Sunday, June 11, 2006

Divine Grace and Human Freedom in Barth

'Divine grace and human freedom, as Barth understood them, can be conceptualized only by means of an unresolved antithesis. They cannot be systamatized or captured by a unified thought. Any attempt at resolving the antithesis will only result either in a false determinism (the risk run by Luther and Calvin) or in a false libertarianism (the risk run by Augustine and Aquinas). Barth's alternative to thinking in terms of a system here was to think in terms of the Chalcedonian pattern. Grace and freedom existed in the life of faith "without separation or division," "without confusion or change," and according to an "asymmetrical" ordering principle. "Without separation or division" meant that no human freedom occurred without grace, and no divine grace occurred at the expense of freedom. Grace granted the freedom for God that human beings were completely incapable of by nature, no only before but also continually after awakening to faith. Grace and freedom also existed "without confusion or change." Divine grace always remained completely unconditioned, even as human freedom always remained completely dependent on grace ... Finally, grace and freedom were related according to an asymmetrical ordering principle. Human freedom was a completely subordinate and dependent moment within the event of grace.'

--G. Hunsinger, "What Karl Barth Learned from Martin Luther" in Disruptive Grace: Studies in the Theology of Karl Barth (Eerdmanns, 2000), p. 302.


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Thomas said...

Dr. D,

What do you think Hunsinger (or possibly Barth) means by, "They cannot be systamatized or captured by a unified thought." The scholastic notion of the unity of truth would preclude absolute unintelligibility in the relation between divine and human freedom, but, at the same time, Aquinas recognizes the impossibility of an intuition or discursive demonstration of this mystery. Is he getting at the Thomistic notion of relative unintelligibility? The Chalcedonian analogy would seem - in a good way - to lead to a kind of ‘wholly God and yet wholly man’ vision of the relation. Would this constitute a transcendent leap beyond the antinomies of the old debate? It would constitute a definite link between orthodox Christology and anthropology.

lexorandi2 said...

Are you the same "Thomas" that I know? In any case, I like your new blog, and will be putting it in my "blogs I visit" section shortly.

Regarding your question, I suspect that you are on the right track. Barth is not contending for an absolute unintelligibility, nor could he without undermining his own thought! I suspect that Barth was reacting to the mechanical "ordo salutis" models and sought escape from such systematization in the "revealed mystery" of the Chalcedonian pattern. The Chalcedonian pattern is the pervasive paradigm of all of Barth's thought. "Would it constitute a transcendent leap beyond the antinomies of the old debate?" (I love your use of metaphor here.) Yes, I believe it does, which is why I chose Barth specifically as one of my primary dialogue partners in this blog.

Take care,