the world (in this case, to damn those he decreed to damn).
  9. Instead of a decretum absolutum, we have knowledge of the elect man Jesus Christ.
  10. If we don’t have Jesus as God’s decree, then we ultimately cannot know whether we are elect. “The beginning of all things God’s eternal plan and decree was identical with what is disclosed to us in time as the revelation of God and the truth about all things” (Barth CD II/2, 156).
  11. The will of God is Jesus Christ, “and this will is known to us in the revelation of Jesus Christ.  If we acknowledge this, if we seriously accept Jesus Christ as the content of this will, then we cannot seek any other will of God” (157).  God gives Himself as a Person (“God sent forth his Son).  God ultimately wills himself.
  12. Per atonement: traditional reformed theology spoke of the two-fold will. It placed all of the “universal” passages in the revealed will. It placed all of the “particularist” passages in the hidden will. Hans Boersma asked the following question: “Is God like the hidden will or the revealed will?”
  13. Therefore, when I look into election, I don’t see a decretum absolutum, I see Jesus.

I also think we need to tie in St Athanasius’s remarks (Against the Arians, II: 75-77) on Jesus as the subject of election with Torrance’s claim that Jesus is God’s Being-in-Act.  The Word must be the living Will of the Father, and an essential energy (enousion energia), and a real Word” (II.14.2).


About J. B. Aitken

Interests include patristics, the role of the soul in the human person, analytic theology, Reformed Scholasticism, Medievalism, Substance Metaphysics
This entry was posted in Autobiography, theology and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Atonement and Election, some theses

  1. cal says:

    This seems to get you to go around in a circle back towards Jesus as the mirror of my election. Torrance still has to talk about sin/election as a surd, a ‘somehow’ of removing (being removed?) from the elect humanity of Jesus Christ.

    I think, per Jude and Romans 11, there has to be an epistemic humility of time. Israel was elect, and saved from Egypt, and yet not all made it into Canaan; not every branch on the tree remains, even those grafted on. I think centering our hopes onto the objective reception of the Lord’s Supper among the baptized, concomitant with a subjective circumspection and pressing on in obedience, is the only answer to the question. But the NT shows little concern in the way the Reformers did on this topic. Paul does not have the same psychological profile as Luther.


    • J. B. Aitken says:

      I have no problem with talking about Jesus as the mirror of election. The Barth/Boersma critique is that the Reformed really can’t say that. All that they can really claim to know is a decretum absolutum which may or may not coincide with their own salvation.


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