KOINONIA XXII (20 10 )33– 53

Creatio Continua Ex Electione:
A Post-Barthian Revision of the Doctrine
of Creatio Ex N ihilo
DAVID W. CONGDON
The case against the classical doctrine of creatio ex nihilo continues to
m ount as argum ents arise from all angles—historical, exegetical, and theological. Many of these critiques are aim ed at the Hellenistic fram ework
within which the Christian doctrine originally took shape. Others exam ine
the am biguities latent within the biblical texts them selves. In this paper I
will identify three theological problem s with the doctrine in conversation
with three theologians. The first problem is the fact that the doctrine of
“creation out of nothing” posits no m aterial relationship between creation
and redem ption. Here I will engage the work of Catherine Keller, who attacks creatio ex nihilo but ends up perpetuating this sam e bifurcation between origin and telos in her conception of creatio ex profundis. The second problem is that “creation out of nothing” indicates no essential connection between the divine will to create and the divine being as creator. In
this context I briefl y take up the work of J ürgen Moltm ann and assess his
understanding of divine creation as a creatio ex am ore. The third and final
problem is the separation between creation and providence, between original creation and continuing creation. Here I briefl y treat Schleierm acher’s
account of creation in his Glaubenslehre. I conclude by using a m odified
version of Barth’s doctrine of election as the lens through which I reconcile
these various strands in m odern theology. I argue for what I call a creatio continua ex electione—a continuous creation out of divine election. In
the end, I hope to show that this position addresses these three problem s

34

KOINONIA

while still upholding the necessary insights of the traditional doctrine of
“creation out of nothing.”

1. THE PROBLEM OF CREATION AND REDEMPTION:
CATHERINE KELLER
Am ong recent critiques of the traditional doctrine of creation, Catherine
Keller’s Face of the Deep: A Theology of Becom ing stands out as the best
representative of a popular alternative.1 In place of creatio ex nihilo, she
proposes a creatio ex profundis, a “creation out of the watery depths,”
which is her version of a process panentheistic theology of creation. She
calls this a “tehom ic panentheism ,”2 referring to the tehom , or the “deep,”
of Genesis 1:2—what she views as the “prim al chaos” of creative possibility. What m akes her view unique is her sophisticated biblical exegesis, her
appropriation of fem inist and postm odern philosophy, and her engagem ent with the church fathers, Augustine, and Barth. My brief discussion
of her position will, however, focus very specifically on the fact that her
position fails to overcom e—and, in fact, extends and em braces—a problem
with the traditional creatio ex nihilo, nam ely, the lack of a m aterial connection between creation and redem ption.
As the subtitle of the book indicates, Keller stands in the tradition of
Alfred Whitehead by positing creation as an ongoing process of “becom ing” on the part of both God and the world. Not surprisingly, she rejects
classical concepts like om nipotence and transcendence, because these lead
to the “dom inology” of m asculine power rooted in classical ontotheology.
Her creatio ex profundis is instead “a creatio cooperationis.”3 God and the
cosm os realize their ontic possibilities through a relationship of creative
interdependence. She quotes a favorite line of hers from Whitehead: “It is
as true to say that God creates the world, as that the world creates God.”4
Not surprisingly, Keller’s theology leads her to rethink christology. Since
1
Catherine Keller, Face of the Deep: A Theology of Becom ing (New York: Routledge, 20 0 3).
2
Keller, Face of the Deep, 218.
3
Keller, Face of the Deep, 117.
4
Keller, Face of the Deep, 181.

While traditionalists are rightly called to answer how an all-powerful God is not guilty for causing evil and suffering. because it is not an answer but an evasion. because it m eans that whatever hope we m ay have had in an eschatologically new creation will have to be realized by us. The god of process theology is the deity already deconstructed by Feuerbach. The belief that a person should be able to realize redem ption out of their own resources is only possible for those who have such resources at their disposal.Congdon: Creatio Continua Ex Electione 35 God becom es God through the creative processes of the cosm os. her creatio ex profundis reproduces one of the key problem s with the traditional concept of creatio ex nihilo. Keller’s theology is. Hence. The god of the philosophers is too abstract by being pure actuality. neither can liberate. Keller ends up creating her own between the god of the philosophers—which she associates with any theologian who endorses creatio ex nihilo no m atter how inappropriate (e.” a sense of helpless anxiety. between creation and incarnation. it does no good to sim ply m ake God im potent. The attem pt by process theologians to answer the theodicy question—however well-intentioned—does not succeed. Neither god can do anything new. The god of process theology is too abstract by being pure potentiality. Face of the Deep. “Creation is always incarnation— and would have been so without the birth of the Nazarene. redem ption. 6 Process theology is also excessively bourgeois. Keller has liberated God from dom inology only by m aking God incapable of liberating us. When we are burdened with the task of self-liberation.” .6 5 Keller. in the end.”5 Her stated goal is to liberate us from all the binary oppositions that she deem s to be oppressive or “dom inological”—oppositions between creator and creature. Process theology is incom prehensible to the person seeking liberation from oppression and suffering. The consequence of a hyper-“salvation by works” is sim ply greater oppression. the com plete opposite of a “theology of hope” because it is a “theology of glory” rather than a “theology of the cross. This is theologically and pastorally disastrous. 226. the incarnation is no longer a singular event but is rather the totality of this divine becom ing. any potential for eschatological shalom is replaced with a stoic acceptance of “reality.g. Yet in liberating us from one kind of binary opposition. Even m ore ironically. Karl Barth)—and the god of process theology.. she winds up prom oting a deity whose attributes are m etaphysically projected from the creature. in that neither the god of the philosophers nor the god of process theology is capable of accom plishing the one task that is absolutely essential for any creator to be able to achieve according to the Christian faith: nam ely. The irony of this bifurcation is that while her intention is to dispense with traditional m etaphysical theology. according to Keller.

8 For Keller. no oppression.” because it identifies the recipient of grace as subordinate to the giver of grace. she criticizes the fact that he “trades his hope upon the transcendent power of the Creator. unilateral dependency. Keller. The sam e unilateral guarantee of the new creation that Keller finds so problem atic. however. there is no sin. Not surprisingly. rests upon the identification of God as absolute Owner and Origin. in that God liberates people out of relations of dom ination: bondage to Pharaoh in the story of Exodus and bondage to sin and death in the story of Christ.”7 She then goes on to assert that “the position of grace” is inherently a form of sexist “dom inology. For her theology of becom ing. Keller is helpful in that she identifies by way of sheer exaggeration a problem latent within the traditional doctrine of creatio ex nihilo. Without this guarantee. In the end. The problem becom es acute when Keller rejects the concept of grace altogether. The event of liberating grace is the very deconstruction of dom inology.36 KOINONIA Whereas creatio ex nihilo is neutral regarding the relation between creation and consum m ation.e. 20 . Keller.’ i. there is no actual hope that God will one day rectify the unjust social orders currently enslaving hum anity. For exam ple. . who guarantees the new creation—as novo creatio ex nihilo. in Barth’s theology. she lam ents the fact that liberation theologians gravitate to the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo. liberation theologians rightly identify as the heart of the Christian faith. no estrangem ent—and therefore also no salvation. It presents 7 8 9 Keller. both creator and cosm os are in need of each other. it is of course not a dom inological relationship but precisely the opposite. grace is actually offensive. dissociated from any teleological orientation. without a liberating God of grace who unilaterally interrupts system s of oppression. Face of the Deep. “the dogm a of creation as a relationship of ‘grace. 95. Face of the Deep. The classical form ulation is an expression of divine om nipotence in the abstract. 89. She says that.”9 Yet while this relationship between liberator and liberated is indeed one of grace. in that it presum es one is in need of grace. her position severs the connection between creation and reconciliation. Face of the Deep. Keller’s creatio ex profundis is opposed to any such relation. after praising Moltm ann’s liberating theology of hope.

”12 and this determ ination is an act of divine freedom rather than necessity. 276– 77: “The goal and com pletion of every J ewish and every Christian doctrine of creation m ust be the doctrine of the sabbath . For this.” It’s worth noting that Moltm ann offers a tidy rejection of process theology in his book. 12 Moltm ann. and eschatology. which he associates with the Reform ed tradition. . it is an act of free will that does not have an ontological basis in the divine essence. fails to adequately address. Keller is thus right to criticize it. so that the theology of nature becom es a divinization of nature. God in Creation. though her alternative fares no better.Congdon: Creatio Continua Ex Electione 37 creation as an act of raw power without connection to christology. . On the contrary: the whole work of creation was perform ed for the sake of the sabbath. . 79– 80 . 78– 79). This is the second problem that creatio ex nihilo.”10 Creation exists for the sake of the consum m ation of creation in the eschatological sabbath. Moltm ann’s account of this problem begins by differentiating between creation as decree and creation as em anation. In the case of creation. we m ust turn now to Moltm ann. God in Creation. Margaret Kohl (Minneapolis: Fortress. is an im portant debate regarding whether creation proceeds from the divine will or the divine being. 1993). God “determ ines that he will be the world’s Creator. trans. The sabbath opens creation for its true future. If we look at the biblical traditions that have to do with the belief in creation. But this m eans that process theology of this kind has no doctrine of creation. J ürgen Moltm ann begins his theology of creation by acknowledging the relation of creation to reconciliation: “a Christian doctrine of creation is a view of the world in the light of J esus the Messiah. If we are going to speak of a “creation out of the depths. we discover that the sabbath is not a day of rest following six working days. 4– 5. in its standard form . 11 Cf. . . Within his understanding of creation. 2. THE PROBLEM OF BEING AND WILL: J ÜRGEN MOLTMANN In sharp contrast to Keller. . It is conversant only with a doctrine about the preservation and ordering of the world” (Moltm ann. soteriology. . however.11 This m uch is basic to Moltm ann’s theology due to its eschatological orientation. God in Creation. Opposed 10 J ürgen Moltm ann. The form er. . specifically criticizing Whitehead’s rejection of creatio ex nihilo: “God and nature are fused into a unifi ed world process.” as Keller does. . understands God’s activity in term s of a divine decree or determ ination to do som ething. Moltm ann. Moltm ann identifies Barth as the key m odern figure in this tradition. then it m ust be the depths of God’s reconciling and redeem ing love. God in Creation.

15 The problem with a Tillichian creation from divine life is that “it becom es difficult to distinguish between God’s creatures and God’s eternal creation of him self. 83. God’s being and God’s act are not m utually determ inative. questions the traditional separation between the im m anent and econom ic. i.”18 Instead of a creation from decision versus a creation from being.”14 Here Moltm ann identifies Paul Tillich as the key m odern figure. Moltm ann.38 KOINONIA to this is the idea of creation out of the divine being.e. 84. 16 Moltm ann. he argues that “it is im portant to m aintain the identity of the divine life and the divine creative activity. “God is not entirely free when he can do and leave undone what he likes. Though it is not m y concern in this paper. Moltm ann’s claim depends upon the view that Barth m aintains an abstract freedom of God in his doctrine of creation: God could have acted otherwise.”17 Hence. God in Creation. Creation is neither chance nor necessity. God in Creation. . The problem with a Barthian creation from divine will is that it tends to speculate about what God “m ight have done. It is ‘identical’ with his life. Whereas creation from the divine will locates creation in the econom ic Trinity. 18 Moltm ann. 82– 83. Such a split intends to protect divine freedom . he is by no m eans consistent in this view and such statem ents occur prim arily in his earlier writings. he is entirely free when he is entirely him self.” and thus separates God’s being or nature from God’s act or will. 17 Moltm ann. 82..’”13 Creation in this view is not an act of will secondary to God’s being. 14 Moltm ann. rather. While Barth certainly offers statem ents that tend in this direction. here I will sim ply point out that Moltm ann greatly oversim plifies Barth’s theology by reducing him to one side of this binary opposition. God in Creation. creation as creative em anation. God in Creation. creation from the divine being locates creation in the im m anent Trinity. God in Creation. 83. “the divine life is creative by reason of its eternal nature. It is God’s ‘destiny. and we see the fruit of this in his doctrine of creation (CD III) and doctrine of reconciliation (CD IV). Barth’s m ature doctrine of election in Church Dogm atics II/ 2 finally precludes any separation between essence and will. continuing his trinitarian project in The Trinity and the Kingdom . 15 Moltm ann. Basic to the doctrine of em anation is the view that God “is essentially creative” and thus creation “is not an event w ithin the life of God. God in Creation. Moltm ann suggests that we understand God’s resolve to create as an “essential resolve” and God’s creative being as the 13 Moltm ann. 84.”16 Moltm ann’s project is an attem pt to m ove beyond these two options. but as Moltm ann rightly states.

but fl ows instead from the prim ary definition of God: deus est caritas. . define the being of God via an analogical 19 Moltm ann.” Modern Theology 21. we can therefore define this doctrine of creation as a creatio ex am ore—a creation out of love: To be sure. Borrowing from the theology of Catherine LaCugna. 355. 85. since God and the creature sim ply would have switched places. and redeem er. God in Creation. are identical. Who God is and what God does are ontologically identical. the creature would have to preexist God so that God could be constituted as God in relation to the creature. no. Groppe. 22 Moltm ann.Congdon: Creatio Continua Ex Electione 39 “resolved essence” of God.22 While there is m uch to com m end here. “Creation Ex Nihilo and Ex Am ore: Ontological Freedom in the Theologies of J ohn Zizioulas and Catherine Mowry LaCugna. out of divine love. God in Creation. While the world is the gracious result of divine freedom . and this love is always intrinsically oriented to the creaturely other. the concept of love encom passes both the im m anent and econom ic life of God. 20 Moltm ann. who is self-originating and self-com m unicating love. It would m ake no sense to say that God ‘needs’ the world in order to be God. God loves the world with the very sam e love which he eternally is. From this standpoint the world is not created ex nihilo but ex am ore. Moltm ann unites being and will in his definition of God as love: “The unity of will and nature in God can be appropriately grasped through the concept of love. if this sets up the creature as a higher or m ore ultim ate principle than God. Creation is not a secondary act. then there is no split in content between God’s im m anent life and econom ic activity. God in Creation. God’s being sim ply is the decision to be the creator. This is absurd. 85. 21 Catherine Mowry LaCugna.”20 If God is by nature love. along with alm ost everyone in the social trinitarian cam p. God’s freedom m eans necessarily being who and what God is. The reason for creation lies entirely in the unfathom able m ystery of God. Cf. 1991). the reason for creation does not lie in the creature. that is. ex condilectione. being and will. Elizabeth T. and both are creative. God for Us: The Trinity and Christian Life (San Francisco: HarperCollins.3 (20 0 5): 469– 73. 86. or in som e claim the creature has on God. the position of creatio ex am ore falls short in that both Moltm ann and LaCugna. and thus love unites both nature and will.21 For both Moltm ann and LaCugna.19 God’s essence and existence. reconciler.

God is not us. but that does not m ean I act when m y beloved does” (136– 38). Christ the Key (New York: Cam bridge. without defining this love christologically. Moltm ann talks about love as the ground of creation. Tanner’s critique of social trinitarianism is consum m ate. 23 See Kathryn Tanner. This m ovem ent from hum an to divine to hum an again is m ade possible through the (m is)use of the word “person. and this sets up the m ajor problem for theologies that want to base conclusions about hum an relationships on the Trinity. it rem ains fatally abstract. Am ong other things.” Hum an persons are defined as acting subjects with an independent will. if that m eans having overlapping subjectivities in the way the persons of the Trinity do. when one person of the Trinity acts the others are necessarily acting. for exam ple. Clearly this does not hold for hum an persons: I m ay enter em pathetically into the one I love. . differences always rem ain. There is no intrinsic connection in Moltm ann’s account between the love of God and the person of J esus Christ as the one who actually defines divine love. are both incorporated into his account of “creation out of love. 20 10 ). . . 20 7– 46.” Princeton Sem inary Bulletin 28. she states: “No m atter how close the sim ilarities between hum an and divine persons. Moltm ann’s alternative understanding of creation as creatio ex am ore goes a long way toward addressing the problem s with creatio ex nihilo. and the unity of God’s being and will on the other.23 The problem with social trinitarianism is that it is sim ply a m odern version of the ancient via em inentiae m ode of m etaphysical thinking about God. not a concrete divine event in the singular reality of J esus Christ. The social trinitarian argum ent then seeks to authorize an egalitarian politics by appealing to the m utual indwelling of the divine persons as the archetypal form of personhood. As a result. 2 (20 0 7): 129– 45. hence.” The aporia in his account is located in the fact that God’s love is not defined on the basis of God’s particular act of revelation. . which is then used to validate a particular form of hum an social relations. it seem s bound up with their essential finitude that hum an persons can only m etaphorically be in one another. The unity of creation and redem ption on the one hand. So. it is a type of projectionism that again falls under the critique of Feuerbach. “Kingdom Com e: The Trinity and Politics. For a revised and expanded version of this essay. see Kathryn Tanner. the trinitarian “persons” are defined as three acting subjects with three individual wills who are brought into unity through a m ysterious perichoretic indwelling. too. Love is a general anthropological phenom enon. Because all the other m em bers of the Trinity are in that person. no.40 KOINONIA projection of hum an being upon the divine.

The form er is defined as the originating act of bringing the cosm os into existence. If God is not eternally actus purus. Stewart (New York: T & T Clark. since the progressive creation of what presently exists reveals “the active continuance of form ative forces.” the entire process of preservation in fact “falls under the conception of creation. S. Schleierm acher questions the logic behind this distinction: on the one hand.” there is nothing which cannot “be brought under the concept of Preservation”. THE PROBLEM OF CREATION AND PRESERVATION: SCHLEIERMACHER The third problem with creatio ex nihilo is the relation between creation and preservation.”24 Depending on which perspective you take. and our entire relation with God is threatened. which begins with the absolute dependence of all things upon God. The doctrine of “creation out of nothing” posits a disjunction between these two concepts: between a once-for-all act and the ongoing activity of sustaining the world. The work of Friedrich Schleierm acher hints at a way forward. R. Like the previous two dichotom ies. Schleierm acher criticizes the tradition for giving the im pression that God alternates between activity and rest. In his Glaubenslehre. Not surprisingly. on the other hand. 146– 47. then our dependence upon God is not absolute. ed. §38. this one also needs to be rethought. This m ovem ent between activity and passivity runs counter to his theology. creation or preservation becom es superfl uous. Schleierm acher critically exam ines the received wisdom that distinguishes between creatio originalis and creatio continua.Congdon: Creatio Continua Ex Electione 41 3. The Christian Faith. Mackintosh and J . as if God were active at som e m om ents but not at others—a view deriving from an overly literal reading of the creation account in Genesis 1. Schleierm acher endorses the 24 Friedrich Schleierm acher. while the latter is God’s providential preservation of this creation throughout history. H. since preservation “is equivalent to that alternation of changes and m ovem ents in which their being perdures. 1999). .

. According to Schleierm acher. christology. . With this christological argum ent. rem ains unexplained on the basis of God’s revelation. According to J ohn 1. the transition from one to the other. one need not accept this starting-point to still find the distinction between creatio originalis and creatio continua arbitrary and unnecessary. viz.42 KOINONIA doctrine of creatio ex nihilo. The decision to create is not one decision am ong others that God chose to actualize after a prior deliberation.. however these are conceived. The Christian Faith. Schleierm acher him self provides us with a m ore theologically sound reason to unify creation and preservation in his very brief but suggestive com m ents on whether creation is a tem poral or eternal activity. then “the tracing of the Word through which God created the world . 153. we have a position that can bring together original creation and continuing creation. this is no solution. can never be m ade clearly intelligible if there is not an eternal creation through the eternal Word. He finds Origen lacking because God is brought into the realm of tem poral change. if the eternal Logos created the cosm os. and if this creative Word is the sam e Word from all eternity. then creation is also essentially eternal. For Schleierm acher. .”26 Schleierm acher’s logic is that if the Word created the world. because the existence of any m aterial independent of God’s creative activity “would destroy the feeling of absolute dependence. there is no change in God from non-creative to creative. 156. Schleierm acher. The Christian Faith. Thinking along such lines “assum e[s] an antithesis between freedom and necessity” and places God “within the realm 25 26 Schleierm acher. But he also finds Augustine problem atic when the latter posits an act of divine will to explain the transition—only this tim e the m ove is not from inactivity to activity but from willing to doing. §41. back to the Word which was with God from eternity. There is no sense in speaking about how God m ight not have created.”25 Of course. §41. Against the traditional attem pt to identify a point of transition from the ad intra to the ad extra in the life of God—an attem pt that is always hopelessly speculative in nature—Schleierm acher argues that the ad intra can only be the eternal actualization of what occurs in the econom y.

in 13 parts (Edinburgh: T & T Clark. it will suffice to note that. 28 Karl Barth. Torrance.”27 That is. while intrinsically related to redem ption. As significant as this account of creation is. Die kirchliche Dogm atik. 4. in the second volum e of his Church Dogm atics.” Consequently. The resources for such a position are found in Karl Barth. Church Dogm atics. 1956– 1975). According to Schleierm acher. (2) election is God’s self-determ ination to be God-for-us. a “continuous creation out of election. ET Karl Barth. is not determ ined by the concrete revelatory event in which that redem ption occurs.. the line of dem arcation between creation and preservation becom es indeterm inate. 27 Schleierm acher. God’s creative activity. ed. F. like Moltm ann’s. 4 vols. The Christian Faith. . Schleierm acher’s understanding of creation thus addresses the previous two problem s with creatio ex nihilo: (1) creation is an eternal activity that has the appearance of the m ediator included within it as its telos. hereafter cited as CD. The consequences of this m ove are vast and hotly debated.28 Barth identifies J esus Christ as both the subject and object of election. 1932– 1970 ). so that creation is the proper expression of God’s very essence. viz.Congdon: Creatio Continua Ex Electione 43 of contradictions. Rather than dispense with one or the other. CONCLUSION: CREATIO CONTINUA EX ELECTIONE Instead of creatio ex nihilo. W. The creative activity of God is posited on the basis of a general anthropological given. G.. Without rehearsing the details of Barth’s doctrine. Brom iley and T. 4 vols. in 13 parts (Zollikon-Zürich: Evangelischer Verlag A. rem ains too abstract. 156.” This position takes its bearings from a m odified version of Barth’s doctrine of election. such speculation m akes God only relatively rather than absolutely transcendent. the specifics of which can only be hinted at here. what God does now is true of God eternally. we can m ake them eternally coterm inous. and (2) the being of God is eternally creative. but is also creation’s eternal ground and origin. the feeling of absolute dependence. the position for which I am arguing m ay be called creatio continua ex electione. Schleierm acher’s position. What we need is an account of creation in which redem ption is not sim ply the necessary end. All sides in these debates agree on the following four basic points: (1) God’s election is the first of all God’s works ad extra. hereafter cited as KD. G. §41. since God is “pure act.

ed. in connection with the first. While he drastically reworks this entire Reform ed debate.30 The position I sketch below is a reworking of this dialectical relation between covenant and creation. In doing so. §41. Most significantly for m y thesis here. “Grace and Being: The Role of God’s Gracious Election in Karl Barth’s Theological Ontology. Briefl y. as the subject of this decree in addition to its object. 30 See CD III/ 1. I self-consciously depart from Barth. McCorm ack. the God who has elected to be with us and for us in J esus Christ. 20 0 0 ). then all the other divine works are grounded in this prior and determ inative decision of election.29 but at the very least both sides agree that the only God we actually encounter is the God who is eternally pro nobis. but. he nevertheless stands with the supralapsarians in m aking the decree of election prior to and determ inative for the decree of creation.44 KOINONIA (3) all other acts of God fl ow from the decision of election as their unifying origin and end. christology. the incarnate one. The result of the first point is that Barth sides with supralapsarianism over infralapsarianism where the orders of the divine decrees are concerned. and (4) election concerns God’s reconciliation of the world within the covenant of grace. The second point. and creation after and bey ond Barth. viz. 2 Cor 5:19). the fourth point is sim ply descriptive of what election m eans in Barth’s theology. The third point affirm s that if election is definitive for who God is. My prim ary concern is to elaborate a doctrine of creation that addresses the above problem s. because this involves correlating creation and election. J ohn Webster (New York: Cam bridge University Press. is the source of the current so-called “Grace and Being” controversy. while creation is the “external basis” of the covenant. this m eans that the covenant of grace is the “internal basis” of creation. What that m ight m ean for the logical relation between triunity and election is irrelevant to the concerns of this paper. 92– 110 . the issue is that Barth 29 So called because the origin of the debate was the essay by Bruce L. Finally. I will also offer a revised doctrine of election. . that it is the divine decision which constitutes the Christevent as the reconciliation of all things to God (cf. The m ajor change he m akes is in identifying J esus Christ. What follows is m y brief and provisional attem pt to think through the relation between election. though a full explanation for why this is so will have to wait for a future occasion..” in The Cam bridge Com panion to Karl Barth.

My translation. It is tem pting. 34 CD II/ 2. Barth even com pares this view 31 CD II/ 2.” 32 CD II/ 2. a past event that happened once and now only needs to be acknowledged. He certainly opens him self to such criticism when he contrasts “the eternal covenant concerning hum anity that God m ade with him self in his pre-tem poral eternity” with “the covenant of grace between God and hum anity whose establishm ent and execution in tim e were decided by that election. Even if one historicizes election and identifies it with the life history of J esus Christ. Future revisions will be m arked as “rev. KD II/ 2. 181.”35 What God does in the present is m erely an “echo” (Nachklang) of the past decree of God. it rem ains. KD II/ 2. it has an intriguing parallel to the traditional conception of creation as a one-tim e act—depending on whom you ask. KD II/ 2.” derived by way of contrast with m utable hum an decrees. that “saw in predestination an isolated and given enactm ent [eine abgeschlossen vorliegende Verfügung]” which eternally “entangled and bound” God in relation to tim e. My translation with original italics restored. to criticize his position for being just as abstract as the decretum absolutum that he attacks.33 According to this view. “God w illed once in the pre-tem poral eternity when the decree was conceived and established. 198. 181. In this sense. Barth criticizes the “traditional teaching. and all too easy based on what Barth says. 33 CD II/ 2. 199. As prom inent as such them es are in Barth’s theology. on this reading. 181-84. eternal past.Congdon: Creatio Continua Ex Electione 45 m akes election to be prim arily protological in character. 199. 35 CD II/ 2. but this electing decision “now no longer takes place. It is a one-tim e act in pre-tem poral eternity that establishes the basis for the covenant of grace. 111– 12. As a result. to his great credit. All future italics are restored from the original Germ an.”31 One quite naturally draws the conclusion from such passages that election is a finished act in the eternal past which only becom es m anifest in tim e through the history of J esus Christ. 181 (rev). . KD II/ 2. KD II/ 2.” and therefore “the living quality of this action is perfectum .32 In this section. Translation revised. 10 4. such a God is not living but dead.”34 God elected at one tim e. 198– 20 2. an act in tim e or eternity—that establishes the basis for God’s ongoing work of providence. he com plicates this interpretation in a sm all-print section near the end of §33.

Barth is very clear that the only reason the decision of election is present and future is because it is com pleted and finished in the past. he is and rem ains and always will be an independent tone and sound. . the decision itself is not present and future. though.” and finally that it “stands harder than steel and granite before and above all things and all events.’” that it is “com pleted and isolated” (vollbracht und abgeschlossen). On the one hand. over against the decretum absolutum . 20 1. KD II/ 2.36 Against the deistic m odel of election that he finds in Protestant orthodoxy. he explicitly and rightly stresses that the life of God. Barth uses strong language to convey this point. Barth thus states. KD II/ 2.46 KOINONIA of predestination with deism . 183. CD II/ 2. 20 1. the decision of election rem ains present and future in its living significance for us. 183 (rev). But lest we m isunderstand him . KD II/ 2. defined by God’s electing decision. because of the sharp and static separation between the eternal being of God and tem poral. “supra-tem poral” (überzeitlich). 183 (rev). KD II/ 2. 183 (rev). even though it is com pleted and finished in the eternal past.”39 In all these statem ents.”41 36 37 38 39 40 41 Cf.”37 What he m eans by this. CD II/ 2. 20 0 . On the contrary.40 Nevertheless. but rather it is sim ultaneously “pre-tem poral” (vorzeitlich). requires som e careful elucidation. worldly existence. 20 1. He says that God’s eternal decision “has the full weight of the eternal ‘perfect. 182. CD II/ 2. but rather only its significance. Barth stands in basic continuity with the tradition of the decretum absolutum . election is not an ongoing and ever-present decision here and now. KD II/ 2. CD II/ 2. 20 1. That is to say. that “God is never a m ere echo. 183 (rev). because God is present and future as the predestinating Lord over creation.’”38 On the other hand. “has the character not only of an unparalleled ‘perfect’ but also of an unparalleled ‘present’ and ‘future. KD II/ 2. Barth explains that this decision did not happen only “back before tim e” (vor der Zeit zurück) as the tradition had it. but rather infinitely m ore alive than any hum an decree. Barth claim s that “God’s decree is not lifeless. CD II/ 2. CD II/ 2. and “posttem poral” (nachzeitlich) in its eternal actuality. 20 1. that it “precedes all creaturely life.

m akes this 45 phrase (“act of divine life in the Spirit”) central to Barth’s theology in a way that is creative and interesting. He draws upon it in opposition to deism . since it is an act of divine life in the Spirit. KD II/ 2. only as an act of divine life in the Spirit. 43 CD II/ 2. The translators of this volum e rendered the latter two instances of “divine life in the spirit. A typical exam ple is this passage from the first volum e: “God reveals him self as the Spirit. not as the basis of hum anity’s spiritual life [des m enschlichen Geisteslebens] which we can discover and awaken. 20 4).” as “in the Spirit.” and for that reason it is an “act of divine life in the Spirit” (Akt göttlichen Geisteslebens). in his interpretation of Barth’s doctrine of election. On the positive side. 20 2. rev. 20 2). he would not have em phasized the eternally past and perfected character of election as m uch as he does.). “Since it is itself history. 184. KD II/ 2.43 This peculiar phrase is unique to this section of the Dogm atics. encounter and decision. The negative aspect of Barth’s understanding of election is due to the fact that he does not draw out the provocative im plications of this notion for the rest of his theology. is it the law which precedes all creaturely life” (CD II/ 2.45 42 CD II/ 2. an act which affects us.. 44 The three occurrences are: “Only as concrete decree. 184. but . Barth clearly wants to understand the decision of election as an ongoing divine event. but then drops it when it no longer suits his polem ical purposes. If he had stayed m ore consistent with this insight. Barth’s use of Geistesleben is alm ost exclusively used to speak of hum an life-in-the-Spirit or “spiritual life.”42 This event of election occurs as “history. though perhaps a bit of a stretch considering how m arginal it is to the Church Dogm atics.44 Barth seem s to indicate by this divine life-in-the-Spirit that election is concretely and actively related to the particularities of historical existence. Throughout the rest of the work.” and it is often used pejoratively because of the Schleierm acherian connotations. and decision. It occurs only three tim es. KD II/ 2. Eberhard J üngel. it is the presupposition of all m ovem ent of creaturely life” (ibid. 185 [rev]. 184. rather. since it is the unbroken and lasting determ ining and decreeing of Him who as Lord of all things has both the authority and the power for such activity. The possibilities latent within the idea of election as an “act of divine life in the Spirit” are m ostly unrealized. not as any spirit. and all of them in the two paragraphs of the large-print passage directly following Barth’s rejection of the deistic character of the traditional doctrine of predestination. an act which occurs in the very m idst of tim e no less than in that far distant pre-tem poral eternity” (CD II/ 2. He says that because it is a “concrete decree. This is the profound and creative aspect of Barth’s doctrine that I wish to appropriate. KD II/ 2. It is not an abstract decision in eternity over against tim e. “But it is an act of divine life in the Spirit. 20 2.” election “never ceases to be event.” for no apparent reason.Congdon: Creatio Continua Ex Electione 47 Barth’s position has som e distinct positives and negatives that stand in som e tension. it is a living decision in the Spirit of J esus Christ. encounter.

Edwin Chr. Kierkegaard’s Category of Repetition: A Reconstruction. van Driel. KD I/ 1. I understand this in the following way: the divine life-in-the-Spirit that constitutes the living actuality of election takes place w ithin the event of J esus Christ. See also Edwin Chr. therefore. God’s Being Is in Becom ing: The Trinitarian Being of God in the Theology of Karl Barth. I do not m ean to contrast a “pneum atic-actualistic” election with Barth’s christocentric election in which J esus Christ is both subject and object of the divine decree. “The Logic of Assum ption. New York: W. J ohn 20 :22). 138– 42. 351). J üngel is right to em phasize this concept. . See Eberhard J üngel. van Driel. as an interpretation of Barth that seeks to bring him into a positive relation with Bultm ann. Kierkegaard Studies: Monograph Series 5 (Berlin. elem ents in Barth’s theology. de Gruyter. trans. This is because the J esus whose history constitutes the decision of election is the sam e one who also sent the Spirit into the world (cf. Nevertheless. A Paraphrase. it is rather constitutive of the event itself. The notion of a divine life-in-the-Spirit does not m ake another appearance outside of the two paragraphs in §33. I m ean this pneum atological revision to occur w ithin the fram ework set forth by Barth. For an excellent scholarly treatm ent of this them e. the Spirit actualizes the contingent “repetition”46 of Christ’s election in both hidden and m anifest form s. The awakening work of the Spirit does not sim ply point toward a finished and com pleted reality in the past. 91– 92.48 KOINONIA The claim I m ake here is that a m ore pneum atic-actualistic conception of election—understood as a divine act in the Spirit (of Christ) here and now—allows for a correspondingly actualistic conception of creation as a continuous divine act in every new m om ent. C. 20 0 8). On the contrary. 20 0 0 ).” in Exploring Kenotic Christology : The Self-Em pty ing of God. While I accept som e of van Driel’s critiques of Barth on this point. 20 0 6). as com pelling as som e of its features m ay be. . As I understand it. 46 I use the term s “recollection” and “repetition” in the technical sense set forth by Kierkegaard. ed. as the Spirit of the Father and the Son . The Spirit does not enable a m ere “recollection” of a “com pleted and isolated” election. 20 0 1). Incarnation Any w ay : Argum ents for Supralapsarian Christology (New York: Oxford University Press. 47 Cf. Stephen Evans (New York: Oxford University Press. 332 [rev]. as far as I can tell. J ohn Webster (Grand Rapids. It also shows his keen eye for easily overlooked. Instead. 265– 90 . see Niels Nym ann Eriksen. the Christus praesens is the ongoing and infinite repetition of the singularity of J esus Christ in our m idst through the Spirit’s power. .” (CD I/ 1. MI: Eerdm ans. thus extending the originating event to em brace new concrete particularities without relying on a m etaphysical “logic of assum ption”47 whereby Christ’s hum anity is the general hum anitas of all hum an beings. but deeply insightful. I do not accept his christological proposal as the proper alternative.

they coincide in the person of J esus Christ. If election is God’s eternal decision in J esus Christ to be in covenant fellowship with the creaturely other. but they coincide tem porally. but it repeatedly occurs as a particular.”48 And later he says that God’s creation “of all the reality distinct from God took place on the basis of this purposed covenant and with a view to its execution. Election itself is a continuous election: it is God’s continuous reaffirm ation of Godself as God-for-us and God’s continuous reaffirm ation of the creature as creature-for-God. 94 (rev). present. As Barth writes in his Church Dogm atics. The act of election is thus no eternally past or perfect decision. proclaim ing the divine “Yes” to us and to all. 41. election is not a one-tim e act occurring in a pre-tem poral eternity. Creation derives wholly from and exists wholly for God’s reconciliation and redem ption of hum ankind. The m ove from election to creation is straightforward. and to him —as the theater [Schauplatz] of God’s history with hum anity and of hum anity’s history with God. election is “new every m orning. J esus Christ “is with the world—a world created by him .Congdon: Creatio Continua Ex Electione 49 In this proposal. and future historicity. concrete event in the pentecostal totality of Christ’s past. it is rather an always-new decision here and now that takes place as God interrupts the world in J esus Christ through the Spirit. as the Word in the beginning through whom the world 48 49 CD II/ 2. and therefore one cannot get behind it to find a m ore prim ordial understanding of God or the world. and the world is brought into existence. Contrary to Barth’s em phasis on protology. As a result. then election itself posits or establishes creation as the theodram atic stage for God’s covenant of grace.”49 God’s decision to elect J esus Christ is sim ultaneously God’s decision to create. Election is thus an ongoing event in the “eternal now” (nunc eternum ). It has never not taken place. Election is of course logically prior to creation. m y focus is rather on eschatology—understood as an eschatological interruption in the present. More im portantly. What happens in the present and the future is not sim ply the noetic acknowledgem ent or recognition of what has already happened on behalf of all in J esus Christ. God elects. KD II/ 2. KD III/ 3. CD III/ 3. . for him . 36. Rather it is Christ him self confronting us today. 10 1.” It is always a decision-in-becom ing as a divine act in the Spirit.

119– 24. because the “continuing activity is not the sam e as the activity of the six days. “the line between [them ] is dotted rather than solid. Genesis is neutral with regard to the m aterial origins of the cosm os.50 KOINONIA cam e into being (J ohn 1:10 )—and sim ultaneously as the Word of God’s future that speaks to us here and now in the eschatological m om ent and will speak to us again. is an eternal act rooted in the eternal Word of God who is self-determ ined by the eternal decision of election. 20 0 9). 51 In an essay on the concept of history in Christian thought. but it is the reason why the six days took place” (122). is “new every m orning. as J ohn Walton has recently argued.” directing the cosm os toward its fulfillm ent in the eschatological reign of Christ. We cannot isolate an old creation. For this reason. All of God’s works.” from which to draw general theological or ethical concepts. What God creates. or “nature. so too is creation. Creation. IL: IVP Academ ic. Moreover. according to Genesis. the definitive act of creation is the resurrection of J esus from the dead. Walton. the distinction between the six days and the seventh—between creation and preservation—is essential to preserve the Sabbath-oriented tem ple theology that form s the heart of the Genesis account. To be m ore specific. even if it has theological warrant as a logically necessary position (43).50 Preservation. Walton. from creation to redem ption. are creaturely functions. I am arguing. Creation. Nevertheless. Erich Frank affirm s the notion of a continuous or eternal creation on the grounds that creation is a divine act that . Creation is “ongoing and dynam ic” because God “continues to sustain the functions m om ent by m om ent” for the sake of accom plishing God’s covenant purposes (121). See J ohn H. According to Walton. within the cosm os. or the institution of purpose. “both originating and sustaining can be seen as variations of the work of the Creator. even though they do not entirely m erge together” (123).”51 50 In his recent book. For this reason. which is why he says that creatio ex nihilo is a m isinterpretation of the text. then very little if any distinction rem ains between creation and preservation—an insight which. J ohn Walton argues that Genesis 1 presents a “functional ontology” (as opposed to a “m aterial ontology”) in which the creative activity of God prim arily concerns the establishm ent of functions. we can thus say. The result of Walton’s exegetical analysis is that the divine acts of creating and sustaining are brought very close together. however. 16– 46. properly speaking. Creation. like election. is new creation. is sim ply the continuous giving of existence to creation. are acts of “bringing order to disorder. and thus through the Spirit of God who m eets us in the word that justifies sinners. still m aintains a distinction between creation and preservation. and this act of creation involves sim ultaneously the preservation of these functions. Walton interprets Genesis 1 as the establishm ent of the cosm ic tem ple. since election is a continuous christological event. The Lost W orld of Genesis One: Ancient Cosm ology and the Origins Debate (Downers Grove. and this creative act repeats itself in the justifying word that declares new life to dead sinners. as the narrative of Genesis 1 puts God in place to perpetuate the functions after they are established in the six days” (122). in which the Sabbath is the fulfillm ent of the six days precisely because it is the event in which God descends to dwell within the tem ple. has exegetical m erit. If creation is an ever-new occurrence. Our only epistem ic access to creation is through election.

The continua m eans that God’s relation to the world is non-com petitive in character. is spoken to us. 3 (1949): 66– 77 (72). Frank writes: “The creation of the world is not an event in this observable and m easurable tim e but belongs to the realm of eternity. Yet such an eschatological m om ent is not a beginning or end in tim e but of tim e. our election and creation are sim ultaneously actualized and affirm ed. God’s act of creating is thus an apocalyptic act in which God radically interrupts us—and. and it is ex electione because creation has no independent status apart from the election of grace. it is the very m om ent when eternity touches upon tim e and thus m akes tim e m easurable for the first tim e. the whole cosm ic order—in J esus Christ. a visible given. At the sam e tim e. the ex electione identifies God’s relation to the world as apocalyptic in character. Put another way. philosophical reason m ay think of it as being ‘at any tim e. since creation coincides with God’s eschatological activity of electing the world in Christ in every new m om ent. only eternity. anything—and especially our reason com es to an end. it is an eschatological and existential reality. J esus Christ.” in the eternal now (nunc eternum ). it can always occur anew existentially. Against deism and interventionism . creatio continua understands God’s continuous activity of creation to be “paradoxically identical” (Bultm ann) with the form ative forces within nature. In God’s encounter with us.” Erich Frank. rather. creaturely actions. . an event that takes place in eternity. There is no tim e before or after. which irrupts into our present reality in the pneum atic event of the proclaim ed Word. creatio ex electione is an apocalyptic event in which that sam e Word. creatio contitranscends finite. . To im agine a tim e before or after tim e is an obvious fallacy. Since creation belongs to the realm of eternity. by extension.’ that is. . In such an event the whole world—tim e. Therefore. creation takes place in the “eschatological m om ent. When we hear the word of grace in the eternal now.” The Duke Divinity School Bulletin 14.’ But im agined as a m om ent in m easurable tim e. To sum m arize. no. “The Role of History in Christian Thought. . located in God’s future. although we cannot refrain from doing so since we do not have an adequate idea of eternity and can im agine eternity only in term s of tim e. it becom es an ‘eschatological m om ent’ to us. An eternal m om ent as that of creation—(any first beginning or ultim ate end)— is incom m ensurable with observable tim e (duration). both of which place God and creation over against each other as static com petitive entities. creation does not have a finite beginning and end. whereas creatio continua is God’s m om ent-bym om ent actualization of creation through the Word spoken by God from the beginning. For this reason.Congdon: Creatio Continua Ex Electione 51 I have called this position creatio continua ex electione. Creation as new creation (creatio nova) is not an objective fact. I define creation as continua because it is not a single event back in the past but rather a m om ent-by-m om ent actualization of the world’s existence. It is an eternal action. as a ‘continuous or eternal creation.

to use it to give him self to this com m union [Gem einschaft] and to practice this faithfulness in it.e. whereas the traditional form ula distracts us by focusing on nothingness and chaos. God’s self-determ ination to be the one who elects and creates is an act of divine freedom to be the God who covenants with hum anity. so too creatio praeterita and creatio futura coincide in creatio praesens. Creation and election occur here and now in the present-tense reality of J esus Christ who confronts the world anew in every m om ent. m y proposal focuses our attention upon J esus Christ and the reconciliation accom plished in him . or rather he transcends this binary opposition altogether by the fact that God is self-conditioning. at the sam e tim e. 341). self-determ ining. . God’s freedom is not a liberum arbitrium (free will). for the sake of being conditioned and determ ined for the covenant of grace. original italics restored). Such statem ents—whether or not they m ight have correct insights—place God within the realm of creaturely antinom ies. since election is by its very nature a divine decision of love for the world. Third. where Barth writes regarding the divine decree: “What takes place is the divine fulfi lm ent [Verw irklichung] of a divine decree [Dekret]. that creation (and election) are purely contingent decisions. KD II/ 1. To speak about our creation is strictly to speak about our selfunderstanding as those elected and reconciled in Christ. The arcane debates over whether m atter was already existent when God created the cosm os are both irrelevant and a m isunderstanding of what creation actually entails. since nothing stands behind God’s decision to elect. Barth can even say that God is “free also with regard to his freedom .”52 In conclusion. Perhaps the m ost m ature statem ent regarding God’s freedom com es in CD IV/ 1.52 KOINONIA nua is the m om ent-by-m om ent act of God that m akes it possible for this m om ent to be the “day of salvation. It takes place in the freedom of God. 30 3 [rev]. in this way being truly free. creation as creatio continua ex electione has a num ber of advantages over the received tradition of creatio ex nihilo. in m y christological proposal. but in the inner necessity of the freedom of God and not in the play of a sovereign liberum arbitrium ” (CD IV/ 1. 53 With Schleierm acher. free in him self” (CD II/ 1. And because this electing decision is determ inative for God’s very being. First. 195. KD IV/ 1. creatio ex electione upholds the basic insight of creatio ex nihilo. as Schleierm acher rightly states. To say that God created (and elected) in freedom is not the sam e thing as saying that God could have acted otherwise..53 Second. creation too is rooted 52 The creation-event thus follows the contours of the Christ-event. God is sim ultaneously unconditioned and conditioned. In the sam e way that. God’s creation of the world.” an inner determ ination to be God-for-us in J esus Christ. 213. since it follows from God’s election. I reject applying the dichotom y of freedom and necessity to God’s act of creation. this position does justice to Moltm ann’s creatio ex am ore. or that God would still be God had God not elected or created. i. . . Within the freedom of God there lies an “inner necessity. fl ows out of this inner necessity. Christus praeteritus (the past Christ) and Christus futurus (the future Christ) coincide in Christus praesens (the present Christ). nothing conditions God’s self-determ ination. it is rather the expression of God’s self-determ ined identity.

. pneum atology. soteriology.Congdon: Creatio Continua Ex Electione 53 in the being of God. The doctrine of creatio ex electione explicitly connects creation to christology. m y proposal would preclude the possibility of natural theology from the very start. I subm it that these advantages m ake the post-Barthian concept of creatio continua ex electione a serious candidate for being the m ost fruitful doctrine of creation. second. As a result. and third articles of the creed are interrelated in a m uch clearer m anner. Fifth. the first. som ething I count as quite beneficial. Fourth. and eschatology. m y alternative articulates the relationship between theological loci in a m ore satisfactory way than the traditional form ulation. and not m erely in a voluntary act of the will.