Friday, November 25, 2016

Keswick's Misrepresentation of Orthodox Sanctification: in Keswick's Errors--an Analysis and Critique of So Great Salvation by Stephen Barabas, part 10 of 17

Note:  The tour of Israel in early January that I discussed here, and on which my wife and I are set to go, Lord willing (click here for more information), is now open not just for one person in pastoral leadership or a related position per church, but is now open to deacons or (a few) other people at lower levels of leadership responsibility.  So, while you still have the opportunity, prayerfully consider signing up and go to Israel for a very, very good price (and add to the number of people who believe right on the tour!)

              Barabas argues against Warfield:  “The word of God does not teach us to expect, in this life, either the eradication or the improvement of the ‘flesh.’”[1]  While he does not cite the verse, Romans 7:18 clearly teaches that the flesh does not improve in any way.  Barabas’s statement, however, equivocates on the word eradication—if he means “absolute elimination of the flesh,” he is entirely correct.  If, however, Barabas wishes to refute Warfield’s position, he must demonstrate that the influence and power of the flesh is absolutely unchanged, which he fails to demonstrate or even argue for effectively.  Instead of refuting Warfield, Barabas sets up a false dichotomy, arguing that “the tendency to sin is not extinct, but is simply counteracted,”[2] as if those were the only two options.  The classical orthodox position represented by Warfield is that while indwelling sin does not itself get any better (Romans 7:18), mortification weakens the power of the sin principle and vivification strengthens the power of the new nature.  The ethically sinful flesh itself does not improve, but progressive sanctification weakens its influence as indwelling sin is put to death or mortified, a process only completed when the believer reaches heaven.  In this sense only did Warfield affirm gradual eradication, and in this sense Barabas does not touch his position.
               Barabas goes on to argue that Warfield’s position would require that “the longer a person lived the Christian life the less possible it should be for him to sin . . . [b]ut . . . spiritual growth is not determined by the length of time [one] has been a Christian.”[3]  Since Warfield never taught that simply surviving for a longer time as a Christian resulted in one’s growing less able to sin, Barabas’s criticism again leaves Warfield’s doctrine untouched.  Warfield would affirm that the more the Christian mortifies sin and the more his new nature is renewed by the Spirit, the more holy he is.  He never taught that sanctification was in direct and sole proportion to the length of time since the believer’s regeneration.
               In association with the misrepresentation of Warfield’s position as one of sanctification by survival, by a Christian’s existing for a longer period, Barabas argues that the record of Demas in 2 Timothy 4:10 proves that living longer as a Christian does not necessarily involve greater sanctification.  Furthermore, Barabas employs 1 Corinthians 9:27 to prove that “years after his conversion on the Damascus road, Paul himself declared that he dared not be careless[.]”[4]  Unfortunately for Barabas’s arguments, in addition to the severe problem that he is refuting a position Dr. Warfield did not advocate, Demas is presented as an example of a professing but unconverted individual, one who has no true love for the Father and who will not abide forever with God but will go to hell (2 Timothy 4:10; 1 John 2:15-17), while Paul’s spiritual growth led him to ever-greater carefulness.  To aver that Warfield’s position is in error because if Paul were more holy years after his conversion he would be more careless about sin, rather than more careful to avoid it, is an astonishingly poor argument.
               Barabas’s last and presumably crowning argument against Warfield’s position is:
[I]f Dr. Warfield were right . . . [then] [i]f we lived long enough . . . we must reach a stage of spiritual development where the old nature was completely eradicated [and] sin were no longer in us . . . such injunctions as “reckon,” “yield,” “put off,” . . . would no longer have any meaning for us. . . . And when we reached this state of purity we would no longer have to depend upon Christ and the Holy Spirit to enable us to live a holy life. . . . Keswick is plainly right in rejecting [Warfield’s view, because of] . . . 1 John 1:8 . . . [and] John 15:5 . . . [his theory] tempts the Christian to negligence . . . carelessness [is] . . . easily fostered by a belief that sin was eradicated from one’s nature.[5]
Barabas seems to have neglected the fact that a huge emphasis in Warfield’s two volume work against perfectionism is that sin never is “no longer in us” at any moment before the believer reaches heaven.  Since Warfield confessed that “[t]he moment we think that we have no sin, we shall desert Christ,”[6] to argue against his position by making it into almost exactly its reverse is a terrible caricature.  Those—such as Warfield—who affirm the Biblical fact that God actually makes the believer more holy do not say that the more Christlike a believer grows the more self-dependent, careless, and negligent he becomes,[7] and the less concerned he is about yielding to God, putting off sin, and the like.[8]  To argue that God cannot make Christians more holy in this life because growing more holy makes one ever the more careless and negligent about spiritual things would mean that the saints in heaven would be the most careless and negligent of all.  What is more, if carelessness and negligence are only avoided by eliminating real progressive sanctification and the supernatural eradication of indwelling sinfulness, replacing this blessed truth with a mere counteraction of sin, then believers in heaven must also not have their sinfulness eradicated, but only counteracted.  Only so could the heavenly hosts avoid carelessness and negligence.  On the contrary, the more the victory over sin described in Romans 6-8 becomes manifest in the believer’s life, the greater is his abhorrence of his remaining indwelling sin—the more he loathes it, longs for perfect deliverance from it, and guards himself against it (Romans 7:14, 20-24). While Barabas may not recognize it, Scripture teaches that the Spirit actually makes believers more holy and less sinful, and a concomitant of that greater holiness is greater, not lesser, watchfulness, carefulness, and God-dependence.
               The following extensive quotation from Warfield, discussing the old evangelical piety of another of its staunch defenders, Thomas Adam,[9] both explains well the truly Scriptural and old evangelical orthodox position that Barabas opposes and shows just how radically Barabas misrepresents Warfield’s position:
[T]he eighteenth century . . . . English Evangelicals . . . [embraced] “miserable-sinner Christianity” . . . for themselves[.] We may take Thomas Adam as an example. His like-minded biographer, James Stillingfleet, tells us37 how, having been awakened to the fact that he was preaching essentially a work-religion, he was at last led to the truth . . . particularly by the prayerful study of the Epistle to the Romans. “He was,” writes his biographer, “rejoiced exceedingly; found peace and comfort spring up in his mind; his conscience was purged from guilt through the atoning blood of Christ, and his heart set at liberty to run the way of God’s commandments without fear, in a spirit of filial love and holy delight; and from that hour he began to preach salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone, to man by nature and practice lost, and condemned under the law, and, as his own expression is, Always a sinner.” In this italicized phrase, Adam had in mind of course our sinful nature, a very profound sense of the evil of which coloured all his thought. In one of those piercing declarations which his biographers gathered out of his diaries and published under the title of “Private Thoughts on Religion,”38 Adam tells us how he thought of indwelling sin. “Sin,” says he, “is still here, deep in the centre of my heart, and twisted about every fibre of it.”39 But he knew very well that sin could not be in the heart and not in the life. “When have I not sinned?” he asks,40 and answers, “The reason is evident, I carry myself about with me.” Accordingly he says:41 “When we have done all we ever shall do, the very best state we ever shall arrive at, will be so far from meriting a reward, that it will need a pardon.” Again, “If I was to live to the world’s end, and do all the good that man can do, I must still cry ‘mercy!’”42—which is very much what Zinzendorf said in his hymn. So far from balking at the confession of daily sins, he adds to that the confession of universal sinning. “I know, with infallible certainty,” he says,43 “that I have sinned ever since I could discern between good and evil; in thought, word, and deed; in every period, condition, and relation of life; every day against every commandment.” “God may say to every self-righteous man,” he says again,44 “as he did in the cause of Sodom, ‘show me ten, yea, one perfect good action, and for the sake of it I will not destroy.’”
There is no morbidity here and no easy acquiescence in this inevitable sinning. “Lord, forgive my sins, and suffer me to keep them—is this the meaning of my prayers?” he asks.45 And his answer is: “I had rather be cast into the burning fiery furnace, or the lion’s den, than suffer sin to lie quietly in my heart.”46 He knows that justification and sanctification belong together. “Christ never comes into the soul unattended,” he says;47 “he brings the Holy Spirit with him, and the Spirit his train of gifts and graces.” “Christ comes with a blessing in each hand,” he says again;48 “forgiveness in one, and holiness in the other, and never gives either to any who will not take both.” But he adds at once: “Christ’s forgiveness of all sins is complete at once, because less would not do us good; his holiness is dispensed by degrees, and to none wholly in this life, lest we should slight his forgiveness.” “Whenever I die,” he says therefore,49 “I die a sinner; but by the grace of God, penitent, and, I trust, accepted in the beloved.” “It is the joy of my heart that I am freed from guilt,” he says again,50 “and the desire of my heart to be freed from sin.” For both alike are from God. “Justification by sanctification,” he says,51 “is man’s way to heaven, and it is odds but he will make a little [sanctification] serve the turn. Sanctification by justification is God’s, and he fills the soul with his own fulness.” “The Spirit does not only confer and increase ability, and so leave us to ourselves in the use of it,” he explains,52 “but every single act of spiritual life is the Spirit’s own act in us.” And again, even more plainly:53 “Sanctification is a gift; and the business of man is to desire, receive, and use it. But he can by no act or effort of his own produce it in himself. Grace can do every thing; nature nothing.” “I am resolved,” he therefore declares,54 “to receive my virtue from God as a gift, instead of presenting him with a spurious kind of my own.” He accordingly is “the greatest saint upon earth who feels his poverty most in the want of perfect holiness, and longs with the greatest earnestness for the time when he shall be put in full possession of it.”55
Thus in complete dependence on grace, and in never ceasing need of grace (take “grace” in its full sense of goodness to the undeserving) the saint goes onward in his earthly work, neither imagining that he does not need to be without sin because he has Christ nor that because he has Christ he is already without sin. The repudiation of both the perfectionist and the antinomian inference is made by Adam most pungently. The former in these crisp words:56 “The moment we think that we have no sin, we shall desert Christ.” That, because Christ came to save just sinners. The latter more at length:57 “It would be a great abuse of the doctrine of salvation by faith, and a state of dangerous security, to say, if it pleases God to advance me to a higher or the highest degree of holiness, I should have great cause of thankfulness, and it would be the very joy of my heart; but nevertheless I can do without it, as being safe in Christ.” We cannot set safety in Christ and holiness of life over against each other as contradictions, of which the one may be taken and the other left. They go together. “Every other faith,” we read,58 “but that which apprehends Christ as a purifier, as well as our atonement and righteousness, is false and hypocritical.” We are not left in our sins by Him; we are in process of being cleansed from our sins by Him; and our part is to work out with fear and trembling the salvation which He is working in us, always keeping our eyes on both our sin from which we need deliverance and the Lord who is delivering us. To keep our eyes fixed on both at once is no doubt difficult. “On earth it is the great exercise of faith,” says Adam,59 “and one of the hardest things in the world, to see sin and Christ at the same time, or to be penetrated with a lively sense of our desert, and absolute freedom from condemnation; but the more we know of both, the nearer approach we shall make to the state of heaven.” Sin and Christ; ill desert and no condemnation; we are sinners and saints all at once! That is the paradox of evangelicalism. The Antinomian and the Perfectionist would abolish the paradox—the one drowning the saint in the sinner, the other concealing the sinner in the saint. We must, says Adam, out of his evangelical consciousness, ever see both members of the paradox clearly and see them whole. And—solvitur ambulando. “It is a great paradox, but glorious truth of Christianity,” says he,60 “that a good conscience may consist with a consciousness of evil.” Though we can have no satisfaction in ourselves, we may have perfect satisfaction in Christ.[10]
It is clear that “miserable-sinner Christianity” is a Christianity which thinks of pardon as holding the primary place in salvation. To it, sin is in the first instance offence against God, and salvation from sin is therefore in the first instance pardon, first not merely in time but in importance. In this Christianity, accordingly, the sinner turns to God first of all as the pardoning God; and that not as the God who pardons him once and then leaves him to himself, but as the God who steadily preserves the attitude toward him of a pardoning God. It is in this aspect that he thinks primarily of God and it is on the preservation on God’s part of this attitude towards him that all his hopes of salvation depend. This is because he looks to God and to God alone for his salvation; and that in every several step of salvation—since otherwise whatever else it might be, it would not be salvation. It is, of course, only from a God whose attitude to the sinner is that of a pardoning God, that saving operations can be hoped. No doubt, if those transactions which we class together as the processes of salvation are our own work, we may not have so extreme a need of a constantly pardoning God. But that is not the point of view of the “miserable-sinner Christian.” He understands that God alone can save, and he depends on God alone for salvation; for all of salvation in every step and stage of it. He is not merely the man then, who emphasizes justification as the fundamental saving operation; but also the man who emphasizes the supernaturalness of the whole saving process. It is all of God; and it is continuously from God throughout the whole process. The “miserable-sinner Christian” insists thus that salvation is accomplished not all at once, but in all the processes of a growth through an ever advancing forward movement. It occupies time; it has a beginning and middle and end. And just because it is thus progressive in its accomplishment, it is always incomplete—until the end. As Luther put it, Christians, here below, are not “made,” but “in the making.” Things in the making are in the hands of the Maker, are absolutely dependent on Him, and in their remanent imperfection require His continued pardon as well as need His continued forming. We cannot outgrow dependence on the pardoning grace of God, then, so long as the whole process of our forming is not completed; and we cannot feel satisfaction with ourselves of course until that process is fully accomplished. To speak of satisfaction in an incomplete work is a contradiction in terms. The “miserable-sinner Christian” accordingly, just as strongly emphasizes the progressiveness of the saving process and the consequent survival of sin and sinning throughout the whole of its as yet unfinished course, as he does justification as its foundation stone and its true supernaturalness throughout. These four articles go together and form the pillars on which the whole structure rests. It is a structure which is adapted to the needs of none but sinners, and which, perhaps, can have no very clear meaning to any but sinners. And this is in reality the sum of the whole matter: “miserable-sinner” Christianity is a Christianity distinctively for sinners. It is fitted to their apprehension as sinners, addressed to their acceptance as sinners, and meets their clamant needs as sinners. The very name which has been given it bears witness to it as such.[11]
Warfield—and old evangelical piety in general—emphasized both the Spirit’s work in progressively eradicating indwelling sin and making the believer more holy and the Spirit’s work in reminding the Christian that he is simil iustus et peccator—both righteous and a sinner.  Such teaching—which is eminently Biblical—leads the Christian to recognize and hate his indwelling sin the more, and cling the more passionately to Christ alone, the more the Spirit makes him holy.  Steven Barabas’s attempt to set aside old orthodox position represented by Warfield fails utterly as a refutation. Indeed, Barabas fails to even understand and represent accurately the position he so strongly opposes.

See here for this entire study.

[1]              Pg. 72, So Great Salvation, Barabas.  Italics in original.
[2]              Pg. 49, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[3]              Pgs. 72-73, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[4]              Pg. 73, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[5]              Pg. 73, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[6]              Pg. 129, Studies in Perfectionism, Part One, The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield, Vol. 7, B. B. Warfield.  Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008.
[7]              One wonders if Barabas was aware that Warfield, in his “The Biblical Doctrine of Faith” (Biblical Doctrines, Vol. 2 of Works), made statements such as:  “Freed from all illusion of earthly help, and most of all from all self-confidence, [the believer] is meanwhile to live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4).”  Perhaps instead of grossly misrepresenting Warfield and affirming that the Princeton theologian’s position leads a believer to more and more self-dependence, carelessness, and negligence, Barabas should have considered what Warfield actually said, and noted that Warfield warned that the life of faith requires, “most of all,” a rejection of “all self-confidence.”
[8]              Indeed, the Keswick doctrine that the believer “need . . . not . . . be conscious of [his] . . . tendency to sin” (pgs. 49-50, So Great Salvation, Barabas) and that he must desist from “struggle and painful effort . . . earnest resolutions and self-denial” (pg. 90) is more likely to lead one to let down his guard than the doctrine of Scripture that sin, although progressively eradicated by the Spirit, remains within the believer until the return of Christ or the end of his life, and he ought to always be conscious of it, guard against it, and strive against it.  However, while Barabas dangerously affirms that the Christian does not need to be conscious of his tendency to sin, he does at least warn that one must not “be ignorant of Satan’s devices” (pg. 50) about sinlessness.  Hopefully the Christian who hears Keswick preaching will not take the affirmation of freedom from the consciousness of sin too seriously, while taking the warning not to be ignorant of Satan’s delusions on this matter very seriously, and consequently not be much less watchful than if he believed what Scripture actually teaches.
[9]              See, e. g., pg. 183, The Biographia Leodiensis, or Biographical Sketches of the Worthies of Leeds and Neighbourhood, R. B. Taylor (London: Simpkin, Marshall & Co, 1865), for a brief biographical sketch of Thomas Adam (1701-1784).
37             “Private Thoughts on Religion,” by the Rev. Thomas Adam: ed. Poughkeepsie, 1814, pp. 22 ff. There are many other editions.
38             “These entries from his private diary, which were meant for no eyes but his own, bring before us a man of no common power of analytic and speculative thought. With an intrepidity and integrity of self-scrutiny perhaps unexampled, he writes down problems started, and questionings raised, and conflicts gone through; whilst his ordinarily flaccid style grows pungent and strong. Ever since their publication these ‘Private Thoughts’ have exercised a strange fascination over intellects at opposite poles. Coleridge’s copy of the little volume (1795) . . . remains to attest, by its abounding markings, the spell it laid upon him, while such men as Bishop Heber, Dr. Thomas Chalmers, and John Stuart Mill, and others, have paid tribute to the searching power of the ‘thoughts.’ ” A. B. Grosart, in Leslie Stephen’s “Dictionary of National Biography,” i. 1885, pp. 89, 90.
39             “Private Thoughts on Religion,” as cited, p. 72
40             P. 74.
41             P. 218.
42             P. 212.
43             P. 71.
44             P. 129. In the same spirit with these quotations, but with perhaps even greater poignancy of rhetorical expression is this declaration of Alexander Whyte’s (“Bunyan Characters,” iii. 1895, p. 136): “Our guilt is so great that we dare not think of it. . . . It crushes our minds with a perfect stupor of horror, when for a moment we try to imagine a day of judgment when we shall be judged for all the deeds that we have done in the body. Heart-beat after heart-beat, breath after breath, hour after hour, day after day, year after year, and all full of sin; all nothing but sin from our mother’s womb to our grave.”
45             P. 103.
46             P. 99.
47             P. 180.
48             P. 179.
49             P. 209.
50             P. 216.
51             P. 219.
52             P. 242.
53             P. 234.
54             P. 247.
55             P. 225.
56             P. 231.
57             Pp. 223 f.
58             P. 220.
59             P. 225.
60             P. 253.
[10]             Pgs. 126-133, Perfectionism, Part One, Vol. 7 of The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield, by B. B. Warfield.
[11]             Pgs. 130-132, Perfectionism, Part One, Warfield.


Jim Camp said...

“Christ comes with a blessing in each hand,” he says again;48 “forgiveness in one, and holiness in the other, and never gives either to any who will not take both.”

That is an excellent quote.

KJB1611 said...

Dear Bro Camp,