Tuesday, October 25, 2016

An Analysis and Review of Kevin Bauder's "Landmarkism", pt. 3

Part One, Part Two

Kevin Bauder addresses the presupposition for church successionism by dealing with Matthew 16:18, treating it as the proof text for the position.  I don't mind calling it Baptist successionism, because Baptists can trace their lineage to Jerusalem.  Succession implies an unbroken line of continuity and perpetuity suggests the permanence of the institution.  If the institution is permanent, then some kind of succession had to occur.  Folks like myself believe that true churches always existed through every generation of every century, succeeding one upon another.  Why?  Like Bauder says about us, because we believe the Bible says that would happen.  When God says something will occur, we believe it will occur, because it always does when He says it will.

To start, since I'm someone who believes successionism, I can say that Matthew 16:18 isn't the sole passage from which I take this position.  I see it elsewhere in scripture.  A case is built in the New Testament by more than Matthew 16:18.  For instance, Paul in 1 Timothy 4:1 writes "that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith."  How is "the faith" or "the truth" kept?  The latter times are this entire age since the completion of the New Testament through the coming of the Lord, and only "some shall depart from the faith," not all.  The faith or the truth is kept by the church, "the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim 3:15).  The some will be in the church, which has pastors and deacons (1 Tim 3). They that gladly receive His Word are added to the church (Acts 2:41, 1 Thess 2:13).

Jesus is with His church through His Spirit, and He does walk in the midst of His churches during the church age (Revelation 1:19-2:1).  He promised not to leave His church in this age (Matthew 28:18-20).  Not being in His church is not being with Him (1 John 2:19).

As you read the book of Revelation unfold, taking it literally or conversationally, plain meaning, you see Revelation 2 and 3 as representative of the church age.  True churches will continue through the church age up until the coming of the Lord.  For them not to do so or not to be so would require a total apostasy by sheer definition.  The Holy Spirit is restraining, so as not to result in a total apostasy (1 Thess 2:1-10).  A church, like the church at Corinth, is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 3:16-17).  Paul says that the church through the Lord's Table would show the Lord's death until He comes (1 Cor 11:26), the Lord's Table an ordinance of the church.  A church would show the Lord's death through His Table until the Lord comes.

The Gates of Hell

Bauder is stretching in order not to have Matthew 16:18 teach perpetuity and succession.  It's a promise.  "The gates of hell shall not prevail against" His ("my church") church.  Here's how Bauder gets there.  He says (p. 205), "Jesus' promise means that death will not have the last word."  He concludes that the "gates of Hell" is death, so "not prevail" means the church will bodily resurrect. That's a very narrow understanding of a verse that doesn't sound like what Jesus says in the context.  It's forcing a particular understanding on the text.  The text doesn't say that.  You've got to read that in to get it out.

Jesus says He will build His church.  The gates of Hell shall not prevail.  Not prevailing reads like it relates to Jesus continuing to edify (oikodomeo) His church.  I'm fine with "Hell," hades, meaning "death."  Bauder turns this into teaching on a "universal church," because the way that death would prevail over the church has to be over the possibility of someone getting to heaven when he dies.  People would still make it to heaven, despite death, he's saying.  That doesn't read like a plain meaning of Matthew 16:18.

I believe that the "gates of Hell" can and should be "death."  However, I see it as that there isn't any gate that can hold back the church, even death.  Not even death, as a chief tool of Satan (Heb 2:14) can stop the church.  As people die, His church will continue existing.  If Satan wants to kill people even, that won't stop the church.  It will keep going.  It will prevail.  The devil uses death as a tool in numerous ways, but it won't work.  That's a promise.  We've seen it born out in history, even as the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.  Death seems to result in propagation of the church, not its demise.

To isolate the prevailing of the church merely to be arriving in Heaven through bodily resurrection does not follow naturally in the text.  Again, it reads as forced.  A church is built on the earth.  If that is not prevailed upon by death, held back by death, then that is to say that death will not stop the church from being built.

The word translated "shall prevail" (used with the negative) is found twice in the New Testament, also in Luke 23:23.  In the Luke passage, the people crying for Jesus' crucifixion, including the chief priests, prevailed.  That means that their plans worked.  Jesus was crucified.  In the same fashion, Jesus' building of His church would not be stopped by death.  That reads like perpetuity and succession to me, especially in light of other thoughts expressed.

Jesus ties authority to this prevailing and the continuation of the building of His church in Matthew 16:19 with giving Peter ("thee," singular) the keys of the kingdom.  People will keep being bound to the church, which does occur through salvation and baptism (immersion) [Acts 2:41]. The church has authority to bind, the means by which the church will continue to be built, despite people dying. Death won't stop His church, which is that it won't stop His churches.

The One Body and a System of Interpretation

What you will see as you read Bauder's chapter is that his problem with landmarkism is mainly its denial of a universal church.  To prove the universal church, Bauder relies on 1 Corinthians 12:13. His heading for this is "The One Body."  He is saying that when 1 Corinthians 12:13 says "one body," it means numeric one.  He assumes numeric one without proof.  Bauder also then sets apart "a majority of Baptists" from "Landmark Baptists" in the belief in a universal, invisible church.  Bauder might be right that a majority of Baptists today believe in a universal, invisible church.  I don't know -- maybe right now, they do.  He doesn't prove that they always have or even that they do.  There are a lot of Southern, independent, and unaffiliated Baptists who are local only in their ecclesiology.

A major flaw through history in the interpretation of scripture has been the error of spiritualizing or allegorizing scripture.  It is a highly subjective kind of interpretation that was embraced by Roman Catholicism.  The universal, invisible church doctrine started with Roman Catholicism, proceeding from its system of intepretation.  The "universal, invisible church" arose from an allegorization of scripture.  The doctrine perpetuated itself in other denominations through the Protestant Reformation.  A lot of Roman Catholic doctrine was retained in Protestantism, including the same allegorization of scripture in many instances.  Allegorization tends toward liberalism, because someone can easily make scripture to mean whatever he wants it to mean -- in other words, it is highly subjective.

There are many reasons to reject a "universal church," including the meaning of the word ekklesia, and then its usage.  There is no grammatical basis for a universal, invisible church in the New Testament.  Every singular use of the word ekklesia ("church") should be understood as a particular or a generic. Those are the two grammatical, objective choices for a singular noun.  A sort of platonic use of the singular noun is an invention that entered into church dogma long after the completion of the New Testament, emerging from neoplatonism.  I understand that Baptists have picked up this false teaching, just like they have acquired other false teachings, including false gospels.

My take on what has been called landmarkism is that it is a stand against a false view of the church, perpetuated by Roman Catholicism and continued in Protestantism.  Men just put their foot down and said, it's not going to continue.  We're stopping it right here if we can.

Through its system of interpretation, intended to justify a Catholic church, Roman Catholicism embraced a wrong soteriology, eschatology, and ecclesiology.  When the Protestant Reformation came along, because men could read the Bible on their own, they made some necessary corrections in soteriology, but they continued to embrace a very subjective eschatology and ecclesiology.  It's why the Reformers maintained their own version of the state church.

Bauder and others continue to embrace a corruption of biblical ecclesiology, except in a spiritualized form, which takes away from the authority of New Testament churches.  It is one of the most dangerous and damaging doctrines existent today.  Bauder continues to push and promote it in this chapter, repudiating a scriptural position on the church.

Based on my own observation, I see the universal church as a practical necessity for the multitude of parachurch organizations in evangelicalism and fundamentalism.  It also allows men to be free agents, functioning without the authority of churches.  This exponentially grows false doctrine and spreads error.  It feeds off of pride.  Men like being bigger than the church, taking almost apostolic like authority in a larger way.  This was already occurring, it seems, in the first century, perhaps the doctrine of Nicolaitanism (people conquerors).  Church authority became hierarchical.  Individual churches lost their autonomy.  This "greater authority" manipulates and influences pastors and churches in their attempts to fit into the larger sphere or domain.

Bauder sees most Baptists as "universal church."  I said it might be true today.  However, he especially sees the popularity of this in academia and in published materials.  Those two have functioned outside of the parameters of the church.  They justify their own existence with the doctrine of the universal church.  This doctrine is very attractive to those who want to be included in that realm.

In the end, religion will be controlled by a universal church with the Antichrist at its head.  To get there, individual and local autonomy must be broken down.  The universal church idea is what feeds that and will lead to that one world church.

I'll be writing more as this series continues.

Monday, October 24, 2016

An Analysis and Review of Kevin Bauder's "Landmarkism", pt. 2

Part One

Contrary to Kevin Bauder, local only ecclesiology did not originate with "landmarkism" and J. R. Graves in the mid 19th century.  First, the church is local only in the New Testament.  Second, first century Clement of Rome provides patristic testimony to local-only ecclesiology.  Third, very early orthodox, printed doctrinal statements support a local only position. Read The Schleitheim Confession of 1527, the Discipline of the Church, 1527, and Ridemann's Rechenschaft, 1540, and you will see no universal ecclesiology, only local.  Fourth, other notable Baptists teach local only.  John Smyth in 1608 writes:
That the church of Christ is a company of the faithful; baptized after confession of sin and of faith, endowed with the power of Christ.
The statement by Baptist forefather Obadiah Holmes in 1675 is local only:
I believe the church of Christ, or this company gathered, are bound to wait on the Lord for the Spirit to help them, and have liberty, and are under duty, that they may prophesy one by one.
Isaac Backus in his A Discourse Concerning the Materials, the Manner of Building and Power of Organizing of the Church of Christ in 1773 wrote:
Is any other visible church-state instituted in the gospel, but a particular one? The church spoken of by our Lord in Mat. 18.15,—18, is such an one as a brother can tell his grievance to; and whoever thought that could be to any other than a particular community? The seven churches of Asia are spoken to by their great Head, not as one national or provincial church, but as so many distinct churches, who are commended, or reproved by him, according as their works were, in each particular community.
I'm not going to try to do better than what Thomas Williamson does here on exposing what Bauder writes as being wrong, not only on the history of local only ecclesiology, but also on the history of the doctrine of the proper administrator of baptism.

Through the years, I have had many discussions with men about the succession of the church, what a Baptist doesn't mind calling, Baptist successionism.  A person says, like Bauder, "I don't believe in the Trail of Blood."  I ask, "Do you believe there have always been true New Testament churches since Christ?"  The same person answers, "Yes."  I reply, "Then you believe just like I do on the subject."  There have always been true churches known by different names, but they ultimately became known as Baptist.  There were always true churches separate from Roman Catholicism.  Baptists trace their lineage or their heritage through these churches.

Many larger histories of Baptist churches have been written other than J. M. Carroll's Trail of Blood. The Trail of Blood presents a point of view without proving the historicity of Baptist successionism. The point of view is a biblical one.  For me, like for many others, there is enough of a verifiable history to satisfy someone who believes it occurred.  Men will be able to poke some holes in the history.  It doesn't mean that it didn't happen.

Just because someone can't find "justification by faith" for several centuries in historical evidence, does that mean that "justification by faith" didn't exist during that period?  Of course not.  "Justification by faith" is not a doctrine that originated during the Reformation.

Bauder spends some time talking about "the gates of Hell" and its relation to succession and the proper administrator of baptism.  I'll write more about that later.

Friday, October 21, 2016

"The Old Testament is Mainly Fiction, not Fact": the Dan Barker - Thomas Ross Debate

I am very pleased to announce that my debate with Dan Barker, President of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, on the topic:  "The Old Testament is Mainly Fiction, not Fact," is now available online.  (Of course, Mr. Barker was in the affirmative and I was in the negative.)  Mr. Barker and his organization are very well-known, and I trust that God will use the debate to lead many atheists, agnostics, and others to reconsider whether they ought to continue to rebel against God and His Word.  The debate was held at the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater, where my church has a campus ministry.  The debate was sponsored by our campus group, the campus Philosophy Club, and the campus Secular Student Alliance.

I will, Lord willing, be debating Mr. Barker again in the relatively near future.  Prayer (and even fasting) for that event is definitely appreciated.  I believe that the prayers of God's people were answered in the last debate and that it went very well.  Lord willing, I will be publishing a review of the debate, as in a format where both parties have equal time it is simply not possible to deal thoroughly with every argument made by the other side.

If your church regularly deals with atheists or other skeptics of Scripture, I would encourage you to consider using the work The Book of Daniel: Proof that the Bible is the Word of God in your evangelistic and apologetic endeavors.  I used some of the material in this book extensively in the Barker-Ross debate.  You might also consider encouraging skeptics to watch the debate itself, along with the review of it (once that becomes available, Lord willing).  Finally, if you have a university in your area, I would encourage you to consider starting a campus ministry.  Surveys of evangelicals indicate that only c. 2% of Christians are converted after their 30th birthday in the USA, while 34% are converted between the age of 15 and 29.  While it is certainly true that the large majority of evangelical congregations do very little to get the gospel out to every person in their area, and so such statistics are not necessarily true for Biblical, separatist Baptist churches, it is still very highly probable that people in college or in high school are not yet as hardened as people who have passed that point in life without receiving Christ. 

In addition to making the Dan Barker - Thomas Ross debate, "The Old Testament is Mainly Fiction, Not Fact" available on my website and on Youtube, I have also embedded the debate below for your viewing edification.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

An Analysis and Review of Kevin Bauder's "Landmarkism"

Someone gave me a copy of two books by Kevin Bauder, his Baptist Distinctives and New Testament Church Order, and One in Hope and Doctrine:  Origins of Baptist Fundamentalism, 1870-1950, the latter co-written by Robert Delnay.  Despite our differences and perhaps even his protests, Kevin Bauder and I have a lot in common, I think more in common by far than we have different.  If he ever visited our church, I believe he might even say he has more in common with our church than almost all evangelicals and most fundamentalists. I sympathize with his defense of fundamentalism, even though I disagree.  I appreciate his desire to elucidate and defend Baptist distinctives.  Above all, I appreciate his desire to encourage conservative churches.  Even though I greatly object to his position on the preservation of scripture and the Bible version issue, his chapters on the subject are the most respectful writing I have read from the other side.  Bauder is obviously the clearest and best position of the four in The Spectrum of Evangelicalism.

Despite my penchant for Kevin Bauder, I found motivation to write a blog series in order to criticize one chapter in his book on Baptist distinctives -- "Landmarkism" (pp. 198-220).  It interested me that he found that subject worthy of a chapter, providing enough of a motivation for him to repudiate.  It is not one of his better pieces of writing.  I am going to spend a good amount of time over upcoming weeks analyzing the chapter, because I think it provides a teaching moment for readers here.  Much of what he denounces is actually biblical teaching.  He also errs in his representation of those who believe what he misrepresents.

What Bauder labels "landmarkism" is a name given to a very particular ecclesiological and historical position, which was then called "landmarkism."  When an author discounts what he disbelieves, he should document his representation of it.  He should offer quotes straight from the pen or mouth of the advocate along with footnotes or endnotes.  In other words, he should deal with what people actually have said.  Bauder doesn't do that with his chapter.  As a result, I am saying that he portrays and then knocks down a strawman of what he calls, landmarkism.

As his first sentence (p. 198), Bauder writes:
THE LANDMARK BAPTIST (capitals his) movement began in the American South during the mid-nineteenth century.
The effect of such a statement is that everything following, which Bauder lumps in with landmarkism, began in the mid-nineteenth century, which is false.  Some of what James Robinson Graves taught did originate with him at that time, never seen before in church history.  The same criticism could be made, however, of dispensationalism, so would require some nuance in explanation for an accurate representation.  For instance, did J.M. and B.H. Carroll take the identical teaching as Graves that says that the kingdom is or synonymous with the church?  They didn't. Graves defined landmarkism and he included that peculiarity in his definition.  Some aspects of landmarkism are unique to Graves himself as a teacher.

Bauder presents without proof a view of Baptist history.  He suggests a stream of Baptist history, which he says are the "regular (historic) Baptists," interrupted by Landmarkers, who emerge from and interrupt that stream.  I submit a conflicting position to his, that his "regular Baptists" emerge and interrupt and "pose problems" for true Baptists.  It's true that both of us can't be right.  He, however, does not prove the history of his position -- just asserts.

Before Bauder begins dealing with "the distinctive teachings of Landmark Baptists," he writes:
To those who have never been exposed to Landmark Baptists, some of these teachings may seem to border on the bizarre.  This strangeness may lead one to think of Landmarkism as a cult.
For poisoning the well, "bizzare" and "cult" function nicely.  I see the exact opposite, that is, the bizarreness of what Bauder calls "regular," which I will later demonstrate in this analysis of his presentation.  I wouldn't express kingdom teaching like Graves does.  However, I have no problem with someone saying he believes that Christ's churches are His kingdom on earth in the age in which we live.  I could explain that and prove it from scripture.  Graves goes beyond a scriptural comfort level for me, but I share his seriousness about the place of the Lord's church on earth in this age, which contrasts with whom I consider "Protestant Baptists."

A lot of the modern perversion of the gospel corresponds to the lack of connection between the church and the kingdom.  Many problems in churches arise from not seeing the authority by which Jesus operates as King through the church.  Many have never received Him as King and still see themselves as Christians.  This lack of King and kingdom preaching has resulted in many unconverted in professing Baptist churches.  Jesus gave all authority to His church (Matthew 16:18, 28:18-20, Rev 1:19-2:1, Titus 2:15), but churches don't act like it because they are so, so careful to separate the church from the kingdom.

Bauder's first problem with landmarkists is their definition of or understanding of the nature of the word church.  He spends some time explaining its denial of a universal, invisible church (p. 199). He does fine.  When I read material like Bauder writes, I read language that I would not use, so I don't think it represents me.  He often uses the terminology "local churches" and "local church."  That is "regular" for him, but it is peculiar for me.  You don't read "local church" in the Bible.  Why do you think that is?  It's because there is only one church in the Bible and it is local.  The Greek word translated, "church," is ekklesia, and it means, "assembly."  Assembly is always local.  It would be redundant and peculiar to say "local assembly."  It shouldn't be normal for Baptists to say, "local church," because it isn't biblical.  It's normal for Bauder, because he doesn't take his ecclesiology from scripture.  He reads it into scripture.

Bauder says (p. 199) that "dispensationalists begin the church at the Day of Pentecost, while Landmarkers believe that it began with the ministry of John the Baptist."  I'm a dispensationalist too and I believe it began with the ministry of John the Baptist.  The Bible teaches that the church existed before Pentecost.  That is an exegetical position.  Immersed believers were added to the church at Pentecost, which implies the church already existed.  We also know that Jesus sang in the church (Hebrews 2:12).  John Gill wrote concerning this verse:
This is to be understood . . . of the church below; and not of the synagogue of the Jews, but of the disciples of Christ, and of his singing an hymn to God, with and among them, as he did at the institution of the supper, ( Matthew 26:30 ) for though the number of the apostles was but small, yet they made a congregation or church, and which was a pure and glorious one.
Jesus teaches church discipline in Matthew 18:18-20, speaking as if the church already exists.  There is no exegetical basis to say that the church began at Pentecost.

Bauder explains that the pre-Pentecost timing for the founding of the church blossoms from the landmark fusion of the church and the kingdom.  As I said above, not all landmarkers believed that true churches comprise the kingdom since the days of John the Baptist.  This is peculiar to a unique ecclesiology, perhaps beginning with Graves, but not homogeneous to those with a local only ecclesiology.  I have been local only my entire adult life and I didn't see that position ever until I read it in Graves very recently.  I would wonder, however, how Graves's kingdom position might be peculiar to Bauder, while Mark Devers's amillennialism isn't for a Baptist.

Everyone should take a biblical view of baptism.  If the biblical position is landmark, then take a landmark position.  Bauder writes (pp. 199-200) as if there is a conspiracy among these landmarkers to keep Baptist churches as the only true churches.  To do that, he says that they make baptism the differentiating factor for being a church.  To the landmarkers, those without true baptism (Catholics, etc.) are not churches.  He explains that landmarkers expect "proper mode, meaning, subject, and administrator."  I hadn't heard "meaning" ever as a criteria.  However, Bauder says that historic Baptists (those he's been with) don't agree on administrator.  He sets up a strawman to dispute this.

"The Landmark theory," Bauder writes, "requires an unbroken chain of baptisms from the days of John the Baptist down to the present day."  This is where landmarkers get their designation, "chain-linkers."  I was local only in my ecclesiology in high school.  I heard sermons in my local-only college (Maranatha Baptist Bible College at the time) that said that landmarkers were chain-linkers, which was a reason why we weren't landmarkers.  Since then, I've never met a chain-linker.  Graves himself was not a chain-linker.  In the preface of his book, Old Landmarkism, Graves writes (p. xiii):
Others have been influenced to believe. . . . that we hold baptism is. . . . ineffectual unless we can prove the unbroken connection of the administrator with some apostle; and. . . any flaw. . . in the line of succession, however remote, invalidates all his baptisms.
Graves debunks that gross mischaracterization that continues to spread from such as those like Bauder.  He at least must deal with what Graves wrote in the very book that is supposed to be teaching his doctrine.

Despite the error by Bauder, he is somewhat in the ballpark (maybe the parking lot) on representing people like me on the subject of baptism.  I am one of these guys he is misrepresenting, and I know that I believe that baptism must be performed by the proper administrator.  Someone can't go jump in a pool and call it baptism.  Two people out swimming can't immerse each other and call it baptism, even if they say it "means the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ."  God gave John the Baptist authority to baptize (Mt 21:25, Mk 11:30, Lk 20:4).  Jesus traveled 80 miles to be baptized by John.  I don't believe Roman Catholics are true churches and since Protestants came out of Roman Catholicism, I deny their authority to baptize too. This is a matter of faith.  We should do the best we can with authority by faith.  It's not a chain link, but a matter of obedience.  I'm not taking my position as a way to find some path to calling others not true churches.

Bauder might rankle some Presbyterian friends and people very chummy with other Protestants by reporting a particular teaching of landmarkism, but proper administrator is just Bible teaching. Calling non-authoritative baptism, "alien immersion," a term I have never used in my life, proceeds from a biblical belief in proper administrator.  I inform him, although he probably already knows, that guys like me also reject Roger Williams as a Baptist because of this.  We say John Clarke was the first Baptist in America.  I call this, "just being serious about what the Bible teaches."  We should be regulated by what scriptural precept and example.  This is what we see in the New Testament.  We should be fine with calling something that isn't biblical baptism, not baptism.

(More to Come)

Monday, October 17, 2016

Case Study in the Rise of a False Doctrine or Misinterpretation of Scripture: Preservation Passages

Paul told Timothy that from a child he had known the holy scriptures (1 Tim 3:15).  God wrote scripture so that people could understand it, so it isn't God and it isn't the Bible that people don't understand it.  What is it?  What happens?  Many things.

Men teach false doctrine.  They conform scripture to their teachings.  People might not get the Bible right because they have been taught something false by false teachers.  Their misinterpretations of scripture have been taught to them.  That's why they misinterpret it.  You've heard Jehovah's Witnesses' take on John 1:1.  That's what I'm talking about.  They didn't come to that position on their own -- they were taught it by false teachers.

Roman Catholicism kept homogeneity through police power.  You had two options:  conform or suffer.  You didn't have the Bible and your doctrine was what the church told you.  Roman Catholicism wouldn't trust people to study the Bible on their own.  They were wrong to keep people away from scripture, but they were right about the multiplication of misinterpretation from people with the Bible on their own.

Also men come to scripture with presuppositions.  They might arise from popular teachers.  They conform scripture to their presupposed positions, ones that might conform to personal freedoms or conventional wisdom.

Scripture is its meaning.  Scripture is what it says.  The Bible isn't a vessel into which we can pour what we want it to teach or say.  It isn't God's Word when it is just what you want it to say.

Plain sense of scripture says God preserved every Word for every generation of believer, that is, He preserved it for His church like He said He would.  You read passages that teach preservation of scripture either explicitly or implicitly and you get a very particular understanding.  It's clear.  It's also what people have believed.  They conformed their publication of the text to their biblical presuppositions.

In the nineteenth century, professors met their inference of manuscript evidence.  They did not refer to passages on preservation and historical beliefs.  They acted on their uncertainty.  Later men, who professed to be Christian, tried to adapt those passages and those teachings to their presumption of reality.  Scripture was not their reality.  They relied on their observation and experience.  Textual criticism drew from the wells of infidelity.  Professing believers came along later to conform their interpretation of preservation passages to this infidelity.

False doctrine and misinterpretation of scripture often come from the pursuit of reconciling the plain sense of a passage with a popular notion.  This is not living by faith.  It doesn't please God.  It perverts the meaning of the Bible.

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?” (http://revivalfocusblog.com/series/repentance; 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).