Still (as with a few days ago) reading Barth’s commentary on Philippians (specifically 3.7-9), I’ve had my furniture tossed around. I don’t wholeheartedly yet accept this whole bit, but it is amazing. And it makes those who say “justifying faith is obedient faith” look like school children fussing around on the playground.
“The best way to understand the word faith, which bears the emphasis here (3.9b), is to notice that in the explanation of ‘righteousness by faith’ Paul presently sets parallel to it the expression ‘righteousness from God’ – that is, to make faith as little as possible a definition of human action by man himself and place the whole emphasis on the Object that is the ground of faith…
“If we operate too much here with trust, confidence, faithfulness, and so forth, on man’s part towards God, then we almost inevitably come imminently near to the very thing that Paul wanted his concept to abrogate and replace – man’s own ‘righteousness from the Law’ – and fail to understand the sharpness of the opposition he maintains towards it.”
“The decisive thing in the concept of faith is of all things, not the variously colored psychological capacities that the believer discovers in himself and whose subject he himself is, neither the animation nor the ardor of faith, neither its rapture nor its repose – although in fact faith will always have something of these and similar characteristics.”
“[In faith] …man knows himself for lost and can know himself for righteous only as lost – gives himself up, and can take comfort in the righteousness of God only in this his self-surrender.” [Here Barth quotes Calvin – perieram, nisi periissem and fides offert nudum hominem deo – see translation below]”
“From man’s point of view, faith in its decisive act is the collapse of every effort of his own capacity and will, in the recognition of the absolute necessity of that collapse. In it he is truly lost. If man sees the other aspect: that as lost he is righteous, that in giving himself up he can take comfort in God’s righteousness, then he sees himself – but it is from God – that this vision comes from God’s point of view. That happens in faith.”
[I’ve made the above easier to read by translating the Greek; the above Latin from Calvin reads like this: “I would have perished, if I had not ‘perished’ and “Man is completely naked when faith offers him to God”.] Barth here is like a wrecking ball. Barth does the damage, throws my furniture around, and Bavinck puts it back in place:
“If faith justified on account of itself, the object of that faith (that is, Christ), would totally lose its value. But the faith that justifies is precisely the faith that has Christ as its object and content. Therefore, if righteousness came through the law, and if faith were a work that had merit and value as such and made a person acceptable to God, then Christ died for nothing. …Faith is therefore not a work, but a relinquishment of all work” (Dogmatics, IV.211-212).