Friday, September 16, 2016

Keswick's Low View of Sin: in Keswick's Errors--an Analysis and Critique of So Great Salvation by Stephen Barabas, part 5 of 17

               While Keswick does warn about the evil of various sins, its advocates lead Christians to lower views of the sinfulness of man by promising those who still possess the sinful flesh “victory over all known sin.”[1]  The Keswick downgrade of human sinfulness follows the teaching of Broadlands and its successor Conventions[2] and the emphasis of Hannah W. Smith on attaining carefree happiness and freedom from feelings of guilt, while standing in in continuity with Pentecostalism.[3]  Scripture teaches that no believer short of glory loves God will all his heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37-38), is inwardly perfect, even as his heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48), or perfectly obeys other similar commandments.  A believer’s obedience to some commands, such as:  “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom” (Colossians 3:16), or “sin not” (1 Corinthians 15:34), is imperfect but progressive.  Likewise, believers can be commanded to do more of what they are already doing to some extent (1 Thessalonians 5:11).  Consequently, for a believer to affirm, with Keswick, that the “cleansing work [of] . . . the Spirit . . . to remove . . . sin . . . is as thorough as His revealing work . . . [to] reveal sin”[4] he must either suppress the Spirit’s testimony that some sins are truly sin or suppress the Spirit’s testimony to his failure to meet the Divine standard of absolute sinless perfection.[5]  The child of God can greatly rejoice that he has the privilege of drawing near to God and the power from the Holy Spirit to walk in uprightness before his Father in genuine, glorious, and progressively growing victory over sin.  Regretably, his closeness to God is hindered if, through Keswick teaching, he denys that his real failure to entirely conform to commands such as Matthew 22:37-38 or 5:48 is indeed sin.  Such failures should be known, consciously acknowledged, guarded against, and hated as sin. Murray astutely notes:
While Keswick stresses the gravity of sin, there is still an underestimation of the consequences for the believer of remaining indwelling sin[.] .  .  . Going hand in hand with this failure is a corresponding preoccupation with what it calls known sin, apparent in its definition that “the normal Christian life is one of uniform sustained victory over known sin” (pg. 84; cf. pg. 99 [of Barabas, So Great Salvation]).  If sin still dwells in the believer, if there is still the tendency to sin, if corruption has not been eradicated, all of which Keswick admits, then we ought to be always conscious of that sin.  It is not by any means a virtue to say, as Evan Hopkins says, that we need not be “conscious of that tendency” (p. 50). . . . Indwelling sin is still sin and the believer ought always to be conscious of it as such.  To fail to be conscious of it amounts either to hypocrisy or self-deception.  To have sin in us and not to be conscious of it is itself grave sin; it is culpable ignorance or culpable ignoring.  As long as sin remains there cannot be freedom from conscious sin, for the simple reason that in the person who is sensitive to the gravity of sin and to the demands of holiness this sin that remains is always reflected in consciousness.  Again, indwelling sin is defiling and it defiles the holiest of the believer’s thoughts, words, and actions.  The specifically deliberate and volitional is never immune to the defilement which proceeds from the corrupt nature and that is why the most sanctified of saints are oftentimes most acutely aware of their sinfulness just when by the power of Christ and the grace of the Holy Spirit they are engaged in the holiest of their undertakings. . . . [Indeed,] Keswick[’s] . . . liabilities . . . are related to or stem from failure to take adequate account of the implications of the presence of sin in the believer and of the effects which must follow in his consciousness.  This reflects a defective view of holiness and of its demands, which, in turn, gravely . . . impair[s] its effectiveness as a convention “for the promotion of scriptural holiness” (p. 30, [Barabas]).[6]
Similarly, Hovey writes:
[Those who] assume that God has promised to deliver them now from all sin, if they believe aright . . . [who teach] “Holiness through Faith” . . . [teach that] there is a Christian, in distinction from a divine, an angelic, or even an Adamic perfection, and [use as a proof-text that] “whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” . . . But according to this view the standard of holiness is a fluctuating one, and for aught we can see some of the followers of Christ, who have bound their fellow-Christians to the rack or the stake for what was believed to be the mortal sin of heresy, may have been acting at the time “up to the given measure of light upon their duty,” and were therefore free from sin.  The error in this view is a very dangerous one.  Faith in Christ does not, as a matter of fact, render every act which partakes of it holy.  Faith in Christ is acceptable to God, not because it makes the conduct of the believer in this life sinless, but because it unites the soul with Christ who has suffered for [him]. . . . Rahab and Samson had faith, but they were not free from sin.  And of one thing at least we may be sure—that the Scriptures nowhere teach that “whatsoever is of faith is not sin.”[7]
Keswick overvaluation of carefree happiness and freedom from guilty feelings[8] is connected with Keswick’s denial of the Biblical truth that the fact of sin should always remain in the believer’s consciousness.  John Murray notes:
The representatives of Keswick have a passionate concern for deliverance from the oppressing consciousness of sin and the dissatisfaction arising from this consciousness.  Every person who has his eye upon the goal of redemption must be aware of the oppression which sin involves and must long for deliverance from it.  But we must beware of the tendency to complacency which is the snare of perfectionism.  As long as sin remains we must have the consciousness of it and the ensuing dissatisfaction.  The more sanctified the believer becomes the more acute becomes his conviction of the sinfulness that is his, the more he loathes it and reproaches himself for it.  Here again one feels the passion for freedom from the oppressing consciousness of sin, so characteristic of Keswick leaders, betrays a lack of appreciation of what the presence of sin ought to mean in the consciousness of the believer.[9]
Christians should not aim for or be satisfied with anything less than the literal perfection set before them by the holy character of the triune God and the incarnate Son.  They ought to strive for genuine perfection in dependence upon Christ, rather then resting satisfied with the Keswick downgrade of perfection, understanding that their journey of sanctification will not reach its final goal short of glory.  Indeed, when a saint sees his failure to conform to God’s own standard of holiness as set before him in the Person of Christ, he is able to more humbly and closely walk after the Spirit (Romans 7:14-8:4).  Biblical sanctification has a deeper view of the sinfulness of sin than does the Keswick theology, leading Scriptural and non-Keswick piety to a deeper repentance for and hatred of sin, and a greater glorification of and glorying in Jesus Christ, than is possible for the adherent of Keswick (Luke 14:11).  The believer should repent, not only of his known sins, but also of his unknown sins, for the corruption of his heart, for the imputation of Adam’s sin to himself,[10] and for the corruption that adheres to even his holiest works, committing himself to his infinitely precious High Priest who bears the inquity even of his holy things (Exodus 28:38).
               Contrary to Keswick practice, a Biblical Christian spirituality recognizes that not only one’s individual and willful sins in thought, word, and deed are ungodly and require repentance, but also unintentional sin, and even the corruption within one’s best and holiest deeds, needs to be recognized and repented of.  Consequently, Biblical piety contributes to a deeper hatred and repentance for sin, and a greater joy in the glorious righteousness of Christ wrought out for the believer on account of His free grace and love, than does Keswick doctrine.  Contrast, for example, the too-shallow view of sin promited by Keswick founder Hannah W. Smith with the spirituality elucidated in the following quote by Robert Hawker:
[M]y soul[,] thou needest not to look abroad into another’s heart to see iniquity; for at home, in thine own, a voice may be heard continually proclaiming it. Renewed as thou art by grace, still thou feelest the workings of corrupt nature: and though, as the apostle said, “with thy mind thou thyself servest the law of God, yet with thy flesh the law of sin,” Romans 7:25. Pause over the solemn subject, and observe the working of a body of sin and death, which is virtually all sin: “the carnal mind, (the apostle saith) is enmity against God,” Romans 8:7; not only an enemy, but in enmity: so that the very nature is so; it is averse, naturally averse to God, and is everlastingly rising in opposition to his holy law. And this not only (as some have supposed, but all men, if they would confess the truth, find to the contrary) before a work of grace hath passed upon the soul, but after. Else wherefore doth the apostle say, “the  flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would?” Galatians 5:17. He saith this to the regenerate, to the [saints] at large. And consequently this conflict is after grace hath been manifested to the soul, and not before. A sinner unawakened may indeed feel at times compunctions of conscience, and be alarmed at what will be the consequence of his sins: but these are only the alarms of conscience, not the workings of grace: and for the most part, these alarms are but momentary. His affections are all on the side of sin. His soul still remains “dead in trespasses and sins;” and he himself, like a dead fish, swims down the stream of sin uninterrupted, without resistance, and without concern. But when a child of God is renewed, and the soul, that was before dead in trespasses and sins, becomes quickened and regenerated; then it is that the conflict between the renewed part in grace, and the unrenewed part in nature, begins, and never ends but with life. My soul, hath the Lord taught thee this, made thee sensible of it, and caused thee to groan under it? Dost thou find this heart of thine rebelling against God; cold to divine things, but warm to natural enjoyments; framing excuses to keep thee from sweet communion with the Lord; and even in the moment of communion, running with a swarm of vain thoughts, that “like the flies in the ointment of the apothecary causeth it to send forth an ill savour”? Are these in thy daily, hourly, experience? . . . Oh! precious, precious Jesus! how increasingly dear, under this view of a nature so totally corrupt, art thou to my poor soul! What but the eternal and unceasing efficacy of thy blood and righteousness could give my soul the smallest confidence, when I find that I still carry about with me such a body of sin and death? Let those who know not the plague of their own heart, talk of natural goodness; sure I am, there is nothing of the kind in me. “I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing.” And were it not, dearest Lord, for the holiness of thy person, blood, and righteousness, the very sins which mingle up with all I say or do, yea, even in prayer, would seal my condemnation. Lamb of God! it is the everlasting merit of thy atonement and intercession, thy blood sprinkled upon my person and offering, by which alone the justice of God is restrained and satisfied, and that it breaks not forth in devouring fire, as upon the sacrifice of old, to consume me upon my very knees! Blessed, blessed forever be God for Jesus Christ![11]
               Compare also the words of John Owen:
[Believers] weigh their own righteousness in the balance, and find it wanting; and this two ways: —

1.) In general, and upon the whole of the matter, at their first setting themselves before God. . . . This the saints renounce; they have no confidence in the flesh: they know that all they can do, all that the law can do, which is weak through the flesh, will not avail them. . . . This they bear in their minds daily, this they fill their thoughts withal, that upon the account of what they have done, can do, ever shall do, they cannot be accepted with God, or justified thereby. This keeps their souls humble, full of a sense of their own vileness, all their days.

2.) In particular. They daily weigh all their particular actions in the balance, and find them wanting, as to any such completeness as, upon their own account, to be accepted with God.

“Oh!” says a saint, “if I had nothing to commend me unto God but this prayer, this duty, this conquest of a temptation, wherein I myself see so many failings, so much imperfection, could I appear with any boldness before him? Shall I, then, piece up a garment of righteousness out of my best duties? Ah! it is all as a defiled cloth,” Isaiah 64:6.

These thoughts accompany them in all their duties, in their best and most choice performances: —

“Lord, what am I in my best estate? How little suitableness unto thy holiness is in my best duties! O spare me, in reference to the best thing that ever I did in my life!” Nehemiah 13:22.

When a man who lives upon convictions has got some enlargements in duties, some conquest over a sin or temptation, he hugs himself, like Micah when he had got a Levite to be his priest: now surely it shall be well with him, now God will bless him: his heart is now at ease; he has peace in what he has done. But he who has communion with Christ, when he is highest in duties of sanctification and holiness, is clearest in the apprehension of his own unprofitableness, and rejects every thought that might arise in his heart of setting his peace in them, or upon them. He says to his soul, “Do these things seem something to thee? Alas! thou hast to do with an infinitely righteous God, who looks through and through all that vanity, which thou art but little acquainted withal; and should he deal with thee according to thy best works, thou must perish.”

3.) They approve of, value, and rejoice in, this righteousness, for their acceptation, which the Lord Jesus has wrought out and provided for them; this being discovered to them, they approve of it with all their hearts, and rest in it. Isaiah 45:24, “Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength.” This is their voice and language, when once the righteousness of God in Christ is made known unto them: “Here is righteousness indeed; here have I rest for my soul. Like the merchant man in the gospel (Matthew 13:45,46) that finds the pearl of price, I had been searching up and down; I looked this and that way for help, but it was far away; I spent my strength for that which was not bread: here is that, indeed, which makes me rich for ever!” When first the righteousness of Christ, for acceptation with God, is revealed to a poor laboring soul, that has fought for rest and has found none, he is surprised and amazed, and is not able to contain himself: and such a one always in his heart approves this righteousness . . . [a]s full of infinite wisdom . . . as full of grace. He knows that sin had shut up the whole way of grace towards him; and whereas God aims at nothing so much as the manifestation of his grace, he was utterly cut short of it. Now, to have a complete righteousness provided, and yet abundance of grace manifested, exceedingly delights the soul; —to have God’s dealing with his person all grace, and dealing with his righteousness all justice, takes up his thoughts.[12]
Indeed, since Hannah W. Smith and many advocates of Keswick who followerd her rejected justification by imputed righteousness, not only was their view of sin too low, but their valuation of Christ’s cross and righteousness were similarly blighted.

See here for this entire study.

[1]              Pg. 20, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[2]              Victory over all known sin” was the stated aim of the Broadlands Convention (pg. 21, The Keswick Story:  The Authorized History of the Keswick Convention, Polluck).
[3]              Pg. 235, A Theology of the Holy Spirit:  The Pentecostal Experience and the New Testament Witness, F. D. Bruner.
[4]              Pg. 55, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[5]              Baptist seminary professor Alvah Hovey noted:
[Those who] claim to be saved from conscious transgression . . . lower the standard of holiness prescribed by the law of God, until it agrees with their own experience. . . . [T]he requirements of the divine law are so comprehensive and spiritual that no man can test his inward life by that law, without perceiving that he is a transgressor.  If he fails to meet the exact, the utmost demands of that law, as set before him in the Scriptures, he is not saved from conscious transgression.  When, for example, he is commanded to be holy, because God is holy, the standard is one of absolute moral perfection; and, measuring himself and others by it, he will see that the words of Christ are profoundly true, ‘There is none good but one, that is, God;’ as if Christ had said to the young ruler [of Matthew 19:16-22], ‘By comparing yourself with any man, however upright and devout, you compare yourself with one who is morally imperfect, with a sinner; while the only true standard or right character for man is the holy character of God.’  The same result will be reached, if he tests himself by the two great commands of the law:  ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind;’ and, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’  For what is it to love God with all the heart, and soul, and mind?  It is to love him as purely and intensely and constantly as a being of the same capacity, but without the least taint of evil in the heart to weaken, cloud, or interrupt the ardors of holy affection, could love him.  It is to love him with the whole force of the soul, undiminished by the least remnant of selfishness. . . . [T]he law of God, as set forth in the Bible, require[s] of all a life without sin; for it commands them to be perfect or holy, while it brings forward the character of God as the standard of holiness. . . . And there is no greater absurdity in religion than to suppose that the standard of holiness has been lowered for the servants of Christ. (pgs. 59-62, 125, Doctrine of the Higher Christian Life Compared With the Teaching of the Holy Scriptures, by Alvah Hovey)
[6]              Pgs. 283, 286, Collected Writings of John Murray, Vol. 4, a review of So Great Salvation, Barabas.  Italics in original.
[7]              Pgs. 108-110, Doctrine of the Higher Christian Life Compared With the Teaching of the Holy Scriptures, by Alvah Hovey.
[8]              See, e. g., Hannah W. Smith’s paradigmatic Keswick classic, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life.
[9]              Pg. 286, Collected Writings of John Murray, Vol. 4, a review of So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[10]             E. g., Psalm 51:5-6 records David’s lament over his sin in Adam.  On the Biblical basis for repenting of original sin, see pgs. 267-285, Sermons to the Natural Man, William G. T. Shedd (New York: Charles Scribner & Co., 1871); pgs. 39-42, The Works of David Clarkson, David Clarkson, Vol. 1 (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1864) & pgs. 292-313, Vol. 3, Ibid; pgs. 324-376, The Works of Thomas Goodwin, Thomas Goodwin, Vol. 10 (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1865).
[11]       May 10, The Poor Man’s Morning and Evening Portions, Robert Hawker.
[12]             Chapter 8, “How the Saints Hold Communion with Christ as to their Acceptation with God,” in Of Communion with God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, John Owen.

1 comment:

KJB1611 said...

I would be interested in hearing the views of readers on how the difference between an upright heart (Biblical) and freedom from the consciousness of all known sin (unbiblical) has played out in their spiritual lives. It certainly has an effect.