Friday, October 31, 2014

Do Keswick Critics Routinely Misrepresent Keswick Theology? Part 3 of 3

It is possible that Griffith Thomas’s failure to build his doctrine of sanctification from Scripture alone is related to his toleration of weakness on the inspiration of Scripture. Thomas “had a deep sympathy with . . . James Orr,”[1] to whom, among a few other theologians, he dedicated his The Holy Spirit of God and of whom he spoke very highly in that book.[2]  Dr. Orr “was unconcerned to defend a literal interpretation of the early chapters of Genesis, and . . . took the view that an insistence on biblical inerrancy was actually ‘suicidal.’”[3]  Consequently, “as the fundamentalist–modernist controversy broke out in America[,] [Griffith Thomas] consistently refused to utter the shibboleths (which he blamed on ‘puritanism’) about historical criticism or biblical inerrancy or matters of science that were essentials for many.”[4]  However, to Griffith Thomas’s credit, even if he did refuse to take as strong a stand as he should have in some very important areas of Bibliology, what he does say about the doctrine when he exposits it[5] is commendable and consistent with a regenerate state.  Credit should, therefore, be given to him where it is due.
Unfortunately, as an Anglican, Griffith Thomas defended baptismal heresy in his comments on his denomination’s doctrinal creed, the Thirty Nine Articles:
Baptism . . . is an instrument of regeneration under five aspects; (a) Incorporation with the Church; (b) ratification of the promise of remission; (c) ratification of the promise of adoption; (d) strengthening of faith; (e) increase of grace. . . . Baptism introduces us into a new and special relation to Christ. It provides and guarantees a spiritual change in the condition of the recipient[.] . . . The words “new birth” suggest that Baptism introduced us into a new relation and new circumstances with the assurance of new power. . . . [T]he Reformers in their own books and also in the Formularies for which they are responsible, did not intend to condemn all doctrines of Baptismal Regeneration . . . in the theology of the Reformation the controversy did not turn on the question whether there was or was not a true doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration, for the Reformers never hesitated to admit that Baptism is the Sacrament of Regeneration.[6]
Thomas also defends the Anglican Baptismal Service, which declares:  “Seeing now that this child is regenerate” after the administration of the “sacrament.”  He likewise defends the Anglican Catechism, in which the catechumen speaks of:  “My Baptism, wherein I was made a member of Christ.”  However, Griffith Thomas, as a low-church Anglican, seeks to minimize and explain away such terrible sacramental heresies in his denomination in a way that is, one hopes, consistent with his own genuine new birth, making arguments similar to the sort of minimalization and confusion of language that Bishop Handley Moule employed in his attempts to reconcile Anglican liturgy and the Pauline gospel of justification by faith alone.
Not surprisingly, Griffith Thomas was also a continuationist, although, just as his Keswick theology was more moderate and sane than that of many of his fellows, so his continuationism, although still a rejection of Scriptural cessationism, was of a more moderate form than that of the Keswick trajectory represented by the Christian and Missionary Alliance and Pentecostalism.  Thomas wrote the introduction to R. V. Bingham’s book The Bible and the Body,[7] and affirmed that Bingham’s position was “the true position” which Thomas was glad to “cal[l] attention to.”[8]  Bingham, the founder of “Canadian Keswick,”[9] while making a great number of excellent points against more radical continuationism, taught in The Bible and the Body that the sign gifts have not ceased, but that on “most of the foreign fields”—Bingham was the founder of the Sudan Interior Mission—the “repetition of the signs” had appeared, so that “[m]issionaries could duplicate almost every scene in the Acts of the Apostles.”  God “gives the signs” today.[10]  To describe the first century as “the age of miracles” which is now “past” is an error.[11]  In “this dispensation” God still gives “the gift of healing,”[12] and in answering the question about whether the signs of the book of Acts are for today, Bingham answers that, in some “conditions, yes.”[13]  Griffith Thomas and Bingham are also far too generous to proponents of more radical continuationist error.  Thomas “plead[s], as Mr. Bingham does, for liberty, and [is] . . . ready to give it to those who believe” in the exact errors on “Healing” that are very effectively refuted in his book—he will not separate from those who promulgate errors on healing, but will speak of those in “the healing cults” as “our friends” who have “honoured and saintly leaders.”[14]
Thus, as Griffith Thomas defended the errors of Keswick sanctification, although in a more cool-headed way than many of his Keswick contemporaries, so he likewise defended Keswick continuationism or anti-cessationism, although likewise in a more cool-headed way than many.  He also followed the traditional Keswick refusal to separate from the more radical ideas on sanctification and sign gifts of many of his fellow promulgators of the Keswick theology.  His defense of Keswick against B. B. Warfield, while superior to McQuilkin’s promulgation of Warfield’s mythological posthumous recantation, still remains fundamentally a failure to those who hold consistently to sola Scriptura.  Keswick’s apologists have both failed to provide solid exegetical answers to critics and failed to demonstrate that Keswick critics generally misunderstand or misrepresent the Higher Life system.  While Keswick critics in the world of scholarship are far from infallible, no convincing evidence exists that they routinely misrepresent Higher Life theology.
For conclusive evidence of Keswick's fundamental continuationism or anti-cessationism, and its key role in the rise of the charismatic movement, note the study here.  (Note that the page is large and so it may take a little while to open up.)



This entire study can be accessed here.




[1]           Pg. 667, Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals, ed. Larsen.
[2]           Compare pgs. x-xi, The Holy Spirit of God (London:  Longmans, Green, and Co., 1913). 
[3]           Pg. 492, Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals, ed. Larsen.
[4]           Pg. 667, Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals, ed. Larsen.
[5]           See pgs. 147-163 of The Holy Spirit of God (London:  Longmans, Green, and Co., 1913).
[6]           Article 27, “Of Baptism,” Thirty-Nine Articles.
[7]           The Bible and the Body, R. V. Bingham.  Toronto, Canada:  Evangelical Publishers, 1921 (1st ed.); 4th ed. 1952.
[8]           Pg. vii, The Bible and the Body, Bingham.
[9]           Pg. 53, Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals, ed. Larsen.
[10]         Pg. 66, The Bible and the Body, Bingham.
[11]         Pg. 91, The Bible and the Body, Bingham.
[12]         Pg. 113, The Bible and the Body, Bingham.
[13]         Pg. 113, The Bible and the Body, Bingham.
[14]         Pg. 69, The Bible and the Body, Bingham.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Doctrine of the Preservation of Scripture and the Idea of Acceptable Multiple Versions of Scripture

Recent Posts on Preservation of Scripture and Versions of the Bible (one, two, three)

I just want those reading here to know that I get, I get that evangelicals and fundamentalists want me and people like me to accept those who use a different version of the Bible.  I get it.  I get that they want me to accept whatever version they use within reason.  I say "within reason" because they would probably be fine with my rejection of a gender inclusive version or a paraphrase or the Jehovah's Witness Bible, but they want me to accept the NASV, ESV, NIV, etc., to treat all those like they are all acceptable.  If I did that, I would myself go a long ways to being accepted by those men myself.  I get it.

My problem with acceptance of multiple versions is that I can't harmonize that decision with the biblical and historical position of the preservation of scripture.  I try to do that.  I do.  But I can't.  I'm open minded in the Allan Bloom kind of way.  In other words, I'm willing to believe that multiple version position.  I am willing to work it around in my mouth, tasting it, before swallowing it.  But I can't swallow.  It isn't biblical, so it isn't faith and it doesn't please God.  Swallowing it contradicts a Christian or biblical worldview, contradicts God, contradicts biblical doctrine, and sets us up for a slide away from the truth.

On the other hand, I don't think evangelicalism and fundamentalism are open minded.  I believe they have been affected by wrong views of unity and toleration and, therefore, the truth.  The truth to them is wide-ranging, cobbled together differences, agreeing to disagree, and that is constantly morphing. It's why we have same-sex marriage today, because not even the church will stand in a way that would stop that.  I skimmed Allan Bloom's Closing of the American Mind, written in 1987, and I see the problem he addressed in evangelicalism and fundamentalism themselves, which are ruined vehicles for transporting the truth to another generation.  They have closed their minds, because they refuse to swallow what they know is the truth.

I looked at Kevin Schaal's article in Frontline, introducing the preservation and version issue in that edition.  He starts by saying that the first distinctive of Baptists is Bible sole authority.  He says we cannot hold something that the Bible does not teach.  I understand what he is saying.  We can take only a position on preservation and the versions that the Bible teaches, no more or no less.  That's what I want.  Read Schaal's article.  He mentions inspiration, preservation, and translation.  He is fine on inspiration there.

And then he gets to preservation.  Read it with an open mind, which includes a critical eye, but with the willingness to swallow, not just mull on it.  I couldn't swallow.  Why?  The first line he writes, "The Bible also claims that God will preserve His book (Ps. 119:152; Isa. 40:8; Matt. 5:17, 18; 24:35; and others)."  What's wrong with that?  Schaal is different in that sentence than he was about inspiration.  Guys like Schaal will hold fast exactly to what the text says on inspiration, gleaning it all, fleshing it all out, and then they fudge on preservation.  They say something like he does in the second sentence, "Individuals may exegete these passages differently, but most if not all Bible believers affirm the fact of the providential preservation of Scripture."  Why doesn't he say about inspiration, "Individuals may exegete these passages differently"?  Why not?  He's not going to fudge on inspiration, because that is a hypothetical text to him, not exactly what he holds in his hands.

So Schaal says, "preserve His book."  "His book."  When you look at those verses within the parenthesis, they read more like the inspiration passages:  testimonies, words, jots and tittles.  Not "book."  Inspiration?  He inspires words, not the book.  Then we get to preservation and we get more ambiguous and fuzzy to make room for multiple positions.  Just admit it!  We are already not allowing the Bible to guide us.  In other words, we're not letting the Bible be our final, sole, and infallible authority.  Not anymore.  And men are good with that, because they want the position that Schaal will end with, one that allows for their position on the text, on versions, on truth itself to exist.  It is a position that will end in total apostasy. We are headed there.

Read Schaal's paragraph on inspiration and then the one on preservation.  Notice how doctrinal and how exegetical and how textual he is on inspiration.  Notice how he doesn't do any of that kind of work with the preservation passages that he lists.  He has one line really, and then immediately he moves to his opinion and with italics.  "Nevertheless, the Bible makes no statement about the particular method of its preservation; neither does it give guidelines for its transcription."  That statement is not true.  It is not.  It is blatantly untrue.  Evangelicals and fundamentalists close their minds to what the Bible says about its own preservation.

And then Schaal writes the following in the second and last paragraph on what he says is "preservation":  "The debate over New Testament and Old Testament texts is beneficial as we seek to identify the most accurate texts."  That is self contradictory to everything he wrote before.  He says the Bible does not teach the method of preservation, but he says the method of debating over the texts is beneficial.  And then he says we are "seek[ing] to identify the most accurate texts."  That says scripture is not preserved.  We don't know what the words are.  We are not sure, and that is still an ongoing process that will be benefited through debate.  Why debate?  And if we are still seeking the texts, what does preservation mean?  What is this "preserve His book" that Schaal talks about?  Is it that we still have the book called the Bible, but we don't have the words?  Is that what the final authority tells us?

I'm happy that Frontline is even considering the idea of thinking about preservation.  They don't do it in this magazine edition, but they indicate that people should consider the idea of thinking about it (yes, I know that is highly qualitative with multiple qualifiers, leaving room for not thinking).  In the meantime, however, accept all the good versions of the Bible, whatever those might be, while who-knows-who sorts this out.  This is not an example of how to handle a Bible doctrine.

For those who like this position that any number of Bible versions and texts and so forth are good and that's the superior way of handling this, have a good time with that.  Enjoy trying to convince people that the Bible is an authority.  And when I say that, I don't believe in preservation so that I will have an authority.  I believe in preservation.  However, if you don't believe in it, you won't have that authority.  And that is why we are sliding, my friend, and will continue to.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Does DBTS Theological Journal Present a Biblical Theology of Preservation?

In comments about the latest Frontline magazine edition on the Bible version issue, Mike Harding wrote this comment at SharperIron:

Just finished reading the articles on preservation in FRONTLINE. Some articles simply asked questions with no definitive answers.  I thought the articles had political overtones as opposed to making the case for preservation and what that preservation means.  The best articles on this subject will be found in the DBTS Theological Journal.  The level of scholarship and detail is very high comparatively.  Again, there was no substantive attempt to recommend other reliable translations of Scripture other than the KJV. It was very interesting to me that Dr. Minnick did not submit an article on the textual debate. Dr. Minnick, a well-respected member of the FBFI board, is perhaps the best textual scholar on the board.  His chapters in "Mind of God to the Mind of Man" and "God's Word in our Hands" are simply outstanding.  How could the editor of FRONTLINE overlook that?

Pastor Harding is correct in saying that the Frontline edition was ambiguous and political, but isn't that par for the course?  I've found much of fundamentalism to handle these types of issues this way. But is what he says about DBTS journal correct?

Harding says the best articles on this subject are found in the DBTS Theological Journal, because the level of scholarship and detail is very high.  Is that true?

The DBTS journal has one article on preservation.  One.  Then it has articles attacking a King James Only position.  Those are not articles on preservation.  So, when he says “best articles” on the subject of preservation, there is really one article.  One.  That statement then, right out of the box, is false.  It makes a difference in people’s thinking when someone says “articles,” plural, when there is only one, singular.

We need to be honest here.  Honest.   Please.  Don’t call “article,” “articles,” like a lot of work has been done on preservation.  It hasn’t.  I have written many articles and edited a whole book on preservation.  Has Mike Harding read our book?  I don’t know, but I do know what should be considered scholarly, and I want to examine the one article of William Combs based on that consideration.

An important aspect in dealing with a biblical doctrine or subject or is starting with what the Bible says.  If you take a biblical position, you start with what the Bible says, right?  Is that scholarship?  If it isn’t, then I don’t want scholarship.  Please pay attention to this paragraph.  It is very, very important.  Faith comes from hearing the Bible.  Without faith it is impossible to please Him.  If scholarship is not faith, then scholarship be gone.  Agree?  When we stand before God, will He bring up scholarship?  You know He won’t.  He will bring up faith, however, and pleasing Him.

Detroit (DBTS Journal) writes one article on the preservation of scripture as a reaction, not as a basis of their belief and practice.  That is not – I repeat, not – how one comes to his positions in order to please God.  Maybe that is scholarship, but it is not how the Bible teaches to approach issues and it is not how godly people have done this historically.  If what I am writing is true, you should agree.  Politicians probably won’t agree, but God didn’t call us to be politicians, did He?

The order should have been: (1) study the Bible on preservation, (2) come to your position on preservation from the Bible, (3) see if the gleanings from the Bible agree with historical doctrine (previous to the 19th century), (4) approach everything related to the Bible guided by the Bible, and (5) critique other positions based on 1 through 4.  Mike Harding would call this the insane approach, since he calls something that contradicts this, the sane approach.  Is “sane approach” incisive commentary?  Scholarly?  How about biblical?  Non-biblical positions are deluded, and that is what the Bible says about them.

(By the way, because of what I’m writing here, I get many more anonymous comments than others.  And there are people who act like they don’t know me.  But I digress.)

I can’t say that I can put down with complete accuracy the approach of Combs, and those like him.  However, let me list what I think it is as a sort of thought experiment.  (1) Take classes from those who support an eclectic text or read Bruce Metzger or read Mind of God to Mind of Man, which follows Metzger to the “T” and quotes him heavily (less his student, Bart Ehrman, because that looks apostate), (2) look to find agreement from others, (3) relate what you’ve read to what men wrote in the 19th century, (4) look at what others have written about preservation and see if it fits with 1 through 3, and (5) criticize what people have written about preservation that don’t agree with an eclectic text.  Imagine if you did this with any other doctrine of scripture.  We are talking about scriptural doctrine.  I don’t see anyone coming to the right understanding of preservation, using this methodology, one that Harding would see as a “sane approach,” still intimating that everyone else is crazy.  By the way, old earth creationists think young earthers are crazy too.

To be fair, the article by Combs on “preservation” starts by giving away its agenda in the following entire first paragraph:

One of the many issues in the current debate about Greek manuscript text-types and English versions is the question of the preservation of Scripture. In fact, as one analyzes the arguments for the King James only, Textus Receptus (TR), and Majority Text (MT) positions, it soon becomes obvious that the doctrine of the preservation of Scripture is at the heart of many of these viewpoints.

When I read something that starts like that, I conclude that the doctrine of preservation is not at the heart of Combs' viewpoint.  Why wouldn’t I?  He doesn’t approach the doctrine of preservation until he starts looking at other people’s arguments.  It is not what he started with.  Again, this is the sane approach, and highly scholarly.  It would be akin to me on Sunday morning saying to my people, “Close your Bibles, because I’m going to talk to you today about how we got what you call the Bible.”

In his article, "The Preservation of Scripture," Combs doesn’t start talking about preservation until page 6.   He doesn’t mention any scripture until page 11.  However, I’m happy Combs at least talks about preservation, because so few others like him do today.  He says that he believes that the Bible does teach its own preservation, unlike the Dan Wallace position that scripture does not teach preservation of scripture.    On page 11, as Combs begins sort of elaborating on the passages of scripture that men use to defend preservation, he starts with the following:

That God has preserved the Scriptures in the totality of the manuscript tradition has traditionally been the position of most evangelicals and fundamentalists on the subject of preservation.

With almost any definition of his terms, that statement is false.  This totality of the manuscripts position is not a traditional position.  It is not historical.  It is an invented and new position that originated with Warfield in the late 19th century.  You would see very few rank and file New Testament church members believing it until the later 20th century.  I would find it interesting to hear what a typical church member thinks the Bible says about its own preservation, even in churches that use new versions.  I think it would turn out like a typical interview of a modern Roman Catholic on the seven sacraments.  They wouldn’t know.  Sadly, I think their pastors and churches are totally fine with that.  Keep them ignorant.  The emperor is wearing no clothes.

On top of the above, I have found that the men, who say they believe in the totality of the manuscript position, don’t even believe it.  They don’t believe we have every word.  You’ll see this in their own books.  I haven’t read one who believes that we have the original wording of 1 Samuel 13:1.  The book, God’s Word in Our Hands (not Words, by the way), says it takes the totality of the manuscript position and then in the footnotes says that it doesn’t believe that position, because the authors don’t believe they have the exact wording of the originals in 1 Samuel 13:1.  Will they care about this? Probably not.  It is a new position, not taken from scripture, so it is no wonder that it is subject to self-contradiction.  But it is “sane.”

Combs begins going through passages on preservation used by those who defend perfect preservation.  The article doesn’t read as an exegesis of these passages, as much as it is an attempt to fit those passages into his totality of the manuscript position.  Harding says it is scholarly, and on the first passage he deals with, Psalm 12:6-7, Combs says the verses teach the preservation of the “poor and needy” and not the “words of God,” and he buttresses that almost entirely on a grammatical argument, that “them” is masculine and “words” is feminine.  He writes:

However, it is more probable that verse 7 (“Thou shall keep them…thou shalt preserve them”) is not even referring to “the words of the LORD” in verse 6. That is, the antecedent of “them” in verse 7 is probably not the “words” of verse 6. The Hebrew term for “them” (twice in v. 7) is masculine, while the term for “words” is feminine.

I’m not repudiating the preservation of the poor and needy in Psalm 12.  However, Combs' argument is not scholarly by any sense of the word.  He obviously doesn’t understand Hebrew grammar here, because very often the antecedent of a masculine pronoun is a feminine noun.  Very often.  And it especially occurs when referring to the Words of God.  You see it several times in Psalm 119.  That is not very thorough study, and Combs should at least back down on his major argument if he is going to be credible on this.  He doesn’t mention that at all.

What is very ironic in Combs' article, and should seem embarrassing to him, is that he later gives a whole section to Psalm 119:152, saying that it does teach preservation, contradicting what he wrote about Psalm 12:6-7.  If I did that work, others would call it laughable, and I would be ridiculed more than what I already am by them.  What is sad to me is that there are men that don't even care that he makes poor arguments.  It doesn't matter to them.  They don't care.  I have grown to expect it.  They determine the strength of the argument by someone's credentials, where he teaches, and if they like the position.  Consider the following verses in Psalm 119:

Psalm 119:111, "Thy testimonies [feminine plural noun] have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they [masculine plural pronoun] are the rejoicing of my heart."

Psalm 119:129, "Thy testimonies [feminine plural noun] are wonderful: therefore doth my soul keep them [masculine plural pronoun suffix]."

Psalm 119:152, "Concerning thy testimonies [feminine plural noun], I have known of old that thou hast founded them [masculine plural pronoun suffix] for ever."

Psalm 119:167, "My soul hath kept thy testimonies [feminine plural noun]; and I love them [masculine plural noun suffix] exceedingly."

I’m probably going to come back and finish this post, but what I’ve written so far deserves some cogitation.  I know some of you will be angry when you read it, but we’re the ones being called insane, so perhaps you could set that aside and just think.  I'm also not the one that with complete dogmatism says that "them" must refer to "poor and needy," must, because of a faulty antecedent argument.  And it is obviously faulty.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Do Keswick Critics Routinely Misrepresent Keswick Theology? Part 2 of 3

Keswick apologists Price & Randall, discussing J. C. Ryle and J. I. Packer’s critiques of Keswick, join McQuilkin in bringing the standard charge of misrepresentation of Keswick.[1]  Again, no actual documentation of misrepresentation is forthcoming.  Packer, for instance, is criticized for “misunderstand[ing]”[2] Stephen Barabas’s Keswick work, So Great Salvation, when Packer simply quoted Barabas’s own words without any distortion whatever.  Keswick authors have had a century[3] to put in print actual evidence of Warfield or other Keswick critics misquoting Keswick authors or otherwise engaging in misrepresentation, manipulation, or misunderstanding.  They have provided no proof of this kind.  The hard facts indicate that the prominent Keswick critics Warfield, Packer, and Ryle understood Keswick theology very well. 
            Shortly after Warfield published his critique of the Higher Life, Keswick, and Victorious Life movements in the Princeton Review, W. H. Griffith Thomas wrote two articles in the Bibliotheca Sacra as a response to Warfield’s critique of the Victorious Life.[4]  Thomas affirmed that advocates of the Keswick theology “do not believe Dr. Warfield’s interpretation of their position is always and necessarily the true one,”[5] possibly originating the common affirmation by later advocates of the Keswick theology that Warfield misrepresented the Higher Life doctrine.  Thomas made “[n]o attempt . . . to deal with every contention, but only an effort to consider the more outstanding of [Warfield’s] criticisms.”[6]  Griffith Thomas makes some striking and eye-opening statements in his response to Warfield, such as:  “I am convinced that Dr. Warfield has failed to recognize the element of truth, even in what he calls Pelagianism,”[7] and: “‘Keswick’ stands for perfectionism.  I have heard that scores of times, and so have you—and it does.”[8]  Modern Keswick apologists who charge critics with misrepresentation for associating Keswick with perfectionism need to similarly affirm that early defenders and promulgators of Keswick theology like Griffith Thomas also were guilty of misrepresentation.  Not only early critics of Keswick, such as Warfield, but also early defenders, such as Griffith Thomas, must have failed to see Keswick’s opposition to perfectionism—only modern Keswick apologists have apparently discerned the truth invisible to those living far closer to the time the Higher Life system originated.
While making striking concessions to Warfield, Griffith Thomas also seeks to moderate Keswick errors, sometimes through a certain historical revisionism.  For example, he wrote:  “[H]ow free Mr. Pearsall Smith really was from the errors attributed by some people to him[!]”[9]  Griffith Thomas’s revisionism leads him, at times, to  affirm positions directly contrary to those of central leaders of the Higher Life and Victorious Life movement whom Warfield critiques.  Nonetheless, one can be thankful for whatever Scriptural affirmations Griffith Thomas makes, even if they contradict the actual affirmations of Keswick founders and promulgators.
Thomas makes a variety of criticisms of Warfield’s affirmations,[10] a few of which are valid,[11] but many of which are not themselves especially accurate.  Thomas criticizes Warfield’s affirmation that the Keswick theology denies the possibility of actually becoming more sanctified or holy, but then strongly affirms that “there is no present . . . deliverance from corruption . . . . [no] essential difference between the youngest and the oldest Christian in regard to remaining corruption . . . no eradication . . . or even improvement . . . [only] counteraction,”[12] demonstrating that Warfield has not misunderstood the Keswick position at all.  Thomas attempts to separate the Keswick theology from its roots in Wesleyan, Oberlin, and other earlier perfectionisms.  Nonetheless, he concedes that the first Keswick convention had Oberlin leader Asa Mahan as speaker and admits that Warfield can “quote [Keswick] writers”[13] that support his affirmations.  Griffith Thomas himself even stated elsewhere that “the roots of the distinctive teaching . . . [of the] Keswick Convention . . . can easily be traced in the writings of . . . John Wesley [and his proposed successor in the Methodist movement] Fletcher of Madeley.”[14]  Indeed, Thomas very rarely seeks to demonstrate that Warfield quoted any Higher Life writer out of context, and Thomas never quotes any Keswick writer warning about or reproving the errors Warfield exposes in those founders and writers of Keswick theology that the Princetonian examines.  The best Thomas can do is to find, in certain situations, certain Keswick writers who are more sane and orthodox than Higher Life and Keswick founders such as H. W. and R. P. Smith or Mark Boardman, and then state that these authors—rather than the Keswick teachers, leaders, and founders upon which Warfield focuses his critique—truly represent the Higher Life position.  However, while criticizing Warfield for exposing the errors of Keswick founders, Thomas freely admits:
[T]he modern Holiness Movement came to England very largely, if not almost entirely, through Mr. R. Pearsall Smith . . . Humanly speaking, but for him there would probably have been no Conventions, beginning with that at Oxford, extending to Brighton, and spreading all over the kingdom, of which the Conventions at Keswick are best known[.] . . . [M]any thousands who have been definitely helped [by Keswick theology] little know how much they owe to “R. P. S.” for the life more abundant that they enjoy.[15]
Griffith Thomas avers that “Mr. Trumbull . . . H. W. Smith . . . Mr. Boardma[n] . . . [are] men and women . . .sincere and . . . earnest”[16] and fails to whisper the slightest warning about the severe errors they held.  Thomas’s critique of Warfield is largely unsuccessful.
Griffith Thomas’s response to Warfield, very regrettably but perhaps unsurprisingly, is not based solely on the results of grammatical-historical exegesis.  In addition to making some very curious and unsustainable affirmations about the meaning of passages,[17] Thomas argues for the Keswick theology based on what he has “observed,” on “experience,” and on “very many a Christian experience.”[18]  In Griffith Thomas’s mind, Warfield is wrong because “experience in general gives no suggestion” of his position and “there is no general evidence of” Warfield’s doctrine “in Christian lives.”[19]  While affirming, though not expositing passages to prove it, that Warfield contradicts Scripture in affirming progressive eradication and renewal, Thomas also argues that “Warfield . . . is disproved . . . by experience of everyday life.”[20]  Thomas’s second article, “The Victorious Life (II.),” is almost useless for someone who wishes to build doctrine from Scripture alone, as the great majority of it is essentially nothing but testimonials from various people about how wonderful the Keswick theology is and how it has helped them, a sort of compilation that the most extreme Word-Faith proponent, or a member of Mary Baker Eddy’s cult, or a Mormon, could compile to support their respective heresies.  After telling stories about how people adopted Higher Life theology and felt better afterwards, Griffith Thomas concludes:  “I submit, with all deference to Dr. Warfield, yet with perfect confidence, that the convinced acceptance of the Keswick movement by such [men] . . . is impressive enough to make people inquire whether, after all, it does not stand for essential Biblical truth.”[21]  Griffith Thomas would have done far better had he carefully exposited Scripture to develop his theology of sanctification, and to have placed “perfect confidence” in the Word of God, the true sole authority for faith and practice, rather than placing such confidence in men and their testimonials.  Properly exegeted Scripture, not testimonial, is the touchstone for truth.  Unfortunately, rather than arguing from Scripture alone, Thomas concludes that since “Evangelical clergymen . . . have found” the Keswick theology “to be their joy, comfort, and strength,” it must be true:
[We are] more and more certain that in holding [Keswick theology] and teaching it we are absolutely loyal to the “old, old story.” . . . [A]ble and clear-minded Christian men bear testimony to [Keswick] experience . . . [n]o experience which carries moral and ethical value can be without a basis of some truth . . . the rich experiences to which testimony is given . . . the possession of an experience which has evidently enriched their lives . . . [is] not to be set aside by any purely doctrinal and theoretical criticism.[22]

The Keswick experience, Griffith Thomas avers, is not to be set aside by criticism of its doctrine from Scripture alone.  Thomas illustrates, in the final paragraph of his critique, his paradigmatic response to Keswick critics.  He tells a story about a time when he was in the presence of an “Evangelical clergyman in England who took a very strong line against Keswick and reflected on it for what he regarded as its errors, in the light of . . . old-fashioned Evangelicalism.”[23]  Thomas did not, in response, show from the Bible alone the truth of the Keswick theology;  rather, he “told” the critic of his “experience in the spiritual life” and entrance into “a spiritual experience of light, liberty, joy, and power,” so that “the messages . . . of the Keswick Convention” provided “confirmation . . . of my personal experiences.”[24]  Thus, Scripture must be interpreted in light of Keswick experiences.[25]  While one who rejects sola Scriptura might find such argumentation of value, those who build their doctrine from the Bible alone and evaluate spiritual experience from the truth of its teaching alone will find Griffith Thomas’s case remarkably unconvincing.  If the Apostle Peter’s incredible experience of seeing the transfiguration of Christ was subordinate to Scripture, a “more sure word of prophecy” (2 Peter 1:16-21), what place can the experiences of Keswick proponents have in comparison to Scripture?  Thomas does, however, effectively illustrate the methods through which the Keswick theology spreads among the people of God.  By means of personal narrations of having “received the blessing,” entered the Higher Life, and the like, by means of written testimonials and devotional works, and by means of special conventions and gatherings where careful exegesis and Bible study are not undertaken, the Keswick theology spreads among those who are not well-grounded in a Biblical doctrine of sanctification, despite its abysmal failure to effectively deal with devastating, unrefuted, and irrefutable exegetical and theological critiques of Keswick.[26]



This entire study can be accessed here.


[1]           Pgs. 210-227, Transforming Keswick:  The Keswick Convention, Past, Present, and Future, Price & Randall.
[2]           Pg. 221, Transforming Keswick, Price & Randall.
[3]           The chapter on the Victorious Life movement by Warfield, as reprinted in his Perfectionism, volume 2, was originally printed in The Princeton Theological Review 16 (1918) 321-373. 
[4]           “The Victorious Life (I.).”  Bibliotheca Sacra (76:303) July 1919, 267-288; “The Victorious Life (II.).”  Bibliotheca Sacra (76:304) October 1919, 455-467.
[5]           Pg. 267, “The Victorious Life (I.).”
[6]           Pg. 267, “The Victorious Life (I.).”
[7]           Pg. 279, “The Victorious Life (I.).”
[8]           Pg. 283, “The Victorious Life (I.).”
[9]           Pg. 285, “The Victorious Life (I.).”
[10]         Pgs. 267ff. “The Victorious Life (I.).”
[11]         E. g., Griffith Thomas is correct that Warfield downplays the resistibility of grace (pg. 279, “The Victorious Life (I.).”).
[12]         Pgs. 272-274, “The Victorious Life (I.).”
[13]         Pg. 269, “The Victorious Life (I.).”
[14]         Pg. 223, “The Literature of Keswick,” Griffith Thomas, in The Keswick Convention: Its Message, Its, Method, and Its Men, ed. Charles Harford.  In this work, Thomas also lists other antecedents to Keswick theology, such as the Roman Catholic mystic and heretic Madame Guyon.
[15]         Pgs. 285-286, “The Victorious Life (I.).”
[16]         Pg. 463, “The Victorious Life (II.).”
[17]         E. g., Romans 8:1ff., pg. 271-272, “The Victorious Life (I.).”  Thomas also states that he has “long ceased to be concerned about whether [Romans 7:14-25] refers to a believer or an unconverted man” (pg. 276) and makes arguments that would lead to the conclusion that he is neither saved nor unsaved.
[18]         Pgs. 273, 275, 277, “The Victorious Life (I.).”
[19]         Pg. 464, “The Victorious Life (II.).”
[20]         Pg. 275, “The Victorious Life (I.).”
[21]         Pgs. 462-463, “The Victorious Life (II.).”
[22]         Pgs. 465-466, “The Victorious Life (II.).”
[23]         Pg. 466, “The Victorious Life (II.).”
[24]         Pg. 467, “The Victorious Life (II.).”
[25]         Pg. 466, “The Victorious Life (II.).”
[26]         For other examples of the spread of the Keswick theology by testimonial rather than exegesis, see, e. g., pgs. 54, 71, Evan Harry Hopkins:  A Memoir, Alexander Smellie.