Friday, October 14, 2016

Keswick's Corrupt Gospel: in Keswick's Errors--an Analysis and Critique of So Great Salvation by Stephen Barabas, part 7 of 17

Keswick adopted the error of the Broadlands Conference[1] and its successors[2] that Christians can be justified but unsanctified[3] if they do not enter into the secret of the Higher Life.  The related Keswick weakness, likewise adopted from Broadlands,[4] on saving repentance[5] and surrender to the Lordship of Christ at the point of the new birth and the necessity of a conscious and clear conversion[6] is another fearful error.  Keswick’s related idea that Christians can be brought into bondage to sin in the same way that unsaved people are under the dominion of sin[7] is similarly erroneous and very dangerous. God swears in the New Covenant:  “I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people” (Hebrews 8:10).  Scripture promises the saints:  “[S]in shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14).  Indeed, this blessed promise undergirds the command to the believer to yield to God (6:13).  Thus, when Keswick affirms that “such sins as . . . falsehood, theft, corrupt speech, bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour, railing, [and] malice[,] may gain such dominion over [believers] that [they] forfeit [their] freedom, and . . . become like a second nature”[8] it is clearly in error.  Indeed, based on Romans 6:13-14, such Keswick teaching hinders believers from yielding to God by taking away from them the precious promise that sin will not dominate them.  Keswick follows Robert P. Smith and the Oxford Convention[9] in teaching that Christians “are to be freed from the dominion of sin,”[10] but Scripture states that Christians are freed from the dominion of sin (Romans 6:14).  The Christian’s freedom from sin is actual, not merely potential.[11]  It is a blessed fact that Keswick is in error when it declares that “a Christian . . . [can] become an entire worldling.”[12]  The power of the Son is greater than what is stated in Keswick theology:  “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).[13]  There are no exceptions—Hallelujah!
               Keswick fails to warn strongly about the possibility of professing believers not truly being regenerate, although this is a clearly Biblical theme (Matthew 7:21-23; 2 Corinthians 13:5; Hebrews 12:15).  It adopted its unscriptural practice because Hannah and Robert P. Smith rejected self-examination, following Madame Guyon and other reprobates.  Their rejection of self-examination passed from Broadlands[14] through the Oxford and Brighton Conventions into Keswick.[15] Keswick also adopts a dangerous teaching when, following Robert and Hannah W. Smith,[16] it states, without any explanation or qualification,[17] that “some are regenerated without knowing when.”[18]  What is more, its unbiblical concept that believers can be justified but not sanctified, coupled with its rejection of separatism and its stand with broad Protestantism, rather than with Biblical Baptist churches composed of visible saints, leads Keswick to make statements such as the following:
Christians . . . not advancing in holiness at all . . . [is] widely prevalent . . . [or] almost universal[.] . . . The vast majority of Christians . . . [are] apparently . . . making no advance or increase at all . . . [but live in] defeat and failure . . . full of futile wanderings, never enjoying peace and rest . . . their own spiritual condition absolutely unsatisfactory . . . stop[ping] short in their experience of the blessings of salvation with the . . . forgiveness of past sins and with the hope of Heaven.[19]
The idea that the “vast majority of Christians” never grow but live in an “absolutely unsatisfactory” spiritual condition is a very dangerous misdiagnosis of the spiritual need of the generality of Protestant church members, who are lost and who need to be truly converted and then to separate from their false religious denominations and be baptized into historic Baptist congregations.[20]  Such people need spiritual life, not Higher Life preaching.  Backslidden saints are certainly a serious problem, which should not be minimized.  However, neither should the Biblical fact that all believers will be different or the possibility of false profession be neglected.  Keswick’s setting aside of Biblical self-examination, its teaching that the vast majority of Christians make no advance in spiritual life at all, and its many other weaknesses on the nature and power of the gospel, are extremely spiritually dangerous.  Many are in hell today because of these toxic Keswick errors.

See here for this entire study.

[1]              E. g., at Broadlands people who were allegedly already true Christians came to a post-conversion point where “they took Christ to be their Saviour, not only from the guilt but [also] from the power and practice of sin” (pg. 125, Memorials [of William Francis Cowper-Temple, Baron Mount-Temple], Georgina Cowper-Temple.  London:  Printed for private circulation, 1890).  Broadlands affirmed that one could be spiritually alive and yet manifest no outward evidences of it whatsoever (pg. 249, Ibid.).  Then again, since as a Quaker universalist Mrs. H. P. Smith believed that every man on earth has spiritual life because of the Divine Seed in him, yet it is painfully obvious that the vast majority of men do not live holy lives, the effete impotence of the Broadlands and Keswick view of spiritual life is very easily explicable.
[2]              For example, at the Oxford Convention:
[The] testimonies all agreed in this, that the speakers had not for a greater or less period after their conversion experimentally known the secret of victory, and that consequently for a longer or shorter time their Christian lives had been full of failure and defeat; but that at last they had been taught either directly by the Spirit through the Scriptures, or through the testimony of others—that the Lord Jesus Christ was able and willing to deliver them, not only from the guilt of their sins, but also from their power [for He had not delivered them from the power of sin at their conversion]; . . . [t]he convincing nature of these testimonies, and the Scriptural teaching that was brought forward, seemed to carry the truth home to many hearts[.] (pgs. 290-291, Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, Held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874. Chicago:  Revell, 1874)
[3]              “The Disjunction Between Justification and Sanctification in Contemporary Evangelical Theology,” by William W. Combs (Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal 6 (Fall 2001) 17-44), provides a useful overview of the historical development of the concept that justification and sanctification may be divided and offers a critique of this erroneous and dangerous theological affirmation.
[4]              Thus, e. g., “Lord Mount-Temple was not only a believer but a disciple” (pg. 44, The Life that is Life Indeed:  Reminiscences of the Broadlands Conferences, Edna V. Jackson.  London:  James Nisbet & Co, 1910), for one could be the former without being the latter.  A Broadlands evangelistic appeal could be, not to repentance and faith in the finished work of the crucified and risen Christ, but to “Come to God . . . for the forgiveness of sins, which all might have, who really desired and asked for it” (pg. 224, The Life that is Life Indeed:  Reminiscences of the Broadlands Conferences, Edna V. Jackson.  London:  James Nisbet & Co, 1910).  If, in Broadlands teaching, men are lost at all—and such is very, very far from clear, so that an eternal hell, for example, is not to be mentioned—salvation allegedly comes by asking, rather than, as in the Bible, by the instrumentality of repentant faith alone, whether one asks or not.
[5]              Early Keswick weakness on repentance carries over to modern advocates of classic Keswick theology.  For example, modern Keswick evangelist John R. Van Gelderen misdefines the primary verb in the NT for repentance, metanoeo, as merely “to change one’s mind,” and then argues that to “make repentance more than this exchange of ways of thinking is to make repentance something additional to the other side of the theological coin of faith . . . this violates the usage of Scripture.”  Consequently:  “If repent means turning from sins, why did Jesus die?” (; cf. pgs. 190-200, The Evangelist, the Evangel and Evangelism, John R. Van Gelderen).  Contrast Ezekiel 33:11; Revelation 16:11; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10, etc.
[6]              Thus, e. g., at Broadlands three stages in spiritual life were set forth—but not one of the three was genuine conversion.  One could have spiritual life, “advance to higher life” and ascend the three-fold spiritual ladder with a conversion that was as clear as the mudpit of a sinner’s unregenerate life, or without any conversion and regeneration at all (pgs. 191-193, The Life that is Life Indeed:  Reminiscences of the Broadlands Conferences, Edna V. Jackson.  London:  James Nisbet & Co, 1910).  After all, as the Quakers taught, the supernatural impartation of a new nature in regeneration and conversion were unnecessary—all men have the Divine Seed, and they thus do not need and ought not to be evangelically converted.
[7]              In light of the fact that Hannah W. Smith confused conversion with mental assent to the doctrine of justification by faith alone, and both she and her husband, the theological sources of the Keswick theology, were unconverted, it is not surprising that Keswick downplays the power and certainty of the change associated with true conversion.  The influence on Keswick of Anglicanism, a denomination teeming with religious but unconverted people, and of Quakerism, which denied the necessity of conversion at all, also make it easy to understand how the weakness of the Keswick doctrine of regeneration and conversion developed.  The demons called up by Lord and Lady Mount Temple at Broadlands would also have offered mighty supernatural assistance in perverting of the gospel (cf. Matthew 13:19).
[8]              Pg. 47, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[9]              E. g., on pg. 153, Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, Held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874. Chicago:  Revell, 1874, Robert P. Smith teaches that Christians are under the dominion of sin until they “accept the glorious emancipation” offered in the Higher Life, an affirmation he supports by forcing Romans 6:14 to mean exactly the opposite of what it actually states.  The “saint . . . having been freed from the guilt of sin,” is then to “com[e] to Christ to be freed from its power” (pg. 43, Ibid).
[10]             Pg. 63, So Great Salvation, Barabas.  Compare the misrepresentation by William Boardman:  The bulk of professing Christians . . . [are] indifferent, or opposed to the glorious truth that Jesus can deliver from the dominion of sin,” but the minority who enter the Higher Life discover that “sin had no longer dominion over them” (pgs. 58, 141, Life and Labours of the Rev. W. E. Boardman, Mrs. Boardman).
[11]             John Murray notes:
While Keswick . . . places a much-needed emphasis upon Paul’s teaching in Romans 6, there is at the same time shortcoming in the interpretation and application of this passage and of others of like import.  The freedom from the dominion of sin of which Paul speaks is the actual possession of every one who is united to Christ.  It is not merely positional victory which every believer has secured (cf. pp. 84ff. [in Barabas]).  When Paul says in Romans 6:14, “Sin shall not have dominion over you,” he is making an affirmation of certainty with respect to every person who is under the reigning power of grace and therefore with respect to every one who is united to Christ. . . . This victory . . . is the once-for-all gift of God’s grace in uniting us to Christ in the virtue of his death and resurrection.  But it is not simply positional, far less is it potential; it is actual.  And because it is actual it is experimental. . . . It is true that there are differing degrees in which the implications of this freedom from the dominion of sin are realized in experience.  In other words, there are differing degrees in which the “reckoning” to which Paul exhorts in Romans 6 is applied and brought to expression in the life and experience of believers.  But the victory over sin is not secured by the “reckoning”; it is secured by virtue of union with Christ [at the time of] . . . initial faith . . . and is therefore the possession of every believer, however tardy may be his advance in the path of progressive sanctification.  Reckoning ourselves to be dead indeed unto sin but alive unto God is not the act of faith whereby victory is achieved; this reckoning is the reflex act and presupposes the deliverance of which Paul speaks in Romans 6:14.  If we fail to take account of this basic and decisive breach with sin, specifically with the rule and power of sin, which occurs when a person is united to Christ in the initial saving response to the gospel, it is an impoverished and distorted view of salvation in Christ that we entertain and our doctrine of sanctification is correspondingly impaired. (pgs. 284-285, Collected Writings of John Murray, Vol. 4, reviewing So Great Salvation, Barabas)
[12]             Pg. 56, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[13]             The Keswick affirmation that “there are . . . two kinds of Christians . . . depending upon whether the flesh or the Spirit is in control in their lives” (pg. 54, So Great Salvation, Barabas) is also liable to abuse.  Certainly some Christians are right with God and walking in sweet and conscious fellowship with Him, while others are backslidden.  To affirm, however, that an underclass of Christian exists in whom “sin and failure are still master” and for whom “it is impossible to receive spiritual truth” (pg. 54) is simply false.  Those who cannot know spiritual truth are the unregenerate, not an alleged Christian underclass (1 Corinthians 2:14).  Furthermore, one wonders how any backslider could ever be reclaimed, if for believers who have fallen into sin, it is “impossible” to receive spiritual truth.  Nor does 1 Corinthians 3:1ff. establish that sin is still the master in some Christians—it simply affirms that Corinthian believers were allowing sinful envying and divisiveness in their ranks.  Paul could tell the very same assembly that they had been freed from the dominion of sin and been changed by God a few chapters later in the same letter (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).  First Corinthians 3:1ff. does not by any means establish that sin is still the master of some of the regenerate, or that it is impossible for some true believers to receive spiritual truth.  The idea of a distinct class of Christian, “the ‘carnal’ Christian [who] is . . . characterized  by a walk that is on the same plane as that of the ‘natural’ man . . . [whose] objectives and affections are centered in the same unspiritual sphere as that of the ‘natural’ man” (pgs. 10-12, He That is Spiritual, Lewis Sperry Chafer, rev. ed.), that is, a class of “Christian” that is just like the unregenerate, is a fiction not taught in 1 Corinthians 3 or in any other portion of the Bible.
[14]             The Broadlands Conference followed Hannah W. Smith to affirm:  “Those who love have Him whether they recognize it or not” (pg. 239, The Life that is Life Indeed:  Reminiscences of the Broadlands Conferences, Edna V. Jackson.  London:  James Nisbet & Co, 1910), so self-examination concerning whether one had consciously been converted was certainly unnecessary.
[15]             E. g., the Oxford Convention proclaimed as truth:  “Madame Guyon said, ‘Let us have no self-reflective acts’” (pg. 107, Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, Held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874. Chicago:  Revell, 1874).  Robert P. Smith stated:  “Let us have no retrospective acts,” since when “we have given up ourselves to a life of full consecration and faith, we need not now be analysing our experience” (pgs. 275, 323, Ibid), an error that helped both Mr. and Mrs. Smith remain without true conversion and which allowed them to adopt and spread the erotic Bridal Baptism heresy.
[16]             E. g., Robert Smith preached “some do not know the hour of their conversion” while setting forth his doctrine of post-conversion Spirit baptism (pg. 251, Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, Held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874. Chicago:  Revell, 1874), and testimonies of those who received “the baptism of the Holy Spirit” through “Mr. Smith’s address” but “cannot remember . . . [their] conversion” were considered valuable enough witness to the truth of his doctrine to be printed and publicly distributed in the standard record of the Oxford Convention (pg. 384, Account of the Union Meeting for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness, Held at Oxford, August 29 to September 7, 1874. Chicago:  Revell, 1874).  William Boardman likewise downplayed the importance of knowing the time of one’s conversion; see pg. 149, Life and Labours of the Rev. W. E. Boardman, Mrs. Boardman.
[17]             No one would dispute that a believer who has a serious head injury and loses his memory, including that of his conversion experience, is still saved.  Under other limited sets of circumstances it is possible that a genuine convert might not know when he was born again.  For example, a person might, with his whole heart, recognize his lost condition and come to Jesus Christ in repentant faith, but later conclude that he was not really converted, believe he was lost, and therefore seek to repent and believe again to receive pardon.  Such a one might be unsure, looking back, on which occasion he really was saved.  However, in light of the conscious workings of the mind and will associated with repentance and faith, and the radical transformation involved in regeneration, one who has been born again will almost certainly know when this change took place.  It is most unusual that one could repent, be given a new heart and a new nature, pass from being God’s enemy to being His dear child, and receive all the other effects of salvation without knowing about it.  The convert who cannot remember when he came to Christ in repentant faith and was regenerated should be about as rare as the husband who cannot remember or say anything about what happened on his wedding day.  Likewise, the paedobaptist error, afflicting many Reformed churches, that allows people to allegedly have salvation “sealed” to them by infant baptism so that they do not need to know when they were regenerated but can assume that it happened at some point as long as they live a moral life, and other common errors that fill the world with unconverted people who claim they have been regenerated, but do not know when, must be warned of and cried out against—but Barabas provides no such cautions, instead simply making the unqualified statement that people can be regenerated and not know when the new birth and their conversion took place.
[18]             Pg. 124, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[19]             Pgs. 67-68, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[20]             Unregenerate Protestants would certainly not be helped by those Higher Life preachers who denied the necessity of being converted and regenerated at a particular moment of time and taught instead the extremely dangerous error of gradual conversion, as was proclaimed, e. g., at the Brighton Convention:  “Some are suddenly converted, others gradually; and perhaps in each case of conversion there has been a blending of both gradual and sudden work.  There has been a [converting] work going on gradually, perhaps through years of our life” (pg. 203, Record of the Convention for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness Held at Brighton, May 29th to June 7th, 1875. Brighton: W. J. Smith, 1875).

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