Friday, April 08, 2016

Keswick's History: Keswick Theology's Rise and Development in an Analysis and Critique of So Great Salvation by Stephen Barabas, part 2 of 5

Barabas also recognizes Asa Mahan, leader of the Oberlin perfectionism, as a Keswick antecedent.[1]  The Oberlin perfectionism of Asa Mahan and his mentor Charles Finney were indeed important to the rise of the Keswick system,[2] and were recognized by Keswick as essential historical background for the genesis of their doctrine.  Thus, in 1872 Mahan moved to England and “directly influenced the Keswick movement by his leadership in the Oxford and Brighton Conferences that immediately preceded the first Keswick Convention.”[3]  Mahan’s books were widely propagated in Higher Life circles, so that “Keswick writers . . . often mention or quote Asa Mahan . . . and Charles G. Finney.”[4]  Indeed, “none . . . of . . . the ‘conversational meetings’ at Oxford . . . . was of more interest than that . . . under the guidance of Asa Mahan,” who strongly taught orally the necessity of Christians receiving Spirit baptism, as he had already proclaimed in his book The Baptism of the Holy Ghost.[5]  As a consequence of Mahan’s “pressing upon” people, “[d]ay after day,” the necessity of Christians receiving Spirit baptism, “a[n] . . . experience we should not and must not be without,” “many . . . realised in his conversational meetings the baptism” and entered into Mahan’s experience.[6]  Likewise, at “the Brighton Convention (of which he was one of the conveners) Mahan directed a series of sectional meetings . . . crowded to overflowing . . . [e]ach afternoon,”[7] proclaiming post-conversion Spirit baptism.  He carried the message of the necessity of a post-conversion “Baptism of the Holy Ghost . . . to the Oxford (1874) and Brighton (1875) meetings from which the Keswick movements emerged . . . he spoke and led very popular seminars on the subject.”[8] His emphasis led many into his second blessing Baptism experience,[9] as Robert P. Smith and others led many to adopt the doctrine of the “physical thrills” of a post-conversion erotic Spirit baptism through the propagation of this doctrine at Oxford and elsewhere.  Indeed, as Mahan and Robert P. Smith explained, the “object of the . . . Meeting at Oxford . . . was to lead Christians to . . . [be] baptised with the Holy Ghost.”[10]  Furthermore, William Boardman . . . link[ed] up with Mahan to conduct revivals in both America and Britain, and both were to have a direct influence on the spiritual and theological direction of the Keswick Conferences.”[11]
Mahan was “the major architect . . . of the controversial ‘Oberlin Perfectionism.’”[12]  In addition to teaching “the immediate attainment of entire sanctification by a special act of faith directed to this end,”[13] he denied the doctrine of original sin[14] and joined Finney, his mentor and colleague at Obelin College, in uniting perfectionism with many other heresies.[15]  Mahan’s development of the post-conversion crisis of sanctification and Spirit baptism contributed greatly to the “rise of modern Pentecostalism[.] . . . [I]t is not surprising that modern Pentecostalism should sprout in th[e] well prepared ground” of the heterodox Oberlin holiness and pneumatological doctrines powerfully promulgated by Mahan. Nor is one surprised that, through his influence, “there seem to be several instances of [tongues] . . . in holiness circles between 1870 and the outbreak of Pentecostalism in 1900.”[16]
Finney, whose theology helped to destroy the Second Great Awakening and hinder subsequent revival,[17] likewise taught at Oberlin a Pelagian view of sin while denying substitutionary atonement in favor of the governmental atonement heresy,[18] among other damnable heresies.  For Finney, the “atonement . . . was not a commercial transaction . . . [not] the payment of a debt . . . [but] was intended as a satisfaction of public justice.”[19]  He also wrote:
Moral depravity . . . cannot consist . . . in a sinful constitution . . . [or] an attribute of human nature . . . [m]oral depravity is not then to be accounted for by ascribing it to a nature or constitution sinful in itself.  To talk of a sinful nature, or sinful constitution, in the sense of physical sinfulness, is to ascribe sinfulness to the Creator, who is the author of nature. . . . What ground is there for the assertion that Adam’s nature became in itself sinful by the fall?  This is a groundless, not to say ridiculous, assumption, and an absurdity. . . . This doctrine is . . . an abomination alike to God and the human intellect.[20]
Furthermore, Finney’s denial of substitutionary atonement led him to reject justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ to teach salvation by personal obedience: “If [Christ] obeyed the law as our substitute, then why should our own return to personal obedience be insisted upon as a sine qua non of our salvation?”[21]  Finney plainly stated that the truth of justification by faith alone based on the imputed righteousness of Christ (Romans 3:19-28) was a different gospel from the one he believed and taught.  By rejecting the true gospel, Finney indicated that he was an accursed false teacher who suffered eternal damnation (Galatians 1:8-9).  In his Systematic Theology, Finney accurately summarized the true gospel and then plainly rejected it:
Those who hold that justification by imputed righteousness is a forensic proceeding, take a view of final or ultimate justification, according with their view of the transaction.  With them, faith receives an imputed righteousness, and a judicial justification.  The first act of faith, according to them, introduces the sinner into this relation, and obtains for him a perpetual justification.  They maintain that after this first act of faith it is impossible for the sinner to come into condemnation; that, being once justified, he is always thereafter justified, whatever he may do; indeed that he is never justified by grace, as to sins that are past, upon condition that he ceases to sin; that Christ’s righteousness is the ground, and that his own present obedience is not even a condition of his justification, so that, in fact, his own present or future obedience to the law of God is, in no case, and in no sense, a sine qua non[22] of his justification, present or ultimate. Now this is certainly another gospel from the one I am inculcating.  It is not a difference merely upon some speculative or theoretic point.  It is a point fundamental to the gospel and to salvation, if any one can be.  Let us therefore see which of these is the true gospel.  I object to this view of justification[.] . . . The doctrine of a literal imputation of Adam’s sin to all his posterity . . . [and] of the literal imputation of Christ’s righteousness or obedience to the elect, and the consequent perpetual justification of all that are converted from the first exercise of faith, whatever their subsequent life may be—I say I regard these dogmas as fabulous, and better befitting a romance than a system of theology.[23]
Finney called men to surrender to Christ because, as befit his doctrine of salvation by personal obedience and rejection of the eternal security of the believer, perfect consecration of life and his version of sinless perfection were an essential condition for entrance into heaven:
We shall see that perseverance in obedience to the end of life is also a condition of justification . . . present, full, and entire consecration of heart and life to God and His service, is an unalterable condition of present pardon of past sin, and of present acceptance with God. . . .  [T]he penitent soul remains justified no longer than this full-hearted consecration continues.[24]
Mahan and Finney’s false gospel were intimately bound up with their perfectionism.  The perfectionist doctrine of sanctification promulgated by Finney and Mahan was very influential in the development of the Keswick theology, both through Mahan’s personal preaching and through the books of both men:
The links between Keswick and New School revivalism [Oberlin perfectionism] were many. Both Mahan and Boardman’s involvement in the Oxford and Brighton conferences helped unify the higher life aspirations arising from the “Oberlizing of England.”  Furthermore, the Reverend John Moore was close friends with Charles Finney, a relationship which no doubt had influence on his son, C. G. Moore, one of the early Keswick speakers.[25]
The rationale of Old School opposition to Finney and Mahan is noteworthy:
Old School advocates . . . opposed the “second blessing” heresy [of Finney and Mahan] because [they] believed it not only violated the . . . doctrine of depravity, but that it adopted the modernist reliance of human ability. The concern of Old School advocates was that New School proponents were being unduly influenced by German liberal theology, particularly in the elevation of humanist philosophy. . . . New School theology was not only influenced by the rational pragmatism of the nineteenth century, particularly in the new measure procedures, but . . . the emphasis upon human responsibility in [the] New School . . .was the direct result of modernist thought.[26]
Indeed, “[f]rom . . . the person and work of Charles Finney . . . the line is a straight one that leads through the holiness movement directly into Pentecostalism.”[27]  Such were Asa Mahan and Charles Finney, architects of the Oberlin perfectionism and antecedents to the Keswick theology.  Sadly, Stephen Barabas, with criminal neglect, suppresses, fails to warn of, and breathes not a whisper about the heresies of Keswick antecedents such as Thomas Upham and Asa Mahan, just as he entirely ignores the heresies, false gospel, and demonism associated with Hannah and Robert P. Smith.

See here for this entire study.


[1]              Pg. 16, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[2]              Compare A. T. Pierson’s recognition of Finney as a Higher Life antecedent and promulgator of the libertarian “liberty of the Human Will, in salvation and sanctification,” so that all effectual influences of the Holy Spirit on the human will, and compatibilist views of freedom, were rejected (pg. 10, Forward Movements of the Last Half Century, Pierson).
[3]              Pgs. 98-99, Let Go and Let God?  A Survey and Analysis of Keswick Theology, Andrew Naselli; pgs. 18-24, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[4]              Pg. 251, Vision of the Disinherited:  The Making of American Pentecostalism, Robert Anderson. 
[5]              Compare pgs. 49, 81-83, 141-143, 192, Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, Held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874. Chicago:  Revell, 1874.
[6]              Pg. 143, Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, Held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874. Chicago:  Revell, 1874; cf. pgs. 176, 192, 215, 241, 278, 333, 341, 356, 360, 369, 371-372, 376, 381.
[7]              See “Asa Mahan and the Development of American Holiness Theology,” Donald Dayton.  Wesleyan Theological Journal 9:1 (Spring 1974): 60-69; cf. pg. 141, Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, Held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874. Chicago: Revell, 1874 & pgs. 383-385, Record of the Convention for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness Held at Brighton, May 29th to June 7th, 1875. Brighton: W. J. Smith, 1875.
[8]              Pgs. 46-47, Aspects of Pentecostal-Charismatic Origins, ed. Synan.  Capitalization is retained from the original.
[9]              Pgs. 384-385, 457, 466-469,  Record of the Convention for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness Held at Brighton.
[10]             Pg. 19, Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, Held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874. Chicago: Revell, 1874.
[11]             “Wesleyan and Reformed Impulses in the Keswick and Pentecostal Movements,” Peter Althouse.  Pneuma Foundation.
[12]             “Asa Mahan and the Development of American Holiness Theology,” Donald W. Dayton.  Wesleyan Theological Journal 9:1 (Spring 1974): 60-69.
[13]             Pg. 67, Perfectionism Vol. 2, Warfield.
[14]             Pg. 126, Perfectionism Vol. 2, Warfield.
[15]             Compare pgs. 1-218, Perfectionism, Vol. 2, Warfield.
[16]             “Asa Mahan and the Development of American Holiness Theology,” Donald W. Dayton.
[17]             See “Considerations on Revival in American History,” by Thomas Ross.  Elec. acc.
[18]             Compare pg. 102, the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Walter Elwell, ed., Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1984, and pgs. 312-330, Lectures in Systematic Theology, Henry C. Thiessen, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1949, for a statement and a refutation of the governmental theory.
[19]             Pgs. 219-222, Finney’s Systematic Theology, Charles Finney.
[20]             Pgs. 249-250, 261-263, Finney’s Systematic Theology, Charles Finney.
[21]             Pg. 218, Finney’s Systematic Theology, Charles Finney.
[22]             Latin for “an essential condition.”
[23]             Pgs. 369-371, Finney’s Systematic Theology, Charles Finney.
[24]             Pgs. 367, 369, Finney’s Systematic Theology, Charles Finney.
[25]             “Wesleyan and Reformed Impulses in the Keswick and Pentecostal Movements,” Peter Althouse.  Pneuma Foundation.  Quotation marks from Althouse’s quote of Bundy have been removed.
[26]             “Wesleyan and Reformed Impulses in the Keswick and Pentecostal Movements,” Peter Althouse.  Pneuma Foundation.
[27]             Pg. 42, A Theology of the Holy Spirit, Bruner.


Jim Camp said...

Thanks for the info, Thomas. It is always interesting to read what the "heroes of the faith" actually believed. We heard much about men in Bible college, had them held up as "what we need now to turn this country around".

Frankly, I did not understand the 2nd footnote. Any chance you could summarize the a proper view of the Human will & the Holy Spirit? Am I correct that Finney's view would be like a free will Baptist - We have freedom to reject salvation by not living right?

KJB1611 said...

Dear Bro Camp,

Thanks for the comment. Also, you are to be commended for reading the footnotes.

I would say that Phlippians 2:13 teaches that God works in the believer to will and to do, while we still freely will and do, which is a form of what is called compatibalism versus what is called indeterminism. Basically, we are free because nobody forces us to work contrary to our inclination, but God works in the believer to incline him toward righteousness, so the believer not acting just like a heathen is certain while the will is still free. Freedom of the will does not require uncertainty about what a person will do. The saints in heaven have free wills, but they will never choose to rebel against God. The sinner on earth who has committed the unpardonable sin has a free will, but he will never choose to trust in Christ. During His earthly ministry Christ had a free will as part of His true and complete human nature (which He still possesses, of course, and will possess eternally), but there was no possibility of Him choosing evil.

Thanks again.

kddlporter said...

Thank you, this ongoing work is shedding light on where this error crept in...and why political & manipulative men seeking to use Christianity....such as David Barton and Green etc promote Finney so much. I live in Ohio and had also wondered about Oberlin as the Lord faithfully led us in, through & then out of ministries, denominations and 'churches' one by one by the word revealing error & discomforting conviction, with many failings and many scars. It is good to hear sound voices. Just read 1 Kings 19 this morning----encouraging.

This also fits with the fake soul-science & the impure antinomian crowd, human goodness & ability, excuse for sin that isn't really sin (we just misunderstood the Hebrew and the Greek! ;-) ---I suppose that is Pelagianism by philosophical label, as well as a slice of misinterpreted 'election' and Augustinian Calvinism. Amazing how Luciferian this tempting men in to sin through deceit and opportunism, & abandonment of honest preaching and teaching ----then turning to sniff & accuse the fallen really is: doctrines of Jezebel and Balaam.

So much for 'either-or' dialectic categorizing being sufficient! versus 1 Thess 5 and 1 John 4 test all things and every spirit (inspiration!). ----- No wonder independent & non-certified, unsteered & un-managed study is so demonized and discouraged! One would think this nicolaitan order & Jesuitical subtilty had a guiding order & spirit behind it or something....Ephesians 6, 2 Cor 11, 1 John 4...& was purpose driven to some end goal....Daniel 3 & 11, Revelation 13-19......... Oh, yeah.