A Warning on Keswick Theology and Why It‘s So Dangerous, in a Nutshell
Updated: Nov 25
“I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
—2 Tim. 4:1-4
“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil.”
—1 Th. 5:21-22
Keswick theology is a revivalism philosophy and movement that started in the early 1800’s and referred to by other similar and related nomenclature though not entirely identical, such as "Abiding Life," the "Exchanged Life," the "Crucified Life," the "Victorious Life," the "Deeper Life," the "Higher Life", the "Christ Life," "Charismatic," "Second-Blessing," "Revivalism," "Let-Go-and-Let-God," "Christian perfectionism," etc. For the sake of simplicity and brevity, this theology and movement will be noted as Keswick in this report.
There is a lot to this subject, so I’ve worked hard to keep it brief. To say this is an extremely important subject would be an understatement. Why would I say that? It is both dangerous and insidious, and adversely effects practically all evangelical, Baptist and protestant churches and unfortunately there is a failure by most to understand what Keswick/Higher Life believes and teaches. In a basic and general overview, this theology is an explanation of the means and methods involved in advancing a believer’s sanctification, while influencing, or even impeding, soteriology. Many Keswick scholars identify issues of sanctification within this teaching, but its much deeper and worse than that. Keswick clearly holds to and advances a false gospel additionally. The problems in Keswick theology are severe. Unfortunately too many people are unfamiliar with it.
To understand Keswick theology at least in a basic manner is crucial since its teachings are entrenched in most pupils and pens today within Christendom, and will deem to be harmful and toxic to the true Christian faith and prevents unsaved false professors from seeing their one true need: salvation. There is probably no teaching that is so engraved and pervasive in IFB churches (and practically all other baptist and “evangelical” churches), as this one. Its tentacles are found practically everywhere in Christendom; from churches, to colleges, to commentaries, yet many are unaware of it due to its rampant, widespread influence. To make matters worse, many times words are redefined making it more difficult to identify, which further exposes the subtleness and deception of the movement.
Keswick’s Roots and History, Briefly
The concept of the higher Christian life arose in the 19th century in connection with the holiness tradition in America. Since 1875 promoters have organized the annual Keswick Convention. What became known as the Keswick movement grew in popularity and ultimately spread to England, where it got grounded in Keswick, England, followed by an annual conference at that location. It would become known by a number of different labels, noted above, and repeated here, such as Keswick movement, Higher life, Deeper life, Crucified life, Victorious life, Abiding life, Christ life, Resurrected life, Second Blessing, etc, and is essentially a revivalism philosophy that was heavily influenced if not born with John Wesley (Methodism), Charles Finney, John William Fletcher, and Adam Clarke but brought to its present fruition in the mid 19th century by its popularization through Robert and Hannah Whittal Smith of England.
Its official inception is arguably identified with the publication of William Edwin Boardman’s book, The Higher Christian Life (1858), who would became its primary spokesman. In spite of much criticism, the book was widely read in both America and Britain. The book argued that Christ was to be received for sanctification sometime after justification. Not one single principle in the book stood upon the ground of sound doctrine or Biblical historical truth. Boardman worked closely with Robert Pearsall Smith, whose wife Hannah Whitall Smith, a Quaker, became well known in the movement for her belief in “quietism.” Quietism teaches that “sinless perfection” is attainable in this life and comes from inner quietness or meditative contemplation that is believed to allow God to work as all human effort ceases. Remind you of something today?
This egregious theology would go on to destroy the true welsh revival which had brought many to true repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, thanks in large part to the Keswick influencers and (self-confessed) demon-possessed Evan Roberts and Jesse-Penn Lewis, two popular authors among fundamentalists and evangelicals today. The Scofield Bible was the vehicle for “canonization" of Keswick theology and Amy Carmichael its star missionary. Through these heretics and their pseudo-revival, Pentecostalism and the Jesus Movement were born, both of which accredit the Keswick movement as its birthing mother. Keswick’s emphasis on emotion, quietism, signs and wonders gave birth to Pentecostalism, the charismatic movement and ultimately to today’s NAR movement, all facets of the similar doctrinal errors. Moreover, today’s contemplative movement is simply a redressing of the Quaker quietism.
The Keswick Movement was literally loaded with doctrinal error from the start and like nearly all errors that infiltrated Christendom over the centuries, they remain to this day. This shouldn’t surprise any of us because Satan has always twisted God’s Word for his own ends. Hannah Whittal Smith and her husband Robert believed in very unBiblical, unsound, satanic and blasphemous teachings, yet were the primary reason for Keswick’s popularity and influence.
Once the Keswick movement was established in England, it “was imported back into the United States by Moody, who brought into his Northfield Conventions in the early 1890s such figures as F. B. Meyer . . . who returned five times within the decade; Andrew Murray . . . [and] H. W. Webb-Peploe” (Dayton, Theological Roots of Pentecostalism, pp. 105-106). Meyer was key to the spread of the Keswick theology in Baptist churches and in many other places as he worked as an ecumenical conference speaker and Higher Life holiness evangelist. But Meyer was a blatant heretic, an apostate, a wolf in sheep’s clothing for many serious reasons, discussed further below.
“From Northfield,” Moody’s annual conference, “Keswick speakers, with Moody’s backing, were able to penetrate further into American evangelicalism,” so that “in the 1890s Keswick was a significant force molding sections of the evangelical constituency in North America” (Charles Price & Ian Randall, Transforming Keswick: The Keswick Convention, Past, Present, and Future, pp. 56-59). Moody’s “old friend F. B. Meyer” (a serious heretic and ravening wolf in sheep’s clothing) was key in bringing Moody’s ministry to the side of Keswick; “a Keswick speaker [was] . . . at every summer conference” at Northfield (John C. Polluck, The Keswick Story: The Authorized History of the Keswick Convention, pp. 116-117). At the time Robert P. Smith was leading the Brighton Convention, Moody asked the massive crowd of thousands before him to pray for a special blessing “on the great Convention that is now being held at Brighton, perhaps the most important meeting ever gathered together,” a public endorsement of Brighton that Moody pronounced on both the first and last day of the Convention (W. J. Smith, Record of the Convention for the Promotion of Scriptural Holiness Held at Brighton, May 29th to June 7th, 1875, pp. 47, 319).
Dallas Theological Seminary would become a hotbed for the spread of the insidious and dangerous Keswick theological heresy through the faculty of Zane C. Hodges, Louis Sperry Chaffer, Charles Ryrie and Warren Wiersbe. In addition to Dallas seminary, the influence of Moody and C.I. Scofield on the spread of Keswick theology in fundamentalism is very significant: “The return of the holiness teaching to America” in its “Keswick form, was . . . related to the work of D. L. Moody” who “taught very similar views . . . [to] Keswick . . . and made them central in his work. . . . C. I. Scofield . . . eventually more or less canonized Keswick teachings in his Reference Bible” (George M. Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture, pp. 78-79). D. L. Moody not only prayed for blessing upon the Higher Life meetings at Brighton during his evangelistic campaign in Convent Garden in 1875 (Steve Barabas, So Great Salvation, pp. 23-24) but also brought many Keswick speakers who propagated Keswick theology at Moody’s conferences at Northfield: “The visits of Rev. F. B. Meyer, and notably of Prebendary H. W. Webb-Peploe, of London, and Andrew Murray, of Wellington, S. Africa (who were at Northfield in 1895), and the late G. H. C. McGregor introduced into Northfield conferences the grand teaching of Keswick” (A. T. Pierson, Forward Movements of the Last Half Century, 1900, p. 164). The Keswick theology of Moody, Scofield, and their associates were in turn very influential in Pentecostalism (Robert Anderson, Vision of the Disinherited: The Making of American Pentecostalism, pp. 111-113). The well known Andrew Murray, a Keswick/Higher Life heretic as well, wrote popular books on Faith Cure “theology” (i.e. The Lord Thy Healer) and then henceforth was invited to and influenced many at Moody’s Northfield Conference after preaching at Keswick in 1895 (while under the spell of the quietist and mystic William Law at the time), at the invitation of its Quaker co-founder Robert Wilson, where he was “one of the principal speakers,” (Johannes Christiaan DuPlessis, The Life of Andrew Murray, pp. 444-445; Mary N. Garrard, Mrs. Penn-Lewis: A Memoir, p. 47).
Attempting to pinpoint the insidious doctrines and it roots, is like attempting to pin down a bowling bowl with an ice pick. It is difficult to know where to start, mainly because it is difficult to know the primary source of the problem I'm addressing. The Keswick movement has always urged Christians to seek enlightenment emotionally, to press on toward a higher (“mystical”), experience in Christ. This type of pursuit is diametrically opposed to what God teaches in His Word (e.g. 2 Tim 3:16-17). As such, it should be rejected. Interestingly, it is in the exact manner Satan tempted Eve to focus on how she felt instead of what God had said (Gen 3). But the worst of it is the false gospel, but I am unsure as to whether it starts with that. Very likely it does, but possibly not. But it’s certainly the most foundational issue, unless I included a fundamental distortion of the identity of Jesus Christ as a part of the false gospel. However, a false gospel is in part what comes out of it and then one notices a necessity for the distorted sanctification and methods. The gospel, sanctification, and then methods always interrelate and with this we see an evil junction of a false gospel, distorted sanctification, success, church growth, second cleansing, Keswick “theology,” and man-centred methods. These dovetail and help formulate the Keswick movement.
Doctrinal errors never really go away once introduced and embraced. They are simply renamed and recycled by Satan to a new generation. Too many professing believers think they’ve found something “new” and introduce their followers to it in books, sermons and seminars, but they however are simply espousing the same error that Satan tempted Eve with thousands of years ago. There is nothing new under the sun. It simply seems new to the latest generation. And people that do these things unrepentantly, are called wresters of Scripture and "wicked" by God (2 Pet 3:16-17).
Its important to note here that not everyone of these points of errors or heresies are embraced by everyone embracing or influenced by Keswick theology, nor is one required to embrace everyone of these points to be considered heavily influenced by this theology.
From its inception and foundational roots in the mid 1800's, Keswick theology has erred seriously in a number of critical areas in the Scriptures including what is listed below. In a general survey—though it can be convoluted due to its many tentacles, and redefining of words—this Keswick style of sanctification is type of sanctification that focuses on higher life, deeper life, faith-alone, non-struggle, corrupted sanctification based upon a second stage power baptism of the Holy Spirit.
It would be an understatement to say that Keswick is an extremely dangerous and slippery slope, and that it is a major cause of the end-times apostasy of false believers feigning to be Christian. It has corrupted sanctification to such a degree, almost everyone gets a green light as to be a “Christian.”
Essentially, Keswick theology teaches that the Christian life consists of two primary crisis’s (or major turning points): justification and sanctification, both of which happen at different times in the life of the believer. After salvation (which is watered down and typically false, certainly nothing better than easy believism and more often than not quick prayerism, almost always devoid of true repentance and Lordship) one must have another encounter with the Spirit, lest he or she will cease progressing into holiness or the “deeper” things of God. This second encounter with the Spirit, in Keswick terminology, is called “entire sanctification,” or “the second blessing” or “filling of the Spirit.” This is required to enter “the abundant life” which is a “second rest.” Struggle is seen as contrary to sanctification, for it progresses allegedly alone on faith, not works, so that that Christ can live the Christian life through the believer. This is the “victory,” the “abundant life,” the “crucified life,” the “sanctified life.” This emphasis on a second, post-salvation experience corresponds with the Pentecostal idea of the “baptism” of the Spirit. Some Keswick teachers would even say that sinless perfection is possible after one receives the “second blessing.” It’s important to understand that many who embrace this heretical two-tiered “Christian” “theology” do not necessary embrace the second blessing aspect.
Here are major points of doctrinal heresy.
1. Keswick doctrine confuses and corrupts the gospel and nature of repentance for salvation. Its adherents essentially embrace a false repentant-less powerless “gospel” which is “another gospel” (2 Cor 11:4; Gal 1:6-9). They also avoid the Lordship of Christ, even though there is no other salvation in Scripture. Avoiding repentance and Christ’s Lordship are necessary for this philosophy to operate. Keswick theology has deceived many people in IFB churches (and many other churches) into believing that they are saved, when they‘re actually not. Fruit and evidence of salvation is not something necessarily expected, which further lends to the false gospel. Keswick doctrine fails to warn plainly and strongly (if at all) about the possibility of those who are professedly Christians being in fact unregenerate.
2. Keswick doctrine divorces justification completely from discipleship and sanctification (i.e. allegedly not every Christian is a disciple, not everyone is "abiding" in Christ — only some Christians are disciples, only some are abiding in Christ, those that have had the “crisis” or “surrendered” or “second blessing” moment) which creates a two-tiered Christianity. Keswick theology largely minimizes and corrupts the new birth and makes the view of sanctification everything (i.e. making Christ Lord of your life, rededication, and finally deciding to become Christ’s disciple — while these things actually occur for salvation).
Christians can be justified but non-sanctified, if they do not enter into the secret of the Higher Life. Abiding in Christ is supposedly something only a select few "fruitful" Christians do (they misinterpret and wrest Jn. 15 for support). This is entirely unscriptural and heretical. It is a denial of true salvation.
Wrong and unscriptural teaching on sanctification will directly affect salvation and repentance (and vice versa, which might actually be more accurate in the case of this aberrant “theology”). It is exceedingly erroneous and dangerous to separate justification from sanctification, and I cannot help but Scripturally think that this, along with the perverted teachings on salvation (incl. repentance), clearly reflects the unregenerate state of many of these zealous followers.
3. Keswick doctrine divides freedom from penalty of sin (hell) and freedom from the power of sin (living the Christian life). Christ's redemptive work is said to free the sinner from the penalty of sin (at salvation), and His living in the believer and through the believer (“the Christ-life”) will eventually free the Christian from the power of sin (in this life). That is plainly heretical and completely contradicts what happens at salvation (Rom. 6 alone refutes this heresy, which specifically addresses freedom from the power of sin at salvation). Allegedly only at some later point (i.e. “crisis” moment, “pouring out of the Spirit” moment, moment of “surrender/consecration,” receiving Jesus as Lord and surrendering to Him for discipleship, which results in Christ now living through the believer, “the Christ-life”), is the individual freed from the power of sin, which tends to lend itself to sinless perfectionism. Many Scriptures like Rom. 5:10 and chapter 6 and 7 are severely wrested out of their meaning, to support this.
This is a denial that God’s sanctifying grace at salvation always frees Christians from bondage to sin and changes them permanently and continually. They don’t want to believe that (they probably can’t believe it, because they do not understand salvation), so they separate freedom from the penalty of sin and freedom from the power of sin. Along these same lines, they also separate Jesus as Saviour and Jesus as Lord (Saviour at salvation, Lord sometime later in the Christian life).
4. Christ allegedly lives the Christian life for the believer, the Christ-life (typically using Gal 2:20 wrested out of its actual meaning), which is actually a development of the Quaker doctrine of the Inner Light/ Divine Seed/ Christ within, a popular new age teaching today.
5. Keswick divides the "entrance into the rest of God" into an initial "rest" (salvation) and then a second “rest,” (sanctification) which occurs when enough "faith" is achieved or when one has surrendered to God or when sanctified only by faith and not resisting/striving against sin and flesh, or a crisis moment is reached, etc, which they support by twisting and wresting the Scriptures (e.g. Heb. 3-4 and Matt. 11:28-30) to make it fit the theology. Rom. 7:14-25 is taught as Paul being self-dependent and then in Romans 8 escapes into freedom. This is corruption and wresting of God’s Word. Neither Rom 7 or 8 teach that.
6. Keswick doctrine misrepresents the nature and role of faith in sanctification. It teaches that sanctification is by faith alone, misusing Col. 2:6 to support the error. If this were to be true, at least half the NT would have to be discarded. This egregious doctrine neglects the role of the Word of God and good works in sanctification, as noted clearly throughout scripture including Eph 2:10; Ti. 2:11-14.
7. Keswick divides "eternal life" from the "abundant life.” Keswick teaches that at salvation we receive eternal life but somewhere along the Christian life we need to apprehend the abundant life, and they misuse the last half of Jn. 10:10 to support this false philosophy: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” The "abundant life" is allegedly apprehended by becoming fully surrendered/consecrated to Christ. However, this verse (Jn. 10:10) speaks of salvation and eternal life through Jesus Christ, obvious also by its context (see Jn. 10:9-10:10a). That entire chapter is in fact about salvation and eternal life and the evidence thereof. They teach as if the born again Christian does not have the abundant life at salvation. That fits with the rest of this theology that lays out things that are missing in the Christian life, not received at salvation. But nothing could be further from the truth.
8. Keswick embraces shallow and unscriptural views of sin and commonly embraces sinless perfectionism. Keswick theology declares that “a Christian . . . [can] become an entire worldling” (Steve Barabas, “So Great Salvation,” p. 63), hence the infusion (or possibly foundation) of “carnal Christianity” and “lukewarm Christianity” and "backsliding" and "unbelief" in this theology, all of which are Keswick currency.
9. Keswick supports a kind of quietism or rest (e.g. passivity vs struggle). It holds to believers needing to enter a second rest (by wresting Heb. 4 and Matt. 11:28-30), when nothing of the sort is taught in Scripture. There is only one rest and it’s entered in by conversion, by the new birth. The Bible Teaches Only One Rest, Not Two, Including in Matthew 11:28-30. There is also no quietism or rest when it comes to the struggle of the flesh vs the spirit, in the true Christian life.
Passivity, which quietists think liberates the Spirit, actually resists and quenches him, if they have the Spirit to begin with (many do not). Passivity means conscious inaction—in this case, inner inaction. A call to passivity—conscientious, consecrated passivity—is read into certain biblical texts by Keswick adherents or theologians, but it cannot be read out of any of them (utilizing the dishonouring interpretation methodology of eisegesis). Thus, for instance, to “yield” or “present” oneself to God (Rom 6:13; 12:1), or as it is sometimes put, to “give ourselves up” to him, is not passivity. Paul’s meaning is not that having handed ourselves over to our Master, we should then lapse into inaction, waiting for Christ to move us instead of moving ourselves, but rather that we should report for duty, saying as Paul himself said on the Damascus road, “What shall I do, Lord?” (Ac 22:10) and setting no limits to what Christ by his Spirit through his Word may direct us to do. This is activity! Again, being “led by the Spirit of God” (Rom 8:14; Gal 5:18) is never passivity. Paul’s meaning is not that we should do nothing till celestial promptings pop into our minds, but that we should resolutely labor by prayer and effort to obey the commandments, dictates and words of God and to mortify sin (see Gal 5:13-6:19 and Rom 8:5-13, the context of v. 14).
In sanctification, born again Christians are both passive and active. We are passively trusting in God’s ability to fully sanctify us, continuing on from the sanctification that starts at conversion (Heb 10:10, 14) and we are active because obedience is the only means whereby we love God (Jn 14:23-24; 1 Jn 2:3-5; 2 Jn 1:5-6), so that all who are truly born again are actively obeying God's commandments, dictates, laws and words, so we choose to do what is right, in thought, word, and deed because that is what the saving grace of god does (Ti 2:11-14; Rom 12:1-2; 1 The 4:4; Heb 12:14, etc).
10. Denial that God actually works continuously in and renews the nature of the believer continuously to make him more practically holy and godly, starting from the moment of salvation.
11. Support for an unbiblical pneumatology. There are diverse positions on this, the extreme being a second reception of the Holy Spirit. Seeking after a outpouring of the Holy Spirit to come upon people, mainly saved. Supposedly at some point after justification, a time referred to variously as the “second blessing,” or “higher living,” or "crucified life," or "deeper life," or "victorious life," etc, they say sanctification truly starts, due to a filling with the Holy Spirit or outpouring of the Holy Spirit, akin to what occurred in Acts 2 at Pentecost. Ultimately, their view of sanctification is flat out mysticism akin to New Age’s goal of an altered state of consciousness. This is all based on a strong desire to emotionally “know” God. The person turns inward to meet the felt needs of self.
When someone receives Jesus Christ the Lord, the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, all of Him, indwells you (Rom 8:13). That means that at the moment of salvation you already have the power of God. And what does the Holy Spirit do? He guides into Truth (Jn. 16:13), and teaches Truth (1 Jn 2:20-21, 27) and the Word of God is His sword (Eph. 6:17)—not stories and gimmicks or Keswick pseudo-faith or some "second blessing."
12. Supportive of unBiblical teachings on authority and power of believers (e.g. throne power). I don’t believe they have this power of God any more than I believe that Charismatics have it when they claim their results and experiences. If they had the kind of power they claim, sometimes denoted as “throne power,” they wouldn’t need their elaborate programs and gimmicks. The Charismatics say the same thing, because they also have this “experience” of second blessing. Everyone should reject these experiences and methods, on the authority of Scripture.
13. More two-tiered Christianity: disciples and non-disciples or those who abide in Christ and those who don't. The absolute truth of fruitfulness and becoming disciples at salvation is rejected in place of becoming fruitful at some point after salvation with the right amount of “discipleship” and “abiding in Christ” (and thus entering into the rest of God, and the abundant life through a Holy Spirit revival moment at some point post-salvation).
14. Theological shallowness or even incomprehensibility and the maintenance and advancement of significant exegetical errors, which actually isn't exegesis at all but rather eisegesis. Many scripture passages are corrupted and wrested and misused to fit the theology, to keep the system breathing.
15. Supports continuationism as opposed to cessationism (i.e. continuation of the sign gifts). Those involved with the Keswick movement from its inception were mostly continuationists otherwise known as anti-cessationists. These folks then (as well as today), believed the sign gifts (many, including tongues) never stopped. Scripture, as well as history, tells us that this is not true; that in fact, the sign gifts did actually cease not long after the last apostle died and the Bible had finished being written (though not yet compiled into Canon). Rick Flanders, an IFB "evangelist," is a loud proponent of Keswick heresy, noted here.
16. Ecumenical tendencies which is very unscriptural and heretical (e.g. 2 Cor. 6:14-18; Rom. 16:17; 2 Jn. 1:9-11; Eph. 5:6-11). Rejecting the doctrine of separation as found in God’s Word is heresy and reflective of something deeply spiritually wrong (cf. 2 Cor 6:14-18).
17. Support of some tenants of Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism.
18. There are aspects of mysticism and other concepts that relate to “Keswick” or “revivalism," or “higher life," or "second-blessing," concepts such as "power evangelism" and "name it and claim it." Each of these terms overlaps with each of the others, but each also has a nuance of difference. Unfortunately, this heresy has spread all over Christianity to the point where it's become in certain ways indistinguishable from it. People now just look at this stuff like it is normal for Christianity. It's not considered unchristian anymore and even more christian than what is actually Christian. It's everywhere, and if you point it out, you're often seen as unloving. The feeling or the experience, some result that goes along with it, is seen as some kind of movement or power or baptism or filling or presence of Jesus or manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Whole books have been written on and against this stuff, but as I see it, it's everywhere, even among those who say they dislike it. It's that rampant.
Keswick theology clearly differs in important ways from the Biblical doctrine of sanctification and soteriology. It should be rejected wholesale.
To achieve their desired end, which is a sanctified life or crucified life or deeper life or victorious life (etc), they must twist and wrest the Scriptures, the most popular passages being Jn. 10:10; 15:1-6; Rom. 6–8; 1 Cor. 15:57; Gal. 2:20; 3:2-5, 14; Col.1:27; 2:6; Heb. 3:11-4:11; 11:6; Jam. 4:1-10, and passages dealing with rest in the Lord, such as Is. 40:28-31; Ps. 46:10; 68:19; Matt. 11:28-30; Phil. 2:12-13; 4:13. The following salvation passages are also classically misinterpreted and taught as sanctification, to fit the theology: Matt. 5:3-10; 6:22-24; 10:32-39; 16:24-26; 19:16-30; Mk. 8:34-38; Lk. 9:23-26, 57-62; 12:8-9; 13:23-30; 14:7-11, 16-35; 17:26-35; 18:9-17, 18-30; 19:1-10; Jn. 12:24-26; Jam. 4:1-10. Etc.
There is a proper hermeneutics to be used in studying Scripture and if not applied, many errors can result. The bigger issue however is, that they, for the most part, distort, corrupt and wrest the Scriptures without change, without repentance upon correction, which reflects the true problem here and that is being absent of the Teacher of truth, the indwelling Spirit of God, Whom teaches the truth to ALL He indwells and leads them and teaches them to rightly interpret and rightly divide the word of truth (Pr 8:8-9; 22:20-21; 1 Jn 2:20-21, 27; cf. 2 Tim 2:15; 2 Cor 2:17).
"Have not I written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge, That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth; that thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee?" (Pr 22:20-21)
"But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth. But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him." (1 Jn 2:20-21, 27)
These passages expose the real problem with people that pervert the Scriptures.
"As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness." (2 Pet 3:16-17)
Time to namer names.
There have been many popular proponents and propagators of this heretical theology, such as D.L. Moody, Hudson Taylor, Oswald Chambers, Billy Graham, John R. Rice, Watchman Nee, Evan Roberts, Jesse-Penn Lewis, Evan Hopkins, Andrew Murray, Amy Carmichael, Brother Lawrence, Bernard of Clairvaux, Madame Guyon, Warren Wiersbe, A.W. Tozer, Leonard Ravenhill, G.H. Moule, F.B. Meyer, A.B. Simpson, W. H. Griffith Thomas, R. A. Torrey, L.S. Chaffer, Charles Ryrie, William Boardman, John A. MacMillan, etc (These individuals do not necessarily embrace all the Keswick-related errors documented above). Majority of these individuals were heretical in their doctrine and practice, and even false teachers. Today this movement thrives in practically every evangelical, Protestant and baptist church.
This movement essentially continued what John Wesley and Charles Finney started. It was predominantly created by two wicked and demon possessed apostates: Robert and Hannah Whital Smith. It would eventually give birth to the Pentecostal movement (most Pentecostal historians trace their roots to Keswick, especially that of Evan Roberts and Jesse Penn Lewis and the latter false Welsh Revival) and the false salvation and sanctification seen today in vast majority of churches. Major heretical proponents and teachers of this from previous years and present time, have been Robert and Hannah Whital Smith, Watchman Nee, Evan Roberts, Jesse Penn Lewis, A.B. Simpson, William Boardman, Griffith Thomas, Andrew Murray, Evan Hopkins, Jonathan and Rosalind Goforth, Charles Trumbull, Lewis S. Chafer, Zane Hodges, John F. Walvoord, Charles C. Ryrie, F. B. Meyer, Steve Barabas, A. J. Gordon, Roy Hession, John MacMillan, Amy Carmichael, C. I. Scofield, Van Gelderens and Baptist College of Ministry/Falls Baptist Church, Rick Flanders, Michael Sullivant and Pembina Valley Baptist Church/Canadian Baptist Bible College, Michael Sullivant and Pembina Valley Baptist Church/Canadian Baptist Bible College, Alan Redpath, Stephen Olford, Major Ian Thomas, Ruth Paxson, Vance Havner, Theodore Epp, James O. Buswell III, Kenneth Wuest, Charles Feinberg, Arthur Glasser, L. E. Maxwell, Harold J. Ockenga, A.W. Tozer, and many others. Others, some of which might have well been godly men and women with godly intentions but unwittingly spreading heresy would include D. L. Moody, Hudson Taylor, R. A Torrey, J. Oswald Sanders, A.T. Pierson, Duncan Campbell, and Leonard Ravenhill. But the jury is still out on that.
Briefly, let’s consider just one of these, though they are practically all heretics to some degree.
F. B. Meyer would be better classified as a wolf in sheep’s clothing than a Bible-believing, historic Baptist minister. His writings should be wholesale rejected, and his name warned against. Why should God’s people read the writings of one who was unsaved and propagated the standard errors of the Keswick theology, and who also gave no evidence of personal conversion, who accepted absurd eschatological fictions, who refused to contend for Baptist distinctives, who found liturgy and baptismal regeneration acceptable but rejected the Regulative Principle of worship, who was grossly ecumenical, who radically watered down the demands of the gospel and taught that heathen did not need to hear about and consciously believe in Jesus Christ to be saved, who rejected the truth that Christ propitiated God’s wrath on the cross, who blasphemed Jehovah by claiming that OT Israel thought He was only the God of the hills, not of the valleys, who blasphemed the Holy Spirit by claiming that He was thought of as an atmosphere, not a Person, for most of the history of the world, who rejected the verbal, plenary inspiration of Scripture for modernistic apostasy, and who spread continuationism, contributed to the rise of Pentecostalism, and was open to forms of spiritualism? Do not the writings of such a man have a better place in a fire than in the minds and hearts of the Triune Jehovah’s people? Are they not laced with the sulfurous stench of the fires of hell? F. B. Meyer was a heretic, and the Lord’s precious faithful ones should beware of both his pernicious personal influence and his baneful and continuing influence on the doctrines and practices of others. That such a man as he is hailed by the adherents of the Higher Life as Keswick’s leading international representative provides yet another reason why Keswick theology must be rejected by true churches and faithful Christians.
The Dangers of Keswick Theology
This erroneous sanctification floods practically all pulpits and churches today and is very commonly connected to a Lord-less and repentant-less “gospel.” The system feeds false converts and leads to defeated lives for true Christians. Many popular authors, books and commentaries manifest these errors. Some of these, like Ravenhill and Tozar did not derive their views on this matter from scripture, but from questionable and heretical “saints” and “mystics” of Roman Catholicism that they followed and embraced, and then encouraged their readers to read (as noted in their recommended reading list).
Like many reformed theologians, Keswick proponents typically distort and vilify the positions and critiques of opponents to the errors of Keswick. We can learn to ignore that, but we cannot ignore the serious dangers of this heretical theology.
Keswick/higher life theology is spiritually dangerous exceedingly and should be rejected in all its forms. The two areas where it presents the most danger: (1) keeping unsaved people deceived about their lost condition and endorsing their attempts in achieving or replicating the experience of the new birth by a second blessing or crisis experience, and (2) deceiving truly saved people into believing soteriological and sanctification error, that they are missing something not received at salvation, when they’re not.
As a result of this seriously wrong doctrine—which is subtly mixed with the truth — compounded with the addition of the false repentance, the new "believer" that prayed a prayer is not expected to necessarily demonstrate a changed life after salvation until they enter this "abundant/ higher/ Christ-life".
This egregious theology results in confusion and varying degrees of disobedience to the Word of God. Its also disrespectful to God. The problem today is that there are many unconverted people in churches, and this very type of preaching and theology keeps them in that condition. It points them to problems within their supposed “Christian” life or walk that require remedial, when in reality the problem rests with their heart (Jer. 17:9; Mk. 7:21-23; Rom. 3:10-19; cf. Ezk. 11:19; 18:31; 36:26; Heb. 8:10) and false profession (Is 8:20; Jn. 2:23-25; Ac. 8:13-24). They have heard a false gospel that either did not present Scriptural faith or a Biblical Jesus or both. Absent or false repentance is a false faith. It doesn’t lead to saving faith. Many are unable to live the “victorious life” because they are not born of God. They cannot live victoriously because they do not have the love of God in their heart. This is a test of faith (De. 13:3-4; Lk. 10:25-28; cf. De 30:6; Rom 5:5). The truly regenerate never cease having the love of God in their hearts. God promises and guarantees it because He gives it to them by circumcising their hearts from their flesh (De. 30:6; Col. 2:11-15) and shedding His love abroad in their hearts by the indwelling Holy Ghost (Rom. 5:5). Those who can’t live the “crucified life” and “victorious life” or “abiding life” are serving the wrong master (Matt 6:24) — they do not need a “second blessing” but the one and only blessing: salvation. Through the new covenant, a believer already has victory through the Lord Jesus Christ from the very moment of the new birth (Rom 6:1-23; 7:4-6; Col. 1:4-6; 1 Cor. 1:3-9). He will continually experience that victory through obedience, by just doing right. Doing right will characterize his life, because that is the nature of the grace of God (1 Jn. 2:29; Ti. 2:11-14), Who indwells him. The same grace that saves the sinner (Ti. 2:11) teaches the saint to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and to live soberly, righteously and godly in this world, as Christ redeems them from all iniquity and purifies them unto Himself as a peculiar people, zealous of good works (Ti. 2:12-14). The false Keswick-type sanctification encourages apostasy. It comforts false profession. It alleviates the distinction between true and false believers. It lends itself toward turning people into twice the children of hell they once were, all in the name of the “gospel” or “good preaching,” but in-reality, to fill the pews and the coffers and build a legendary name and legacy.
One of the effects of Keswick doctrine is noted concerning the teaching and preaching of Biblical repentance, which is pervasive and perverted. As there is no expectation of a change in life with respect to living in sin after salvation, until one attains the higher life, repentance for salvation may be safely relegated by Keswick adherents to a mere mental assertion that one is a sinner. Any attempt at including guilt, being sorry for ones sins, or a change in attitude towards sin that causes one to turn from sin and self to God, is viciously attacked as works. So repentance is relegated to mere intellectualism, while true Biblical repentance is not only intellectual but mostly volitional and also emotional. To add to that, the Keswick teaching that salvation is simply being saved from the penalty of sin (and not the power of sin), would explain why the focus of the plan of salvation by Keswick adherents is on the “consequence of sin” which is the penalty of sin (hell). And adding further insult to injury, they change the gospel to receiving Jesus as Saviour at salvation, and then later—as the higher life is pursued or achieved —receiving Him as Lord. Thus it is no surprise that there is no preaching of true Biblical repentance for salvation by Keswick adherents found in most IFB churches today, only a placebo. There is also another disturbing reason that Keswick adherents are weak on Biblical repentance: Keswick is tied up in revivalism. Revivalism has typically required a showing of large numbers of converts to justify itself, and Biblical repentance puts a damper on getting large numbers of people to “make a decision for Christ” and pray a prayer. See here for the answer to What is Revival According to Scripture?
Keswick theology severely perverts the Word of God and creates two categories of Christians. You have the category of Christian who has only received Jesus as Saviour (they believed), but not as Lord (they didn't repent). He “believed”, he “trusted”, but he didn’t think it was necessary to repent and deny self and take up the cross and follow Jesus. Thus, he is still living in sin and disobedience until he reaches a later point of "dedication” or “commitment” and “discipleship.” It’s then that he repents of his sins and receives Jesus as Lord. Up to that point, if ever, he is a “carnal Christian”, living in perpetual disobedience, and yet still supposedly saved. These typically have "accepted Jesus as their personal Saviour," but not willing to repent and receive Jesus as Lord. Second, you have the professing Christian, who, most often long after he has made a profession of faith, surrenders to Jesus as Lord in repentance. He at long last becomes a "disciple." He supposedly now has received power over sin. Neither example is given credence in Scripture as being the product of true converts. The second example, what I have seen rarely, are converted in their moment of repentance and surrendering to Jesus as Lord.
All this portrays a false gospel, which is “another gospel” (2 Cor. 11:4), which is not another but a perverted gospel of Christ (Gal. 1:6-9). They are transgressing against and not abiding in the doctrine of Christ, which is the fruit of false and unsaved teachers (2 Jn. 1:9-11). We are not to associate with them or wish them Godspeed, “For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.” (2 Jn. 1:8-11). People that teach or embrace this heresy “teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness;” which have “corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness:” and of such we are commanded, “from such withdraw thyself.” (1 Tim. 6:3-5).
Flee from bad doctrine. Mark it and avoid it (Rom 16:17). Embrace the sound exegesis of God’s Word rightly divided (2 Tim 2:15) and reject everything that runs contrary to it.
“Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” (1 Tim 4:16).
I call on anyone who has received or obtained or borrowed Keswick theological heresy and its false views of sanctification and soteriology, to repent of it. Leave it behind. Forsake it. It is a cultic view formulated to allure its adherents as prey. Your acceptance of an utterly corrupt, false view of salvation and sanctification does not bode well for your justification or your glorification. If you don't like the kingdom of Jesus Christ now, living it out on earth in your sanctification which started at conversion, why would you think you would enjoy it in the future? You love this present world, not the future one.
You can read here for further info on this abhorrent theology: https://faithsaves.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Dissertation-for-Website.pdf
I've found that I'm about done being concerned about trying to please people who won't listen. It's also an apologetic position. People's problem is mainly rebellion, not knowledge. So I can try to win the argument with knowledge, but that won't solve the problem. I've decided I'll tell the truth and some people will listen and some won't. The change will occur through supernatural intervention, not my manipulation. I can't do anything about the people who won't listen. Their changing will have nothing to do with my attempts to connect with them on their terms. They'll read this report and they'll believe it or they won't. I don't want to spend too much extra time trying to persuade them individually.