A Few Thoughts On My Neighbor

This post is also a comment, in reply to Alastair Roberts take on the prophet Oded and the Good Samaritan (there remains a lot of work to be done here, as this is a very rough sketch):

Immediately preceeding Levitucs 19:18, which Jesus quotes in the parable (as you noted) is a series of injunctions of Israel’s practice of justice – treating the poor fairly, no injustice in judgement, no stealing, no swearing, fairly well-known moral teachings. These sayings/teachings/whatever have a fairly universal quality – I have a hard time seeing these commands to properly execute justice as pertaining to *only* Israelites/covenant people.

Having said that, I fully agree that the background question relates to the question of membership in the people of God. I don’t think it follows, though, that the status of ‘neighbor’ is restricted to those who are alienated (sp?) covenant members.

Following from that (my Barthianism is about to show – take that, Wright!) I think that all people are, in a sense, the people of God by virtue of God’s election of humanity in Christ. What follows from that is that while all people are elect, not all people accept said election, and hence resist (I strongly agree with Lewis when he says that hell is locked from the inside out) the grace of the covenant, and are hence alienated from the covenant. So I see there being a distinction between the people of God who are in the Messiah, and the people of God more broadly as those who are elected by God in his election of Christ. The former are charged with, as you said, restoring the alienated and wounded, who are the latter.


5 thoughts on “A Few Thoughts On My Neighbor

  1. Cal March 19, 2015 / 1:06 pm

    Here’s a semi-related question:

    So a vein of Augustinian-Reformed reads Paul as tying off as a mystery the question of “why not all?” in the mind of God in Christ. There is a certain selectivity, and we can’t understand, only trust in the compassion of the Lord.

    In the Barthian rearticulation, the whole humanity is elected, so it’s broadly expanded to all. This nullifies the debate over limited-atonement, as Owen’s rebuttal to universal atonement as dividing the work of the Trinity no longer applies. Sort of.

    We’re left with the possibility of rejection, which Barth and Torrance seriously postulate. If I recall rightly, Torrance calls this a ‘surd’. But what makes the difference between me and jim in receiving the grace? It can sound like a back-door Arminianism or semi-Pelagianism on the one hand. Or, which is more likely among the thoughtful, it’s tying the mystery off in this work of the Spirit.

    But that’s where we started? So I could see that the Barthian approach may argue it’s doing more justice to the biblical data, but functionally, do we have much difference? The mystery is still in the heart of Christ the King, whose Spirit blows where He wills.



    • Cal March 19, 2015 / 1:08 pm

      I ask this as someone who is broadly Augustinian and Reformed, who is not Barthian, though appreciative, and one who rejects limited atonement (as it’s typically and popularly understood).


    • whitefrozen March 19, 2015 / 8:53 pm

      ‘But what makes the difference between me and jim in receiving the grace?’

      Torrance chalks up a rejection of grace to the human end of things – there is no decision in God to reject man, only to accept, and so anyone who is damned is damned because of their inexplicable rejection of divine grace. Arminianism makes salvation depend upon man’s free choice to accept or reject grace – whereas for Torrance, the grace of the atonement is an objective and efficacious fact that man can only resist and reject – and man’s rejection of grace turns that grace into his judgement. God’s self-giving love opposes their rejection, in other words, which is their damnation.


      • Cal March 25, 2015 / 5:19 pm

        I don’t believe Barth or Torrance are inviting a back-door Arminianism which then falls on man to choose and decide (a misunderstanding of one strata of biblical statements on man’s living and striving). That wasn’t my point in asking, though some evangelicals seem quick to turn to Barth for such reasons.

        Rather, what I’m asking is how it avoids Owen’s criticism?

        In a universal Augustinianism (which I hold), the Spirit applies the Sacrifice for All to the Elect, a recapitulation of Passover. Faith is the hand that grasps the Redeemer, “inspired” by the ministrations of the Spirit. Ok.

        What I see you saying is that the Sacrifice is Objectively powerful in a stronger sense than the Augustinian. Everyone is saved, bam. But then some aren’t. How? We don’t know. In the little I’ve read, Torrance would say the Spirit inspires faith, the Spirit brings Christ to us, all Reformed positions. So whence the ‘surd’? A mystery we can’t comprehend.

        The only difference I see is Torrance possibly saying that salvation is a recapitulated passover, but Israel is now the World. If that’s what he’s saying (I’m not sure), that’s a monism unwarranted by Scripture. He’s in line with some of the arguments made by Athanasius and Maximus. But they seem to be more attracted a realism of ‘Human Nature’ (whether Platonic, I know not) than the Biblical distinctions and dualities of Adam-Christ.

        I’m ok going head-to-head with Owen’s Limited Atonement with a a pneumatological mystery rooted in a Union-With-Christ soteriology. So I could agree with the grammar of Limited Atonement (limited to ‘in-Christ’), but not how people articulate it. I wanted to know if Barthians (of Torrance’s stripe) would bite the bullet in a similar, but distinct way.


        Liked by 1 person

        • whitefrozen March 25, 2015 / 7:39 pm

          I misunderstood your question – my bad. I think there may be an explanation, if I’m understanding you correctly, in the fact that Barth/Torrance don’t think of the Atonement in the same kind of neccestarian terms that you’re presenting here – ie those to whom the Atonement is applied are necessarily saved. Neither B/T think of salvation/grace in those causal terms.


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