Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Keswick Preaching and then Practical Perversion: the Unaffiliated

Because I'm leaving town here Wednesday until next Monday, while getting my classes and other responsibilities ready for when I'm gone, I listened to the audio from a recent unaffiliated Baptist conference.  At this juncture, I don't want to go into what  or where the conference was or its characters.  This is not supposed to be a guess'em game either.  I listened to four sermons.  Three of them were very good.  Very.  Those three, I have to admit, I picked out because I thought they would be good, so that's not a very scientific sample (not to the level of quackery though).  I talked to someone who attended the conference, and he said the preaching was good at the conference.  Good doesn't mean, "every sermon good," but "higher percentage good than normal for one of these conferences."

A fourth sermon was laced with Keswick.  I don't know if this preacher even knows it.  I'm guessing the Keswick theology he believes, right now he's sold on it, and thinks it's the answer or solution for everyone to hear.  Of great interest to me was that one of the four sermons, preached before the fourth, dealt head-on, smack-dab, bullseye with the Keswick sermon.  If it had followed the Keswick sermon, it could have been pulverizing it with its content.  It was so right on that it looked planned, purposeful, like someone who was dealing with something he knew was coming in advance.  I know it wasn't, but it was greatly needed, and I appreciated it.

Someone preached a sermon that was smashing Keswick before someone came along and preached just the opposite.  What I'm saying is that two different theologies were being preached in two of the four sermons I heard.  From the sounds of the crowd, both were being given big "amens," even while they contradicted one another.  Some, I'm sure, did not know they were listening to sermons that were diametrically opposed to one another.  If there was hearty, audible support for the first one, the second one should have received crickets.  It didn't.

The man crushing Keswick even mentioned Keswick theology.  I haven't talked to anyone about a particular sermon at the conference.  All I heard was that in a very general way that the sermons were overall very good.  However, I know this man, just from hearing the preaching, is concerned about the perverse Keswick teaching, and was eviscerating it.  Then came along a man later and preached just the opposite.

That the man preached against Keswick theology -- that should happen.  That two men could contradict each other in the same conference on something so vital -- that should be very rare.  It's something unaffiliated men need to talk about.  They need to get settled what is their thinking about these doctrines.

I'm going to call the fourth man, Keswick Man.  The other I'm calling Sufficient Man.

The style of Keswick Man was a Keswick style.  I can handle yelling.  I can even enjoy some, if it is within the context of an authentic communication of the text of scripture.  This was a lot of yelling of the nature of performance art.  It's actually a kind of "art of preaching," that I've written about, that people think is endued in some way because of the style of delivery.

The sermon of Keswick Man drew from the passage to which he referred.  He didn't preach the passage.  He launched from the passage into some practice, some of which he read into the text. One of the other four sermons was a sermon from Nehemiah on preaching from the Bible, moving into a biblical theology of preaching.  It was a terrific short presentation.  That sermon came ahead of Keswick Man, and exposed his preaching as well.  Part of Keswick preaching is a dependence on the Holy Spirit for the sermon that circumvents the authority of scripture.  You are hearing the effects of a mystical experience, understood as being key to the process of preparation.

I will not divulge the theme of Keswick Man's message or even what Testament to which he referred. However, Keswick Men bring a tension that comes from not having arrived at sufficiency in Christ. They do not rest in the grace of God.  I'm not endorsing quietism, but I'm referring to a pursuit of greater blessing that takes the form of non-stop pressure.  This is revivalism.  They push and push to get there, and that desperation displayed itself throughout the message.  They've got to make it happen, producing the tension in many aspects of sanctification.

Keswick Man spoke of a person in his life that he's been working and working on.  This is what it takes with Keswick -- lots of work.  It's you working.  This is not to say that you don't work.  However, Sufficient Man stressed it was God that was working.  We work out, because God is working in.

Sufficient Man preached on a theme again I won't say, but is the antidote for Keswick thinking and belief.  He emphasized that the justified person was already complete.  This person has all that he needs.  He knows it is all grace, so he enjoys obedience and whatever results it brings, because He depends on God -- actually depends on God.  Keswick is faux dependence on God.

One of Keswick Man's points was, "Don't be afraid to ask for miracles."  Some might think that's a rather innocuous or innocent point.  Should believers be praying for miracles?  He followed with "I've got to see God do stuff."  There were many "amens."  Maybe he was joking, but he said, "I even had a miracle this morning," before telling a story of avoiding a traffic ticket.  He reiterated, "Don't be afraid to ask for miracles."  For the third time, he said, "Don't be afraid to ask for miracles."  That was the central point of the sermon.  He related the reception of the miracles to a "secret place" and "power."  He said that they're miracles, and because they are, you won't see them all the time, or they wouldn't be miracles.  Actually, Jesus saw them all the time.  During eras of miracles, they occurred all the time.  That's actually what we should expect if were to expect them.

I'm sure Keswick Man believes that he'll receive miracles.  He was probably taught that.   He might think he's received them and that others should too.  Believers are not to pray for miracles. The Greek word for "miracles" is semeion, also translated "signs."  It's the same word.  "Signs" and "wonders" are "miracles."  This is sheer continuationism.  Jesus said in Matthew 16:4 among other occasions, "A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it."

Jesus said, "Don't seek miracles," so don't pray for miracles.  Someone shouldn't ask for miracles. Who would ask for miracles?  The religious leaders did.  People who ask for miracles are wicked and adulterous.  Why?  God has done enough.  If Jesus says you are wicked and adulterous for seeking after miracles, then you should be afraid to ask for miracles.  Was this challenged by the unaffiliated Baptist preachers?  Or are they really fine with continuationism?  It should be shocking for them to hear what he said.

Believers don't need miracles.  They have all the power they will ever get at the moment they are justified.  They have every spiritual blessing.  They fall behind in no gift.  They need to submit to God, obey the Word of God.  The just shall live by faith.  Miracles were signs for unbelievers before the completion of scripture.   I'm not saying that God doesn't intervene.  We know He does, because God's Word says He does.  We don't pray for miracles.  We don't depend on miracles.  Miracles had their place.  We depend on the Word of God, the grace of God, the gospel, the means God intends for us in this age.

Sufficient Man didn't say anything about miracles, but he preached about the sufficiency of Christ and the ordinary means that God uses to accomplish His work in this age.  Believers need to understand how the work of God is accomplished.  They need to understand a proper view of sanctification.

Are unaffiliated Baptist churches fine with Keswick theology?  Are they fine with revivalism?  Do they have a biblical view (which is historic Baptist too) of sanctification?  Judgment must begin in the house of God.


I'm at the airport in Oakland right now, and I reread this post to see what I thought of it.  That's important sometime in writing -- go back and read what you wrote to see if you still like it.  Edit it after some time has allowed you to come at it with a slightly different perspective.  I didn't change anything.  However, I'm going to add something.

From a positive standpoint, people can grow.  They must be humble, but they can grow, if they are willing to change.  Many men are into Keswick, are deceived, don't know it in other words, but they can change.  I encourage that.  I am leaving out names and places with hopes that will make it easier for someone.

Keswick Man, as I wrote above, said, "I've got to see God do stuff."  This discontent fuels Keswick.  It is covetousness, which is why it is for a wicked and adulterous generation.  God is "doing stuff" all over, about a trillion at any given moment.  He's doing so much stuff that we couldn't keep up thanking Him if we had a thousand tongues.  I see God do stuff.  What Keswick Man means, however, is that he needs to see signs and wonders.  What occurs is that people then manufacture those wonders, and then say God did them.  This is all over the place.  What is manufactured is a fraud.  I'm saying it's a lie.  It is a pernicious lie that is as bad as any lie told by the worst politician.

Unaffiliated Baptists need to be training their people to enjoy the stuff that God already gave them.  I'm not saying that Keswick Man wouldn't say that.  He'd agree, and probably feel like this post is misrepresenting him, because "he's not saying what I'm saying -- he's not saying that!"  They have the gospel.  They have the Holy Spirit.  They have a complete, authoritative, perfect Word of God.  They need to just use the stuff God gave.  Instead, they invent new stuff, because the old stuff isn't good enough.  Because they need stuff so much, they make up stuff.  This is rampant everywhere, but it is also all over with unaffiliated men.  If you criticize it, they pull the autonomy card.  Or they just attack back, or become political, I've noticed.  What do you think?


d4v34x said...

All of grace; sufficiency of Christ; we work out because God has and is working in; the ordinary means-- all excellent things to hear you stress, especially in opposition to Keswick/revivalism/continuationism.

Anonymous said...

I was there...Something didn't set right. Thank you for pointing it out.

Anonymous said...

Kent, are you saying that it's covetous for believers to get desperate before God? Desperate for God to revive his people (Psalms 85:6), desperate for souls to be saved (1 Tim 2:1-4), desperate for church members to do right (Eph 4), desperate for God's power, like the Apostles and the early church? Based on what you are saying, I assume there is no desperation in your prayers because whatever God does is what he is going to do and you don't want to be covetous. How does that fit with Samuel's mother who was desperate for God to give her a child? Was she covetous - wanting a child when she didn't have one? As Pastor of your church, do you have the attitude "I have got to see God do stuff?" Shouldn't every Pastor have that attitude? Certainly, you sense that there is more God wants to do in and through your church and that your church isn't were it ought to be in reaching the lost, fulfilling the Great commission etc. Should the Pastor be zealous and desperate looking for God to work? If you don't have that attitude what kind of attitude do you have? Maybe you don't agree with this man who preached the message, but do you really think it's wrong for a preacher to be desperate to see God work? Isn't that what the ministry is all about, seeing God work?

I must say that your attitude is very much alarming and perhaps other unaffiliated Baptists should check to make sure that this somewhat blatant attitude of unbelief and lack of desperation is not creeping into their circles. I challenge other readers of this blog to not just accept everything they read on this blog as right just because Kent says it, but to evaluate it. Is this ok that he is promoting an attitude of complacency and unbelief and criticising someone who is wanting God to do things? By the way, God is still doing miracles today. Every time someone is saved it is a miracle, but of course you don't pray for people to be saved.

I am not trying to be contentious but while you get on him for being "covetous" maybe you should ponder wether or not you have unbelief or whether you limit God because of your intellectualism. What is worse?

I say this mostly to challenge the thinking of other readers,


Kent Brandenburg said...


Thanks for dropping by. This is helpful, because you are coming here in support of Keswick. It presents a contrast. I think you should deal with what I've written about covetousness here, what Jesus actually said. You didn't do that. You didn't deal with continuationism.

You are also arguing a strawman, because not being Keswick doesn't mean merely intellectul assent to facts without any kind of spiritual ambition. You've got to want and seek, but you already have everything in the way of power to do it. It's there for you already, but you have to utilize it, yield to it. Yielding involves the will, not just the mind, and you've to do it. Acting like you don't have it, and being desperate for something He already promised you is faithless. Wanting the experience is akin to the perversion at Corinth, where they coveted the showy gifts for themselves, influenced by the mystery religion, interpreting ecstasy as God functioning; however, producing the effects as a kind of self-fulfilling prophesy. This seems to be right in your wheelhouse.

You are not representing Psalm 85 right. 1 Tim 2 is not about praying for kings to be saved, but praying for kings with the result being that we can keep doing gospel work that could result in people being saved. You want the freedom to do work for God and God tells us to pray for kings so that we might live a life that isn't hindered from doing that work. I don't see desperation in Eph 4 -- you'll have to be more specific. Praying for God's power. That I don't do, because I have all the power of the universe already. The Apostles prayed according to Jesus' instruction, because they hadn't received it yet. We have it now, so praying for something we already possess is faithless. Hannah praying for a child -- I've dealt with that here, and I'm short on time at the moment.

Ministry isn't about the desperation to see God work. God is working. There is a struggle against the flesh, the world, and the devil. We pray, but it is not characterized like you are characterizing it, which is more akin to the priests of Baal praying louder so that God will hear us. We don't have hoops to jump through for God, to suffer, to put ourselves through some kind of pain as a prerequisite to get what God wants.

I am limiting God in a zero way. I'm quite sure of that. I'll stop there, but I agree that people have a choice to make here, because we do represent two versions of Christianity, of sanctification, of the world really. One is a lie and the other is true. They can't both be right. So people must have discernment.

If you had power with God and you paid the price, shouldn't you be able to change my mind with it at your disposal? So why just challenge the readers when you could have that at your disposal if you are desperate enough?

Kent Brandenburg said...


I had a little more time open up, so I have a few more comments to what you wrote. When you define a miracle as someone being saved, that twists the biblical belief about miracles. Miracles are not any supernatural event which occurs. Jesus is upholding you by the Word of His power, that is, your body stays together because of Him. That isn't a miracle. A miracle is a sign. We are not seeing signs and we don't need signs. Why you seek those desperately, you are admitting that you don't believe in what God has already said. We need people to believe what God said. He's already done enough to authenticate His Word. His Word is sufficient.

You diminish a miracle by making everything one. There is no biblical basis for calling salvation a miracle. God saved people when miracles were not occurring.

I have no doubt God is "doing stuff." I know He "does stuff." He never stops "doing stuff." Do I pray for Him to do stuff? I pray for His will, what He says He will do, what I know He will do. I'm fine with what He said. For instance, I pray for wisdom. Do I need wisdom? Yes. However, do I need to be desperate for wisdom to get it? The idea of "fervent" in James 5:16, for instance, is the word "polus," which is much or many. It means "frequent," and believe that's what the translators meant. I don't think it is "desperate," because it is prayer of faith. You know it is in God's will. Because of that, you pray insistently, but not desperately. Desperately comes from someone who isn't sure, is uncertain, that is, he doesn't believe he will receive it. We aren't to be praying like that.

We know why Jesus sweat as it were great drops of blood. He was in agony.

God is not withholding good from His own until they pay the price for what it is they are praying. God wants to give His good gifts to His children. What you are espousing is a Charismatic teaching. You've got to want it more. Our faith can increase. We can grow, but this isn't a matter of being more desperate for it, that you've got to really, really want it.

Read this series from Thomas Ross, and this particular part deals with this.

Anonymous said...

You mentioned in your response that you don't pray for God's power. Let me ask a simple question. Do you think someone that has sin in their life and consequently is not filled with the Spirit can be just as effective evangelizing as someone who is filled with the Spirit?

Your final paragraph where you kind of take a poke at me about having power to convince you seems very elementary. It also seems strange that you would say dogmatically that you are not limiting God in any way. Even if you thought you weren't I would at least expect a sense of humility. Also the last paragraph in your second comment about "paying a price" may indicate that you are somewhat ignorant or that you lump everyone into the same group because it is a misrepresentation for sure.

Kent you are a very smart man, and I mean that, but don't you think that you are too analytical at times and don't "believe all things" or at least be gracious with people. Do you really think that the preacher was saying pray for miracles like people walking who were paralyized etc. like in the Bible. Is it possible to ever use that term without it necessarily being used in the exact way the Bible uses it? Maybe he means by miracle, something that only God could do or something that humanly is impossible without divine intervention. It seems like you take things people say and assume they mean exactly what you think they mean. There is no graciousness. I am trying to be kind but Kent you really ought to consider what I am saying. Much of the tone of your language is filled with criticalness, demeaning, and pride. I never get the sense that you could be wrong but everyone else is always wrong. Everyone else believes false doctrine unless they see it your way. If your response to me is that I am part of the problem today because I am not willing to call error error then it proves my point. I am all for calling error error but in a sense of humility and graciousness, not in a condescending way. If you respond by saying that I am afraid to deal with the subject and immediately go to personal attacks, that also reveals it.


KJB1611 said...

Dear Jim,

Thanks for the comment.

Lord willing, a study of the OT and NT words for "miracle" will appear on this blog next Friday. Please check back then for it, as I believe it will answer the question about seeking for miracles, regeneration as a miracle, etc. with careful exegesis.

It would be easier to know what exactly is a blatant attitude of unbelief (definitely a sin mentioned in the Bible), intellectualism (a sin not mentioned in the Bible, although if it means not loving God, certainly a great evil), etc. if we could see where Pastor Brandenburg was arguing contrary to the teaching of 1 Timothy 2:1-4 and the other passages mentioned. We should certainly fervently pray and passionately desire God to do what He has promised to do--if that is what you mean by "desperation," then it is a good thing. If you mean something else by it, then perhaps we could see the exegesis of Scripture supporting what you mean; a search for the word in the Bible allows me only to find a heart "desperately wicked," (Jer 17:9), Job being desperate in sorrow (Job 6:26), and the same thing in Isaiah 17:11 with extreme sorrow, none of which relates to the sense in which you are employing the word as a good thing and a fruit of the Spirit, so perhaps we can see the exegesis supporting your argument that the post is misusing the word "covetous" and supporting your view of "desperation."

Something else I would like to see is in the example in the model prayer of Matthew 6 or in any apostolic prayer in the NT, or in the prayers in the psalter, where someone prayed for power. I would also like to see where, in the sense you are using the word "power," the power words in Scripture (dunamis, exusia, etc.) are employed so that we see the exegetical basis for praying for power. Of course asking this question does by no means indicate that I am against having an upright heart before God.


Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Jim,

Just fyi, but I don't know who you are. I know several Jims, and I have no idea if you are any Jim that I know, which about 10 of them come immediately to mind. I'm just dealing with what you are saying. I understand that you think it would be gracious for me to deal with what you are saying in the best possible light. If I did that, this false doctrine here, not my graciousness, wouldn't go away. If I was as nice as you wanted me to be, and the problem stayed, that would miss the point. I tried to be as gracious as I could by not mentioning names and even as many specifics as I could. I'm not trying to embarrass anyone, but I would know that is still not good enough, so we're talking about tone some more. My tone is more important than the doctrines we're talking about. You say "no graciousness" -- zero. What would be gracious is letting it go. I do appreciate that a basically anonymous person comes along to at least give an argument. It helps people to see it.

You seem to be saying that it would be gracious for me to take his word miracle differently than what scripture says and actually different than what he meant it, which would be gracious.

Your understanding of "filling" reads like Keswick. I don't pray for filling. I am comm.comanded to be filled. I know what to do when I've sinned. I confess it. Paul told the Corinthians they didn't lack in any gift. Biblical doctrine doesn't limit God. I think everything else you've said, I've dealt with, speaking of the part about the understanding of miracles.

I've got to go.

Anonymous said...

Kent, just so you know....

Your blunt speech and clear, but kind description of the "Keswick Man's" sermon is helpful to some of us out here. I appreciate it. This is an error that I'm just beginning to recognize myself. Bro. Thomas Ross' posts have also been very helpful.

I think that many who think this way (Keswick) probably don't even recognize it. I'm sure I still think and pray along these lines many times.

Sometimes preachers will say some type of Keswick statement and then follow it up with an "I'm not a charismatic." disclaimer. Maybe deep inside they know or feel the similarities, but this thinking is all they've known all their life.

As a curious aside, I was with a "Keswick Man" recently and in the conversation he mentioned that he felt the continual push to have bigger attendances, etc. was really a form of discontentment and covetousness. I was humored to hear that and it gave me hope that others who still think like I once did may also learn and leave Keswick theology.

Thanks again for these articles,

Kent Brandenburg said...


First, I look forward to reading Thomas' writing next Friday.

Second, Anonymous,

Thank you. I hope you represent a lot of readers. I don't know, but I hope so.

Bobby Mitchell said...

I was "Keswick" for a long time and didn't know it. Preaching through books of the Bible and being challenged by friends to re-think my terminology, practice, philosophy, etc. was used of God to unravel me from that false system. It really does permeate much of the independent Baptist thought and practice.

I praise the Lord that more than a decade ago I found in Scripture that I had all the power of God that is possible for any person and that I had received that at salvation. See 1 Peter 1! I was anointed, sealed, given unction, etc. the MOMENT I WAS BORN AGAIN. See 2 Corinthians 1 and 1 John. I can HINDER the Lord's power working through me by grieving or quenching the Holy Spirit, but He is a Person and I received ALL of Him at salvation. Praise God!

Where I used to "beg for power" I now thank God for the power He has given me and I rely on Him to work in and through me by His grace, for His glory. I thank Him for the unction and anointing that He gave me when He saved my by His grace and gave me His Holy Spirit. I don't pray desparately for unction, power, and anointing, but I praise Him loudly and frequently that I have it and everything else needed for life and godliness.

One big moment in getting me away from the error of Keswick-style "desparation" was when I was reading the covers of my many books that were about "power," "revival," and all and then noticing that they were all written by men that were steeped in wrong ecclesiology, wrong on baptism, wrong on communion... I was thinking, "I wouldn't fellowship with any of these men-- Finney, Torrey, Moody, Campbell, Howell... So, why I am I basically their student when it comes to sanctification, power, revival, etc.?"

I praise the Lord that He graciously led me away from them to digging in the BIBLE and discovering what it teaches about these matters.

This is the opposite of intellectualism--a puffed up mind filled with vain thoughts. It is seeking to know the mind of God, revealed by Scripture, and submitting to it even when it is contradicting so-called "great men" who have promoted something other than Scripture reveals. I could write many pages more, but enough for now.

These posts about Keswick are greatly needed and I'm thankful for them.

P.S. I happily identify as an Unafilliated Baptist and love and fellowship with other UB's. I believe they are the finest folk this side of Heaven.

Jeff Voegtlin said...

Bro. Bobby,

How did you come to begin preaching through books? It is quite rare in Independent Baptist circles, and I find a good amount of resistance to the idea..... ("It's fine for those that do it, but I'm not going to do it.") I also seem to be seeing men "preach through books," but they are really just attaching their ideas to texts and doing it in the order that appears in a book of the Bible. These men are in no way preaching the Bible, but they think they are.

I know this is a side note, but I was curious. I do think it is part of the solution to ridding us of continuationist Keswick theology.


Anonymous said...

Brother Jeff,

I grew up hearing my dad preach through books. He taught me that a pastor should always be preaching through a book of the Bible during at least one of the weekly services. So, I was really committed to that from the beginning here, and doing that worked in a great way to get me out of a Keswick type of mindset. By the way, my dad/pastor did not influence me to Keswick; I got that from other sources than my pastor and church. Acts was the particular book I was preaching through when I was greatly challenged and changed regarding these issues.

I would not know how to preach "the whole counsel of God" if not preaching through books of the Bible. It is also very liberating. I do not have to come up with sermons. I do not have to come up with "something to say." I am just responsible to read, expose, and apply the Scripture.

I certainly pray for wisdom, utterance, and boldness. I certainly desire and pray that the Word would be preached in "demonstration and power of the Holy Ghost." I certainly pray to "be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man," that "the Word of the Lord would have free course..."

Bobby Mitchell said...

That "anonymous" comment to Brother Jeff was from me, Bobby Mitchell. I forgot to fill that part in on the form when commenting.

Tyler Robbins said...

I wonder why it is so rare for independent Baptist Pastors to preach in an expository way through books of the Bible. How else can people (or the Pastor) understand God's word in context?

Jon Gleason said...

Perhaps it is rare to preach through books because it is hard work. There are a lot of easier ways to go about getting something to say on Sundays, I suppose. And easier to be entertaining, too, which can always help you draw crowds and "get decisions" and all that good stuff.

Not that I think expository preaching through books is boring. But if you want to be entertaining / exciting every week, that is going to be a lot harder to do by your seventh sermon in a row on II Corinthians.