Friday, June 03, 2016

Keswick's Biblical Strengths: where Keswick is Scriptural, in an Analysis and Critique of So Great Salvation by Stephen Barabas, part 1 of 4

The Scriptural Aspects of Keswick Theology

               Regenerate proponents of the Keswick theology[1] rightly exalt the Lord Jesus Christ, His power to sanctify sinners, and the necessity of faith in the Christian life.  A high regard for these tremendous truths will indubitably strengthen the believer’s spiritual walk, and Keswick’s proclamation of these Biblical doctrines has unquestionably been a means of Divine blessing upon many.  Furthermore, Keswick’s preaching that believers must immediately surrender to the Lord and confess all known sin is eminently Biblical.  If, because of Keswick’s calls to the surrender of the will, “no man can attend a Keswick Convention and be the same afterwords:  he is either a better or a worse man for it,”[2] such a fact is highly commendable, for strong Biblical preaching does not leave hearers unmoved.[3]  Likewise, a call to the “renunciation of all known sin . . . and . . . surrender to Christ for the infilling of the Holy Spirit”[4] is an excellent and commendable message, at least if its terms are defined properly.  When Keswick emphasizes “the exceeding sinfulness of sin”[5] and seeks to have “laid bare . . . the cancer of sin eating at the vitals of the Christian . . . [so that] the Christian is urged to cut it out at once”[6] and come to “an unreserved surrender to Christ . . . in . . . heart and life,”[7] it does very well.
               Furthermore, Keswick deserves commendation when it seeks to have the “Holy Spirit exalted . . . [and] looked to as the divine Guide and Governor . . . [and] prayer is emphasized as the condition of all success and blessing.”[8]  When some[9] modern Keswick writers teach that the Holy Spirit “dwells in every child of God . . . [but] not every Christian is filled with the Spirit . . . [and] to be filled with the Spirit is not presented in Scripture as an optional matter, but as a holy obligation that rests upon all Christians,”[10] they do well.  The Holy Spirit is God, equal in essence to the Father and the Son, and worthy of all reverence, trust, and worship.  Keswick is correct that the “Christian is expected to live in communion with the Spirit[.]”[11]  What is more, prayer is indisputably vital to Biblical Christianity, to the extent that believers are characterized as those who call on the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:2).  Keswick emphasis upon the impossibility of “mere moral processes to overcome sin”[12] and upon the error of self-dependence in sanctification (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:9) is important and correct, as is its affirmation that the believer’s “union with Christ in His death and resurrection . . . secures moral renovation as well as justifying grace.”[13]  John Murray notes, “Anyone who is sensitive to the high demands of the Christian vocation . . . must find himself in deep agreement with the earnest contrition which has characterized so many of the Keswick leaders and with their insistent plea for the appropriation and application of the resources of God’s cleansing and sanctifying grace.”[14]  Furthermore, Keswick is correct in its affirmation “that in Scripture sanctification comes by faith.”[15]  Modern Keswick emphasis upon evangelism and missions is clearly Scriptural (Acts 1:8) and is a tremendous blessing.  While the earliest Keswick Conventions, in keeping with the universalism of Hannah W. Smith and the denial of an eternal hell by many others, had no particular missions emphasis and rejected calls to have a missions meeting, this opposition to missions was eventually reformed.  When asked, the initial Keswick attitude was that appeals for missions were “quite out of the question; you surely misunderstand; these meetings are for edification!”[16]  Believers who reject early Keswick weakness on evangelism and missions and adopt the later view in favor of these activities, or gain a greater understanding and practice of Biblical truths such as the other ones mentioned above through hearing Keswick preaching or reading Keswick literature, will be able to grow closer to God and be more effective in serving Him as a result. Such Keswick teachings explain why many have received definite spiritual blessings at Keswick Conventions. 
               However, while these aspects of the Keswick theology are Biblical, refreshing, and key to an increase in spiritual life, they are not unique to Keswick or to Higher Life doctrine.  The historic Baptist doctrine of sanctification has taught all of these truths,[17] and many old-line evangelical Protestants have done so likewise.  One can learn all of these great truths from the Bible alone or from Christian writings without any connection with the Keswick movement.  For example, J. C. Ryle, the classic nineteenth century devotional writer and opponent of the Keswick theology, wrote:
As to entire “self-consecration” . . . of which so much is said in the new [Keswick] theology . . . I never in my life heard of any thorough evangelical minister who did not hold the doctrine and press it upon others.  When a man brings it forward as a novelty I cannot help thinking that he can never have truly known what true conversion was. . . . [T]hat the duty and privilege of entire self-consecration is systematically ignored by Evangelicals, and has only been discovered, or brought into fresh light by the new [Keswick] theologians, I do not for a moment believe.[18]
The tremendous evil of self-dependence was similarly a major theme of pre-Keswick Christian piety.  Thomas Manton (1620-1677) the famous preacher and member of the Westminster Aseembly, was hardly a pioneer exploring untouched ground when he devoted the first and largest section in his Treatise on Self-Denial to the necessity “to deny . . . self-dependence.”[19]  Nor is the doctrine that sanctification is through faith by any means a Keswick distinctive.  The body of non-Keswick, Bible-believing Christians hold to this truth:
Sanctification is by faith . . . Whatever believers get from Christ, they must of necessity get by faith . . . faith is the one receptive grace, the sole apprehensive grace, that hand of the soul that lays hold upon Christ, and puts the believer in possession of the fulness that is in him[.] . . . [A]ll gifts of God come from grace, and all come to faith.  Grace is the only fountain, faith the only channel. . . . That sanctification is by faith, then, is essentially a principle of Protestant theology, and is no distinctive feature of the new [Keswick] teaching. . . . [T]he doctrine of sanctification by Christ, through faith . . . had quite as prominent a place as is now assigned to it [in the Keswick theology] in the theology and preaching of the Reformers, of the Puritans, of the divines and preachers of the Second Reformation in Scotland . . . of the sturdy old Evangelicals of the English Church . . . and of the equally sturdy Evangelicals of the Nonconformists . . . [a]nd an equally prominent place does it hold in the dogmatic and homiletic and catechetic teaching of our evangelical contemporaries [in the late 19th century] in all sections of the Christian Church.  It is not, then, in respect of these fundamental principles that we differ from the new [Keswick] school.  On the contrary, we deny that they have any exclusive propriety in these principles[.] . . . [Rather, what is truly distinctive about Keswick is the idea] that there is a special act of faith . . . subsequent to . . . conversion . . . [which] Mr. Boardman calls “second conversion,” [and]  Mrs. Smith calls “entire consecration.”[20]
Sanctification by faith is a Biblical teaching that is by no means a Keswick distinctive—only the unscriptural doctrine of the “second blessing,”[21] which is connected with a quietistic idea of sanctification by faith alone, is a Keswick distinctive.

See here for this entire study

[1]              The fact that the Keswick theology developed very largely from the writings and preaching of unregenerate individuals and self-acclaimed heretics such as Hannah W. Smith certainly does not mean that all advocates of Keswick theology or those sympathetic to the Higher Life system either endorse or hold to the gross errors of those associated with the development of Keswick.  Indeed, the generality of modern advocates of Keswick are ignorant of the corrupt fountain from which their system flows.
[2]              Pg. 32, So Great Salvation, Barabas.  While it is very hard to prove that “no man” has ever been the same after attending a Keswick Convention, such a goal is unquestionably commendable.
[3]              Acts 2:37-41; 5:33; 7:54-58.
[4]              Pg. 35, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[5]              Pg. 39, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[6]              Pg. 52, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[7]              Pg. 58, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[8]              Pgs. 131-132, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[9]              Many classic Keswick and Higher Life founders and leaders, from William Boardman to Hannah and Robert P. Smith to Andrew Murray, denied that all believers have the Holy Spirit, affirming instead that only those who entered into the Higher Life possess the Spirit.  Stephen Barabas does well to reject this false teaching of many early Keswick leaders, although he does not do well when he ignores the facts and revises history to make universal indwelling an undisputed Keswick teaching.
[10]             Pgs. 131-132, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[11]             Pg. 137, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[12]             Pg. 75, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[13]             Pg. 104, So Great Salvation, Barabas.  The quotation comes from R. W. Dale, who is supposed to support the contention that “only since Keswick first called attention to the vital significance of [Romans 6] to the whole question of sin and sanctification have theologians even begun to give it its proper place.”  Barabas also quotes from “John Laidlaw,” whom he alleges “bec[ame] one of Keswick’s enthusiastic supporters.”  However, the “biography . . . by his son . . . [of the] great Birmingham Congregationalist, R. W. Dale . . . expressly states . . . that his father did not associate himself with Keswick. It is also highly doubtful that John Laidlaw of New College, Edinburgh, had any significant involvement” (pg. 341, Review by Ian S. Rennie of Keswick: A Bibliographic Introduction to the Higher Life Movements. by D. D. Bundy. Wilmore, Kentucky: Asbury Theological Seminary, 1975, in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 19:4 (Fall 1976) 340-343.  Barabas’s employment of source material is too often hagiographal, revisionist, and historically inaccurate.
[14]             Pg. 282, Collected Writings of John Murray, Vol. 4, a review by Murray of So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[15]             Pg. 97, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[16]              Pg. 275, Forward Movements, Pierson.  Italics in original.
[17]             Doctrines such as being filled with the Spirit are found among Baptists far before the advent of the Keswick movement, as documented in the chapter in this book on Ephesians 5:18 and the doctrine of being filled with the Spirit.  It is not a little presumptuous to assert:  “One has to go back to the book of Acts for a parallel to the exaltation of the Holy Spirit found in the meetings at Keswick” (pg. 38, So Great Salvation, Barabas).
[18]             Pg. 111, “The Brighton Convention and Its Opponents.” London Quarterly Review, October 1875.  Regrettably, Stephen Barabas’s bibliography provides no evidence that he read this critique of the Higher Life movement.
[19]             Manton’s section on the evil of self-dependence is the first sin he discusses when he surveys the kinds and subjective parts of self-denial.  It follows an initial study of self-denial in general.  He spends more time on denying self-dependence than he does on denying self-will, self-love, self-seeking, and selfishness in respect one’s neighbors.  See A Treatise of Self Denial, pgs. 175-295, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, Vol. 15, Thomas Manton.  London:  James Nisbet & Co., 1873.
[20]             Pgs. 257-259, “Means and Measure of Holiness,” Thomas Smith.  The British and Foreign Evangelical Review (April 1876) 251-280.  Similarly, Jacob Abbott, critiquing William Boardman’s The Higher Christian Life, notes:
Christians all believe that sanctification is the work of faith:  that the victory which overcomes the world is our faith.  They all hold that the renewal and purification of our sinful nature is, from first to last, the work of God; and that faith connects us with the source of life and power in God; that the ife which we now live in the flesh, we live by the faith of the Son of God.  So that it may be as truly affirmed of sanctification, as of justification, that it is all of faith—by grace—and glorying is excluded . . . [for] self-righteousness . . . is such a foe to grace. (pg. 511, Review of William E. Boardman’s The Higher Christian Life, Jacob Abbott.  Bibliotheca Sacra [July 1860] 508-535)
[21]             Compare, e. g., The Two Covenants and the Second Blessing, Andrew Murray.  Chicago, IL:  Fleming H. Revell, 1898.

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