Grace & Gratitude

July 9, 2019 by Joe Small

Karl Barth, the greatest theologian of the twentieth century, also served as a guest preacher and counselor in the Basel city prison. Because of his service, he was invited to speak to a convention of German prison chaplains and social workers. Questions were given in advance, but Barth’s responses were not scripted (but they were very long).

The first question to the Reformed theologian was pointed:

Is there a divine predetermination to a person becoming an incorrigible criminal, that is, a single human being who is lost in all eternity? And in this case what is the meaning of the election of grace for the message addressed to the most unrepentant?

Barth’s lengthy answer included these remarks concerning election:

There is a divine predestination: it is the predestination of the “election of grace,” the election of grace for the redemption of all who “are lost in all eternity.” This includes the entirety of “all the most unrepentant,” who we are, all of us, experiencing a divine predestination of the life of humans and of humanity, which is resolved, realized, and revealed in Jesus Christ, in whom God has loved not a pleasant world, but a very unpleasant one, not a good but an evil one, not loving and praising God. But God has loved a world that has indeed fallen away from him — which in this case means he has given himself for it, has reconciled it with himself, and in Jesus Christ has justified it before him, has sanctified and called to himself the world and every human being (really every human being!). All for the sake of his great love! Not because the world, not because any human being deserves it, but because this was and is God’s kind, good will, and it remains so!

[Barth’s entire conversation with prison chaplains is found in Barth in Conversation, Volume 1, Westminster John Knox Press, 2017]

The Christian life is shaped by gratitude – gratitude for the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit. It is by God’s grace that we receive the gift of our own lives, and so we are called to shape the whole of our lives by our grateful response. “The stewardship of all of life” is a common phrase, yet too often stewardship is reduced to an annual program, the annual program is reduced to the means to achieve an end, and the end is reduced to the church budget.  “Gratitude for all of life” may be a way to broaden and deepen our understanding and our use of the gifts God has given us.


Featured Event – Stewardship Kaleidoscope

Stewardship Kaleidoscope is an annual conference offering excellent plenary speakers, informative workshop leaders, provocative worship experiences, and incredible networking opportunites for all who are passionate about stewardship and generosity. Drawing leaders from across the Lutheran Church (ELCA) and the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) and beyond, Stewardship Kaleidoscope is designed to help participants explore stewardship, in its many colorful dimensions!

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Join the Presbyterian Foundation and Robert P. Jones for breakfast at Big Tent on August 2. Robert P. Jones is author of “The End of White Christian America,” a groundbreaking book that delves into the shift in culture in America.

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