Friday, September 02, 2016

Keswick Testimonials Over Exegesis: in Keswick's Errors--an Analysis and Critique of So Great Salvation by Stephen Barabas, part 4 of 17

           Keswick theology, following the practice of the Broadlands Conference[1] and the devaluation of doctrinal truth by Hannah W. Smith,[2] downplays the role of the Word of God in sanctification to exalt testimonials.[3]  While Deuteronomy 17:19 indicates that by studying and growing in knowledge of God’s Word, one “may learn to fear the LORD his God,” Keswick is “not interested in . . . adding to the store of Bible knowledge of those who attend.”[4]  Maintaining a pattern set by earlier Keswick classics, Barabas’s book, in the course of over two hundred pages, never once cites John 15:3; 17:17; Acts 20:32; Romans 10:17; Ephesians 2:20; 5:26; Colossians 3:16; 1 Timothy 4:6; 1 Peter 2:2; Psalm 119:7; 119:50; 119:93, or any other text that teaches that sanctification takes place through the instrumentality of the Word of God.[5]  Such neglect is a serious error.  The Bible is the instrumentality the Father has ordained for the revelation of God’s glory through the Son by the Spirit, the view of which transforms and sanctifies the believer (2 Corinthians 3:18; John 17:17, 26).  Keswick’s downplaying of the role of the Word of God in sanctification to exalt testimonials, a practice it inherited from the Broadlands Conference[6] and earlier Higher Life perfectionisms, is associated with its exaltation of the testimonial as the key instrumentality for spreading its teachings.  In the Keswick system, oral or written testimonies of entering into and maintaining the Higher Life largely displaced the expository preaching of and exegetical study of God’s Word.[7]  Legions of books about those who discovered the spiritual secret of Keswick theology, hundreds of testimonies of those who discovered the Keswick system, and swarms of often inaccurate historical accounts of blessings received by individuals, churches, and communities who adopted the Higher Life system abound in Keswick settings.  On the other hand, the “Convention is not interested in . . . adding to the store of Bible knowledge”[8] of those who come to their meetings, and “Keswick furnishes us with . . . no carefully prepared, weighty discourses of a theological nature . . . for over seventy five years[.]”[9]  Not even one carefully prepared discourse or book expositing Scripture in a scholarly way has ever been written in favor of the Keswick theology, as Keswick authors themselves testify.  By downplaying the study of and growth in knowledge of the Word of God and exalting uninspired testimonies instead, Keswick hinders the believer’s sanctification.
               D. Martin Lloyd-Jones comments on Keswick’s failure to deal comprehensively and carefully with the scriptural data related to the believer’s growth in holiness:
Instead of expounding the great New Testament texts, [Keswick promulgators] so often started with their theory and illustrated it by means of Old Testament characters and stories. You will find that so often their texts were Old Testament texts. Indeed their method of teaching was based on the use of illustrations rather than on exposition of Scripture. An inevitable result was that they virtually ignored everything that had been taught on the subject of sanctification during the previous eighteen centuries. . . . Many of them boasted of this.[10]
Indeed, even those who were passionately committed to the Higher Life theology, to the extent that they were willing to favor it in print in its official literature, admitted that sound Biblical interpretation was grievously lacking.  Robert W. Dale testified:
I agree with every word . . . about the singularly uncritical manner in which those who are associated with this doctrine quote passages from both from the Old Testament and the New. . . . But then let us remember that the gentlemen who represent this particular movement are frankly and constantly acknowledging that they have no claims to the kind of scholarship that is necessary to treat theological questions scientifically. . . . I . . . [am] not hostile to this movement, [but] favorable to it.[11]
Similarly, another minister and friend of the Higher Life testified:
If there has been anything to which exception might be taken it has been the fanciful and even absurd interpretation occasionally given to passages of Scripture, particularly those of the Old Testament.  But where the end is so great . . . one is little disposed to find fault[.][12]
Such admissions were regularly made by those who were contending, in print, for the Higher Life and Keswick theology.  What, then, will those without partisan pre-commitments to Keswick conclude?
               The gross abuse, exegetical fallacies, and silly allegorization of Scripture by advocates of the Higher Life contributed to the Keswick consensus that discussion of doctrine and careful exegesis of Scripture were not the way to spread the Blessing;[13]  by such means the Keswick theology was so far from being able to be propagated that it was certain to collapse.  Examples of faulty Keswick exegesis are legion.  For instance, consider the severe equivocation on the phrase “God’s people” in the following argument by Barabas:
Christians are too apt to think that only the unsaved are sinners. . . . This certainly is not Biblical.  The truth is that God’s Word has a great deal more to say about the sin of God’s people than it does about the sin of those who do not know Him.  It was the sin of God’s people that delayed the entrance of Israel into Canaan for forty years.  It was the sin of God’s people that was responsible for the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities.  It was the sin of God’s people that caused the crucifixion of the Messiah.  It was the sin of God’s people, more than the unbelief of the heathen, that caused Paul heartache and sorrow.  And it is the sin of God’s people, more than anything else, that is hindering the manifestation of His saving power in the world today. . . Keswick is right in putting great stress on the fact that there must be a revival among Christians of a sense of sin in themselves.[14]
The beginning and end of the argument draw conclusions about those who are true believers, but the examples in Scripture that are to prove the conclusion deal in each instance either primarily or totally with the sin of those who merely professed to be God’s true people, that is, those who, in the Old Testament, were merely “of Israel” but not true spiritual Israel (Romans 9:6).  As demonstrated above,[15] those who died in the wilderness wanderings pictured the professing but unconverted, not backslidden saints.  The idolators who brought upon themselves the Deuteronomic curses, including the Assyrian and Babylonian exile (Deuteronomy 28:63-68), went to hell (cf. Revelation 21:8), as Paul indicates that those who are under the Deuteronomic curse are the unsaved (Galatians 3:10; Deuteronomy 27:26) while all the spiritual seed of Abraham are free from this curse and its penalty (Galatians 3:11-14).  The passage concerning Paul’s sorrow for his fellow Israelites indicates his sadness on account of their coming damnation, not sorrow because they were on their way to heaven but without a Higher Life (Romans 9:1-6).  And it was certainly not genuine believers, who were just a little backslidden, who conspired against and crucified Christ!  The Keswick conclusion drawn from this argument—that Christians need to take sin in their lives very seriously—is excellent.  The exegetical basis provided for the conclusion is a disaster.
               Another example of invalid exegesis is Barabas’s assertion:  “Paul constantly urges Christians to make instantaneous decisions (as the aorist of his verbs shows) to yield their members unto God (Romans 6:13), to present themselves unto God (Romans 12:1), [and] to mortify the deeds of the body (Romans 8:13).”[16]  Such an argument, while based on the teaching of Robert P. Smith that surrender is “a thing done once for all . . . just as we look on our marriage for life,”[17] misunderstands the nature of the aorist tense[18]—even apart from the fact that the command to mortify in Romans 8:13 is not in the aorist tense at all but is a present tense imperative.[19]  Similarly, the classic The Keswick Convention:  Its Message, its Method, and its Men, affirms that at Keswick “[t]he student becomes aware of the spiritual significance of the aorist tense in the programme of holiness”[20] and proceeds to misinterpret a variety of texts based on an inaccurate view of the nature of the Greek aorist.[21]  Evan Hopkins follows the pattern of misinterpretation in his Keswick classic The Law of Liberty in the Spiritual Life.[22]  Hopkins had a great “love [for] the Aorists of New Testament Greek,” but, as a standard Keswick writer, he evidently did not understand the tense very well.[23]
For “Keswick there was no passage of Scripture that was more frequently to the front” than Romans 6, so that “it is doubtful whether a Keswick Convention has ever been held in which one or more speakers did not deal with this chapter . . . [t]here is no understanding of Keswick without an appreciation of the place accorded by it to this chapter in its whole scheme of sanctification.”[24]  Unfortunately, this chapter is also fundamentally misunderstood.  As demonstrated above, Romans 6 is Paul’s proof that the justified will not continue in sin, while Keswick reduces the chapter to a merely potential freedom from sin.[25]  Keswick teaches that “[i]t is possible [for believers] to serve sin again, but not necessary.”[26]  However, the Apostle Paul taught in Romans 6 that all believers are no longer the servants of sin, but are now the servants of righteousness.  Furthermore, the reckoning of Romans 6 is commanded because the believer is already dead to sin, alive to God, and a servant of righteousness, realities that necessarily affect the believer’s practical life.  Keswick teaches that reckoning activates an inactive and merely potential sanctification, and for those believers that fail to enter the Higher Life death to sin and life to God have no necessary practical influence.  Both the Keswick idea that victory over sin is only possible and potential for believers but is not certain, and the idea that the reckoning of Romans 6 activates a merely potential and inactive progressive sanctification come from the preaching of Hannah W. Smith at the 1874 Broadlands Conference[27] and Mrs. Smith’s writings,[28] not from careful exegesis of the book of Romans. Of course, meditating on the truths of Romans 6 can be of great aid in resisting temptation, but the chapter does not teach that reckoning activates an inactive and merely potential sanctification, no matter what Mrs. Smith claimed that she experienced, and no matter how many Keswick writers follow and reproduce her teaching.  Keswick theology falls into serious error because of its misinterpretation of key passages of Scripture on sanctification.

See here for this entire study.

[1]              Compare the very similar statements of purpose of the Keswick Convention (cf. pgs. 108ff., So Great Salvation, Barabas) and the Broadlands Conferences (pgs. 262-263, 268, The Life that is Life Indeed:  Reminiscences of the Broadlands Conferences, Edna V. Jackson.  London:  James Nisbet & Co, 1910).
Pg. 262, The Life that is Life Indeed:  Reminiscences of the Broadlands Conferences, Edna V. Jackson.  London:  James Nisbet & Co, 1910.
Hovey, discussing other pre-Keswick forms of Higher Life theology, noted that they “at least see[m] to depart . . . from the plain sense of Scripture by ascribing the believer’s sanctification to the work of the Spirit, almost without the use of the truth.  Very little comparatively is said of the office of truth . . . undervalu[ing] the sure word of God” (pgs. 126-127, Doctrine of the Higher Christian Life Compared With the Teaching of the Holy Scriptures, Alvah Hovey).
[2]              E. g., note Mrs. Smith’s denial of the Biblical unity between doctrine and practice and affirmation of the sufficiency of morality combined with doctrine so watered down that even a Deistic, non-Christian deity was acceptable:
How true the old Friends were when they used to tell us that it was not what we believed but how we lived that was the real test of salvation, and how little we understood them! . . . And as thee says, my opinions about God may all be wrong, but if my loyalty to Him is real it will not matter. It seems as if it would be enough just to say, “God is,” and, “Be good,” and then all would be said. It is the practical things that interest me now. (Letter to Anna, August 4, 1882, reproduced in the entry for November 18 of The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life, Hannah W. Smith, ed. Dieter)
[3]              The exaltation of testimonials over literally interpreted Scripture also suits Quaker theology very well; does not the Inner Voice arising from the Divine Seed within give a Word from God for today that is of greater value than the Word given thousands of years ago in the Bible?  Should not testimonies to such modern day Words therefore hold the preeminent place?  As Hannah Smith explained:
A Quaker “concern” [alleged revelation] was to my mind clothed with even more authority than the Bible, for the Bible was God’s voice of long ago, while the “concern” was His voice at the present moment and, as such, was of far greater present importance . . . the preaching I hear[d] was certainly calculated to exalt the “inward voice” and its communications above all other voices . . . since God spoke to us directly. (pgs. 82-83, The Unselfishness of God, by Hannah W. Smith)
[4]              Pg. 108, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[5]              Barabas follows in the footsteps of earlier Keswick classics such as The Keswick Convention:  Its Message, its Method, and its Men, ed. Harford, which likewise never cites any of these passages in the course of its 249 pages.  Harford’s work itself follows the pattern of Keswick’s most important exposition, Hannah W. Smith’s The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, which omits all mention of these texts.  Andrew Murray’s Abide in Christ, although it is supposed to exposit John 15, in the course of 236 pages never discusses any of these passages; even John 15:3 appears only within a quotation of John 15:1-12 at the very beginning of the book, never to appear again.  Many other Keswick books manifest the same conspicuous neglect.  (Of course, in the many hundreds and even thousands of devotional books and pamphlets by Keswick authors, at some point the verses above are cited somewhere; the affirmation is not made that no Keswick writer ever cites them anywhere, but that the de-emphasis upon such texts is striking.)   Contrast the classical Baptist view as set forth in the chapter in this volume “The Means Of Sanctification,” by James Petigru Boyce.  What Jacob Abbott stated, reviewing the foundational Keswick classic The Higher Christian Life by William Boardman, is regrettably true of the main body of Keswick theology in general:
There is nowhere in [Boardman’s] volume a recognition of the fact that the truth, as revealed in the holy scriptures, is the means of sanctification.  More than this:  he puts faith in opposition to the use of means. . . . [H]is theory as to the means of sanctification . . . [is that] it is derived immediately from Christ, by faith, and not mediately, through the scriptures, appropriating them by faith, and finding Christ in them, and through them bringing him into the soul.  He quotes no such scriptures as these:  “Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth;” [John 17:17] and John 15:3. 2 Pet 1:4.  He has very little to do with the Scriptures, any way; it is all theory, supported by what he calls experience.  He draws largely from the experiences of men; very little from the inspired oracles of truth, and then with a strange perversion or misapplication. . . . This theory as to the means of sanctification, by Christ alone, received immediately by faith, in opposition to the view that it is by the Spirit of Christ working in us through the truth, is the one idea of the book, to which all else is intended to be subservient. (pgs. 511-514, Review of William E. Boardman’s The Higher Christian Life, Jacob J. Abbott.  Bibliotheca Sacra (July 1860) 508-535.  Italics in original.)
[6]              E. g., at Broadlands when “the question of victory over temptation was considered,” a careful exposition of what the Bible taught on resisting temptation (such as is found in John Owen’s treatise Of Temptation) was not conducted; on the contrary, “personal testimony was the interesting feature” that provided the way to enter into victory (pg. 152, The Life that is Life Indeed:  Reminiscences of the Broadlands Conferences, Edna V. Jackson.  London:  James Nisbet & Co, 1910).  Likewise, to prove that the Broadlands Conference was presenting the truth, “changed lives and characters were a witness to others that could not be gainsaid . . . by their actions and disposition, not by their words . . . [by] a great and marked increase in gladness and cheerfulness,” the teachings of the Conference were validated (pgs. 246-247, Ibid).  Of course, living a holy life is very important, but the infallible record of Scripture is the only inerrant testimony to the truth:  “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20).
[7]              The displacement of exposition of Scripture for testimonial among the advocates of the Keswick theology is so pervasive that W. H. Griffith Thomas, when seeking to respond to B. B. Warfield’s crushing critique of the Keswick and Victorious Life movements in the Princeton Review, spends about half of his response (“The Victorious Life (I.).”  Bibliotheca Sacra (76:303) July 1919, 267-288; “The Victorious Life (II.).”  Bibliotheca Sacra (76:304) October 1919, 455-467) on testimonials to the value of the Higher Life.  Thomas argues for the Keswick theology based on what he has “observed” (pg. 273), on “experience” (pg. 275), on “very many a Christian experience” (pg. 277).  Warfield is wrong because “experience in general gives no suggestion” of his position and “there is no general evidence of” Warfield’s doctrine, Thomas claims, “in Christian lives” (pg. 464).  “Warfield . . . is disproved . . . by experience of everyday life” (pg. 275).  The great majority of Thomas’s second article is a compilation of testimonials to Keswick theology.  He concludes:
I submit, with all deference to Dr. Warfield, yet with perfect confidence, that the convinced acceptance of the Keswick movement by such [men as have given testimonials to it] . . . is impressive enough to make people inquire whether, after all, it does not stand for essential Biblical truth[.] . . . [T]he rich experiences to which testimony is given . . . the possession of an experience which has evidently enriched their lives . . . [is] not to be set aside by any purely doctrinal and theoretical criticism. (pgs. 462-466)
The Keswick experience, Griffith Thomas avers, is not to be set aside by criticism of its doctrine from Scripture alone.
For other examples of the spread of the Keswick theology by testimonial rather than exegesis, see, e. g., pgs. 54, 71, Evan Harry Hopkins:  A Memoir, Alexander Smellie; compare also the foundational work The Higher Christian Life, William Boardman.
[8]              Pg. 108, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[9]              Pg. 51, So Great Salvation, Barabas.  The seventy-five years was as of 1952, when Barabas wrote.  Keswick has still produced no carefully prepared and weighty theological discourses as the 150-year mark approaches.
[10]             Pg. 321, The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors: Addresses Delivered at the Puritan and Westminster Conferences, 1959-1978, D. M. Lloyd-Jones. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1987.
[11]             Pg. 450, Record of the Convention for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness Held at Brighton, May 29th to June 7th, 1875. Brighton: W. J. Smith, 1875.
[12]             Pgs. 464-465, Record of the Convention for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness Held at Brighton, May 29th to June 7th, 1875. Brighton: W. J. Smith, 1875.
[13]             Cf. pg. 59, Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, Held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874. Chicago:  Revell, 1874.
[14]             Pgs. 59-60, So Great Salvation, Barabas.  Note that nothing that remotely approaches a comprehensive study of the NT word aJmartwlo/ß, “sinner,” is undertaken by Barabas—an examination of its 47 uses in the New Testament gives strong support to the position that, although believers still sin, only the unconverted man is a “sinner” (Matthew 9:10–11, 13; 11:19; 26:45; Mark 2:15–17; 8:38; 14:41; Luke 5:8, 30, 32; 6:32–34; 7:34, 37, 39; 13:2; 15:1–2, 7, 10; 18:13; 19:7; 24:7; John 9:16, 24–25, 31; Romans 3:7; 5:8, 19; 7:13; Galatians 2:15, 17; 1 Timothy 1:9, 15; Hebrews 7:26; 12:3; James 4:8; 5:20; 1 Peter 4:18; Jude 15).
[15]             See the chapter “Hebrews 3-4 As An Alleged Evidence For Perpetually Sinning Christians.”
[16]             Pg. 125, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[17]             Pgs. 99, 136, Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, Held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874. Chicago:  Revell, 1874.  Italics in original.
[18]             For an examination of this error on the use of the Greek aorist, compare pgs. 554-557; 713-724, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, Daniel Wallace and pgs. 67-73, Exegetical Fallacies, D. A. Carson.  (Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Books, 1996).
[19]             Qanatouvte.
[20]             Pg. 179, The Keswick Convention:  Its Message, its Method, and its Men, ed. Harford.
[21]             Pgs. 179-180, The Keswick Convention:  Its Message, its Method, and its Men, ed. Harford.
[22]             Cf. pgs. 108, 223, The Law of Liberty in the Spiritual Life, Evan Hopkins.
[23]             See pgs. 95-96, Evan Harry Hopkins:  A Memoir, Alexander Smellie; Hopkins’s exposition of various texts based on this erroneous view that the aorist fundamentally specifies acts that take place in “one instant of time” follows.
               Note also the chapters above dealing with Romans 7:14-25; Colossians 2:6-7; Galatians 2:20; and Hebrews 3-4.  Keswick writers misuse all of these texts and passages, as is evidenced in the quotations in those chapters.
[24]             Pg. 89, So Great Salvation, Barabas, cf. pgs. 90-92, 104.
[25]             Note the chapter above entitled “The Just Shall Live by Faith.”
[26]             Pg. 92, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[27]             At Broadlands in 1874, Mrs. Smith used Romans 6 to testify that believers are not certain to conquer, but only “can” conquer, and this merely potential conquest was something she had learned by her own experience.  She testified:  Friends, it is true, I have found it!  I have known it![”] . . . All listened with breathless attention, not least so the many clergymen who were present, and surely, each heart felt a longing to reach the place at which Mrs. Smith had arrived[.]”  Her testimony was not confirmed by an analysis of the context of the passage, but by her pleasasnt appearance:  “[S]he stood with the dark oak background, her tall figure, lifted head, and radiant countenance.  It was good to look at her, to observe her dear, beautiful face, shining hair, serene, deep-blue eyes, and absolutely natural, easy attitude, a personification of purity, joyous health, and vitality[.]”  Surely someone who looked so nice could not be wrong. (See pgs. 220-223, The Life that is Life Indeed:  Reminiscences of the Broadlands Conferences, Edna V. Jackson.  London:  James Nisbet & Co, 1910.)
[28]             The idea that God does not work in the Christian until he, some time after conversion, surrenders, reckons, and enters the Higher Life is found regularly in Mrs. Smith’s writings.  Only after “surrender” does God first begin “to work in you . . . to do of His good pleasure” (pgs. 57-60, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, Hannah W. Smith, rev. ed.  London:  F. E. Longley, 1876).

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