Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Neo-orthodoxy and the Word

"[God] forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross" (Colossians 2:13b–14).

Nineteenth century “liberal” theology treated Jesus as a mere man with some good ideas. Liberal theology is a form of religious humanism that encourages people to be good and follow the example of their mythical Jesus. Shortly after World War I, a theologian in Switzerland named Karl Barth launched an attack on liberalism. Barth claimed to be returning to orthodoxy and purifying it in the process. In truth, Barth was simply inventing one more pseudo-Christian religion, another form of gnosticism.

The “neo-orthodoxy” of Barth and his associate Emil Brunner said that the Bible is not an infallible book. Rather, the Bible is a book that, if we read it with a spiritual frame of mind, will lead us to a mystical encounter with God. They wanted to maintain that the Bible is unique in providing this encounter, but there is really nothing to say that we cannot have this encounter through some other book, or simply through nature or other people.

What really counts, they said, is this mystical experience. Whether the events recorded in the Bible actually happened as the Bible says is not really important. And the opinions of the writers of the Bible are not necessarily infallible either, they said. Truth, they said, is a personal encounter with God, not a series of words on a page.

This is a great distortion of the real truth. To be sure, we must have a personal relationship with God, but this is a relationship in which God is not silent. We don’t just get a bear hug from God; we get words from Him. As a Father, He tells us about Himself and about His historical acts. We are to believe the words He has written in His love letter to us.

In the Bible, God tells us exactly what happened and also interprets it for us. He does not leave it as a matter of our personal opinion what the cross of Christ means. Instead, in places like Colossians 2:14, He tells us what it means. It all we see is some man being crucified, we might agree with the Romans that he was a criminal, or with the Sanhedrin that he was a blasphemer. The Bible tells us, however, that He was the Son of God, and that His death took away the curse of the Law.

Christianity is rooted in history. The Bible is a trustworthy, historical document that is the inerrant Word of God. We must not be caught in the web of neo-orthodox subjectivism when we have the objective standard of God. Look to God’s Word for truth, not to your own personal experiences.