Friday, October 31, 2014

Do Keswick Critics Routinely Misrepresent Keswick Theology? Part 3 of 3

It is possible that Griffith Thomas’s failure to build his doctrine of sanctification from Scripture alone is related to his toleration of weakness on the inspiration of Scripture. Thomas “had a deep sympathy with . . . James Orr,”[1] to whom, among a few other theologians, he dedicated his The Holy Spirit of God and of whom he spoke very highly in that book.[2]  Dr. Orr “was unconcerned to defend a literal interpretation of the early chapters of Genesis, and . . . took the view that an insistence on biblical inerrancy was actually ‘suicidal.’”[3]  Consequently, “as the fundamentalist–modernist controversy broke out in America[,] [Griffith Thomas] consistently refused to utter the shibboleths (which he blamed on ‘puritanism’) about historical criticism or biblical inerrancy or matters of science that were essentials for many.”[4]  However, to Griffith Thomas’s credit, even if he did refuse to take as strong a stand as he should have in some very important areas of Bibliology, what he does say about the doctrine when he exposits it[5] is commendable and consistent with a regenerate state.  Credit should, therefore, be given to him where it is due.
Unfortunately, as an Anglican, Griffith Thomas defended baptismal heresy in his comments on his denomination’s doctrinal creed, the Thirty Nine Articles:
Baptism . . . is an instrument of regeneration under five aspects; (a) Incorporation with the Church; (b) ratification of the promise of remission; (c) ratification of the promise of adoption; (d) strengthening of faith; (e) increase of grace. . . . Baptism introduces us into a new and special relation to Christ. It provides and guarantees a spiritual change in the condition of the recipient[.] . . . The words “new birth” suggest that Baptism introduced us into a new relation and new circumstances with the assurance of new power. . . . [T]he Reformers in their own books and also in the Formularies for which they are responsible, did not intend to condemn all doctrines of Baptismal Regeneration . . . in the theology of the Reformation the controversy did not turn on the question whether there was or was not a true doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration, for the Reformers never hesitated to admit that Baptism is the Sacrament of Regeneration.[6]
Thomas also defends the Anglican Baptismal Service, which declares:  “Seeing now that this child is regenerate” after the administration of the “sacrament.”  He likewise defends the Anglican Catechism, in which the catechumen speaks of:  “My Baptism, wherein I was made a member of Christ.”  However, Griffith Thomas, as a low-church Anglican, seeks to minimize and explain away such terrible sacramental heresies in his denomination in a way that is, one hopes, consistent with his own genuine new birth, making arguments similar to the sort of minimalization and confusion of language that Bishop Handley Moule employed in his attempts to reconcile Anglican liturgy and the Pauline gospel of justification by faith alone.
Not surprisingly, Griffith Thomas was also a continuationist, although, just as his Keswick theology was more moderate and sane than that of many of his fellows, so his continuationism, although still a rejection of Scriptural cessationism, was of a more moderate form than that of the Keswick trajectory represented by the Christian and Missionary Alliance and Pentecostalism.  Thomas wrote the introduction to R. V. Bingham’s book The Bible and the Body,[7] and affirmed that Bingham’s position was “the true position” which Thomas was glad to “cal[l] attention to.”[8]  Bingham, the founder of “Canadian Keswick,”[9] while making a great number of excellent points against more radical continuationism, taught in The Bible and the Body that the sign gifts have not ceased, but that on “most of the foreign fields”—Bingham was the founder of the Sudan Interior Mission—the “repetition of the signs” had appeared, so that “[m]issionaries could duplicate almost every scene in the Acts of the Apostles.”  God “gives the signs” today.[10]  To describe the first century as “the age of miracles” which is now “past” is an error.[11]  In “this dispensation” God still gives “the gift of healing,”[12] and in answering the question about whether the signs of the book of Acts are for today, Bingham answers that, in some “conditions, yes.”[13]  Griffith Thomas and Bingham are also far too generous to proponents of more radical continuationist error.  Thomas “plead[s], as Mr. Bingham does, for liberty, and [is] . . . ready to give it to those who believe” in the exact errors on “Healing” that are very effectively refuted in his book—he will not separate from those who promulgate errors on healing, but will speak of those in “the healing cults” as “our friends” who have “honoured and saintly leaders.”[14]
Thus, as Griffith Thomas defended the errors of Keswick sanctification, although in a more cool-headed way than many of his Keswick contemporaries, so he likewise defended Keswick continuationism or anti-cessationism, although likewise in a more cool-headed way than many.  He also followed the traditional Keswick refusal to separate from the more radical ideas on sanctification and sign gifts of many of his fellow promulgators of the Keswick theology.  His defense of Keswick against B. B. Warfield, while superior to McQuilkin’s promulgation of Warfield’s mythological posthumous recantation, still remains fundamentally a failure to those who hold consistently to sola Scriptura.  Keswick’s apologists have both failed to provide solid exegetical answers to critics and failed to demonstrate that Keswick critics generally misunderstand or misrepresent the Higher Life system.  While Keswick critics in the world of scholarship are far from infallible, no convincing evidence exists that they routinely misrepresent Higher Life theology.
For conclusive evidence of Keswick's fundamental continuationism or anti-cessationism, and its key role in the rise of the charismatic movement, note the study here.  (Note that the page is large and so it may take a little while to open up.)

This entire study can be accessed here.

[1]           Pg. 667, Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals, ed. Larsen.
[2]           Compare pgs. x-xi, The Holy Spirit of God (London:  Longmans, Green, and Co., 1913). 
[3]           Pg. 492, Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals, ed. Larsen.
[4]           Pg. 667, Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals, ed. Larsen.
[5]           See pgs. 147-163 of The Holy Spirit of God (London:  Longmans, Green, and Co., 1913).
[6]           Article 27, “Of Baptism,” Thirty-Nine Articles.
[7]           The Bible and the Body, R. V. Bingham.  Toronto, Canada:  Evangelical Publishers, 1921 (1st ed.); 4th ed. 1952.
[8]           Pg. vii, The Bible and the Body, Bingham.
[9]           Pg. 53, Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals, ed. Larsen.
[10]         Pg. 66, The Bible and the Body, Bingham.
[11]         Pg. 91, The Bible and the Body, Bingham.
[12]         Pg. 113, The Bible and the Body, Bingham.
[13]         Pg. 113, The Bible and the Body, Bingham.
[14]         Pg. 69, The Bible and the Body, Bingham.

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