Friday, November 11, 2016

Keswick's Bungled Sanctification: in Keswick's Errors--an Analysis and Critique of So Great Salvation by Stephen Barabas, part 9 of 17

Stephen Barabas, cleaving closely to Keswick tradition, well illustrates Keswick’s inaccuracy and bungling attempts at refutation of alternative positions on sanctification.  Dealing with “wrong ways of seeking sanctification,” inaccuracy of presentation and theological imprecision are apparent.[1]  The erroneous views he examines are:
1.) [T]he sanctification of the believer is a matter of course, and that he need not trouble himself about it . . . sanctification will proceed automatically without our doing anything about it.[2] . . .
2.) [M]any people . . . regard sanctification as merely a matter of gradual growth, not to be stopped or hindered or accelerated by anything the Christian may do. . . . [D]eliverance from conscious sinning . . . is just a question of time. . . . it . . . is necessarily imperceptibly slow and . . . cannot be retarded or hastened by anything the believer may do.[3] . . .
3.) [The] theory . . . that it is possible in this life, either at regeneration or at some subsequent crisis of religious experience . . . to reach a point in spiritual development where the sin nature is eradicated and therefore no longer operative. . . . A theory of gradual eradication is held by others.[4] . . .
4.) Perhaps the most widely-held view of sanctification is that it is to be gained through our own personal efforts by trying to supress the flesh in us.[5] . . .
5.) Other Erroneous Methods.[6]
Very few people actually believe false theories #1 or 2.  The perfectionist theory of sinlessness through instanteous eradication of the sin principle mentioned in #3 is indeed held by some and is erroneous.  In relation to #4, the problem of self-dependence in sanctification is certainly serious and is a false idea.  If someone actually believes that sanctification will proceed automatically without the believer doing anything about it, he will find the refutation of this view helpful.  However, since views #1 and 2 are entirely absent from any standard confession by any evangelical group in church history, one wonders if positions #1-2 are really a caricature of Biblical truths about sanctification.
If Barabas’s position #1 is supposed to refute the Scriptural fact that believers will be different, it is a gross misrepresentation; God works in the believer to will and do (Philippians 2:13) and the fact of the certainty of the sanctification of the regenerate is a basis for Biblical exhortation to grow, not a hinderance to it or an encouragement to neglect growth (Romans 6:13-14).  So far from #2 being held by “many” Christians, the idea that growth cannot be accelerated or hindered or stopped is a very unusual position. Among the alleged “many” that advocate view #2, Barabas provides not even one original source, perhaps because no such source exists.  One wonders if it has ever been advocated in print in any work of evangelical Christian literature in history.[7]
 Barabas very unfortunately combines the idea of a second blessing of instantaneous sinlessness in #3 with the position, represented by a quotation from Warfield, that the Holy Spirit weakens the remnants of sin in the believer and strengthens the new nature over time.  The argument on the pages dealing with #3 make some valid points against the instantaneous perfectionist second blessing position, but Barabas’s examination of Warfield’s view sets up a straw man and is very weak.  Similarly, while people can certainly deceive themselves into thinking that they can serve the Lord in their own strength, and the believer’s indwelling sin constantly seeks to lead him to live in an independent manner, self-dependence is not “the most widely-held view of sanctification.”[8]  The Keswick presentation by Barabas in #4 contains severe confusion between an unbiblical self-dependent attempt to sanctify onself apart from the power of God and the Biblical truth that sanctification does indeed involve God-dependent, faith-filled personal effort, striving, and struggle.  Finally, Barabas’s presentation of erroneous views of sanctification never deals with actual commonly held erroneous views of sanctification, from Wesleyan and Methodist to Oberlin perfectionism, to liturgical and Romanist ex opere operato sorts of sacramentarianism, to Quaker Quietism.  Furthermore, if Barabas’s positions #1-5 are not intended to caricature and oppose important elements of the Biblical doctrine of sanctification, from the certainty that believers will be different to the fact that God actually does inwardly make the believer less sinful and more holy, then these truths are entirely passed over in utter neglect, and the Keswick position is set forth as if it were the only alternative to what is stated in #1-5.  Either Barabas’s presentation of non-Keswick positions on sanctification is grossly deficient because it ignores its theologically conservative alternatives, or it severely misrepresents and mischaracterizes those alternative positions.  Barabas effectively illustrates that Keswick presentations of sanctification are not “carefully prepared, weighty discourses”[9]—a truth both patently evident and most unfortunate.
               Barabas’s attempt to support Keswick by refuting the classical Biblical doctrine that in sanctification the believer through mortification and vivification actually becomes less sinful and more holy in his nature[10] misrepresents the Biblical view and fails miserably as a refutation.[11]  In dealing with Warfield’s confession of the classical orthodox position that supernatural sanctification involves the Spirit’s working to “eradicate our sinfulness and not merely to counteract its effects,”[12] Barabas argues—without exegeting or citing a single passage of Scripture that could reasonably be taken as relevant as an argument against progressive eradication of the strength of the sin principle,[13] but following Hannah W. Smith,[14] that “Keswick is plainly right in rejecting the theory of eradication,[15] whether instantaneous or gradual, as the divine way of sanctification” in favor of the position that “holiness . . . is a maintained condition, never a state.”[16]  That is, in Keswick theology, as in the teaching of the Keswick precursor Conventions,[17] the believer is not personally and actually the slightest bit more holy after decades of what may be improperly termed progressive sanctification, but is hardly sanctification that is progressing, than he was the moment he was regenerated.  Barabas very regretably tries to deal at the same time with the false “second blessing” concept that at an instant during this life one can have his sin nature entirely eliminated and the Scriptural position of Warfield that only at the moment of a Christian’s death the sin nature is entirely eliminated, while the Holy Spirit’s mortifying and renewing work actually gradually weakens and eradicates the remnants of sin in the believer and strengthens his new nature.  To combine these two views as if they were truly closely related leads Barabas to a serious misrepresentation of Warfield’s position and a very off-base attempt at a refutation of it on the assumption that it is somehow the close relative of the idea that one enters into sinless perfection through a second blessing.

See here for this entire study.

[1]              Pgs. 68-84, So Great Salvation.
[2]              Pgs. 69-70, So Great Salvation.
[3]              Pgs. 70-71, So Great Salvation.
[4]              Pgs. 71-73, So Great Salvation.
[5]              Pgs. 74-83, So Great Salvation.
[6]              Pgs. 83-84, So Great Salvation.
[7]              While Barabas does not cite even one advocate of this allegedly common position on sanctification, he does reference J. Elder Cumming, Through the Eternal Spirit (Stirling, Stirling Tract Enterprise, 1937), pgs. 112-114 (pgs. 152ff. in the 1896 ed.).  Unfortunately, Cumming, in his Keswick classic, likewise provides not a shred of documentation for this allegedly common view.
[8]              Pg. 74, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[9]              Pg. 51, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[10]             The classical orthodox affirmation that indwelling sinfulness is progressively eradicated and the regenerate man progressively strengthened, so that believers really and personally become more holy, rather than indwelling sin merely being counteracted in them, as in the Keswick theology, is evident in documents such as the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith:
1.  They who are united to Christ, effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new Spirit created in them, through the virtue of Christ’s death, and resurrection; are also (Acts 20:32; Romans 6:5, 6) farther sanctified, really, and personally, through the same virtue, (John 17:17; Ephesians 3:16, 17, 18, 19; 1 Thessalonians 5:21, 22, 23) by his word and Spirit dwelling in them; (Romans 6:14) the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, (Galatians 5:24) and the several lusts thereof, are more and more weakened, and mortified; and they more and more quickened, and (Colossians 1:11) strengthened in all saving graces, to the (2 Corinthians 7:1; Hebrews 12:14) practice of all true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.
2.  This Sanctification is (1 Thessalonians 5:23) throughout, in the whole man, yet imperfect (Romans 7:18, 23) in this life; there abideth still some remnants of corruption in every part, whence ariseth a (Galatians 5:17; 1 Peter 2:11) continual, and irreconcilable war; the Flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the Flesh.
3.  In which war, although the remaining corruption for a time may much (Romans 7:23) prevail; yet through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ the (Romans 6:14) regenerate part doth over-come; and so the Saints grow in Grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God, (Ephesians 4:15, 16; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 7:1.) pressing after an heavenly life, in Evangelical Obedience to all the commands which Christ as Head and King, in his Word hath prescribed to them. (Article 13, “On Sanctification”)
[11]             Barabas’s discussion and attempted refutation is on pgs. 71-84 of So Great Salvation.
[12]             Barabas cites Warfield, Perfectionism Vol. 2, pgs. 579-583.  He does, commendably, at least quote Warfield’s position correctly, even if much of his argument against Warfield is based upon misunderstanding.  The statements quoted by Barabas from Warfield represent part of the truth on sanctification, although Warfield’s theology has other problems.  Since historic Baptist and non-Calvinist theology is taught in Scripture, the Presbyterian Calvinist Warfield certainly had areas where he deserved criticism, from his paedobaptism, to his advocacy of TULIP soteriology, to his opposition to young-earth creationism, to his acceptance of unbelieving textual criticism as opposed to a faith-based acceptance of the Textus Receptus, and so on.
[13]             The only texts Barabas cites in his argument are 1 Corinthians 9:27; 2 Timothy 4:10; 1 John 1:8 & John 15:5.  None of them are especially relevant as a refutation of Warfield’s position and the classical orthodox doctrine of progressive sanctification.
[14]             While Scripture does not support Barabas, Hannah W. Smith does; she wrote:  “I am inclined to think [there] is in reality no change in me” in sanctification, “but only my being ‘filled with the Spirit’” in “the Baptism of the Holy Ghost” (Letter to Sally, August 1867, reproduced in the entry for March 19 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter).  Mrs. Smith was confirmed in this Quaker false doctrine through “an old book” she received from “a Friend” that taught that “Christ is in the believer instead of all created habits of grace,” so that neither “meekness, or wisdom, or any other virtue” is in the believer “from any habits formed” by him, “or store of these things laid up within” (Letter to Abby, May 28, 1867, reproduced in the entry for March 18 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter).  The believer, she thought, is never made the slightest bit more holy, never actually being “filled with any goodness . . . nor with any righteousness . . . but simply with Jesus”—indeed, he does not even have a real new nature, but “the new nature in us” is nothing “more than Christ in us.” (Letter to a Friend, March 28, 1867 & Journal, 1867, reproduced in the entries for March 10 & 27 of Ibid).  Conseequently, Romans 6:6 does not mean that the body of sin is truly progressively destroyed, but instead the “indwelling presence of Christ” merely “renders inert” the body of sin, leaving the believer totally unchanged (pg. 149, The Record of a Happy Life:  Being Memorials of Franklin Whitall Smith, Hannah W. Smith.  Boston, MA:  Willard Tract Repository, 1873).
[15]             Keswick is actually plainly wrong in rejecting the orthodox Christian doctrine of progressive eradication.  As John Murray explained:
Keswick insists upon counteraction as opposed to suppression and eradication. . . . If we are to use any of the terms mentioned above with reference to the grace of God as it is brought to bear upon the corrupt nature . . . eradication . . . is the only proper one.  It is by progressive renewal of heart and mind that we are progressively sanctified.  And that is just saying that it is by progressive eradication of inward corruption that we are progressively conformed to the image of Christ; a progressive conformation which comes to expression in the life of conscious understanding, feeling, and will.  It is only as we are sanctified within that we can be [truly] sanctified in what is more overt and voluntary.  B. B. Warfield comes in for criticism at Barabas’ hands in this connection.  But the criticism exposes the fallacy and even inconsistency of the Keswick position.  What Warfield said was that the Holy Spirit ‘cures our sinning precisely by curing our sinful nature; He makes the tree good that the fruit may be good’ (p. 71).  This Barabas regards as ‘unscriptural and dangerous’ (p. 72).  But on any scriptural view of human nature and of sanctification how could progressive conformation to divine holiness be by any other process than by that of cleansing the heart of its inherent corruption?  And this is nothing if it is not eradication of that corruption, an eradication, of course, which will not be complete until sanctification is complete.  Besides, Warfield means in principle what is formally expressed [though, unfortunately, never shown to be consistent with the dominant Keswick paradigm, nor ever developed] by Barabas himself when he speaks of ‘a gradual transformation by the Holy Spirit who works within’ (p. 85).  And Warfield would be the first to say of this process that it can ‘never be complete in this life’ (id.).  Barabas’ averment to the effect that on Warfield’s position ‘it should be practically, if not entirely, impossible to sin’ (p. 73) toward the end of the believer’s life evinces again a failure to assess the gravity and liability of any remaining corruption, a gravity of which Warfield took full account. (pgs. 283-284, Collected Writings of John Murray, review of So Great Salvation, Barabas)
[16]             Pgs. 72-73, So Great Salvation, Barabas.  Compare the view of Evan Hopkins, who taught that Keswick “has rejected the doctrine of eradication . . . and has insisted on the wiser doctrine, and the happier experience, of counteraction,” on the misrepresentation and false assumption, comparable to that of Barabas, that the classic Baptist and Protestant doctrine of the progressive eradication of indwelling sin meant that “the soul . . . w[as] secure now from contamination and incapable of defilement . . . [this is] the doctrine of eradication” (pg. 82, Evan Harry Hopkins:  A Memoir, Alexander Smellie).  Hopkins, having misunderstood the classical doctrine, concludes instead:  “There is no eradication of sin . . . but there may be the continual counteraction of sin in our heart and history . . . a ‘condition of purity’ maintained in the man by Another” (pgs. 92-93, Ibid.  Italics in original.).
[17]             For example, the Oxford Convention taught:
The natural tendency of Peter was to sink [when walking on the water].  Jesus counteracted this, and Peter walked on the water until he took his eye off from Jesus and looked at the waves.  Our tendency by nature is to sin, but faith in Jesus meets this tendency to evil [and] . . . brings into operation the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, which sets us free from the law of sin and death. (pg. 53, Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, Held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874. Chicago:  Revell, 1874)
For Keswick and its antecedents there is no actual growth in the believer’s inward holiness—indwelling sin is not eradicated, only counteracted.

No comments: