In response to a question from a reader an earlier entry, I stated that "Barth's actualist soteriology has had such a profound impact on my own approach to theology that, as an Anglican and a Catholic, I find myself SET FREE to entertain and explore more synergistic models as relating to the existential moment of salvation."
Recently I've been reading another work by Hunsinger called Disruptive Grace (Eerdmans, 2000), which is a collection of studies that he wrote on Barth's Theology. In his article, "The Mediator of Communion: Karl Barth's Doctrine of the Holy Spirit" (1999), Hunsinger had this to say about Barth's understanding of human cooperation with divine grace:
Barth does not deny that human freedom "cooperates" with divine grace. He denies that this cooperation in any way effects salvation. Although grace makes human freedom possible as a mode of acting (modus agendi), that freedom is always a gift. It is always imparted to faith in the mode of receiving salvation (modus recipiendi), partaking of it (modus participandi), and bearing witness to it (modus testificandi), never in the mode of effecting it (modus efficiendi). As imparted by the Spirit's miraculous operation, human freedom is always the consequence of salvation, never its cause, and therefore in its correspondence to grace always eucharistic (modus gratandi et laudandi) [p. 165].
In an insightful footnote at the end of this last sentence Hunsinger observes that Barth's position brought about an "implicit resolution of the sixteenth-century 'synergist' controversy between the Philippist and Gnesio-Lutherans." Essentially Barth's position transcends the issue by taking something from each side of the dispute. With the Philippists, Barth acknowledges a true freedom in and the positive nature of the human response to the offer of divine grace, i.e. a "mode of acting" (modus agendi). With the Gnesio-Lutherans, Barth acknowledges the utter incapacity of human beings, in and of themselves, to respond to God's grace. The dispute hinged on whether faith was active or passive. The Philippists argued for a coincidence of the Word, the Spirit, and the human will in not refusing divine grace, which position the orthodox (i.e. Gnesio) Lutherans denied (and thus consequently excluded from the Formula of Concord). Barth's actualist soteriology allows for the Philippist idea of a coincidence of Word, Spirit, and human will by insisting that human freedom "is always a consequence of salvation, never its cause." For Barth, the human response is in nature "eucharistic" (i.e. thanksgiving and praise), not salvific -- thus addressing orthodox Lutheran concerns.
Alas, while I'm simply thrilled with Hunsinger's observation and application of Barth's theology to the Lutheran synergistic disputes, he leaves us begging the question: how might Barth's theology prove itself to transcend other Reformation/post-Reformation debates on these issues (e.g., Calvinist/Arminian; Protestant/Roman Catholic)? I intend to explore this matter more.
Until next time.
P.S. Incidentally, Pontifications recently posted an excerpt from E.L. Mascall's The Recovery of Unity (1958) that brings up this same Gnesio-Lutheran conundrum (namely, how can faith be conceived of as the one human act that is not a work?), attributing the problem to the underlying philosophical Nominalism of Luther's position. Personally, I think Mascall's argument is right on target. But I also happen to think Barth's "realism" addresses the conundrum rather well.
P.P.S. I found my copy of and I'm currently re-reading Hans Küng's Justification: The Doctrine of Karl Barth and a Catholic Reflection. I should have some insightful excerpts and/or some of my own reflections up on my blog over the weekend. 'Til then...