Friday, March 03, 2017

Keswick's Unintelligibility #2 & Summary: in Keswick's Errors--an Analysis and Critique of So Great Salvation by Stephen Barabas, part 17 of 17

Further illuminating the tension between Keswick’s attempt to affirm both its standard model of sanctification and classical orthodoxy, Barabas states:  “Much is made by Keswick of sanctification as a crisis.  It is true, Keswick says, that sanctification invariably begins at regeneration.  There can be no question about this.  On the other hand, many Christians do not make the progress in sanctification that they should. . . . For this reason real progress is often not made until they come to a spiritual crisis.”[1]  Affirming that sanctification invariably begins at regeneration is certainly Scriptural.  For that matter, declaring that many Christians do not grow as much as they should could only be improved by stating that no Christian grows as much as he really ought to.  Keswick is to be applauded for affirming with the Scriptures and historic Baptist doctrine that sanctification begins with regeneration, but the nature of this pre-crisis sanctification is difficult to determine on characteristic Keswick theological presuppositions.  Furthermore, if “real progress” fails only “often” to take place without a crisis, then sometimes “real progress” does, in fact, occur without a crisis.  If Barabas means what he says, then Keswick concedes that sanctification always begins at justification and that believers can grow in a great way without ever having a post-conversion crisis experience of the sort that the Convention emphasizes.
What, then, becomes of the Keswick criticism of those who, affirming the certainty of sanctification for all the regenerate with no Keswick crisis is required, allegedly believe that growth is “automatic”?[2]  How can Keswick unite its concession to the clear teaching of the Bible that no post-conversion crisis is necessary with its typical doctrine that “sanctification is a process beginning with a crisis”?[3]  How can sanctification both begin at regeneration, and yet not begin until one experiences a crisis sometime after regeneration?  The tension between these positions is unmistakable in Barabas’s successive quotations from Evan Hopkins and Andrew Murray.  Hopkins affirmed:  “No one . . . can be really trusting Christ to save him from the penalty of sin who is not as sincerely desiring to be saved from its power. . . . The essence of conversion is the turning away from sin unto God.  The soul that truly receives forgiveness is set also upon holiness.”  Murray stated:  “[V]ery many Christians at conversion . . . never think of saying that they are no more going to have their own will . . . there is real need [therefore, after conversion], to put one’s whole life under the management of Jesus.”[4]  Barabas states later that “so many . . . Christians . . . have never faced a crisis in their lives—a crisis involving who will be the master of their lives:  they themselves, or Christ,”[5] and that “not many . . . Christians . . . know what is meant by [Christ’s] lordship over their lives.”[6]  How is it possible that someone can turn from sin, desiring to be saved from its power and become holy, as Hopkins said was necessary, while not even thinking about renoouncing self-will, without putting his life under the management of Christ, and without deciding who will be the master of his life, as Murray affirms is common?  Is this another instance where Keswick’s lack of “carefully prepared, weighty discourses of a theological nature”[7] places its system in at least apparent contradiction, so that a demonstration of how such affirmations can be reconciled is required, but lacking?   Or is the fact of the matter rather that the Keswick theology is truly contradictory,[8] caught between the teaching of Scripture that all who are justified are also changed and the development of its system from its historical roots in the Broadlands Conference and in Higher Life ideas that dilute the power of regeneration to exalt a post-conversion crisis at which alone sanctification is initiated?  The Keswick doctrine of sanctification as process is both underemphasized and unintelligible.[9]
Keswick theology rightly exalts the Lord Jesus Christ, His power to sanctify sinners, and the necessity of faith in the Christian life.  Its call to immediate surrender to God and the renunciation of sin are Scriptural, as are its emphasis upon union with Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit, prayer, and evangelism.  However, while these aspects of the Keswick theology are Biblical, refreshing, and key to an increase in spiritual life, they are not unique to Keswick, as vast numbers of Christians who reject Keswick theology embrace them also.  On the other hand, the problems in the Keswick theology are severe.  Because of its corrupt roots, Keswick seriously errs in many ways:  1.) in its ecumenical tendencies, 2.) in its theological shallowness or even incomprehensibility, 3.) in its neglect of the role of the Word of God in sanctification, 4.) in its shallow views of sin and perfectionism, 5.) in its support of some tenants of Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism, 6.) in its improper divorce of justification and sanctification, 7.) in its confusion about the nature of saving repentance, 8.) in its denial that God’s sanctifying grace always frees Christians from bondage to sin and changes them, 9.) in its failure to warn strongly about the possibility of those who are professedly Christians being unregenerate, 10.) in its support for an unbiblical pneumatology, 11.) in its belief in the continuation of the sign gifts, 12.) in its maintainance of significant exegetical errors, 13.) in its distortion of the positions and critiques of opponents of the errors of Keswick, 14.) in its misrepresention of the nature of faith in sanctification, 15.) in its support for a kind of Quietism, and 16.) in its denial that God actually renews the nature of the believer to make him more personally holy.  Thus, Keswick theology differs in important ways from the Biblical doctrine of sanctification.  It should be rejected.

[1]              Pg. 86, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[2]              A non-Higher Life, historic Baptist doctrine of sanctification denies that Christian growth is “automatic.”  It affirms that “voluntary agency” is involved in sanctification, so that, as Hovey explains:
[A] believer’s progress in sanctification must therefore be determined in no small degree by his readiness to obey the commands of Christ. It is not, then, surprising that some are far in advance of others . . . growth is not uniform through all the periods of Christian life. . . . [There are] times, therefore, when growth seems to be arrested . . . [and] also times of manifest and rapid advance . . . and these times would be far more frequent if Christians were more given to prayer and labor. (pgs. 135-137, Doctrine of the Higher Christian Life Compared With the Teaching of the Holy Scriptures, Alvah Hovey)
For that matter, the classic evangelical Protestant doctrine of sanctification likewise denies that sanctification is “automatic.”  While there may be someone on earth who believes that sanctification is in truth automatic, if Keswick represents its opponents as advocates of an automatic sanctification, it misrepresents the overwhelming majority of them.
[3]              Pg. 110, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[4]              Pg. 112, So Great Salvation, Barabas, quoting Hopkins from The Life of Faith, August 1890, pg. 141, and Murray from What Full Surrender Means, pg. 9.
[5]              Pg. 124, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[6]              Pg. 143, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[7]              Pg. 51, So Great Salvation, Barabas.
[8]              Barabas is not alone in setting forth the contradictory character of the Keswick doctrine of sanctification as process.  Althouse notes:  “Thus, in the Keswick articulation of sanctification, a tension existed between the crisis and the progressive” (“Wesleyan and Reformed Impulses in the Keswick and Pentecostal Movements,” Peter Althouse.  Pneuma Foundation).
[9]              For a study of the question of whether Keswick critics misrepresent the movement, or whether Keswick doctrine is itself contradictory and unintelligible, see the chapter, “Do Keswick Critics Misunderstand Keswick Theology?”

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