Friday, January 06, 2017

Keswick's Crisis, Process, Gift Confusion: in Keswick's Errors--an Analysis and Critique of So Great Salvation by Stephen Barabas, part 13 of 17

Having completed his exceedingly problematic attempt to refute alternative positions on sanctification, Barabas proceeds to positively set forth the Keswick method of holiness.  Keswick considers “sanctification as a process, as a crisis, and as a gift.”[1]  The order places “process” first, because it “is the best understood, and not because it is the first in the order of time,”[2] for in the Keswick theology any process in sanctification takes place only in a significant way[3] after the experience of crisis and the receipt of the gift.  Over the course of a twenty page chapter[4] on the crisis of consecration, Barabas states that it is “very characteristic of Keswick” and “some of its basic teachin[g]” to affirm that “sanctification is a process beginning with a crisis.”[5]  Once again, in this matter Keswick follows Hannah and Robert P. Smith and the Broadlands, Oxford, and Brighton Conventions.[6]  The “crisis must take place before we really know the process. . . . The process succeeds the crisis.”[7]  The crisis takes place when one makes a “complete personal consecration” to God, “also referred to as dedication and full surrender.”[8]  The crisis has a “positive side . . . surrender or the committal of oneself to Christ and the pledge to be eternally loyal to Him as Lord and Master . . . [and] a negative side[,] . . . [t]o deny self . . . [to] definitely and for ever cho[ose] the will of the Lord Jesus Christ as [one’s] Guide and Director through life, in place of [one’s] own will.”[9]  In fact, “God’s blessing of deliverance from the power of sin is not to be had” until a Christian makes this full surrender,[10] for “the divine Potter . . . cannot shape the human vessel unless it is committed into His hands and remains unresistingly and quietly there.”[11]  In the Keswick theology, “Consecration is . . . the starting point of the sanctification process,” which is only continued as “the response made to God at consecration is continued.”[12]  The crisis “decision is the inescapable condition of progressive sanctification.”[13]  Progressive sanctification cannoc commence before the crisis of consecration.
               In terms of sanctification as a gift, explicated by Barabas for twenty-one pages,[14] Keswick teaches that we are “asked . . . to accept holiness by faith in the same way that we accept justification by faith.”[15]  According to “Keswick, we are not sanctified by self-effort or by works, but by faith in what Christ has done for us at Calvary.  Sanctification, like justification, is by grace alone.”[16]  Keswick affirms that “if we wish to make any progress in holiness, we have to give up belief in the value of self-effort in holiness. . . . sanctification . . . is not something for which we have to struggle or strive[.] . . . Sanctification is primarily and fundamentally ‘neither an achievement nor a process, but a gift, a divine bestowal of a position in Christ.’”[17]  It is “the heart and essence . . . of Keswick teaching . . . [that] [f]reedom from the dominion of sin is a blessing that we may claim by faith, just as we accept pardon.”[18]  Since believers are “identified with Christ in His death to sin . . . [they] need no longer serve sin,”[19] although it is supposedly possible for “all Christians . . . [to] be in terrible bondage . . . under the power of sin.”[20]  They “have a legal right to be free,” however, and obtain “[d]eliverance . . . not . . . by struggle and painful effort, by earnest resolutions and self-denial, but . . . by simple faith.”[21]  The “special message . . at Keswick . . . [is that it] is possible to serve sin again, but not necessary, for Christ has freed us.”[22]  This “freedom is only potential . . . [and] Keswick leaders often say that God’s method of sanctification is not suppression or eradication, but counteraction.”[23]  Keswick reproduced the teaching of Broadlands, Oxford, and Brighton[24] to affirm that the sinfulness within the believer “is something fixed and permanent, and will remain in us as long as we live. . . . The principle of counteraction is . . . basic to Keswick teaching.”[25]  The “locus classicus on” the Keswick doctrine of sanctification as gift is “Romans vi.”[26]  As the Holy Spirit counteracts indwelling sin in the Christian, the believer “ceases from his own struggles to live a holy life, and enters the ‘rest of faith’ . . . the secret of perfect and constant victory over temptation.”[27]  Thus, “the heart and core of Keswick teaching is its doctrine of sanctification by faith. . . . The Keswick position,”[28] which is derived from Hannah W. Smith,[29] “is that in Scripture sanctification comes by faith, and not in any other way.”[30]  According to Keswick, for a believer to be sanctified he must:  1.) recognize the truth of the Keswick doctrine, “the scriptural method of progressive sanctification,”; 2.) have “proper faith,” which involves “the believer’s consent to die to every fleshly desire in him,” and 3.) “hand over the fleshly deeds of the body to the Spirit for mortification . . . Romans 8:13 . . . [and] stand in faith in the knowledge that he died to sin in Christ at Calvary.  It is the Holy Spirit’s responsibility to do the rest. Sanctification is thus the result, not of attempts at suppression of the flesh, but of faith in the finished work of Calvary.”[31]  Such is Keswick’s method for receiving sanctification as a gift.
The process aspect of sanctification, which is dependent in the Keswick theology upon experiencing the sanctification crisis and receiving of sanctification as a gift, is discussed by Barabas on half a page.[32]  Barabas discusses sanctification as a crisis for over twenty pages, and sanctification as gift for over twenty pages.  Why only a tiny discussion of sanctification as a process on one-half of one page?  This huge contrast exists because, for Keswick, “Sanctification is primarily and fundamentally ‘neither an achievement nor a process, but a gift[.’]”[33]  Little emphasis is placed upon sanctification as a process because Keswick believes that through the course of the Christian life the “indwelling tendency to sin . . . is as fixed and constant as any of the laws of nature,”[34] so that “purity can become a maintained condition, but never a state,”[35] the “tendency to evil” being merely “counteracted”[36] but left entirely unchanged, and “the tendency to sin [being] . . . simply counteracted.”[37]  Victory over sin, Keswick affirms, “is not a question of progressive attainment.”[38]  Little emphasis is placed upon sanctification as a process because there is little or nothing that actually changes within the believer.  Keswick believes that it “is astonishing that theologians have not seen this”[39] theology of counteraction and rejection of actual inward renewal in the Bible.
               While Keswick is correct and commendable in calling believers to surrender themselves completely to God, in its emphasis upon the believer’s union with Christ, and in its affirmation that strength to grow spiritually is derived from the Lord Jesus through the Holy Spirit, there are serious problems with the Keswick doctrine of sanctification as crisis, gift, and process.  First, it is certainly true that when a believer is deliberately allowing, tolerating, and positively regarding sin in his life his growth in holiness will be greatly hindered or even reversed.  However, it is not true that real steps in sanctification cannot take place before a post-conversion crisis, nor that “God’s blessing of deliverance from the power of sin is not to be had” until such a crisis takes place.[40]  On the contrary, all Christians are delivered from the power of sin.  It is not true, as Keswick affirms, that “all Christians . . . [can] be in terrible bondage . . . under the power of sin”[41] or that, as Hannah W. Smith taught[42] and Keswick proclaims, Christian “freedom [from sin] is only potential.”[43]  To state that, for Christians, “our individual self is entirely and completely under the power of sin”[44] is flatly false.  Since believers are “not under the law, but under grace,” God promises that “sin shall not have dominion” over them (Romans 6:14).  Such freedom is not merely potential, but actual.  Romans six does not establish the mere possibility of freedom from sin for the Christian, but establishes that all Christians are indeed free from the bondage of sin, and as a result, they will—not merely may—grow in holiness.  The commands to the believer in Romans six to reckon and yield are not based upon a mere possibility of change, but upon a certain promise—grace guarantees that sin “shall not” dominate them.  Keswick, adopting the emphasis and Broadlands teaching of Hannah W. Smith,[45] affirms that death to sin and spiritual life are not in any sense a practical reality until, by an act of reckoning, the Higher Life is entered into.  Scripture, on the contrary, commands a believer to reckon himself dead to sin and alive to God because he already is so and is already freed from the dominion of sin and under the reign of grace (Romans 6:11, 14).  The power and promises God made in the New Covenant ratified in Christ’s blood secure the certainty of the believer’s sanctification.  The Keswick doctrine of a merely potential deliverance from sin for the saint is far too weak.

See here for this entire study.





[1]              Pg. 85, So Great Salvation, Barabas.  Barabas states on the same page that Keswick accepts the classical doctrine that “experimental sanctification is the day-by-day transformation of the believer into the image of Christ, and is progressive in nature.  Beginning at regeneration, it continues all through life, but is never complete.”  However, the description of sanctification as process, crisis, and gift is “more characteristic of Keswick” and is “more often” employed than the classical doctrine.
[2]              Pg. 99, Chapter 5, The Law of Liberty in the Spiritual Life, by Evan Hopkins.  Barabas indicates his dependence upon Hopkins’s exposition (pg. 85, So Great Salvation).  Hopkins’s “discussion of ‘God’s Gift of Holiness’” at Keswick in 1899 was also “quoted at length by Steven Barabas, in So Great Salvation” (pgs. 404-405, Keswick’s Authentic Voice, ed. Stevenson; the actual address by Hopkins follows on pgs. 436-442).
[3]              Barabas states:  “Much is made by Keswick of sanctification as a crisis.  It is true, Keswick says, that sanctification invariably begins at regeneration.  There can be no question about this.  On the other hand, many Christians do not make the progress in sanctification that they should. . . . For this reason real progress is often not made until they come to a spiritual crisis” (pg. 86, So Great Salvation).
[4]              Pgs. 108-127, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[5]              Pg. 110, So Great Salvation, Barabas.  Keswick writers do indeed regularly affirm such a crisis/process model; for example, Watchman Nee wrote that sanctification “usually takes the two-fold form of a crisis leading to a continuous process” (“A Gate and a Path,” The Normal Christian Life, Watchman Nee).
[6]              See, e. g., Hannah W. Smith’s preaching of Keswick’s crisis-process model on pgs. 125ff., The Life that is Life Indeed:  Reminiscences of the Broadlands Conferences, Edna V. Jackson.  London:  James Nisbet & Co, 1910.  Robert proclaimed at Oxford:
It is to bring you to a crisis of faith that we have come together[.] . . . We preach this, not as a finality, but as the only true commencement of a life of progress[.] . . . [T]he Rest of Faith . . . is not a finality but the true and only commencement of a life of progressive sanctification. . . . It was constantly pointed out that, so far from [the Higher Life] being the finality of Christian experience, it was but the commencement of a course of “progressive sanctification[.]” (pgs. 42, 51, 278-279, 332, Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, Held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874. Chicago:  Revell, 1874.  Italics in original.)
[7]              Pg. 114-115, So Great Salvation, Barabas.  Compare the belief of Evan Hopkins in “the crisis that prefaced the process . . . the crisis must take place before the process has its beginning” (pgs. 56, 94-95, Evan Harry Hopkins:  A Memoir, Alexander Smellie).
[8]              Pgs. 109-110, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[9]              Pgs. 116-117, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[10]             Pg. 109, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[11]             Pg. 112, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[12]             Pg. 116, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[13]             Pg. 125, So Great Salvation, Barabas.  Interestingly, Barabas wrote concerning this crisis decision:  “For many people the crisis is prolonged—perhaps even over years—and the decision is made piecemeal; for some there are stages in the crisis and in the decision[.] . . . The decision is the inescapable condition of progressive sanctification” (pgs. 124-125).  One wonders what state the person is in who makes the decision piecemeal and in stages; is he still a carnal Christian, has he ascended to the Higher Life of the spiritual Christian, or is he a third type, the carnal/spiritual Christian, a sort of half-and-half that has both not yet met the condition that begins progressive sanctification and yet has also met it, so that progressive sanctification can begin and yet has not begun?  Note that this carnal/spiritual Christian has, because he has surrended much, but not yet all, of his life to God, made progress in sanctification, as he is certainly further along than the alleged category of Christian that is still totally in charge of his own life.  However, although he is further along, since he has not yet fully surrendered, he still cannot even begin the process of progressive sanctification, according to Barabas.  Barabas’s contradictory arguments are just another example of the fact that “Keswick furnishes us with no carefully prepared, weighty discourses of a theological nature” (pg. 51).  His contradictions, unintelligibility, and incoherence are good Keswick teaching.
[14]             Pgs. 86-107, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[15]             Pg. 86, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[16]             Pg. 86, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[17]             Pg. 88, So Great Salvation, Barabas.  Barabas quotes Ruth Paxson, Life on the Highest Plane, Vol. II, pg. 107.
[18]             Pg. 89, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[19]             Pg. 89, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[20]             Pg. 90, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[21]             Pg. 90, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[22]             Pg. 92, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[23]             Pg. 94, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[24]             For example, the Oxford Convention set forth the Keswick doctrine of counteraction:
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)
Thus, for Keswick, as at Oxford, there is no actual growth in the believer’s inward holiness—indwelling sin is not eradicated, but only counteracted, so that the Higher Life keeps one above water but devoid of any actual progress.
[25]             Pg. 95, So Great Salvation, Barabas.  Compare the teaching at the Oxford Convention:
[S]ettle it once for all that we shall never find anything good in ourselves of any kind whatsoever.  Christians are apt to think they can have stocks of virtues laid up in themselves [that is, that God actually makes them holy in progressive sanctification, but this is false.] . . . God’s way is . . . just like drawing on a bank.  Our money is in the bank, not in our pockets.  God never gives us anything [inwardly.] . . . We get up each morning with nothing, and we go to bed with nothing. (pgs. 302-304, Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, Held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874. Chicago:  Revell, 1874)
[26]             Pg. 89, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[27]             Pg. 95, So Great Salvation, Barabas.  It is noteworthy that an examination of the personal journals of T. D. Harford-Battersby, co-founder and chairman of the Keswick convention, “do not bear witness to unfailing victory, to neverbroken peace,” but to a kind of spiritual life that is entirely consistent with the classical Baptist and old evangelical view of Romans 7:14-25 (pgs. 188ff., Memoir of T. D. Harford-Battersby, Harford).  Mr. Harford-Battersby’s private journal was more honest about the continuing reality and influence of indwelling sin in the regenerate than was the public preaching of the Keswick theology.
[28]             Pg. 100, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[29]             Mrs. Smith wrote:  “We can do nothing . . . [o]ur only part . . . is to stop working” (Journal, 1867, reproduced in the entry for March 26 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter).  Compare Evan Roberts’s exhortation to be “simply trusting and not trying,” a maxim on sanctification that was also adopted by Pentecostalism (pg. 65, Azusa Street: The Roots of Modern-Day Pentecost, Frank Bartleman, ed. Synan).
[30]             Pg. 100, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[31]             Pgs. 106-107, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[32]             Pg. 85, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[33]             Pg. 88, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[34]             Pg. 47, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[35]             Pg. 47, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[36]             Pg. 49, So Great Salvation, Barabas.  Keswick theology often affirms that Romans 6:6 does not actually teach that the body of sin is progressively, through mortification, “destroyed,” but that it is merely “counteracted.”  As noted in the discussion above in the section “The Body of Sin Is Indeed Destroyed, Not Merely Counteracted,” this conclusion of Keswick is false.
[37]             Pg. 49, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[38]             Pg. 96, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[39]             Pg. 104, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[40]             Pg. 109, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[41]             Pg. 90, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[42]             E. g., pg. 128, The Life that is Life Indeed:  Reminiscences of the Broadlands Conferences, Edna V. Jackson.  London:  James Nisbet & Co, 1910.
[43]             Pg. 94, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[44]             Pg. 139, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[45]             E. g., pg. 128, The Life that is Life Indeed:  Reminiscences of the Broadlands Conferences, Edna V. Jackson.  London:  James Nisbet & Co, 1910.

2 comments:

Craig Kuha said...

Dear Kent,
Hello, thanks for the in-depth work in sanctification. In the footnotes it mentions watchman nee. I've listened to his Importance of being broken video on you tube. Forgive me for bringing up videos all the time , but I listen to them while I drive truck.
Is he incorrect person to listen to?. Thanks Craig

KJB1611 said...

Yes, I would stay away from Nee for the reasons listed here:

http://faithsaves.net/watchman-nee/

You could listen to some great preaching from Bethel Baptist using the link here:

http://faithsaves.net/website-links/

in your truck.

Thanks.