Friday, December 23, 2016

Keswick's Rejection of Effort: in Keswick's Errors--an Analysis and Critique of So Great Salvation by Stephen Barabas, part 12 of 17

               Barabas also argues against the position he terms “supression of the old nature.”[1]  He writes:  “Perhaps the most widely-held view of sanctification is that it is to be gained through our own personal efforts by trying to suppress the flesh in us.  Justification, it is believed, is by faith, but sanctification is by works—at least to a large extent.”[2]  Barabas argues against this position in three ways. First, he sets forth the erroneous Keswick view of Romans 7:14-25.[3]  Second, he argues for the teaching Keswick adopted from Hannah W. Smith and the Broadlands Conference[4] that sanctification is by faith alone, not works.[5]  Third, he makes arguments such as:  “Neither a tree nor a man grows by effort.[6] . . . It is a kind of sanctification of the flesh. . . . the [failed attempt at] the conquest of self by self . . . [the] legalism . . . to assume that justification is by faith, [but] sanctification is somehow by struggle.”[7]  Barabas warns that to “fall back upon mere moral processes to overcome sin is not Christianity, but pagan philosophy, which offers nothing better than self-effort as the only way of improvement.”[8]  Based on such reasoning, he concludes:  “It is the teaching of Keswick that an important reason for the defeat and failure of so many Christians is that they try to supress the old nature. . . . Sanctification is therefore not by works but by faith. . . . That is the distinctive method of Keswick.”[9]
               Barabas’s argument is based upon a key confusion of two entirely different ideas, combined with some faulty exegesis.  If he only wished to prove that anyone who attempted to be holy without depending upon the Triune God for strength was doomed to failure, and that believers need, consequently, to live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4), his exhortation would be correct, and its warning well taken.  The necessity of living by faith and of experiential and personal communion with Jesus Christ by the Spirit is extremely important, and it has been regarded as such by Christians who lived centuries before the invention of the Keswick theology in association with the preaching of Hannah W. Smith.  If self-dependence, seeking the ultimate ground for growth in holiness within one’s own person, and “mere moral processes to overcome sin” as in “pagan philosophy” were all Barabas wished to combat when he warned of the “man who is trying to be good and holy by his own efforts and is defeated every time,”[10] he would be right on target, warning against a serious sin that the believer’s fleshliness naturally inclines him to commit.
However, the “most widely-held view of sanctification,” which Barabas seeks to argue is in error, is not actually an independent moralism, based on pagan philosophy, that fails to depend upon Christ and the Spirit—although such errors are indeed taught in large portions of the apostate denominations which Keswick ecumenicalism refuses to repudiate.  Rather than restricting his argument to the real error of an independent moralism, Barabas argues that believers are not to try to suppress the old nature or to struggle against sin in sanctification.  Regretably, when Barabas warns against the “man who is trying to be good and holy by his own efforts,” he does not just condemn self-dependence, but also the truth that the Christian himself should personally make effort and strive to mortify sin, depending upon Christ and the power of the Spirit.  Barabas’s opposition to “sanctification . . . by struggle” is an error ignores the many texts such as “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin” (Hebrews 12:4).  Indeed, Paul’s conclusion, after setting forth in a lengthly chapter the necessity of living by faith (Hebrews 11), is “wherefore”[11] (Hebrews 12:1)—in light of Hebrews 11 and those who lived by faith in that chapter—“lay aside every weight . . . run with patience . . . consider [Christ] . . . resis[t] unto blood, striving against sin . . . nor faint . . . endure chastening . . . be in subjection . . . [be] exercised . . . lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet . . . follow peace . . . and holiness. . . loo[k] diligently,” and so on (Hebrews 12:1-16).  Living by faith, Biblically, is not only compatible with struggling and striving for holiness, but it necessarily produces it. Biblical sanctification does not state:  “We cease from labor because we trust in God,” but “we . . . labour . . . because we trust in the living God” (1 Timothy 4:10).  For Paul, living by faith means one will “run . . . striv[e] for the mastery . . . fight . . . keep under [the] body, and bring it into subjection” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).  The Bible says to do exactly what Barabas says not to do.  The Christian’s attitude must not be “let go and let God,”[12] but “trust God and get going!”[13]  Faith in sanctification does not lead the believer to cease striving, but to strive ever the harder, trusting in the Lord for strength to fight.  The Christian does not labor independently and faithlessly, but “labour[s], striving according to [God’s] working, which worketh in [him] mightily” (Colossians 1:29).  For Keswick to affirm a genuine dichotomy between independent moralism and ending all “trying to conquer the old nature . . . effort . . . [and] struggle,”[14] so that one must choose the one or the other, is a serious misrepresentation, one that ignores the true position that sanctification involves a faith-based, God-dependent struggle.[15]  By discouraging believers from striving to mortify their indwelling sin, Keswick theology hinders the work of sanctification.
Barabas affirms that the Keswick theology recognizes other “other erroneous methods”[16] of sanctification.  Following Hannah W. Smith,[17] Barabas warns that believers must not “trust for their sanctification to a diligent use of the means of grace, to watchfulness over their own heart and life, taking themselves to task ever and again for the coldness of their heart.”[18]  It is an amazing thing that Barabas’s book explaining the Keswick theology never once quotes any of the numerous verses in Scripture that connect sanctification with the Word of God, but attacks as an “unscriptural wa[y] of pursuing holiness”[19] employing the means that God has given to increase and strengthen inward grace, such as, centrally, the Word.[20]  Rejecting watchfulness over one’s heart and life as a means of avoiding sin and growing holy is astonishing when the Son of God specifically states that watching and praying protect one from temptation (Matthew 26:41) and are essential for spiritual preparedness for His second coming (Mark 13:33-36).  The Lord Jesus said, “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy”[21] (Luke 21:36), thus demonstrating that watching helps the believer be more holy.  Scripture is filled with commands to watch,[22] and the Lord Jesus Himself commanded, “What I say unto you I say unto all, Watch” (Mark 13:37)—but Barabas rejects such watchfulness as an unscriptural means of growing in grace!  As for its being “unscriptural” to take oneself to task over the coldness of one’s heart, it is evident that some of the psalms, which the Spirit-filled Christian is to sing (Ephesians 5:18-19), are not appropriate for the advocate of Keswick.  God’s inspired songbook teaches the righteous man to pray: “For in thee, O LORD, do I hope: thou wilt hear, O Lord my God” (Psalm 38:15) and yet complain: “There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin. For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me” (Psalm 38:3-4).[23] The saint who can say “I waited patiently for the LORD . . . thou art my help and my deliverer” (Psalm 40:1, 17) also prays, “mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me” (Psalm 40:12).  The holy man in the Bible, who says “I put my trust in thee” (Psalm 25:20), can nonetheless pray:  “Mine eyes are ever toward the LORD; for he shall pluck my feet out of the net.  Turn thee unto me, and have mercy upon me; for I am desolate and afflicted.  The troubles of my heart are enlarged: O bring thou me out of my distresses.  Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins” (Psalm 25:15-18).  Keswick is dead wrong when it condemns sanctification through the diligent use of the means God has appointed to grow in grace, when it deprecates watchfulness, and when it affirms that the saint should not take himself to task over the coldness of his heart.  Following this unscriptural advice of Keswick will hinder the believer’s sanctification.
Barabas’s Keswick critique of the Biblical facts that believers grow inwardly more holy by sanctification and that indwelling sin is actually reduced in its strength through mortification is a total failure.  Barabas misrepresents the classical orthodox doctrine of sanctification held by his theological opponents, such as Warfield, refutes straw men of his own creation, and then concludes that actually untouched non-Keswick alternatives have been refuted.  Scripture employed by Barabas is often misused, and Scripture that refutes the Keswick position is often ignored.  One actually convinced by the Keswick position advocated by Barabas would be led to many unbiblical actions:  despiaring of any hope that the Holy Spirit would make him a particle more holy; ceasing to mortify indwelling sin; stopping diligent Bible study to grow in grace; ceasing from watchfulness as a means to avoid sin and become more holy; and failing to lament the remaining sinfulness of his heart.  These positions of Keswick theology are blatently unscriptural and, if adopted, will hinder the sanctification of God’s people if adopted.
 See here for this entire study.

[1]              Pgs. 74-83, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[2]              Pg.74, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[3]              Romans 7:14-25 is analyzed in “Romans 7:14-25:  A Depiction of Part of the Normal Christian Life.” The Keswick position is evaluated in that chapter.  It will not be discussed further here.
[4]              Indeed, the Broadlands doctrine of faith was “[s]ome of the most valuable of the teaching at Broadlands,” preached there by “Mrs. Smith” (pgs. 263-264, The Life that is Life Indeed:  Reminiscences of the Broadlands Conferences, Edna V. Jackson.  London:  James Nisbet & Co, 1910).
[5]              The question of whether sanctification is by faith alone, just as justification is by faith alone, is evaluated in the chapter “Does Colossians 2:6-7 Teach Sanctification by Faith Alone?”
[6]              Effort is certainly involved in a man’s growing—if he stops eating, drinking, exercising, and the like, he will grow weak and sickly with great speed.  The man who grows physically strong so that he can become the winner of a race works very hard (1 Corinthians 9:24).  So spiritual eating, drinking, and exercise are necessary for spiritual growth.  It is pushing an analogy far beyond its proper limits, and ignoring the many plain statements about the striving and struggle God commands the believer to employ in sanctification, to draw Keswick conclusions from growth metaphors.  While Keswick conclusions about effortlessness in the Christian life are not validated by the metaphors of Scripture, they are the indisputable fruit of the pre-Keswick Conventions at Broadlands, Oxford, and Brighton, e. g.:  “Fruit is an effortless thing, it comes by abiding in the vine . . . not by struggles” (pg. 241, Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, Held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874. Chicago:  Revell, 1874).
[7]              Pgs. 74-75, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[8]              Pg. 75, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[9]              Pg. 83, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[10]             Pg. 75, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[11]             toigarouvn; “a particle introducing an inference, for that very reason, then, therefore”
 (BDAG), an “emphatic marke[r] of result, often associated with exhortation — ‘for this very reason, therefore, hence, therefore indeed, so then’” (Louw-Nida).
[12]             This phrase became a popular Keswick cry through its use by Victorious Life leader Mark Trumbull.  Note the comments on pgs. 155-157, Keep in Step with the Spirit, Packer.  Snodgrass notes:
[S]anctification [is] the work of God. . . . [b]ut . . . it is important in another view that we should regard it as the work and the duty of man. The subject of it . . . is bound to be holy[.] . . . [H]e is properly dealt with in the use of arguments, exhortations, and motives.  He has a duty to perform and work to do; and that is to follow holiness, to purify himself, to cleanse himself from all filthiness both of the flesh and of the spirit.  In prosecuting this work, his reliance for success must be [o]n the Spirit of God working by appointed means.  He must be active, yet he must not depend on himself.  He must have recourse to meditation and prayer, to watchfulness and self-examination, to [C]hristian intercourse and counsel, and to all positive institutions, especially the reading and hearing of the word; but, in all this, he must remember that the means are nothing without an influence from God to render them effectual.  Their whole efficiency lies in the fact . . . that they are of God’s appointment, and that he has promised to bless them.  And hence, our only encouragement to be active in the use of means, is made to rest upon our knowledge of the interposition and the agency of God.  “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” [Philippians 2:12-13].  Nor is the[re] any inconsistency or confusion in the idea of these two agencies as working together in the production of the same result.  They are not of the same kind; the sphere of their operation is not the same; one is efficient, the other instrumental. And, so accustomed are we to assign to each the place and position of a real agency, that we often ascribe the same event, sometimes to God, and sometimes to man.  We say of an individual that he has risen from indigence to affluence, or from obscurity to distinction, by the Providence of God; but we are not supposed to contradict ourselves, if we afterwards say, that he has succeeded by his own prudence, wisdom, and skill.  Both statements are true, though in different senses.  And accordingly they are both adopted by the sacred writers in reference to the work of sanctification.  In one place, we are taught to call upon God to sanctify us; in another, we are commanded to sanctify ourselves.  One introduces God as promising us a new heart and a right spirit, and another commands us to make to ourselves a new heart and a right spirit.  And both these views are important in practice, as well as true and consistent in theory.  We need the idea of human agency to incite us to activity; and we need the doctrine of Divine influence and efficiency to remind us of our dependence, to make us “pray without ceasing[.]” . . . [Thus] sanctification . . . [is properly] considered both as the work of God and the duty of man. (pgs. 13-18, The Scripture Doctrine of Sanctification, W. D. Snodgrass)
[13]             Cf. pg. 128, Keep In Step With the Spirit, J. I. Packer.
[14]             Pgs. 74-75, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[15]             Thomas Smith wrote:
Another evil that necessarily follows from the erroneous [Keswick] conception of holiness is the representation that pervades these writings of the attainment of holiness by the believer without effort on his part.  The idea which they have suggested to us is that of a man put into a boat, lying in it in absolute rest, and being carried down a gently flowing stream; whereas that suggested by the apostolic writings is that of a strong rower, straining every muscle to stem the current, with the knowledge that he shall ultimately succeed in reaching the goal, but only in virtue of strength imparted to him by Christ, and received by faith.  The one representation is that of faith dispensing with effort, the other of faith enabling for effort.  The one seems to say, “Work not out your salvation, for God worketh for you;”  the other says, “Work out your salvation, for God worketh in you.”  In both cases a certain work of God is the premise, but the conclusions are directly the opposite of each other, just because the works postulated in the premises are altogether different.  Somewhere in the course of our reading of [Higher Life] works, we have fallen upon the expression, “sanctification by works,” as opposed to “sanctification by faith,” and descriptive of the prevalent [classical evangelical, non-Keswick] view of sanctification.  No one who understands that view, and who does not design to misrepresent it, could possibly state such an antithesis. . . . The question is as to the specific action of faith in the production of holiness in the heart and life of the believer.  We hold as strongly as our [Higher Life] friends can hold that Christ is made to his people sanctification, quite as really and quite as much as he is made unto them righteousness or justification; but in ways according with the essential difference between justification and sanctification, between judicial righteousness and personal holiness. (pgs. 267-268, “Means and Measure of Holiness,” Thomas Smith.  The British and Foreign Evangelical Review (April 1876) 251-280)
[16]             Pgs. 83-84, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[17]             While Scripture does not support Barabas, at least Hannah W. Smith’s writings do so.  She taught:  “[W]e are passive of choice and willingly . . . are to grow . . . without any concern about our own growing[.]”  We are to “tak[e] no . . . care for . . . spiritual growth” (Letter to Daughter, May 25, 1878 & Letter to Anna, July 27, 1878, reproduced in the entries for August 26-28 & September 3 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter).
[18]             Pg. 84, So Great Salvation, Barabas.  Of course, one must trust ultimately in Christ, not in the means through which Christ gives His people grace, but Barabas does not merely speak against such an error.
[19]             Pg. 84, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[20]             Note the chapter “The Means Of Sanctification,” by James Petigru Boyce, for the role of the Word of God in sanctification and its connection with other things termed “means of grace” in Protestantism, such as baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  Were Barabas warning against sacramentarianism or an ex opere operato form of doctrine, his warning would be wholesome and welcome.  Unfortunately, he never even mentions or gives a single word of warning against sacramental corruptions, while attacking as unscriptural the idea that sanctification comes through the means God has appointed for the believer’s growth in holiness.
[21]             kataxio/w, clearly a sanctification term; compare the other uses of the verb in Luke 20:35; Acts 5:41; 2 Thessalonians 1:5.
[22]             1 Corinthians 16:13; Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:6; 1 Peter 4:7; Revelation 3:3, etc.
[23]             The whole of Psalm 38 is entirely against this Keswick concept that the righteous man should not complain about the sinfulness of his own heart:
Psa. 38:0   A Psalm of David, to bring to remembrance. 1   O LORD, rebuke me not in thy wrath: neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.  2 For thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore.  3 There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin.  4 For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me.  5 My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness.  6 I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long.  7 For my loins are filled with a loathsome disease: and there is no soundness in my flesh.  8 I am feeble and sore broken: I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart.  9 Lord, all my desire is before thee; and my groaning is not hid from thee.  10 My heart panteth, my strength faileth me: as for the light of mine eyes, it also is gone from me.  11 My lovers and my friends stand aloof from my sore; and my kinsmen stand afar off. 12   They also that seek after my life lay snares for me: and they that seek my hurt speak mischievous things, and imagine deceits all the day long.  13 But I, as a deaf man, heard not; and I was as a dumb man that openeth not his mouth.  14 Thus I was as a man that heareth not, and in whose mouth are no reproofs.  15 For in thee, O LORD, do I hope: thou wilt hear, O Lord my God.  16 For I said, Hear me, lest otherwise they should rejoice over me: when my foot slippeth, they magnify themselves against me.  17 For I am ready to halt, and my sorrow is continually before me.  18 For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin.  19 But mine enemies are lively, and they are strong: and they that hate me wrongfully are multiplied.  20 They also that render evil for good are mine adversaries; because I follow the thing that good is.  21 Forsake me not, O LORD: O my God, be not far from me.  22 Make haste to help me, O Lord my salvation.
Such a song would be a very poor fit at a Keswick convention, and Hannah. W. Smith would be much displeased with the Scriptural holiness set forth in it.

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