Decades before I ever started to read Karl Barth seriously in the early 2000s (he was considered very suspect at the Bible College I attended in the early 70s), or had discovered the writings of Pierre Maury in 2013, I had been very much influenced by writers such as DeVern Fromke of the Christian and Missionary Alliance and the great preacher/expositor Leo Harris, founder of the unique Australian indigenous Pentecostal denomination – CRC Churches International. These men emphasised in their writings and preaching what used to be called in the 70s ‘New Creation Realities‘ focusing on Pauline passages such as, for example, 2 Corinthians 5, where Paul’s grand vision of a new humanity in Christ is so strong just like Romans 5: 12-21. The late great Anglican biblical scholar Leon Morris in his commentary on Romans (Morris, L. The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988) said concerning this passage: “There is an objectivity to this section that we should not miss. In verses 1-11 and again in 6: 1-9 the pronoun “we” is constant, but in 5:12-21 there is not one “we”. Paul is concentrating on objective facts, irrespective of our participation.” See Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, 228, (my emphasis.) . I have to say that my exposure to this focus, which to be fair was directed to baptised Christians, was also balanced with a good dose of classical Reformed theology mainly through men like the beloved Welsh pastor Aeron Morgan, another peerless biblical expositor, and of course Martin Lloyd-Jones, whose commentaries on Romans I devoured. I may not have agreed with the Doctor on all his expositions but I began to get a firm grip on Paul’s corpus. Another person I should mention is the late Stewart Dinnen, sometime Principal of the WEC (Worldwide Evangelisation for Christ) inter-denominational mission training college ‘Worldview’ in Launceston, Tasmania.
It was Stewart who first brought to my attention what the great Scottish New Testament scholar James Denney was saying way back at the beginning of the last century in his magisterial ‘The Death of Christ’ especially his revised edn of 1911 (Hodder). Denney would, of course, have been familiar with William Wrede et al and the two salvation discourses, one forensic the other participatory – the two doctrines of reconciliation, a ‘juridical’ and an ‘ethico-mystical’ one. Denney develops this twofold aspect of Christ’s death “He bore our sins and died our death” in a stunning manner. To my mind he opened up statements like Paul’s in 2 Corinthians 5:14 ( “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died”) in a truly masterful way like no other commentator before or since (they all seem to dodge the full implications of what Paul was saying). I would encourage anyone to read Denney on 2 Corinthians. I am including an excerpt from this outstanding commentary here:
I have also been reading Jeff McSwain on Barth’s Doctrine of Sanctification. His book Simul Sanctification Barth’s Hidden Vision for Human Transformation. I highly commend this work in which he cites a favourite theologian of mine Daniel Migliore. Jeff is essentially grappling with the old tension of justification and sanctification which is the theme of CD IV/2 para 66.
In ‘Participatio Christi’ The Central Theme of Barth’s Doctrine of Sanctification – Zeitschrift für Dialektische Theologie 18 (2002) (289-90) on CD IV/2 Migliore says that
‘Barth’s doctrine of sanctification cannot be abstracted from the comprehensive theological ontology in which it is embedded. It presupposes a realistic understanding of God to be God for humanity; it presupposes a realistic trinitarian understanding of God as the God who lives in eternal self-giving love, who freely enters into fellowship with humanity in Jesus Christ, and who freely gathers, builds up and commissions a new community of men and women in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit; it presupposes a realistic understanding of the union of the eternal Word of God and human nature in Jesus Christ in which all humanity is included. “There is no one,” Barth contends, “who does not participate in Him.”
This is what Jeff McSwain calls Barth’s Christo-anthropological actualism. He describes this as always ‘derived’ ie every human being is wrapped up in the being-in-action of God the Son, the Son of Man, in the fullness of the Holy Spirit, and in the love of the Father. We are participants before we are conscious of it. Actuality always precedes possibility.
Jeff’s work is exceptional!
Watch this interview with Jeff:
In Denney’s Death of Christ, edn of 1911, from page 128, he says that
“Since Pfleiderer’s first book on Paulinism was translated, some thirty years ago, it has become almost an axiom with many writers on this subject, that the apostle has two doctrines of reconciliation — a juridical and an ethico-mystical one. There is, on the one hand, the doctrine that Christ died for us, in a sense like that which has just been explained; and on the other, the doctrine that in a mystical union with Christ effected by faith we ethically die with Him and live with Him — this dying with Christ and living with Him, or in Him, being the thing we call salvation.
What the relation of the two doctrines is to each other is variously represented. Sometimes they are added together, as by Weiss, as though in spite of their independence justice had to be done to both in the work of man’s salvation a doctrine of justification by faith alone in Christ who died for us finding its indispensable supplement in a doctrine of spiritual regeneration through baptism, in which we are vitally united to Christ in His death and resurrection. Weiss holds that it is not Pauline to say that the fellowship of life with Christ is established by faith; it is only established, according to his view, by baptism. But Paul, it is safe to say, was incapable of divorcing his thoughts so completely from reality as to represent the matter thus. He was not pedantically interpreting a text, he was expounding an experience; and there is nothing in any Christian experience answering to this dead or inert justification by faith, which has no relation to the new life, nor again is there anything in Christian experience like this new life which is added by baptism to the experience of justification by faith, but does not spring out of it. It is a moral wrong to any serious-minded person to construe his words in this way. Ritschl does not add the two sides of the Pauline gospel together as Weiss does. For him they stand side by side in the apostle, and though salvation is made equally dependent on the one and the other they are never combined. Romans sixth has nothing to do with Romans third. The conception of the new life, derived from union to Christ in His death and resurrection, is just as indifferent to justification by faith, as the representation of Christ’s death in the sixth chapter of Romans is to the sacrificial representation of the same thing in the third. The new life or active righteousness of the sixth chapter bears the same name as the divine righteousness of the third, but materially they have nothing in common, and the diversity of their contents stands in no relation to the origination of the one from the other. Ritschl says it is for dogmatic, not biblical, theology to define the problem created by these two ways of salvation and the apparent contradiction between them — and to attempt its solution; and Holtzmann is disposed to censure Weiss for overlooking this, and attempting an adjustment in his Biblical Theology of the New Testament. But this is manifestly unfair to St. Paul. The apostle knew nothing about the distinctions which Theological Encyclopaedia draws between biblical and dogmatic; he was a man of intellectual force and originality engaged in thinking out a redeeming and regenerative experience, and the presumption surely is that his thought will represent somehow the consistency and unity of his experience. If it does so, it is for his interpreters to make the fact clear without troubling themselves whether the result is to be labeled biblical or dogmatic. There are too many people who refuse to take biblical theology seriously, because it is incoherent, and who refuse to take dogmatic seriously, because its consistency is artificially produced by suppressing the exuberant variety of the New Testament. Perhaps if New Testament experience had justice done to it, the incoherence of New Testament thinking would not be so obvious. Holtzmann himself attempts to find points of contact, or lines of connection, or to borrow from another field an expression of Dr. Fairbairn’s, ‘developmental coincidences’ between the two gospels, though in a haphazard way; ideas like πίστις πνεῦμα, and ἀπολύτρωσις, it is pointed out, find a place in the unfolding of both.
In spite of such high authorities, I venture to put in a plea for the coherence of St. Paul. If we found the one theory, as it is called, at one period of his life, and the other at another, there might be a prima facie case for inconsistency; but when both are set out in full detail, in a definite sequence, in the same letter, and that the most systematic of all the apostle’s writings, and one which aims unambiguously at exhibiting his gospel as a whole, the presumption is all the other way. There are cases in which it is fallacious to say post hoc, ergo propter hoc, but this is not one. There could not be a greater mistake than to assume that in the sixth chapter of Romans St. Paul makes a new beginning, forgetting all that he has said, and meeting objections to that gospel which we have been expounding by introducing ideas which have no relation to it, and which may indeed be described as a correction of it, or a supplement to it, or a substitute for it, but which are in no sense whatever a vindication of it. A vindication of it is clearly what St. Paul means to give, and we are bound to assume that he saw what he was doing. He had preached that sinful men are justified freely through faith in Jesus set forth by God as a propitiation in His blood, and his adversaries had brought against this gospel the accusation that it tempted to and even justified continuance in sin. What is his answer? To begin with, it is an expression of moral horror at the suggestion. μὴ γένοιτο! But, in the next place, it is a demonstration of the inconsistency of such a line of action with what is involved in justification. ‘Men who like us died to sin, how shall we still live in it?’ (Romans 6:2).
Why should it be taken for granted that ‘dying to sin’ is a new idea here, on a new plane, an idea which startles one who has been following only that interpretation of justification which we find in Romans chs. 3-5? It may be a new idea to a man who takes the point of view of St. Paul’s opponents, and who does not know what it is to be justified through faith in the propitiation which is in Christ’s death; but it is not a new idea to the apostle, nor to any one who has received the reconciliation he preaches; nor would he be offering any logical defense of his gospel if it were a new idea. But it is no new idea at all; it is Christ dying for sin — St. Paul reminds the objectors to his doctrine — it is Christ dying our death on the tree, who evokes the faith by which we become right with God; and the faith which He evokes answers to what He is and to what He does: it is faith which has a death to sin in it. Of course, if Christ’s death were not what it has been described to be, it would be nothing to us; it would evoke no faith at all; but being what it has been described to be, the faith which is the response to it is a faith which inevitably takes moral contents and quality from it. (I remember when I first heard Stewart Dinnen quote these words and how it gripped me) The very same experience in which a man becomes right with God — that is, the experience of faith in Christ who died for sins — is an experience in which he becomes a dead man, so far as sin is concerned, a living man (though this is but the same thing in other words), so far as God is concerned. As long as faith is at its normal tension the life of sin is inconceivable. For faith is an attitude and act of the soul in which the whole being is involved, and it is determined through and through by its object. This, I repeat, is what is given in experience to the man who believes in Christ as St. Paul preaches Him in Romans 3:25 f., and this is the ethical justification of his gospel. What is fundamental here is Christ in the character of propitiation, Christ bearing our sin in His death, it is this Christ and no other who draws us in faith to Himself, so that in and through faith His death and life become ours. The forensic theory of atonement, as it is called, is not unrelated to the ethico-mystical; it is not parallel to it; it is not a mistaken ad hominem or rather ad Pharisaeum mode of thought which ought to be displaced by the other; it has the essential eternal truth in it by which and by which alone the experiences are generated in which the strength of the other is supposed to lie. I do not much care for the expression ‘mystical union’ with Christ, for it has been much abused, and in St. Paul especially has led to much hasty misconstruction of the New Testament; but if we are to use it at all, we must say that it is something which is not a substitute for, but the fruit of, the vicarious death of Christ. It owes its very being to that atonement outside of us, that finished work of Christ, which some would use it to discredit. And it is because this is so, that St. Paul can use it, so far as he does so, not to replace, or to supplement, or to correct, but to vindicate and show the moral adequacy of his doctrine of justification. Of course, in the last resort, the objection brought against St. Paul’s gospel can only be practically refuted. It must be lived down, not argued down; hence the hortatory tone of Romans 6. But the new life is involved in the faith evoked by the sin-bearing death of Christ, and in nothing else; it is involved in this, and this is pictorially presented in baptism. Hence the use which St. Paul makes of this sacrament in the same chapter. He is able to use it in his argument in the way he does because baptism and faith are but the outside and the inside of the same thing. If baptism, then, is symbolically inconsistent with continuance in sin, as is apparent to every one, faith is really inconsistent with it. But faith is relative to the δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ, the divine justification which is St. Paul’s gospel, and therefore that gospel in turn is beyond moral reproach. ”
In an Athanasian view of the work of Christ in the Death of Christ (p 100-1) he said:
“The love of Christ, the apostle argues, constrains us, because we thus judge — i.e., because we put a certain interpretation on His death. Apart from this interpretation, the death of Christ has no constraining power. Here we find in St. Paul himself a confirmation of what has been said above about the distinction of fact and theory. It is in virtue of a certain theory of Christ’s death that the fact has its power to constrain the apostle. If it were not susceptible of such an interpretation, if this theory were inapplicable to it, it would cease to constrain. What, then, is the theory? It is that one died for all; ὑπὲρ πάντων means that the interest of all was aimed at and involved in the death of the one. How it was involved in it these words alone do not enable us to say. They do not by themselves show the connection between Christ’s death and the world’s good. But St. Paul draws an immediate inference from them: ‘so then all died.’ In one sense, it is irrelevant and interrupts his argument. He puts it into a hurried parenthesis, and then eagerly resumes what it had suspended. ‘One died for all (so then all died), and died for all that they who live should no longer live to themselves, but to Him who died for them and rose again.’ Yet it is in this immediate inference, that the death of Christ for all involved the death of all — that the missing link is found. It is because Christ’s death has this inclusive character — because, as Athanasius puts it, ‘the death of all was fulfilled in the Lord’s body’ — that His death has in it a power which puts constraint on men to live for Him. I cannot agree with Mr. Lidgett when he says that the words can only be understood in connection with the apostle’s declaration elsewhere, that he has been ‘crucified with Christ.’ That declaration is a declaration of Christian experience, the fruit of faith; but what the apostle is dealing with here is something antecedent to Christian experience, something by which all such experience is to be generated, and which, therefore, is in no sense identical with it. The problem before us is to discover what it is in the death of Christ which gives it its power to generate such experience, to exercise on human hearts the constraining influence of which the apostle speaks; and this is precisely what we discover in the inferential clause: ‘so then all died. ’ This clause puts as plainly as it can be put the idea that His death was equivalent to the death of all; in other words, it was the death of all men which was died by Him. Were this not so, His death would be nothing to them. It is beside the mark to say, as Mr. Lidgett does, that His death is died by them rather than theirs by Him; the very point of the apostle’s argument may be said to be that in order that they may die His death He must first die theirs. Our dying His death is not, in the New Testament, a thing which we achieve on our own initiative, or out of our own resources; it is the fruit of His dying ours. If it is our death that Christ died on the Cross, there is in the Cross the constraint of an infinite love; but if it is not our death at all if it is not our burden and doom that He has taken to Himself there — then what is it to us? His death can put the constraint of love upon all men, only when it is thus judged that the death of all was died by Him. When the apostle proceeds to state the purpose of Christ’s death for any, that they which live should not henceforth live to themselves, but to Him who died for them and rose again’ — he does it at the psychological and moral level suggested by the words: ‘The love of Christ constrains us’. He who has done so tremendous a thing as to take our death to Himself has established a claim upon our life. We are not in the sphere of mystical union, of dying with Christ and living with Him; but in that of love transcendently shown, and of gratitude profoundly felt. But it will not be easy for any one to be grateful for Christ’s death, especially with a gratitude which will acknowledge that his very life is Christ’s, unless he reads the Cross in the sense that Christ there made the death of all men His own.”
A while ago I tackled Adam Neder’s brilliant work Participation in Christ (Westminster/John Knox, 2009) in which Cambria Janae Kaltwasser said in a review
that in the second chapter of his work Neder “explicates Barth’s doctrine of election through sustained focus on paragraph 32 of CD II/2. Here Barth portrays election as both God’s self-determination to be God for us and his determination for humanity in the one human being Jesus Christ. This determination by God forms the focal point of Neder’s study. In Barth’s doctrine of election, participation in Christ is disclosed in its twofold form. In election’s objective form, all of humanity is included in the history of the covenant by virtue of Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, accomplished on our behalf. Yet, rather than replacing the obedience of individual human beings, Jesus’ history, “establishes a trajectory for humanity, defining humanity by governing it as a telos” (18). Therefore the subjective side of participation in Christ, the free obedience of human subjects, is included in and ensured by the objective side. Thus, for Neder, the theme of participation allows Barth’s treatment of election to blend seamlessly into his ethics, the imperative aspect of objective participation in Christ: “The command of God is God himself in action drawing human beings into active fellowship” (25).
Thus, for Neder, Barth sees election as the inclusion (participation) of humanity in Jesus’ own election–an inclusion that has both objective (universal) and subjective (personal) aspects. Barth refers to the objective as “de jure participation” and the subjective as “de facto participation.” Also, he notes the priority of the objective aspect (form), which is…
“..the ground of the subjective form, which is its consequence and goal–its telos. Moreover, and this is crucial to notice, the nature of objective participation in Christ guarantees that participation in Christ will also include a subjective form. [This means that] Jesus Christ is the object of election. Humanity benefits from his election by virtue of its being in him. And the meaning of being “in Christ” in the objective sense is that humanity has Jesus Christ as its representative.
…Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, his fulfillment of the covenant between God and humanity, are accomplished on behalf of humanity. By being who he is for humanity, Jesus Christ establishes, in an objective sense, the being and identity of humanity. He establishes, constitutes, and defines human being” (p18).
However, this objective participation…
“...does not exclude or replace the action of individual human beings. Rather, it establishes a trajectory for humanity, defining humanity by giving it a telos. In this way, the objective reality of the being of humanity in Christ includes within itself, establishes, and guarantees genuine human subjectivity. In human obedience, the objective aspect of election–the objective presence of the being of humanity in Jesus Christ–is realized in the action of individual human beings as the fulfillment of that prior divine decision. Election and obedience are related to one another as ground and consequences. Jesus Christ’s fulfillment of the covenant of grace is a work of faithful obedience. As such it establishes true humanity as a life of faithful obedience. The telos of election is Jesus Christ’s life history, and the telos of objective participation in Christ is subjective participation in Christ. In both cases the telos is realized in obedience” (p18).
In Neder’s concluding chapter to Participation in Christ (Columbia, 2009) 84-86, he gives attention to Barth’s affirmation of the simul peccator et sanctus teaching and adds a critique of Barth’s dismissal of genuine human agency empowered by the Holy Spirit as in Romans 8:13.
“Throughout this study I have highlighted Barth’s commitment of the affirmation that Jesus Christ is himself grace, and therefore that we receive Christ’s benefits only to the extent that we are joined to him. Grace never becomes our possession, Jesus Christ never becomes our possession. However one might judge Barth’s rejection of the habitus concept, it clearly stems from this basic insight. So too does his use of the simul peccator et sanctus teaching, which Barth extends into the area of sanctification. It is the latter innovation that I would like to briefly examine.
The simul iustus et pecator doctrine affirms that in ourselves we remain totally sinful even as in Christ we are totally righteous. For Barth, this teaching guarantees that Jesus Christ will never be displaced from his place of supreme importance, since believers remain dependent on him at every moment. With this in mind, Barth’s teaching concerning sanctification also becomes intelligible: our sanctification consists in participation in Jesus Christ’s sanctification, and thus our sanctification, like our justification, is conceived as aliena sanctitate; sanctitate Jesus Christi. “Luther’s simul (totus) iustus, simul (totus) peccator has thus to be applied strictly to sanctification.”  . This led Barth to coin a new term – simul peccator et sanctus . Such a person Barth writes, is
both the old man of yesterday and the new man of tomorrow… is still the old and yet already the new, in complete and utter antithesis….(T)he vita christiana in conversion is the event, the act, the history, in which at one and the same time man is still wholly the old man and already wholly the new – so powerful is the sin by which he is determined from behind, and so powerful the grace by which he is determined from before….(T)here is an order and sequence in this simul…. The old and the new man are simultaneously present in the relationship of a terminus a quo and a terminus ad quem.
Homo peccator, has been displaced, has passed away, and yet somehow still persists in the present. Homo sanctus has been established as the future of humanity, which in obedience becomes present. Thus it is clear that for Barth, as for Luther before him, the simul doctrine denotes an eschatology.
Barth’s emphasis on the totality of these two simultaneous determinations led him to draw the radical conclusion that de facto sanctification “takes place here below where there is no action that does not have the marks of sloth or can be anything but displeasing to God. This is true even of their lifting up of themselves, even of their looking to the Lord, which is their actions as saints.”  This is an extreme and unnecessary assertion, one that ultimately cuts against Barth’s affirmation of de facto participation in Christ.
Throughout this study, I have shown how Barth repeatedly stresses that de jure participation in Christ grounds, elicits and guarantees de facto participation in Christ. In obedience, human beings are joined to Jesus Christ and are therefore holy. This fact should have led Barth to conclude that as this event takes place, there is nothing left to say about such people than that they are holy. They are, so to speak, wholly holy because they are in this act of theirs, and in this act of theirs they are joined to Jesus Christ. The question is, Does obedience human action correspond to God’s gracious action or not? If it does, then there is no reason to say that it does not, which is what Barth seems to affirm when he says that even our good actions can only be displeasing to God and therefore require his justification.  why would they require justification if they really are good actions-actions that correspond to God’s action?
Barth’s primary reason for drawing this conclusion seems to be that good human action does not arise from a person’s “own heart or emotions or understanding or conscience, but has its origin in the power of the direction which has come to”  her in Jesus Christ. Barth insists that obedience takes place not by one’s “own caprice, but by the will and touch and address and creation and gift of this Lord.”  That is, of course, true. But because it is true, because God’s grace actually elicits genuine human obedience, those acts of obedience are actually good. To have said so would not have jeopardised any of Barth’s basic concerns, such as that Jesus Christ is himself grace; that grace is not a transferred condition; that human beings are holy and righteous only by virtue of their participation in Jesus Christ’s holiness and righteousness; that holiness is categorical rather than partial; that good human action does not synergistically cooperate with divine action, but is ever dependent on it; that sin is an ever-present threat which, when embraced, constitutes a contradiction of true humanity, etc. Among other things, Barth’s otherwise successful counter to the Roman Catholic charge that justification is a legal fiction is undermined to the extent that he casts doubt on the reality of the transformation of the believer that takes place in de facto participation. For these and numerous other reasons, Barth should simply have said that where and when obedience takes place by the power of the Holy Spirit, it is exclusively obedience, and therefore good human action. He does, of course, say this in places. But he denies it in other places, which was a mistake, and an unnecessary one at that.”
 Barth CD IV/2:572.
 Ibid., 575.
 Ibid., 573.
 Ibid., 528.
 Cf Calvin’s comment that ‘there never existed any work of a godly man which, if examined by God’s stern judgement, would not deserve condemnation” (institutes of the Christian Religion, ed John T. McNeill, trans Ford Lewis Battles, library of Christian Classics (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), 21:778).
 Barth, CD IV/2:528.
 Ibid., 529.
I do not find it at all surprising that Pierre Maury was ‘du même avis’ as Karl Barth in his sermon ‘The Ultimate Decision‘ preached in the season of Lent in 1937 a year after his seminal ‘Election and Faith‘ lecture in Geneva, which had such a profound influence on Barth:
“…When this child is born in a manger, when this man dies on the cross and rises again the third day, the eve of the Sabbath, it is our whole life that is swept up in this commitment, it is for our whole life that something happens. He is the one by whom—for whom also—we have been created, who is there. He is there, simple and immense, simple as the simplest of the sons of men, immense because the dimensions of his existence contain us all; he is the beginning and the end of our life. In him everything is enclosed, kept, protected. When he cries out, “Come to me, you who are weary and heavy laden” (Matthew 11:28), it is all our destinies that he is calling, because they belong to him. When he stretches out his arms upon the cross, he says that it is “to draw all to himself” (John 12:32), because no one has existed without him and outside of him. When he rises and is exalted to the right hand of God, it is in order to present to God—eternally, and in eternity—those who—from all eternity, in eternity—have always been, are and will always be his. I have said, I have repeated: all.” Hattrell, Simon, ed. Election, Barth, and the French Connection: How Pierre Maury Gave a “Decisive Impetus” to Karl Barth’s Doctrine of Election. (2nd Edn) Translated by Simon Hattrell. Eugene, Or.: Pickwick Publications, 2019, 113.
Biblische Theologie des Neuen Testaments, Section 84 b. (English Translation, 1. p. 456 ff.).
Rechtf u. Versohnung, 2. pp. 338 f.
Neut. Theologie, 2. p. 141.
Ibid. 2. p. 137 ff.
For a fuller treatment of this point, see article in Expositor, October 1901, ‘The Righteousness of God and the New Life.’
De Icarnatione, c. xx section. 5.
J. S. Lidgett, The Spiritual Principle of the Atonement, p. 39.
The way in which theologians in love with the ‘mystical union’ depreciate gratitude must be very astonishing to psychologists. See Juncker, Die Ethik des Ap. Paulus, 161, and Rothe, Dogmatik 2. 1. 223 (a remark on this passage in 2 Corinthians 5.): ohne Ihn und seinen Tod hatten Alle sterben mussen; das Leben das sie leben verdanken sie also ganzlich Ihm, und mussen es deshalb ganz und gar Ihm widmen.