Friday, January 20, 2017

Keswick's Incoherent Surrender Doctrine: in Keswick's Errors--an Analysis and Critique of So Great Salvation by Stephen Barabas, part 14 of 17

The Keswick doctrine, adopted from the preaching of Hannah W. Smith at Broadlands,[1] that “the divine Potter . . . cannot shape the human vessel unless it is committed into His hands and remains unresistingly and quietly there”[2] is a Higher Life error associated with its crisis, gift, and process model of sanctification.  It is also connected with other serious errors about the means of holiness.[3]  Such a view does not properly deal with the fact that God works in the believer both to will and to do (Philippians 2:13).  Biblically, sanctification is intimately connected to God’s work upon the human will; but Keswick, following the ideas Hannah and Robert P. Smith obtained from medieval Quietism, downgrades the power of God for the sovereignty, libertarian freedom, and autonomy of the human will.[4]  Following Broadlands, Keswick undermines the power of God when it affirms that He “cannot” do a variety of things, including sanctifying His creatures, without their sovereign, uninfluenced and autonomous wills allowing Him to do so.[5]  According to the Keswick theology of Hannah W. Smith and the Broadlands Conference,[6] sanctification, and all the other blessings promised by God in the gospel, are totally inactive until they are switched on by the decision to enter the Higher Life, somewhat as electricity from a power plant is totally inactive in lighting up a room until one flips on the light switch.   Keswick, adopting the Broadlands’ doctrine of “full surrender,”[7] affirms that the believer is in bondage to sin until he makes a “complete personal consecration” to God, “also referred to as dedication and full surrender,”[8] so that he “commit[s] [himself] to Christ and . . . pledge[s] to be eternally loyal to Him as Lord and Master . . . den[ies] self . . . [and] definitely and for ever choos[es] the will of the Lord Jesus Christ as [his] Guide and Director through life, in place of [his] own will.”[9]  But how, if the believer is in bondage to sin until he makes this decision, can such a surrender ever take place?  Are not the Christian’s pledge of eternal loyalty to Christ as Lord, his denial of self, and his choosing the Son of God as Guide and Director of his life, actually a result of his freedom from the bondage of sin and not a prerequisite to obtain it?  Does a will in bondage to sin actually free itself by its own power before God steps in to do anything?  Or, rather, is it not God who first frees the will before it is able to be consecrated to Him?  Ironically, while Keswick theology criticizes the idea that “sanctification is . . . to be gained through our own personal efforts,”[10] it requires incredible personal effort—indeed, personal effort that is utterly impossible for a will in bondage to sin (as Keswick claims the believer’s will is until he enters the Higher Life)—to make the surrender Keswick claims is the prerequisite to God beginning any good work within the saint at all.
The problem in the Keswick doctrine of full surrender as a prerequisite to sanctification is connected to the fact that Keswick’s argument against literal perfectionism is untenable and contradictory given its own theological premises.  Keswick affirms that one must absolutely surrender before sanctification can truly begin; that through an act of total surrender and of faith in Christ for deliverance, one enters into a state wherein he is free from all known sin; and that a Christian’s ability to obey (by grace) and his obligation are coextensive.  However, the majority of Keswick’s advocates deny literal sinless perfection because, although “from the side of God’s grace and gift, all is perfect, [yet] from the human side, because of the effects of the Fall, there will be imperfect receptivity, and therefore imperfect holiness, to the end of life.”[11]  The exact nature of this “imperfect receptivity” is not defined, but since the Keswick theology defines man’s role in sanctification as surrender and faith, the imperfect receptivity must signify either imperfect surrender or imperfect faith.  If absolute surrender truly is required before God’s grace even begins to effectively work in sanctifying the believer, then a Keswick recognition that man’s Fall in Adam precludes his will from making a truly absolute, prefect, sinless surrender would mean that sanctification can never really begin at all.  If an imperfect faith and surrender allows the believer to move through progressive degrees of battle with sin to progressive degrees of spiritual victory, so that the more perfect the believer’s surrender is, the more victory over sin and spiritual strength the believer possesses, then the Keswick doctrine that believers instantly flip-flop from a state of spiritual defeat, carnality, and domination by sin to one of total victory by means of the sanctification crisis is replaced with something closer to the classic doctrine of sanctification, for victory over sin and surrender to the Lord become progressive.[12]  Furthermore, if the believer’s ability is truly equal to his obligation, then God’s “perfect . . . grace and gift” would give him truly perfect ability, and there would be no reason why literal sinless perfection would be impossible for the Christian.  After all, “God’s requirements cannot be greater than his enablements”[13]—so since God gives perfect grace, and the gift of “holiness [that He] requires of His creatures . . . He first provides,”[14] does not the literal perfection of God’s grace necessarily require that the Christian can be literally sinless?  While one can be happy that most advocates of the Keswick theology do not believe in the literal perfectionism inherent in their theological position, nonetheless Keswick opposition to absolute perfectionism is contradictory and incoherent.[15]


See here for this entire study.




[1]              E. g., Mrs. Smith preached at the 1874 Broadlands Conference that through a “step of faith,”  where the believer “surrender[s] himself and trust[s] . . . we put ourselves into the hands of the Divine Potter . . . [we] can do nothing [else]” (pgs. 124-125, The Life that is Life Indeed:  Reminiscences of the Broadlands Conferences, Edna V. Jackson.  London:  James Nisbet & Co, 1910).  Broadlands taught that the “potential force of the Holy Spirit” by such means becomes “the actual, when we are willingly receptive of His inflowing powers.  We must be willing . . . [t]here must be complete acquiescence” (pgs. 190-191, The Life that is Life Indeed:  Reminiscences of the Broadlands Conferences, Edna V. Jackson.  London:  James Nisbet & Co, 1910.  Italics reproduced from the original.).  For Mrs. Smith, the Broadlands Conference, and the Keswick Convention, the Holy Spirit falls helpless before the sovereign human will, while Scripture teaches that the Holy Spirit is the sovereign God who works to incline and renew the will through His Almighty works of regeneration and progressive sanctification, leading men to fall in worship before the Triune Jehovah, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
[2]              Pg. 112, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[3]              In addition to the errors mentioned below, one wonders, for example, if unbelievers in rebellion against God, such as Esau and the Pharoah of the Exodus, were unresisting and quiet in the divine Potter’s hands before He hardened them (Romans 9:18) and they were fitted for destruction (Romans 9:14-24).  While Keswick affirms the Divine Potter “cannot” work until the clay acts a certain way, Scripture says the Divine potter makes the clay what He wills by His own power:  “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” (Romans 9:21).
[4]              E. g., at the Oxford Conference Robert P. Smith proclaimed:  “President Edwards’ teaching of the affections governing the will [in, e. g., his The Religious Affections] I believe to be untrue.  I believe in the yet older saying [of the Quietists Madame Guyon and Archbishop Fénelon], that ‘True religion resides in the will alone’” (pg. 134, Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, Held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874. Chicago:  Revell, 1874; also pgs. 279, 331).  Nothing positive is said about the views of Jonathan Edwards at the Oxford Convention, and nothing negative is said about Madame Guyon, Archbishop Fénelon, or the Catholic Quietism of the Dark Ages.
[5]              For example, Broadlands affirmed that men need to feel sorry for the questionably sovereign God as He helplessly looks on and suffers when men rebel against Him:  “Looking at the sins and sufferings of men, we must remember God is suffering too, and we must have sympathy not with men only, but with God” (pg. 175, The Life that is Life Indeed:  Reminiscences of the Broadlands Conferences, Edna V. Jackson.  London:  James Nisbet & Co, 1910).  Men are not only to fulfill their duties to God, but also God supposedly has duties to creatures that He must fulfill; indeed, “Jesus is the revelation of God fulfilling His duty to His creatures” (pg. 213, Ibid).  Indeed, the Triune God is not, it seems, self-sufficient, but creatures are necessary to Jesus Christ:  “The Church, the body, is necessary to Christ the Head” (pg. 210, Ibid).  The Keswick doctrine of Divine inability and human ability was developed by Jessie Penn-Lewis and Evan Roberts into the doctrine of the inability of God to Rapture the saints who have not entered into the Highest Life, and by the Word of Faith movement into the doctrine of men as gods.
[6]              Compare Mrs. Smith’s exposition of the impotence and total inactivity of spiritual blesings until individually activated by faith on pgs. 128-129, The Life that is Life Indeed:  Reminiscences of the Broadlands Conferences, Edna V. Jackson.  London:  James Nisbet & Co, 1910.
[7]              E. g., pg. 120, The Life that is Life Indeed:  Reminiscences of the Broadlands Conferences, Edna V. Jackson.  London:  James Nisbet & Co, 1910; pg. 26ff., Forward Movements, Pierson.
[8]              Pgs. 109-110, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[9]              Pg. 116-117, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[10]             Pg. 74, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[11]             Pg. 99, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[12]             This problem with the Keswick theology has been pointed out since the time of its invention.  For example, in 1876 Thomas Smith pointed out this flaw in the Keswick doctrine as explained by its founder, Hannah W. Smith:
Mrs. Smith’s requirement of “entire consecration” as preliminary to sanctification . . . [is] utterly subversive of the very doctrine that it is designed to establish, subversive not only of the doctrine of holiness by faith, as that doctrine is held by Mrs. Smith and her friends, but subversive of the doctrine of holiness by faith, as held by the universal [body of believers belonging to] Christ.  Be it distinctly noted that this entire consecration is uniformly represented as preliminary to the obtaining of holiness by faith, and as a necessary and indispensable condition thereto. . . . Mrs. Smith . . . places this consecration absolutely before the exercise of faith in Christ for sanctification, making no allusion to any aid to be received from Christ, or any working or co-working of the Holy Spirit, in order to the making of this consecration.  But what in reality is consecration but sanctification?  What is entire consecration but perfect holiness?  Either they are identical, or consecration is the result of sanctification.  In no possible sense can it be said truly that consecration goes before and sanctification follows. . . . Mrs. Smith’s system is simply this—Make yourself perfectly holy first, then go to Christ, believe that he will make you perfectly holy, and he will do it.  Of course she does not know that this is the meaning of her system; but all the more is she blameworthy for putting herself forward as the teacher of a system whose meaning she is incapable of comprehending. . . . [In the Keswick theology people] are saved [only] by illogicality and inconsistency from the legitimate fatal result of their erroneous beliefs.
              In another and quite a different respect, all the [Keswick] writers . . . err, not by excess, but by defect, in stating the doctrine of sanctification by Christ. . . . [I]n no one of the [testimonies mentioned by them] was there any approach to [gradual and progressive sanctification from the time of conversion.]  One was five years, another ten, another twenty years living in undoubting assurance of pardon before adopting the method of sanctification which they now advocate so strenuously.  But during these several intervals they had each made some progress in holiness, a very unsatisfactory progress indeed, but still some real progress.  But that progress, such as it was, was effected, according to their present shewing, not by that faith which they now inculcate, but by that striving which they now condemn as legal and carnal.  According to their view, then, there must be two distinct ways of sanctification—one far better, indeed, than the other, by taking Christ by faith [alone] for sanctification; the other inferior, indeed, but still real, by dispensing with Christ, and simply striving.  Now this is a far less evangelical and a far more legal doctrine than the orthodox, which maintains that there is but one way of holiness, as there is but one way of righteousness; and that Christ’s being made of God sanctification to his people, is as exclusive of sanctification in any other way as his being made to them righteousness is exclusive of justification in any other way.  In answer to this they would probably say that, in the interval betwixt their first and second conversion, they did not altogether reject Christ as their sanctification, but trusted partly to him and partly to their own endeavours, and that so much of sanctification as they then achieved was in virtue of the measure of faith which even then they exercised.  If they say this, then it is an important modification of their present system, quite different from what they have said hitherto.  But more than this, it will be fatal to their system, for it would utterly destroy the analogy between justification and sanctification, for which they so strongly contend.  For they will admit that he who trusts partly to Christ and partly to himself for righteousness, does not, while he so trusts, attain to righteousness at all; and by parity of reason, it ought to follow that he who trusts partly to Christ and partly to himself for holiness, must equally fail to attain any holiness at all. . . . It is enough to point out that t[heir] system, as it now stands, utterly fails to account for the admitted fact that some measure of holiness is attained by many otherwise than as th[e] [Keswick] system prescribes, and that some measure was attained by the present advocates of the system before they adopted it. (pgs. 263-264, “Means and Measure of Holiness,” Thomas Smith.  The British and Foreign Evangelical Review [April 1876] 251-280)
Unfortunately, although the severe problems in the Keswick doctrine were pointed out from the time of its inception, Keswick writers and agitators tend to be either unwittingly or intentionally ignorant of critiques of their system of sanctification and consequently continue to testify to and promulgate it, fatal errors and all.
[13]             Pg. 63, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[14]             Pg. 88, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[15]             Early opponents of the Higher Life theology noted “Mr. Pearsall Smith’s . . . confused and confusing theology” (pg. 87, “The Brighton Convention and Its Opponents.” London Quarterly Review, October 1875).

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

TDR---

Interesting! Question : I've heard of people saying stuff like "So-and-so is unspiritual as from his life it appears he believes in commitment - not surrender." These statements bother me as they seem to lack Scriptural basis. Do you see a keswick influence here? Thanks.

Mark Rogers

Jim Camp said...

"Keswick affirms that one must absolutely surrender before sanctification can truly begin; that through an act of total surrender and of faith in Christ for deliverance, one enters into a state wherein he is free from all known sin;"

If only it were true! If complete freedom from the sin nature/principle in the flesh were available, most, if not all the Christians I know would gladly partake. Could you imagine the glory of walking thru a day with NO temptation, NO failed obligation, NO opportunity missed! But it will never be in this life - "but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I."

But I like the conclusion to this chapter of the obvious truth of life - "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin."

Anonymous said...

My pastor always tells us to look to Moses. Moses was a mighty man of God, yet ye was also a very flawed man who was nowhere near perfection. If Moses wasn't such an example to us, then why does the Bible talk about being baptized into Moses? One would tend to think that if someone is baptized in Moses's name, he must have been a man to follow! 1 Corinthians 10:2

Kent Brandenburg said...

Mark,

Thomas isn't in town. He's on a trip overseas, so he isn't answering comments. Thanks though.

Anonymous,

Your pastor tells you to look to Moses? This comment seems like a joke. No one is baptized in Moses' name.

KJB1611 said...


Dear Mark,

Many IFBS (and others) have no detailed understanding of Biblical sanctification at all. Without knowing what content is being represented by "committment" and "surrender," it is hard to make any kind of definitive statement. Keswick influence is, however, certainly widespread, to the detriment of the spiritual life of many.

It is interesting that the word "surrender" does not appear in the KJV, while forms of "commit" appear in 171 verses, so it does not look like a good idea to think "surrender" is superior to "committment," although, again, it all depends on the content signified by the words.

I do think that the incoherent surrender doctrine of Keswick is very widespread and that it hinders genuine sanctification by confusing people.

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

So it might be Keswick, but not necessarily.....

Have you written on the Keswick view of repentance? Do they believe it's something other than turning from sin?

Thank you kindly.

Mark

Anonymous said...

Anonymous,

Your pastor tells you to look to Moses? This comment seems like a joke. No one is baptized in Moses' name.


Why would this comment be a joke?

1 Co 10:2
And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;




KJB1611 said...

Dear Mark,

Thanks for the question. See here:

http://kentbrandenburg.blogspot.com/2016/10/keswicks-corrupt-gospel-in-keswicks.html

for the Keswick corruption of repentance.

Anonymous said...

I'm sick to my stomach. I see this infiltrating IB circles, being pushed by Pastors who should know better and wrecking lives of members. (gentle suggestion) Couldnt you try to make the point that this is making huge problems even among those who've never heard the word Keswick. I mean - my brother after a faundamental education spent years as an IFB youth pastor occasionally tking his youth to "help out" at a keswick conference center. then he moves into a senior pastor position 500 miles away where he teaches people whove never heard of keswick that repentance as turning from sin is 'works salvation'. According to him repentance is the intent to turn from sin. Can you comment? I'm discouraged. Can you spare some time?

Mark

KJB1611 said...

1 Thess 1:9-10; Rev 2:22; Eze 33, repentance is turning from sin/sins. See here:

http://faithsaves.net/repentance/

also.

KJB1611 said...

BTW, Bro Camp, you are correct that Keswick analysis of Romans 7 ignore Paul's actual conclusion in 7:25b. They either make 7:25a the conclusion or 7:24 the conclusion, and ignore the actual conclusion in 7:25b.