Karl Barth (1886-1968) was arguably the most influential theological thinker of the twentieth century. In "The Absurdity of Unbelief," Jeffrey D. Johnson wrote that, according to Barth, faith in Christ is somehow independent of His words and teachings:
- It is not faith in a document [the Bible] but faith in a living person that saves. It is the moment that we believe through the power of the Holy Spirit that the life, death, and resurrection of Christ effectually means something to us. Thus, according to Barth, knowledge of God comes by experiencing a personal relationship with Christ Jesus through faith.
Yes, salvation has to begin with the work of the Spirit. However, this is not a work that takes place independent of the Word of God, as Paul had written:
· “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14 ASV)
Emerging from theological liberalism and skepticism about the complete inspiration of the Bible, Barth wrongly attempted to separate God from His Word, as many today do.
Instead, if we have faith in God, we have faith in Him according to what He has revealed in His Word:
· “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him...If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me.” (John 14:21, 23-24 ESV)
Likewise, to rebel against God is to rebel against His Word, as the Prophet Samuel charged the disobedient King Saul:
· “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as idolatry and teraphim. Because thou hast rejected the word of Jehovah, he hath also rejected thee from being king.” (1 Samuel 15:23 ASV)
Consequently, to honor God is to honor His Word, the Truth of God:
· “I will worship toward thy holy temple, And give thanks unto thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: For thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.” (Psalms 138:2)
This, of course, doesn't mean that His Word is greater than God. Instead, it means that, for our sake, He has elevated His Word to the place of prominence. Therefore, it is through His revealed truth that we believe, obey, and even worship Him. Without His Word, we do not know what to believe or how to act. We don't know when we go wrong or rebel. We are on our own, adrift of any connection to God. It is like being technically married but without a clue how to please our spouse.
Consequently, if we love God and want to please Him, we will keep His Word.