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.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Wackiness of Opposition to the Only Possible Biblical and Logical Position on the Preservation of Scripture

A First Post

For the sake of full disclosure, there are wacky, wacky supporters of the King James Version with crazy arguments and positions.  We have crushed them here.  It does kind of remind me of liberals, who lure you into some type of advocacy of a piece of their agenda and then say nothing positive after seducing you as prey into adherence.  These multiple version folk (MVF) use the craziest King James Version advocates as examples and when you separate yourself from those guys in a clear way, the MVF do not care.  Nevertheless, I start this with repudiation of double inspirationists, English preservationists, and all spin-offs.  Their existence does not and should not damage the biblical and historic position because those views actually have more in common in principle with multiple versionists.

So many things.  Let me start with one today that happened.  I talked to a MVF pastor face to face. He was a fundamentalist, independent, Baptist, Bob Jones type of guy.  I like to have these types of interactions -- of great interest to me.  In the middle of our talk while watching a mutual event, casual chat, I asked, "So what exactly is your problem with West Coast?"  Speaking of the revivalist college in Southern California.  He said, "I don't like their militant stand..."  When he said that, I thought, "Militant stand?"  Not sounding good so far.  "....in separation over the use of the King James Version of the Bible."  I waited for more, but that was it.  That was his problem with West Coast.

I don't even think of the King James Version when I think of West Coast.  They don't make themselves known by a stand on that English translation.  Sure, they use the King James.  But that's what bothers MVF about West Coast?  I asked, "What about West Coast's ministry philosophy?"  Ambivalence.  No reaction.  Not even an answer.  That's all he had to say about West Coast.   I'm thinking, "What about their gospel?"  And that's what I was intimating with ministry philosophy, church growth technique.  Nothing.  This is wacky to me.  Talk about an obsession.  I knew he wasn't alone, because I hear the same kind of talk over and over.  And they do not know what they are talking about or they are lying.  I'm choosing the former.

It is wacky to me how much this bothers them.  What difference does it make how "militant" West Coast is about using the King James if they preach a false gospel?  Leave them alone and be glad you don't have anything to do with them.  If they don't have anything to do with you, the more the better.  Yes!  But bothered that they exclusively use the KJV and that's what really gets to you?  Someone is drinking the koolaid.

OK, that's a first example.  Many say they believe in verbal, plenary inspiration.  They are adamant about it.  They see this as very, very important.  If I asked about conceptual inspiration.  No way!   But the Bibles they use, the conceptual Word, not verbal or plenary.  They have no problem that there are many errors in them.  They call them copyist errors.  I'm not saying that they aren't copyist errors.  But they are saying that they are errors, and yet they believe in "inerrancy" of these Bibles with errors.  However, for verbal and plenary inspiration, that can't have any of these errors in it.  This doesn't work in the real world in almost any area, but they are fine with this kind of strange contradiction with the Bible.  MVF believe in inerrancy!  So no errors?  "No, by inerrancy, we mean there are errors -- let me explain...."  They can explain, but it shouldn't make any sense to someone who knows what the Bible says.

Another.  MVF use any number of very good English translations of the Bible.  They differ, but they are all good.  They come from different texts, but that's fine too.  And if you believe there is only one set of Words.   No, no, no, no.  No.  Any number of some of the very good solid translations that each come from different words, but they are all good.  Is this the biblical and historical view of the Bible? If you don't agree with this, they think something is wrong with you.  And they will say that you have an aberrant bibliology if you don't believe this way.  No one who would call himself a Christian believed like they do until the 19th century.  They can't talk about history previous to the 19th century.  Could there be a biblical position that originated in the 19th century?  Can you believe that and not be wacky?  I don't think so.

There is no logical basis for God -- Divine, sovereign, powerful -- and the permissible and the "best view' of His word is that there are errors in it. "We aren't sure what His words are, and yet He wants us to live all of His words obediently." Where is this taught?   No where in the Bible.  It is wacky that they think that faithful people should believe it.  Wacky.  The emperor is wearing no clothes.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Two Most Important Facts about the Bible Version Issue -- Ignored or Covered Up

Frontline magazine, a publication arm of the FBFI, dealt with the Bible Version issue in its latest edition, which led to a so-far short discussion at SharperIron.  Our book is mentioned and referenced in one of the articles (you should buy and read the book).  When you read discussions such as these, the two most important facts about the Bible Version issue are either ignored or covered up in what seems like a conspiratorial manner.

Most people who use new or contemporary translations of the Bible think that the issue is readability. They think their churches use a newer translation, because they are easier to read.  They do not know that there is a textual issue, that their new Bibles are not the same.  They don't know that, and the men in charge are glad to have them continue thinking under that delusion.  They don't care.  And they will not bring in the doctrine of preservation.  That is left out of bibliology.  It would clash with practice.

The two most important facts about the Bible Version issue are the following two:

The Bible Teaches Its Own Perfect Preservation and General Accessibility

Our book expounds important passages that teach the preservation of scripture.  Our exegesis represents the passages.  You will find many, many men through history writing the same meaning that we say these sections of scripture or verses mean.  Still today, men looking at the passages in their context know they teach what we are saying they do.  It is easy to see that the Bible itself teaches that God would preserve every one of His Words to be accessible to every generation of believers. You will flesh that out from God's Word.  And we could have brought in even more verses than we did, and probably will in a future second volume.

The average Christian, when he reads his Bible, will think that we have the Bible.  He will not come to the position from reading the Bible that he doesn't have all the Words of God.  He will think that he does.  It will take someone from the outside to put a spin on that particular teaching, to have him think otherwise.  Your rank and file church member, who just reads his Bible, believes in this same position on the Bible.  The Bible is very clear about its own preservation.

You will not read anything coming from textual critics on what the Bible teaches about preservation.  It has only been recently and as a reaction to men who have published a biblical theology of the perfect preservation of scripture, that you have started to see some interaction to a bibliology of preservation.  Men are trying to figure out how to fit these passages in with textual criticism and having a difficult time.  The doctrine was not a basis of textual criticism.  The practice of textual criticism was atheological and even anti-theological.  The textual critics themselves say that you can't go into figuring out what the words of the Bible with any kind of scriptural or theological presuppositions.  Instead, you have to allow the evidence to lead you to the truth.  And when they say that, they don't mean to absolute certainty of what the words are.  They don't think you will ever know, which flies in the face of what God says you will know.

What I read are attacks on the doctrine of preservation.  A common statement that has been answered many, many times, and is answered in our book is this bit of propaganda that the Bible says God preserved His Word, but He didn't say how He would do it.  Since this has been written on and answered, at this point, all the forms of that statement are a lie.

The Bible tells us how God would preserve His Words.  It is all over the place in the Bible.  It's not a matter of the Bible not saying, but of men not accepting what God said.  They won't accept it, but it is part of the strategy for ignoring or covering up the doctrine of preservation of scripture.

The eclectic and critical text position, that denies perfect preservation, by the way, is the same position taken by Islam and the Jehovah's Witnesses on the doctrine of preservation.  The major argument for Islam against the Bible is that it has not been preserved.  I don't think that is the best argument against eclectic and critical text, but it should be tell-tale.

Some of the most vocal critics against the biblical position call it a stupid position.  They attack the intellect of it.  It isn't intellectual just to believe what God said He would do.  It's also not intellectual to believe in the miracles of the Bible, young earth creationism, and justification by grace through faith alone.  A faith position is often called the stupid position, but you should still take it, because when you believe what God said He would do, you are following wisdom from above, not the wisdom of this world, which is earthly, sensual, and devilish.

True Believers Have Also Taken the Position of Perfect Preservation and General Accessibility of Scripture

The Frontline article said that systematic theologies don't have a doctrine of preservation in them.  To its credit, I believe the article was saying that was bad.  However, a true statement is that modern systematic theologies have left it out.  You will find it in the old theologies.  It is a major teaching of Francis Turretin and John Owen among others.

You will also find this position, the one we show is what the Bible teaches, is the one that Christians historically believed for hundreds of years.  That is left unreported.  People will not say that this is true.  Many will not.  This, my friends, is dishonest.  They at least should be required to deal with the arguments made for centuries and they don't.  They act like history started in the late 19th century. If anything is stupid, that is.  And then they have to think we're all stupid to think the way they do.

You can find many, many men who have written the perfect preservation position.  It was the only position taught.  Daniel Wallace has admitted that, to his credit, unlike fundamentalists.  Bart Ehrman knows the Bible teaches preservation like I'm saying and he knows that this is what people believed. He, however, wasn't willing to believe it, because his "evidence" told him otherwise, so he pushed the eject button on the Christian faith.  Wallace doesn't want that, so he comes up with a new position and even a new doctrine of inerrancy.  And many fundamentalists and evangelicals will defend him on that.  This is how important it is to them to keep people away from the true doctrine of preservation.

I have written about the history here many times.  I have debunked all these things here.  I don't get answers.  You won't get answers.  You get ignored and ad hominem attack.

However, these two facts, the two in bold print above, are the most important to the Bible Version issue.  If you know and believe these two, then you are left with the King James Version.  That's why.  It is not out of loyalty to the English or to King James or to tradition.  It is because it is the conclusion you are left with.

I noticed that one person commented that the KJV side has been badly defeated in debates on the issue.  I would agree that the debate is cherry picked against the most inept debater.  I slam dunked over a little person.  There hasn't been a good debate on this.  I've also said I would be glad to debate the issue.  I did debate Frank Turk at his debate blog.  You should read that debate.  If he had won the debate, you would have been hearing it all over the internet.  But, alas, crickets. It would be proclaimed far and wide.  The fact that you hear nothing about it is because he lost that debate. Granted, he isn't the best to debate the other side, but I don't think it would go much different if it were James White, Daniel Wallace, or Bart Ehrman.  The truth will win out.  Others could fog or red herring a little more, but they don't have the truth on their side.

So again, what I'm saying here, and what we teach, is what the Bible teaches.  And, it is what Christians have believed for hundreds of years.  It's all you read as a position until post textual criticism.  Were all those people wrong?  Was this a total apostasy of the true doctrine of preservation?  Which is what?   The other side hasn't produced their treatment of preservation.  They didn't start with what the Bible says.  What does that say about their position?  Hopefully, that is bad to you.

These are the two most important facts about the Bible Version issue, and they are either ignored or covered up.  I say that it seems conspiratorial. Why?  If you are not sure what the words of God are, then you will not believe them and practice them.  This is an attack on God and His Word, on the faith once delivered.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Do Keswick Critics Routinely Misrepresent Keswick Theology? Part 1 of 3

The contradictory nature and unintelligibility of the Higher Life position[1] explains why defenders of Keswick can complain that its critics employ “inaccuracy” and “major misrepresentation” when discussing the movement.[2]  Unlike Scripture, which is the non-contradictory and clear revelation from God about how to live a holy life for His glory, the contradictions, shallow understanding of theology, and ecumenical confusion evident at Keswick produced the following self-assessment by Keswick leaders:
Defining the fine points of Keswick teaching is not a simple exercise, for there has never been in its history an agreed system of the particular truths it has purported to proclaim.  A supposed Keswick view on something may depend on who is speaking at the time.  When it is stated fairly emphatically that “Keswick teaches such and such,” as has often been done, it is usually possible to find teaching from the Keswick platform that has given a different slant, an alternative interpretation, or a completely contradictory one altogether. . . . Critiquing “Keswick teaching” is a little like trying to hit a moving target, or getting hold of a piece of soap in the bath. . . . It is important to keep in mind the . . . sharply different views of different speakers. . . . [M]any phases of the doctrine of holiness have been presented by a wide variety of speakers, some of them contradictory. . . . Baptists, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Brethren, Reformed, charismatics, and those of other persuasions can stand shoulder to shoulder [at Keswick.] . . . Any attempt, therefore, to survey the preaching at Keswick and create a systematic picture . . . is bound to be unsatisfactory.[3]
Rather than following the Biblical model and allowing no other doctrine than the truth (1 Timothy 1:3), separating from all error (Romans 16:17), and earnestly contending for all of the faith (Jude 3), Keswick will allow speakers to contradict each other and mislead their hearers with false teaching.  Keswick critics are then accused of misrepresentation when they point out heresies and errors in Keswick writers and speakers.  In a similar manner, separatists who point out that goddess worship goes on at the World Council of Churches can be accused of misrepresentation by ecumenists, since only some, but not all, those at the World Council worship goddesses.  Thus, certain Keswick critics may represent Keswick inconsistently because Keswick is not itself consistent—inconsistency in representations of Keswick may, ironically, be the only consistent representation of the movement.  Of course, a critic of Keswick certainly may fail to present its position fairly, just as critics of any position are not universally fair and accurate.  However, a statement by a critic of the Higher Life such as Bruce Waltke that “the Keswick teaching [affirms] that from the inner passivity of looking to Christ to do everything will issue a perfection of performance”[4] is an accurate statement of the dominant classical formulations of Keswick theology as taught by its founding leaders, not a misrepresentation. There is no evidence that critics of Keswick are more liable to engage in misrepresentation than others engaged in theological critique.
            J. Robertson McQuilkin, arguing for the Keswick doctrine of sanctification in Five Views of Sanctification, wrote:  “Two authors who attack the [Keswick] movement and are universally held by Keswick speakers to have misunderstood the teaching [are] Packer [in his] Keep in Step With the Spirit [and] Warfield [in his] Studies in Perfectionism.”[5]  The only evidence McQuilkin advances that Warfield misunderstood the Keswick theology is an anecdote.  McQuilkin recounts:
[M]y father, Robert C. McQuilkin, a leader in the movement known as the Victorious Life Testimony, told me that when [Warfield’s Studies in Perfectionsim] was published, he went to Warfield and discussed the matter of Keswick teaching and perfectionism at length.  Afterward Warfield admitted, “If I had known these things, I would not have included the last chapter [“The Victorious Life”] in my work.”[6]
J. R. McQuilkin provides no actual instances of misunderstanding of the Keswick theology, misquotations of Keswick writers, or any other kind of hard evidence of misrepresentation by Warfield.  Such hard evidence is very difficult to come by since more objective historiography describes Warfield’s Studies in Perfectionism as “meticulous and precise . . . extensive and detailed analysis . . .  [of] the higher life, victorious life, and Keswick movements.  Warfield’s treatment of these teachings . . . serves as a vivid sample of his thoroughness as a historical theologian.”[7]  Recording in 1987 in his Five Views chapter what McQuilkin claims his father told him Warfield had said in the early 1930s, long after the parties who allegedly engaged in the conversation were dead, is hardly actual evidence of misrepresentation, especially since both McQuilkins have a clear and strong interest in undermining the credibility of Warfield.  Furthermore, J. R. McQuilkin has overlooked the overwhelming historical problems that make it certain that his anecdote is inaccurate.  David Turner notes:  “Something is amiss here, since Warfield’s . . . will provided for the publication of his critical reviews in book form, which occurred in 1932. Thus Warfield . . . could not have referred to retracting this last chapter of his book—he had been dead eleven years when it was published.”[8]  Similarly, Warfield scholar Fred G. Zaspel indicates:
Interesting as this [quote by McQuilkin] may be, the quote cannot be accurate.  First, Warfield never saw the publication of his book Studies in Perfectionism.  This two-volume work is a collection of essays that were originally published in various theological journals from 1918 to 1921, the last of which was published posthumously (1921);  the two-volume work to which McQuilkin refers was not published until 1931-1932, some ten or eleven years after Warfield’s death.  Second, the “last chapter” of the book to which this McQuilkin quote refers is the chapter on the higher life, which was in fact not the last but the very first article of the series published (1918).  As to the accuracy of the substance of the remark . . . [w]e only know that while Warfield continued to write on the broader subject of holiness-perfectionism, he made no retractions.[9]
Unless a Keswick continuationist raised Warfield from the dead so that he could recant of his critique of the Higher Life, McQuilkin’s quote concerning Warfield is historically impossible mythmaking.  McQuilkin does not even provide hearsay to support his statement about Packer’s alleged misrepresentation.  Perhaps these severe problems with McQuilkin’s affirmation explain why he affirms that Packer and Warfield are “universally held by Keswick speakers to have misunderstood the teaching”—Keswick writers might have to provide actual evidence, while speakers can simply make undocumented and inaccurate statements.  Then again, McQuilkin does not just speak his attempt to discredit Warfield and Packer—he does register his charge in writing.  While McQuilkin did actually write down the alleged but mythological recantation by Warfield, the Keswick apologist did not put his quotation in the main body of his chapter in the Five Views book, but in a concluding section, with the result that the other non-Keswick contributors were unable to point out the problems with and the vacuity of his affirmation.  If one wishes to prove that Keswick has been misunderstood and misrepresented, mythmaking about Warfield and a passive voice verb, that Warfield and Packer “are universally held” to have misunderstood the system, fall abysmally short of the standard of real evidence.




This entire study can be accessed here.




[1]           For example, Jacob Abbott, reviewing the foundational The Higher Christian Life by William Boardman, notes:
[W]e will proceed to state, as clearly as fairly as we can, the results of our investigation [of Boardman’s book]. . . . [T]he book is a difficult one to analyze satisfactorily[.] . . . In a word, the book has no method at all;  no development, no progress, no “lucidus ordon.”  We are not sure it would suffer (with trifling qualifications) by arranging its eighteen chapters in any order different from the present, even if that were by chance.
         But to the treatise.  What is the subject treated?  What does the writer mean by the “higher life?” and by “second conversion?” as its equivalent, or the stepping-stone to it?  Precisely what he does mean, we will not attempt to say;  because it is not said intelligibly in the book, and cannot be inferred from the book.  On the contrary, it can be inferred, most certainly, from the book, that he had no well-defined idea, in his own mind, on the subject (see p. 57). . . . Let us now pass on to that which is obtained in “second conversion.”  And here . . . we have got to the end of the author’s self-consistency, and shall henceforth wander about, in fogs thicker than those of the Grand Bank. . . . We are aware that he, or a defender of his system, may take the same book and convict us of unfairness[,] [f]or we have already given some examples of the contradictions it contains.  There are others.
(pgs. 508-509, 516, 527, Review of William E. Boardman’s The Higher Christian Life, Bibliotheca Sacra, Jacob J. Abbott. Bibliotheca Sacra (July 1860) 508-535)
Similarly, Stephen Barabas notes:  “Keswick [has] furnishe[d] us with no formal treatise of its doctrine of sin, and no carefully prepared, weighty discourses of a theological nature . . . for over seventy-five years” (pg. 51, So Great Salvation:  The History and Message of the Keswick Convention).  Since the Higher Life position itself is a murky muddle of confusion it is just about inevitable that those who criticize specific representative statements and affirmations by Keswick advocates will be accused of misrepresentation by those who can cite conflicting and contradictory Higher Life statements.
[2]            Keswick’s defenders regularly affirm critics misrepresent;  see also, e. g., the defense of Keswick and critique of Warfield on pgs. 213-215 of Transforming Keswick:  The Keswick Convention, Past, Present, and Future, Price & Randall.
[3]           Pgs. 34-35, 222-226, Transforming Keswick:  The Keswick Convention, Past, Present, and Future, Price & Randall.
[4]           Pg. 22, “Evangelical Spirituality: A Biblical Scholar’s Perspective.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 31:1.
[5]           Pg. 183, Five Views of Sanctification.  Melvin E. Dieter, Anthony A. Hoekema, Stanley M Horton, J. Robertson McQuilkin & John F. Walvoord, authors;  Stanley N. Gundry, series ed.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 1987.
[6]           Pg. 245, Five Views of Sanctification, Dieter et. al.
[7]           Pg. 465, The Theology of B. B. Warfield:  A Systematic Summary, Fred G. Zaspel.
[8]           Pg. 98, Review by David L. Turner of Five Views on Sanctification, by Melvin E. Dieter, Anthony A. Hoekema, Stanley M. Horton, J. Robertson McQuilkin, and John F. Walvoord. Grace Theological Journal 10:1 (1989) 94-98.
[9]           Pgs. 473-474, The Theology of B. B. Warfield:  A Systematic Summary, Fred G. Zaspel.