I previously introduced Dr. Andy Naselli’s important new book, Let Go and Let God? A Survey and Analysis of Keswick Theology, now available for pre-order from Logos.
Dr. Naselli was kind enough to answer a few questions for us about his book, Keswick theology, and the believer’s ongoing struggle with sin. I’ll post part 1 of our interaction now, and a second and final installment sometime next week:
Keswick theology teaches that, after salvation, one must pursue the second blessing. Having received it, can one lose this “second blessing”? If so, what would be the mark(s) of such a loss?
Perhaps it’d be helpful to direct your readers to the five diagrams at the end of this handout. The diagram for the Keswick view of sanctification shows that Christians can frequently fluctuate between being Spirit-filled (i.e., victorious) and not Spirit-filled (i.e., defeated). Keswick proponents typically don’t describe this fluctuation as “losing” the “second blessing.”
Sin distinguishes which tier a Christian is on. Christians who are sinning are on the lower tier, and Christians who are not sinning are on the higher tier.
How would such a person get it back?
It’s an endless cycle that some describe as follows:
1. I must live the victorious Christian life.
2. If I consecrate myself by surrender and faith (i.e., letting go and letting God), I will live the victorious Christian life.
3. I now consecrate myself.
4. I am not living the victorious Christian life, so I didn’t consecrate myself sufficiently.
5. Repeat the cycle.
Is Keswick thinking in any way at the root of the struggle many have with discerning “the personal will of God” for their lives?
I don’t think that there’s a necessary theological connection between Keswick theology and the widespread views that evangelicals have about discerning God’s will for their lives, but there seems to be a historical connection. Kevin DeYoung’s Just Do Something is a helpful corrective (cf. my review).
Some of us might read names like Andrew Murray, J. Hudson Taylor, and Amy Carmichael and think “Wow. Whatever it is, it can’t be that bad.” Does Keswick thinking, historically, have a track record of promoting more holy living on the part of Christians?
I’ll answer that with five short reflections:
1. The Keswick Conventions commendably emphasized personal holiness and left a legacy of Christian service, but holy living is by no means the Keswick view’s distinctive. That is, holiness is not Keswick theology’s individual characteristic that distinguishes it from other views.
2. I’m not sure how I could evaluate whether adherents of the Keswick view of sanctification are more or less holy than adherents of other views. My evaluation would be hopelessly anecdotal and myopic because my fallen and finite perspective is severely limited.
3. All of the major views on sanctification have adherents who are exemplary, inspiring Christians, and disagreeing with a particular view of sanctification in no way questions the devotion to Christ of those who hold that view.
4. We shouldn’t determine our view of sanctification by counting up whom we perceive to be the most holy Christians and seeing which view has the most. Scripture must determine our view of sanctification.
5. John Murray rightfully reminds us:
When we think of the honoured names which have been associated with Keswick like those of Handley Moule, Webb-Peploe, Andrew Murray, A. T. Pierson, we have to reckon with a movement which enlisted the support of cultured and devoted servants of Christ and one hesitates to embark upon criticism. But the cause neither of truth nor of love is promoted by suppressing warranted criticism.
And that’s what I try to do in my book: promote the cause of truth and love through warranted criticism.
Update: Check out Part 2 of this interview.