August 26, 2011

Lifting the Curtain on Keswick

Dear Guests of IDOTG:

Today is one of the rare occasions I am linking1 to a blog outside my circle of recommended sites. I refer to the Systematic Theology Matters blog hosted by Dr. Mark Snoeberger. The topic under discussion there is Keswick, which is under an article titled, Total Depravity and the Gospel the subject of the last article here written by Dr. John Van Gelderen. Please refer to, “Keswick” A Good Word or a Bad One?2

In the Total Depravity... thread I recognized an opportunity to engage elements of the article that are helpful, as well as address elements that needed some attention. In my opinion, the difference in the debate around Keswick simply boils down to an “inevitable” view of faith versus a responsible faith.

I have been talking to individuals who are long time students of Keswick theology, individuals who are intimately familiar with the history as well.  The comments you will find at the Systematic Theology Matters blog, which I am reposting here in the order I submitted them there, stem from those discussions.  My goal is to present information to: 1) Lift the curtain on Keswick for those who are unfamiliar with it; 2) To help all persons gain a proper understanding of Keswick; 3) To clear up areas of misunderstanding.

Following is the series of comments in the order I posted them at Brother Snoeberger’s blog. Most address a particular portion of his main article. Others are interactions with him in the thread itself.

Kind regards,

Lou Martuneac

#1 From my limited understanding of Keswick I still think I know enough to say that Keswick men would track with you on certain elements of this article. Where they would part company is over what I believe you are suggesting is the inevitability of growth. The Keswick believes in growth (sanctification) of the redeemed, but hindrance to growth that can and does exist (carnality, unconfessed sin...) must be biblically resolved. I don't think there is a quick fix that guarantees the process of growth, but the opportunity and supernatural aid for growth is certainly infused at the moment of justification, regeneration.

#2 Thanks for the reply. If I am following you and getting my train of thought on the same rails I don't think Keswick teaches some kind of near absolute passivity. We are instructed to run the race, press toward the mark, strive. Instead Keswick emphasizes removing the barriers that hinder growth, lay aside every weight and the besetting sin... . Apart from Him we can do nothing; grieve not the Spirit.... The Bible does tell us how to restore fellowship with the Lord (1 Jn. 1:9) the fellowship we hinder and break because of our own sin. As we consider justification, sanctification and our eventual glorification all of them are ultimately provided by Him and through Him when we once as lost, depraved sinners came to Him in faith believing who He is and what He did to provide our salvation.

#3 To claim that Keswick was born out of Wesleyan holiness is a logical fallacy. It is like claiming that Reformed Theology was born out of Catholicism. J. C. Pollock who wrote The Keswick Story notes the Keswick theologians (Moule, Hopkins) kept Keswick theology within biblical boundaries so that Keswick was protected from the shipwreck of the holiness movement.

#4 Next, regarding the claim that Keswick teaches believers are a “passive channel” is just not so. The men I speak to have read thousands of pages of Keswick authors (much more than I have) and they assure me that they have not seen that taught. Keswick teaches sanctification by faith, not self-dependence. But it is an active faith that trusts to obey. This does not negate the need to act. It simply points up the need to trust (ask / take) before you act. To just act is self-dependence. To just trust is really not trusting; it is easy-believism in sanctification. To trust to obey is God-dependence, accessing Spirit-enablement (Rom. 5:2).

#5 Regarding the claim that Keswick teaches a “status change only” in salvation is again simply not true. Day Two of the Keswick progression highlights “Provision.” The emphasis is on all that God provided in regeneration - the new man joined to the indwelling Christ, etc. It’s just that Keswick maintains this provision must be accessed by faith or you live below your provision. But the point is Keswick teaches a glorious provision as the foundation for that faith. The difference simply boils down to an “inevitable” view of faith versus a responsible faith.

#6 Keswick, in a nutshell, emphasizes repeated steps of faith to access the indwelling Christ.3 Why would anyone knock this focus? (Heb. 11:6; Heb. 12:2).
One’s view of faith is at the bottom of the whole Keswick-Calvinism debate.

1) For Dr. Snoeberger’s complete article and our thread discussion please go to Total Depravity and the Gospel.

2) A revised and expanded version of Dr. Van Gelderen’s article on “Keswick” will appear here at IDOTG in the very near future.

3) Dr. Van Gelderen deals with the final comment in his new book The Faith Response.


  1. Coming Tuesday is Dr. Van Gelderen's revised and expanded edition of Keswick: A Good Word or a Bad One? I encourage all guests to read the article like a study. Move slowly through each paragraph, consider the history, the underlying theology, the answers to inaccurate accusations/misrepresentations and reasons for them, meditate on the Scriptural principals set forth. Dr. Van Gelderen says, “...derogatory slurs against this truth are not small matters.”

  2. Most of what I know of Keswick teaching is from The Works of B.B. Warfield Vol. VIII Perfectionism Part II in the chapter titled The Victorious Life and from the book Five Views On Sanctification. I hold to the Chaferian / Augustinian-dispensational doctrine of sanctification. I find this as an intresting subject ! :)