Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Some Cultures Are Better Than Others

Cultures are not neutral in contradiction to postmodernism and multi-culturalism.  You don't get better through diversity, that is, adding or mixing inferior cultures with their superior.   Andrew Klavan, in his recent biography, really a personal testimony, The Great Good Thing, communicates one important aspect in the consummation of his conversion experience, was the revelation of God through Christian history.
Through my years of reading, I had come to believe, as I do still, that the nations of Europe from, say, the Renaissance to the First World War, had produced more of mankind's greatest artistic achievements than any others.  I know this is now an unpopular sentiment.  Some people condemn it as triumphalist.  Some even call it racist.  Some consider it merely impolite.  In fact, it sometimes seems to me the entire postmodern assault on the concept of truth has been staged to avoid just this conclusion:  some cultures are simply more productive than others and the high culture of Europe has been the most impressive so far.  It's as if, in the aftermath of the racist cataclysm of the Holocaust, Western thinkers have grown so skittish around the idea of racism they will do anything to avoid naming their culture as superior to others, even if it means avoiding the evidence of their own eyes. 
I despise racism.  It's in conflict with everything I feel and everything I believe.  But for me, the greatness of European culture is neither a racial issue or a moral one, just an observational truth.  As the discoveries and calculus of Newton are more important scientific breakthroughs than anything that came before or since, as the Constitution of the American founders is the most profound piece of distilled political wisdom in all history, it makes simple sense that the artistic culture that underlay those advances, the culture that includes the poetry of Shakespeare and Keats, the music of Bach and Mozart, the painting and sculpture of Michelangelo and Raphael, and the novels of Cervantes, Zola, Tolstoy, and Dickens was somehow better, richer, and deeper than any other culture that has ever existed on earth. 
This has nothing to do with whether these people were nice or decent or did good things.  It only concerns the objects they made and left behind.  I don't think it's a matter of mere taste either.  No matter what the popular thinking is, I can't convince myself that the greatness of a work of art lies in the appreciation of the observer.  I believe art does something.  I believe it records and preserves the inner experience of being human.  I believe some art does this better and more honestly and more completely than other art, whether I happen to enjoy it or not.  I'd rather read Raymond Chandler than Gustave Flaubert, but Flaubert is greater. 
So I thought--and think--that the beauty and truth of man's inner life--the beauty and truth of the human spirit--were recorded in the artworks of high Europe more consistently than in any others.  This, in turn, gave me a deep respect, bordering on awe, for the underlying philosophy that shaped and informed these works:  the Christian worldview.
Earlier he wrote:
I went to college just as the ideas often called postmodernism were rising up through the educational system.  Up to that time--under modernism--academics and intellectuals had considered themselves to be participating in a Great Conversation, an interchange carried on across the centuries by the major thinkers and artists of the Western canon.  The idea was that by studying this conversation you could move closer to the Truth and so find a fuller wisdom about reality and what made for the Good Life.  Now, though, those intellectual who derided and even denounced the Western canon and Western values in general had come to the fore.  Literature was no longer to be loved and learned from, but deconstructed to reveal its secret prejudices and power plays.  Language itself was now considered not a rude tool for transmitting meaning but a political instrument of imperialism and oppression that needed radical criticism.  The very idea of Truth was being rejected.  All morals were relative, all cultures equally legitimate.
Klavan is a Jew, two Jewish parents, having grown up in New York.  It was obvious to him that Christianity was true, because it was the only view that worked.  It was superior to everything else. That was obvious to him.  There was more that he needed to settle, but this is what brought him to the Bible and the gospel.

What Klavan describes above is something that evangelicals and even often fundamentalists won't admit, and yet it was crucial in his trajectory toward faith in Jesus Christ.  The Christian culture, it's truth, goodness, and beauty, attracted Him, which sent him thereby to the one true God.  Evangelicals have ejected this culture for something modernistic and postmodernistic, and act and talk like that is still supposed to reveal God.  It doesn't.  It clashes.  It actually confuses and gives a false message, a powerless one.

[As a disclaimer, I haven't finished Klavan's book.  I have about 10 percent left.  I'm not convinced he's  a saved person either, but I'll know more when I get to the end.  His testimony is not one I would give for salvation, but it is nonetheless amazing.]

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Donald Trump Doesn't Care That Your Feelings Are Hurt

I've been thinking about the Democrat, celebrity, and media reaction to Donald Trump winning and commencing his presidency.  They are telling us that their feelings are hurt.  They are hurting.  They are scared.  It is disconcerting.  It is disturbing. Then they insult him.  They insult the man who defeated them.  Of course, they also insult all the people who voted for him, which won 306 electoral votes and 33 states, and most of the battlegrounds.  Now they say they will fight him and oppose him and resist him.

As a sensitive human being, it is tough for me to see people with hurt feelings.  I want to help them.  I want to know what's wrong so that I can help them.  This situation really is different than your standard hurt feelings though.

I've been hearing lots of names.  Establishment.  Social justice warriors.  Snowflakes.  These are the people with the hurt feelings.  I'm just going to call them "the left" in this article, even though it isn't all ideological.  Many of these see themselves as very smart and the ones who didn't get fooled. They are angry at the people who were fooled.  They haven't gotten off to a good start on the education of the ignorant Trump voter.  The Trump voters are smart enough to know that the left thinks they're stupid.

At this point, I would describe the reaction to Trump as a tantrum.  With many it comes with a tremendous amount of foul language, quite a lot of violence.  It is like the tantrum of a poorly trained toddler, who isn't getting his way.  Some of them really are afraid, because of the strategy of the left in the election.  The left tried to create a fear of Trump, so that when Trump won, it was so bad, the public school provided counselors.  This was widely reported.  Some of it was just convenient skipping of class, with the election as a cover, but some of it was actual fear.  Then the fear was reported upon as having been caused by Trump.

Despite the hurt feelings, Trump keeps tweeting.  He's doubling and tripling down.  He doesn't care that your feelings are hurt.

The feelings are so strong here in California that polls say that a third of those polled want California to leave the United States.  There is a movement to do that.  California seems to be planning resistance to the loss of federal money for sanctuary cities.  They might be able to stay angry about Trump, if they are not stoned after passing the new marijuana law.  I saw my first shop today open a block away from the church building, doors wide open with rows of shelves of varied paraphernalia, racks of t-shirts celebrating.  I've been in Colorado a few times, since they legalized, and those shops dot the state like Starbucks even in the most conservative areas.

In the comment section of a California secession article, there were numerous gems in the comment section, and here a few:
Helen:  "in san francisco there are twelve thousand homeless people...there are buildings in the financial district that are built like crayons in a box, no daylight between them, and some are standing on insufficient foundations and tilting toward others. the infrastructure of the city is like a trash bin. bush street, one of the major conduits to the bay bridge, looks like a street in a third world country. bay area rapid transit riding is like being in a petri dish of fecal material. the bart bathrooms are unsanitary. the city is untended because the san francisco politicos are fixated on the sanctuary city policy which benefits illegal aliens. the san francisco politicos are so wealthy, so oligarchic, so insulated from the concerns of common citizens, that they push the issues that can get them elected again and neglect their responsibility to the citizens of the city and bay area. the attorney general of the state of california, recently made junior senator in california, kamala harris, neglected to act when san francisco based wells fargo bank created two million fake accounts, cheating its customers. i lived in this city for thirty years and i wish the current leadership were purged from city, state and national government." 
bca:  "Let California secede... That way (1) all the other western states can charge them BILLIONS for the water they need, and (2) when the big earthquake happens the rest of the US will be spared from the insurance hit and won't have the foot the bill for repairs..." 
Timesponge:  "I am a native Californian and I support seceding for the following reasons: [1] It will sever the Hollywood money river that funds current Democratic US candidates [2] It will sever education funding from the US Federal government thus forcing California schools to control their spending [3] Without California's electoral college votes, Democrats will never again be able to win the US Presidency"
The left said Trump was lying.  Now they wish he was. Contradictions like this are almost endless. The left insisted Trump accept the election results.  When he won, they wouldn't accept the election results. I could write a whole post with just contradictions like these.

No NBA coach could support Trump and keep his job.  Now a part of your job description is whining about Trump, complaining about Trump.  Watch Gregg Popovich walk toward a referee, shouting obscenities, held back by an assistant coach, before he is ejected.  Watch Popovich abuse reporters for asking questions, treat them in a condescending manner.  Then he pontificates about the unexemplary behavior of Trump, as if he resides on some moral high ground.  Steve Kerr today was asked before the game about his recent political tweets, and he said that he couldn't comment right before the game, except to say that things were "scary" and "disconcerting."  The political pandering is repulsive.

The left is "speaking out."  They are "letting their voice be heard."  They are showing their anger.  They are persuading no one to join them.

The woman's march should have been called the sore losing Hillary voter march.  It represented women who voted for Hillary and lost the election.  Unless intimidation will work, they are only repulsing women who might be sitting on the fence wondering.

I have read pro-life support.  The pro losing Hillary voter says if the pro-life had their way, they would die in a back alley using a coat hanger.  I said that what I've heard since the Trump victory is a tantrum. Threatening a coat hanger is a tantrum.  Spoiled little children throw tantrums when they can't have candy at the supermarket check-out.  If you give them candy, they'll cry harder the next time.  I'll use a coat hanger if you don't let me have an abortion!!

People got stuck at airports unable to come back from Iran and Syria.  They cry.  The media cries. Trump doesn't care.  He knows that you won't stop them from crying by giving them their way.  You'll get more of it, because it works.  You don't cry and whine when a piece of shrapnel enters your brain from a back-pack bomb.  You lay silent and meet your Creator.

Entire articles, posing like news or journalism, take the nature of a tantrum or a complaint, the following paragraph an easy example:
Despair and confusion set in Saturday among citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries who found themselves abruptly unable to enter the United States a day after Trump signed an order he billed as a necessary step to stop "radical Islamic terrorists" from coming to the U.S.
The report didn't say that only 36% of Americans even want Syrian refugees to enter the country.

The Mexican president, the Mexican people, their feelings are hurt.  They hurt because of the wall. They hurt because some of their trade advantage with the United States will go to build a wall.  They hurt because there will be less gravy on the gravy train. The mayor of Berlin says his feelings are hurt too, because Berlin once had a wall and Berlin tore it down.  He's a sensitive man and he's hurting over the news of a wall.  This won't work with Trump.  He looks out the White House window and sees a fence and guards and knows how important walls and fences are.  The pope knows.  President Obama knows.  Hillary knows.  Trump voters know.

People who benefited from voter fraud don't want an investigation.  What could be controversial about investigating voter fraud?  Who would be against that? Anyone with less than half a brain knows who benefits from voter fraud.  Robot-like statisticians with zero feelings know that less than ten percent of fraudulent voters will vote Republican.  The Democrat Party the only party where fraud is in the budget for their campaign, the only party when in a staff meeting, someone is asked, "How's the fraud going?"  It's called get-out-the-vote like torture is called enhanced interrogation.  The only thing worse than not producing the evidence is looking for evidence.

Hurt feelings are an argument for some people.  Scary, disconcerting, disturbing.  Those aren't arguments, but they work for the superficial, childish, or immature.  Hurt feelings won't change Donald Trump's mind.  They've lost their effectiveness as a tool of manipulation.  My feelings will be hurt if they haven't.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Acts 11:26: All Christians are Disciples

While, as is expected, not all of the 269 references to disciples specifically define the word, very strong exegetical evidence from many passages establish that one becomes a true disciple of Christ at the same moment that one becomes a true believer, so that discipleship begins at regeneration, and all the people of God, not some elite minority, are identified as disciples in Scripture.  On the other hand, no verse in Scripture teaches that believers become disciples at a post-conversion crisis or that only some of the regenerate are disciples.  While the fact that all Christians are disciples is taught in many texts of Scripture, Acts 11:26 is crystal-clear.  The verse states:

And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.
καὶ εὑρὼν αὐτὸν ἤγαγεν αὐτὸν εἰς Ἀντιόχειαν. ἐγένετο δὲ αὐτοὺς ἐνιαυτὸν ὅλον συναχθῆναι ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ καὶ διδάξαι ὄχλον ἱκανόν, χρηματίσαι τε πρῶτον ἐν Ἀντιοχείᾳ τοὺς μαθητὰς Χριστιανούς.

In Acts 11:26, the clause χρηματίσαι τε πρῶτον ἐν Ἀντιοχείᾳ τοὺς μαθητὰς Χριστιανούς (“the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch”) explicitly equates the category Christian and discipleMathetas (“disciples”) functions as the subject of the infinitive chrematisai (“were called”), and Cristianous (“Christians”) is a predicate accusative in the construction (cf. pgs. 190-197, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, Daniel Wallace).  Since this syntactical pattern is “similar [in function] to the nominative subject and predicate nominative construction, following the same principles for distinguishing [the subject and predicate words]” (pg. 190, Ibid.), and the equivalent subject-predicate nominative construction is a convertible, not a subset proposition, because mathetas is articular and Cristianous is a proper noun (pgs. 40-46, Ibid.), the two categories disciple and Christian are explicitly equated as convertible terms.  The “construction indicates an identical exchange . . . both nouns have an identical referent. The mathematical formulas of A=B, B=A are applicable in such instances. . . . There is complete interchange between the two [nouns]” (pg. 41, Ibid.).  Disciple = Christian, and Christian = disciple.

Furthermore, at Antioch the disciples were called Christians first in time (πρῶτον, proton), but this designation spread to the rest of the believing community in the same manner.  That is, Acts 11:26 teaches that first at Antioch, and from there in the rest of the world where the gospel had penetrated, it was disciples who were called Christians.  The equation disciple Christian was not limited to Antioch—it was universal, just starting first in time at Antioch.  Acts 11:26 definitively equates the category of disciple and Christian as identical.  If only some Christians are disciples, then only some Christians are Christians.  Everyone who cares about the Bible needs to recognize this fact, and churches need to preach the gospel accordingly.



Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Faith the Only Reliable Epistemology: It's Got to Be Faith, pt. 6

Part One     Part Two     Part Three     Part Four    Part Five

When Jesus came along, setting off the first century AD, people were supposed to expect His coming.  People should expect gravity.  People get that.  But why should they expect the coming of Jesus Christ?  When God speaks, it is as good as or even greater than, a natural law.  All laws came into being by His spoken Word.  His Word is pure knowledge.  Every time God said something would happen, it happened, and, therefore, happens.  Someone might say there was no evidence to believe Jesus would come except what God said.  His coming could be denied without "evidence," because they had only scripture.

Our justification by faith occurs through God's Word.  I'm saying that faith comes by the Word of God, but also God declares someone righteous, or as Paul wrote in Romans 4:17, "[God] calleth those things which be not as though they were."  Something is sinful.  God calls it righteous.  It is now righteous.  It's like a contract that says, "This is your house."  If the words are authoritative, it is in fact your house.  Except that any human contract isn't as sure as the Word of God.  As Hebrews says, God can't swear by anything greater than Himself.  It's why at the inauguration, someone puts His hand on the Bible. The symbolism is still there, even if people do not believe that they are swearing by something greater, when they are putting their hand on the Bible.

If the Bible says it, then it is so.  It qualifies as knowledge above other labeled knowledge.  Faith is supreme epistemology.  If we obtain the knowledge by faith, which comes from the Word of God, that is an incorruptible source, or as Peter wrote, "incorruptible seed" (1 Pet 1:23).

In this series on faith the only reliable epistemology, I arrived at the place of application of this truth.  I, like the Bible itself and historical Christian doctrine, apply this epistemology to the preservation of scripture.  It also applies to canonicity.  Preservation and canonicity are actually the same argument from scripture.  Consider with me John 14:24-26:
24 He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me. 25 These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. 26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
Jesus presents His adherents, His apprentices, with comforting realities and calming truths, one of which is continued Divine Words after His departure.  He takes them through the future process, which was akin to what the prophets also had experienced, who wrote the Old Testament.  I will enumerate the steps (look above at the verses while I do):
  1. the Father's word to Jesus, Who sent Him (v. 24)
  2. Jesus' sayings (words), the things He spoke to His apprentices when He was present with them (vv. 24-25)
  3. the Father sending the Holy Spirit, Who will both bring to remembrance what Jesus said and also teach them all things, even more than what Jesus said (vv. 25-26)
Jesus said that the above process or steps were true.  They were to occur.  How do we know they would or that they did?  We believe it, because He said it.  This is knowing by faith.  We can say we know we have 66 books of scripture?  How do we know?  We know by faith.  We know we have all the words of God available to live.  How do we know?  We know by faith.

Some might say, "That's circular reasoning," or some type of "fideism."  Justin Martyr wrote:
The word of truth is free, and carries its own authority, disdaining to fall under any skilful argument, or to endure the logical scrutiny of its hearers. But it would be believed for its own nobility, and for the confidence due to Him who sends it. Now the word of truth is sent from God; wherefore the freedom claimed by the truth is not arrogant. For being sent with authority, it were not fit that it should be required to produce proof of what is said; since neither is there any proof beyond itself, which is God. For every proof is more powerful and trustworthy than that which it proves; since what is disbelieved, until proof is produced, gets credit when such proof is produced, and is recognised as being what it was stated to be...But the utterances of truth we judge by no separate test, giving full credit to itself. And God, the Father of the universe, who is the perfect intelligence, is the truth. And the Word, being His Son, came to us, having put on flesh, revealing both Himself and the Father, giving to us in Himself resurrection from the dead, and eternal life afterwards. And this is Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord. He, therefore, is Himself both the faith and the proof of Himself and of all things. Wherefore those who follow Him, and know Him, having faith in Him as their proof, shall rest in Him.

Monday, January 23, 2017

So Do You Think He Was Saved? Saul, Wesley, Luther, Etc.

1 John 2:19 reads:
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
"They were not of us."  They weren't saved.  I don't know if this specific judgment is made anywhere else in scripture, but it is a common question.  Do you think those men in Acts 19 were saved?  Was King Saul saved?  Was Wesley saved?  Was Luther saved?

Today in class it was, are old earth creationists saved?  I haven't minded being asked the question.  I answered it.  However, it got me wondering how much I really like the question and what it is really all about.

At some point in time, we are sent the direction of judging whether someone else is saved or not, sometimes biblical or historical characters too.  Our church has disciplined out members, what some might call excommunicated or disfellowshiped, and then someone will ask, "Do you think he was saved?  I've been asked that type of question enough, that I have a pat answer in my head that comes straight from Matthew 18.

In Matthew 18:17, Jesus Himself gives the instruction, "let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican."  I would give a disclaimer to N. T. Wright, but he writes, "if they won’t listen to the assembly, you should treat such a person like you would a Gentile or a tax-collector."  The NET Bible says, "If he refuses to listen to the church, treat him like a Gentile or a tax collector."  I don't endorse any of these, but the Easy to Read Version (there is such a thing) says, "if they refuse to listen to the church, treat them as you would treat someone who does not know God or who is a tax collector."  All I'm saying is that these, either translations or paraphrases, say the same thing I would say, and they would probably consider themselves, I think, to be lighter weights in discipline.  I say, "regard them as an unbeliever."  That is a "heathen man."

You can consider someone to be an unbeliever.  That kind of judgment has to be made.  It does.  A pastor must have "faithful children" (Titus 1:6), which means someone is judging someone to be faithful or not.  At what point do you start considering someone to be an unbeliever?

As this regards Wesley, I have a hard time saying that John Wesley was saved.  Why?  He didn't believe in eternal security.  I believe there is one kind of salvation in the Bible and that is eternal salvation. Wesley believed someone could lose his salvation.  I often ask, "If you can lose your salvation, then who is doing the saving?"

Scripture is rough on someone who adds works to grace.  Paul said in Romans 11:6 that if it was works, it wasn't grace, and if it was grace, it wasn't works.  They are mutually exclusive, which is why in Galatians 5, he argues that someone that adds even one work to grace, it nullifies grace.  Since that's what the Judaizers were doing in Galatia, Paul says concerning these, "let them be accursed."

People want to know if they are saved on this side of eternity.  You don't want to find it out when you are standing before God, a picture we read in Matthew 7 with Jesus in His sermon there.  Someone, who thinks he's saved, will stand before the Lord, and the Lord will say to him, depart from me, I never knew you.  These are people, who it seems, thought they were saved.

I turned on the G3 Conference livestream to, first thing I see, a casually dressed rock band (jeans and t-shirts) and someone singing, A Mighty Fortress, with a kind of falsetto effeminate voice, right into the microphone, ice cream cone style.  The camera kept panning to the electric guitars, where they were jamming with a standard rock guitar jamming look.  Grimaces, bending backwards some. They had the now typical rock trap set too.  One of them, I could not tell, and I'm very serious, if he or she was a man or a woman, playing one of the guitars.  He or she had long hair and was wearing pants, but looked  androgynous.  I know I "get in trouble" when I write like this, because people are sensitive to this kind of assessment, as I have witnessed in the past.  They must receive total acceptance of their "worship," far more important than any criticism.

Then came on Steven Lawson, looking very formal with a suit and tie, preaching on his assigned theme, "justification by faith."  He used Martin Luther as his example, treating Luther as the greatest example ever of justification by faith.  I get asked if Martin Luther was saved?  What do you think? Lawson among many evangelicals use him for an example of justification by faith, and yet Luther believed in baptismal regeneration as you will continue to read in Lutheran theology.  Is this confusing on salvation?

I went to college and graduate school in the same town as a Lutheran college and seminary.  I played basketball, football, baseball, and ran track against multiple Lutheran schools from 7th grade to my senior year in college.  The football team ran off the field after a game so we couldn't evangelize them. This was the most conservative Missouri Synod branch.  My next door neighbor here in California is of that ilk right now, a very nice man, and he is depending on salvation by works.

In Bible class, I'm teaching through Romans, and I came to Romans 5:12, which says "death by sin." With old earth creationism, death precedes sin.  Lots of dying occurred before we got to the first man, who then sinned, in their formulation. A young lady asked, "Do I think old earth creationists are saved?"  I didn't bring up the subject.  She did.  That thought came to her mind when she heard what that teaching did to Romans 5:12.

By my own assessment, I think there is too much inclusion among the saved today.  Scripture excludes where we include.  This is unhelpful.  Part of the reason many want to know is so that they can find the salvation bar and get themselves just above it.  If we are going to tend toward anything, I think we should tend toward giving people the judgment that they might not be saved.  "I wouldn't risk it," is what I say.  Why do we want to give credit to people on this side of eternity?  If there is a question, then we should keep it a question.  That's how I read scripture.  Scripture isn't attempting to give the benefit of the doubt.

Many more people are unsaved today, I believe, than what people are saying.  They say, "Saved," but likely, "Unsaved."  The gospel has been dumbed down.  People are very disobedient and yet still given credit as saved.

One reason so many people are given credit as saved is because even the most conservative churches, let alone the ones not conservative, are giving people that same type of credit, not being careful with their membership.  I want to be careful about this myself.  I want to examine myself on this.  We owe this to our people as pastors.  Churches have a wide range of belief and practice that is allowed in their membership.  You don't have to believe this or this or this or this and you're still saved, and you don't have to do this or do this or do this and you're still saved.   It's a rush to the most lenient position.  It isn't helpful.

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]

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[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).