Friday, April 22, 2016

Keswick's History: Keswick Theology's Rise and Development in an Analysis and Critique of So Great Salvation by Stephen Barabas, part 3 of 5

While earlier perfectionist heretics were important, Barabas recognizes that “the Keswick movement had its [actual] genesis . . . [through] Mr. and Mrs. Robert Pearsall Smith [and the influence of three of their books, including Mrs. Smith’s] The Record of a Happy Life,”[1] after “Conferences . . . at Broadlands . . . Oxford . . . [and] Brighton.  Robert and Hannah [Smith] were at the very center of it all.”[2]  Barabas provides not the slightest warning about Mrs. Smith’s poisonous false doctrines, despite repeatedly citing her book My Spiritual Autobiography: How I Discovered The Unselfishness of God, which she wrote specifically to turn people from Christian orthodoxy to heresy, and where her universalist heresy is blatantly and grossly set forth.[3]  In any case, it is clear that “the first steps . . . [towards] [t]he Keswick Convention . . . owe . . . everything to a Quaker glass manufacturer from Philadelphia, Robert Pearsall Smith[.]”[4]  Mr. Smith “was instrumental, not only in establishing Keswick as a perennial convention, but also in introducing the Keswick emphases back into the United States.”[5]  Barabas indicates that “[b]oth [the Smiths] were born and bred Quakers,”[6] having “always held the Quaker teaching concerning the Inner Light and passivity.”[7]  They brought their Quaker theology and other distinctive heresies into the Keswick movement, which they founded.
The “new revelation [of the Keswick theology of sanctification] came to Mrs. Pearsall Smith about 1867. . . . At first her husband . . . was somewhat frightened . . . thinking she had gone off into heresy . . . [but then he] came into her experience when she called his attention to Romans vi. 6.”[8]  Unfortunately, Mrs. Smith did not interpret Romans 6:6 correctly, and she led her husband into an erroneous view of the verse as well.  The erroneous interpretation of Romans six adopted by Hannah and Robert P. Smith continued to dominate the Keswick convention for many decades:
In the history of the Keswick Convention, if one passage of Scripture is to be identified as playing a larger role than any other, it would have to be Romans chapter 6.  Evan Hopkins said at the thirty-first Convention that no passage of Scripture was more frequently to the fore at Keswick than this one.  Steven Barabas finds himself not only agreeing with this statement but adding:  “It is doubtful whether a Keswick Convention has ever been held in which one or more speakers did not deal with Romans 6. . . . There is no understanding of Keswick without an appreciation of the place accorded by it to this chapter in its whole scheme of sanctification.”  The key to this chapter, in the early Keswick teaching . . . [of] Robert Pearsall Smith and his wife Hannah . . . is verse 6.[9]
The misinterpretation of Mr. and Mrs. Pearsall Smith “was largely unchallenged from the Keswick platform until 1965 when John Stott gave Bible Readings on Romans 5-8.”[10]  It was very easy for the Smiths to misinterpret Scripture because “[n]either of [the Smiths] had any training in theology,”[11] in keeping with their Quaker backgrounds; for example, Hannah Smith testified:  “[A]s a Quaker, I had no doctrinal teaching . . . I knew literally nothing of theology, and had never heard any theological terms” since in her youth “no doctrines or dogmas were ever taught us . . . a creature more utterly ignorant of all so-called religious truth . . . could hardly be conceived of in these modern times [that is, in 1902].  The whole religious question for me was simply whether I was good enough to go to heaven, or so naughty as to deserve hell.”[12]  Despite woeful ignorance of theology and an inability to accurately exegete Scripture, following Hannah’s lead, both Mr. and Mrs. Smith embraced and began to zealously propagate the doctrines of the Higher Life that were enshrined in the Keswick movement.
From its “beginning . . . some of the foremost leaders of the Church attacked [the Keswick doctrine] as being dangerously heretical.”[13]  Indeed, “the opposition the work was subjected to at the beginning, even from Evangelical clergy,”[14] was extreme, so that, indeed, the Keswick theology was “looked upon with the gravest suspicion by those who were considered as the leaders of the Evangelical section of the Church.”[15]  Consequently, “very few Evangelical leaders ever attended . . . the Keswick Convention . . . which was quite an independent movement,” since “the leading Evangelicals held aloof and viewed it with undisguised suspicion.”  Rather than attending and supporting Keswick, evangelicals “openly denounced it as dangerous heresy.”[16]  Evangelical opposition to Keswick was intense because the founders of Keswick seriously compromised and corrupted or even outright denied the evangel,[17] the gospel.  For example, evangelicals found unacceptable Hannah W. Smith’s opposition to the sole authority of Scripture, proclamation of universalism, and rejection of the Pauline doctrine of justification.  Robert, while formally adopting a weak and wobbly concept of justification by faith for a time, instead of simply rejecting that core gospel doctrine as he had before, continued to reject eternal security and tied his Higher Life theology into his opposition to the preservation of the saints.  Warfield describes the Arminianism inherent in Robert Smith’s argument against progressive sanctification being incomplete until death, as propounded by Smith at the Oxford Union Meeting of 1874:
Smith, in the very same spirit, exhorted his hearers not to put an arbitrary limitation on the power of God by postponing the completion of their salvation to the end of their “pilgrimage,” and so virtually attributing to death the sanctifying work which they ought to find rather in Christ. “Shall not Christ do more for you than death?” he demands, and then he develops a reductio ad absurdum. We expect a dying grace by which we shall be really made perfect. How long before death is the reception of such a grace possible? “An hour? A day? Peradventure a week? Possibly two or three weeks, if you are very ill? One good man granted this position until the period of six weeks was reached, but then said that more than six weeks of such living” — that is, of course, living in entire consecration and full trust, with its accompanying “victory”—“was utterly impossible!” “Are your views as to the limitations of dying grace,” he inquires, “only less absurd because less definite?” The absurdity lies, however, only in the assumption of this “dying grace” . . . Smith describes it as “a state of complete trust to be arrived at, but not until death.” The Scriptures know of no such thing; they demand complete trust from all alike, as the very first step of the conscious Christian life. It finds its real source in the Arminian notion that our salvation depends on our momentary state of mind and will at that particular moment. Whether we are ultimately saved or not will depend, then, on whether death catches us in a state of grace or fallen from grace. Our eternal future, thus, hangs quite absolutely on the state of mind we happen (happen is the right word here) to be in at the moment of death: nothing behind this momentary state of mind can come into direct consideration. This absurd over-estimate of the importance of the moment of dying is the direct consequence of the rejection of the Bible doctrine of Perseverance and the substitution for it of a doctrine of Perfection as the meaning of Christ being our Saviour to the uttermost. The real meaning of this great declaration is just that to trust in Jesus is to trust in One who is able and willing and sure to save to the uttermost — to the uttermost limit of the progress of salvation. Death in this conception of the saving Christ loses the factitious significance which has been given to it. Our momentary state of mind at the moment of death is of no more importance than our momentary state of mind at any other instant. We do not rest on our state of mind, but on Christ, and all that is important is that we are “in Christ Jesus.” He is able to save to the uttermost, and faithful is He that calls us, who also will do it. He does it in His own way, of course; and that way is by process—whom He calls He justifies, and whom He justifies He glorifies. He does it; and therefore we know that our glorification is as safe in His hands as is any other step of our salvation. To be progressively saved is, of course, to postpone the completion of our salvation to the end of the process. Expecting the end of the process only at the time appointed for it is no limitation upon the power of the Saviour; and looking upon death as the close of the process is a very different thing from looking upon death as a Saviour.[18]
Hannah W. Smith also believed, at least for a while, that Christ was the “redeemer . . . from past sins” who will only “redeem . . . from all future sins . . . if [one] will . . . submit . . . wholly to Him,”[19] a clear anti-eternal security position.  However, since she had become a universalist before becoming a Keswick preacher, denying eternal security had became largely a moot point for her.  Since Robert and Hannah Smith held extremely compromised views of the gospel, and Hannah even avowed, “I cannot enjoy close contact with [those who] . . . preac[h] . . . a pure gospel,”[20] it was not surprising that those who loved the true and pure gospel violently opposed the Keswick movement.
Furthermore, Christian evangelicals, recognizing the command of the Great Commission to preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15), objected to the fact that “Robert . . . did not try to convert unbelievers; his call[,] [he believed,] was to [preach] a state of Holiness in those who already believed, whatever their creed.”[21]  What is more, both Robert and Hannah Smith “belie[ved] in the inner light [doctrine of Quakerism,] to which they [were] . . . united in sentiment. . . . Mr. P. Smith [and his wife’s writings] embod[y] the mysticism of Madame Guyon and the medieval mystics, as well as the semi-Pelagianism of Professor Upham.”[22]  Consequently, both Mr. and Mrs. Smith rejected the evangelical fundamental, sola Scriptura—Robert, for example, proclaimed:  “I get one half of my theology from the Bible, and the other half by watching my children,” citing “Coleridge” as support for this astonishing affirmation.[23]  Both the Smiths also anticipated Word of Faith heresies.[24]  The demonism and spiritualism of the Mount-Temples and their influence on the Smiths and Keswick through the Broadlands Conferences also constituted a matter of grave concern.  Thus, evangelical rejection of Keswick theology was entirely natural.  Nevertheless, despite vociferous and continuing evangelical opposition, Barabas indicates that both Mr. and Mrs. Smith began to preach to large audiences a “doctrine of sanctification by faith [alone that had been] allowed to lie dormant for centuries, unknown and unappreciated . . . it remained for Keswick to call the attention of the Church to it.”[25] 

See here for this entire study.


[1]              Pgs. 15-16, So Great Salvation, Barabas; cf. pg. 193, Transforming Keswick:  The Keswick Convention, Past, Present, and Future, Price & Randall.
One must not confuse Mrs. Smith’s memoir of her son Frank, who died at eighteen years of age (cf. pgs. 33-37, Remarkable Relations, by Barbara Strachey), entitled The Record of a Happy Life (New York, 1873), with Mrs. Smith’s classic statement of Higher Life doctrine, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life (Boston, 1875; often reprinted).  One hopes that Barabas has not done so but has simply cited Mrs. Smith’s far less influential biography of her son for some reason instead of her far more influential Keswick classic.  Both works do contain Higher Life theology.
[2]              Pg. 13, Religious Fanaticism, Strachey.
[3]              Pgs. 17-18, So Great Salvation, Barabas.  Compare the discussion of Hannah W. Smith and her writings above.
[4]              Pg. 920, “A Hundred Years of Keswick,” John Pollock. Christianity Today 19:18 (20 June 1975): 6-8.
[5]              Pg. 86, Aspects of Pentecostal-Charismatic Origins, ed. Vinson Synan.
[6]              Pg. 17, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[7]              Pg. 316, The Puritans:  Their Origins and Successors, D. M. Lloyd-Jones.
[8]              Pg. 18, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[9]              Pgs. 228-229, Transforming Keswick:  The Keswick Convention, Past, Present, and Future, Price & Randall, citing pg. 94, The Keswick Week, 1906, & So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[10]             Pg. 234, Transforming Keswick:  The Keswick Convention, Past, Present, and Future, Price & Randall.  “Increasingly, the teaching at Keswick in the later decades of the twentieth century would owe more to traditional Reformed thinking about sanctification as a process than to Keswick’s nineteenth-century and earlier twentieth-century views . . . [t]he change in emphasis can be traced by looking at the way in which expositions of the letter to the Romans were given” (pg. 80, Transforming Keswick:  The Keswick Convention, Past, Present, and Future, Price & Randall).
[11]             Pg. 18, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[12]             Pgs. 163, 45, The Unselfishness of God, Hannah W. Smith.  Princeton, NJ:  Littlebrook, 1987.  Note Hannah’s false gospel of salvation by works.
[13]             Pg. 5, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[14]             Pg. 168, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[15]             Pg. 162, Memoir of T. D. Harford-Battersby, Harford.  The specific reference in the quotation is to the leaders of evangelical Anglicanism.  However, English nonconformity opposed Keswick even more strongly than the evangelical Anglicans opposed it.
[16]             Pgs. 193, 127, Handley Carr Glyn Moule, Bishop of Durham:  A Biography, John B. Harford & Frederick C. Macdonald.
[17]             eujagge÷lion.
[18]             Chapter 4, “The Higher Life Movement,” in Perfectionism, Vol. 2, B. B. Warfield; see pgs. 55-57, Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, Held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874. Chicago:  Revell, 1874.
[19]             Journal, April 7, 1852, reproduced in the entry for January 12 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter.
[20]             Pg. 29, Remarkable Relations, Strachey; Italics in original.
[21]             Pg. 42, Remarkable Relations, Barbara Strachey.  Robert Smith’s call was “communicating” the Higher Life “to Christians of all names and connections alike” (“Die Heiligungsbewegung,” Chapter 6, Perfectionism, B. B. Warfield, Vol. 1).
[22]             Pg. 102, “The Brighton Convention and Its Opponents.” London Quarterly Review, October 1875.
[23]             Pg. 118, Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, Held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874. Chicago:  Revell, 1874.  Likewise, Hannah W. Smith preached at the Broadlands Conference:  “I have learnt to know God in my nursery with my children on my lap” (pg. 222, The Life that is Life Indeed:  Reminiscences of the Broadlands Conferences, Edna V. Jackson.  London:  James Nisbet & Co, 1910.).
[24]             For example, Robert preached at the Oxford Convention:  [B]e sure to say [Christian language] aloud—there is marvelous power reflected by thoughts put into spoken words.  Keep on saying [such language], even when the heart rebels” (pg. 221, Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, Held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874. Chicago:  Revell, 1874; cf. pg. 42). Hannah similarly advised:  “[I]f thee continually talks of thyself as being old, thee may perhaps bring on some of the infirmities of age” (pg. 187, A Religious Rebel:  The Letters of “H. W. S,” ed. Logan Pearsall Smith, reproducing Letter to her Daughter, Mary Berreneson, March 5, 1907).
[25]             Pg. 107, So Great Salvation, Barabas.  Barabas qualifies his admission that the Keswick doctrine of sanctification was unknown for centuries with the statement “except by a few isolated Christians,” since to admit that the Keswick doctrine was unknown to the church of God for over 1800 years would lead to severe doubts about its character.  None of these alleged “few isolated Christians” who believed in the Keswick doctrine before the latter portion of the nineteenth century are named, nor do they appear to have provided any written evidence that they ever existed, unless Barabas views idolators like Upham as Christian Keswick advocates and refers to them.
               It should also be noted that it is more appropriate to denominate the distinctively Keswick position “sanctification by faith alone” rather than simply “sanctification by faith.”  The necessity of faith for growth in holiness is non-controversial among Bible-believing Christians.

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