Friday, March 17, 2017

Applications from Keswick Theology--an Analysis and Critique of So Great Salvation by Stephen Barabas, part 1 of 2

                             Learn, by the example of the unhappy worldwide spread of the Keswick theology, the unmistakable fact that “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (1 Corinthians 5:6; Galatians 5:9).  Keswick theology has profoundly influenced world-wide Christendom and corrupted the doctrine of sanctification confessed by countless churches of Christ, because of a failure to mark, reprove, and separate from unrepentant advocates of Keswick errors.  Whether deliberately or in ignorance, Barabas’s sugar-coating of the deadly poison propagated by the wolves that originated the Keswick theology is inexcusable.  Do not follow his example.  Carelessness by God’s pastors in protecting their flocks, and preachers’ unthinking appropriation and propagation of unbiblical ideas wrapped in the tinsel of high-sounding testimonies, have contributed tremendously to the spread of Keswick. Many sincere preachers have unknowingly adopted, are proclaiming, and are imparting Keswick ideas to the next generation of church leaders, because such ideas were passed on to them by their ministerial forefathers.  Now is the time to end this cycle of ignorance and error.  Exercise great discernment as you hear the preaching of others.  It is proper to exercise Biblical judgment when you hear the Word brought forth (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:29).  Furthermore, if Biblical passages on separation would be violated by attendance at a meeting, fellowship with some person, or in any other way whatsoever, follow Scripture and remain separate.  It does not matter if the speakers you will not hear are dynamic.  It does not matter if it appears (in the short term, which is all that finite men can effectively gage) that great results arise from their work.  The unscriptural work of Mr. and Mrs. Smith seemed to have glorious results in the short term; but in the long term the doctrine of sanctification in countless churches has been corrupted, hindering the holiness of vast numbers of God’s people.  Furthermore, entirely new heresies have arisen in Christendom, in large part because of the Smith family’s continuationism.  Ecumenicalism—and all other disobedience to Scripture—is never the right course, and never, in truth and in the long term, the most effective or even pragmatically the best course.  However, the world, the flesh, and the devil can make tremendous harm seem beneficial by pointing to the short-term benefits and pleasures of sin.  Oh man of God, have you failed to protect the people over whom the Holy Ghost has made you an overseer from unscriptural Higher Life theology, either by its promotion, its toleration, or by communion with its unrepentant propagators?  Today is the day to repent and to determine, by God’s grace, that you will no longer dishonor your Lord by such carelessness, but will allow only the uncorrupted truth on sanctification to be taught to the flock of God.
               Recognize that the simple fact that someone is non-Keswick in his theology of sanctification does not mean that his teaching is automatically reliable.  In addition to the errors on sanctification of non-Keswick perfectionisms, whether Roman Catholic, Quaker, Wesleyan, or Pentecostal, be on guard against the errors of Reformed, non-Baptist theology propagated by Puritanism.  Do not move from accepting everything that Hannah Whitall Smith believed to accepting everything that John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, B. B. Warfield, or J. I. Packer believed, simply because their writings obliterate the errors of Keswick.  Follow Scripture alone, and find refuge in the protection offered by the pastors and teachers of the sound, separated, historic Baptist church of which you are—or ought to be—a member.  The church is the place of the corporate manifestation on earth of the wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:10).  How important it is to carefully exegete Scripture in the context of a true church, where the special presence and blessing of the Lord and the protection of church leadership is found!
               Rather than hoping that you will come to a point where you will be satisfied with your spiritual progress, recognize that the more Christ-like the Spirit makes you, the more dissatisfied with your indwelling sin and your remaining unlikeness to God you will become, and the more you will be dissatisfied with your spiritual progress.  Satisfaction with your spiritual state is not a sign of superior holiness or of the entrance into a Higher Life but of severe spiritual myopia.  God punishes those that are at ease and settled on their lees (Jeremiah 48:11; Zephaniah 1:12).  Do not seek for satisfaction in your spiritual attainments but for speedier progress in mortification and vivification, while finding sweet consolation and refreshment in communion with Jesus Christ.  Very frequently people turn to Keswick theology—and other errors and false teachings—because they have not themselves truly tasted and seen the goodness of the Lord in their Christian experience.  He who genuinely walks with God will see the shallow and trite writings of a Hannah Whitall Smith for what they truly are.   Do not look within for happiness through ease and quietistic rest, but look to Jesus for blessedness and true joy and run the quicker and with the greater endurance the race that it set before you.  Reject the Keswick siren song and false promise of perfect, undisturbed, perpetual, and carefree happiness, peace, and rest before heaven.  Yes, God calls you to “rejoice evermore” (1 Thessalonians 5:16) and wishes you to pray and cast your burdens on Him instead of being full of care, so that you can experientially know “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding” (Philippians 4:7; cf. Isaiah 26:3-4).  Nonetheless, indwelling sin will always be lusting against the Spirit as long as you are in this body of death.  Greater fellowship with the Triune God in Christ, greater degrees of His grace, greater experience of His transforming power, and deeper eyeing of His beauty and glory, are intimately conjoined with greater self-abhorrence and deeper repentance over sins of commission, omission, and of the pervasive corruption engendered by the sin of your nature itself.  Embrace and seek for, rather than rejecting, the “negative” side of Christian spirituality, for it is the necessary adjunct of the positive side.  The lower down you fall in humility before the Lord, the higher He will lift you up—and the higher He lifts you up, the more dissatisfied you will be with what you yet lack, and the deeper down you will abase yourself in shame.
               Finally, recognize that, while the battle will be prolonged, as a child of the living God, you are on the winning side.  Glorious growth in Christ-likeness is possible for you now, and perfect conformity to your Lord’s perfect standard is your coming and certain blessedness.  Enabled by the Spirit’s grace, and trusting in Christ alone, strive mightily against and mortify your indwelling sin and all its manifestations.  Diligently use the means God has appointed for your growth in grace.  Read, study, meditate on, talk of, hear the exposition of, and practice the Word.  Remember and hate the remaining coldness of your heart.  Be watchful, pray, and humbly eye Christ in faith and love, relying on His Spirit to transform you.  Rejoice that your loving Father has decreed that your progressive sanctification, while not automatic, is certain; and fight the harder, recognizing that you are indeed judicially dead to sin, and that He who works in you both to will and do of His good pleasure will continue His good work in you until the day of Jesus Christ.  Hallelujah!

See here for this entire study.


Craig Kuha said...

Dear TDR,
If your a father or grandfather this is great knowledge and teaching to pass down to next generation. You have augured well for persevering in the faith. The say a lazy man is behind Gods back. Thank you. Craig

KJB1611 said...

Dear Craig,