Naselli on Keswick Theology

My good friend, Andy Naselli, was recently asked to deliver the William Rice Lectures at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. His lectures were based on his Ph.D. dissertation from Bob Jones University: “Keswick Theology: A Historical and Theological Survey and Analysis of the Doctrine of Sanctification in the Early Keswick Movement, 1875-1920.” Andy gave me the privilege of reading his dissertation as he was writing it, and it proved profoundly helpful. (For what it’s worth, another shorter paper he wrote on Abiding in Christ helped to shape my thinking on this matter. I think this is an abbreviated form of that paper.) His lectures were as follows:

  • A Historical and Theological Survey of the Early Keswick Movement [mp3]
  • A Theological Analysis of the Early Keswick Movement (Part One) [mp3]
  • A Theological Analysis of the Early Keswick Movement (Part Two) with Q&A [mp3]

Andy lectured for about three hours in total, in spite of the fact that he had been struck with a stomach bug less than two days before his opening lecture. In spite of his physical weakness, he communicates theological truth with clarity and humility in a most helpful way. Allow me to explain.

Despite the popular notion that there is but one view of Christian sanctification, there are in fact multiple views on the subject. One book summarizes these views as the Wesleyan, the Reformed, the Pentecostal, the Keswick (pronounced KEHZ-ik), and the Augustinian-Dispensational. These five overlap in many ways (a historical development that Andy partially treats as it relates to his topic), but in my circles two or three are more prevalent: the Keswick, the Augustinian-Dispensational, and (to a lesser extent) the Reformed. It has been my (admittedly limited!) experience that much of the preaching that I heard was an amalgamation of two or three of these views, not a pure teaching of any one. This has introduced on a popular level a confusion of terms. Christians speak of “the deeper life” or “the victorious life” without an awareness of the theology underlying it.

Where Andy has served me–and will serve many others–is the clarity he brings to the matter of sanctification. And he does this in a way that doesn’t demean the spiritual desire or affections of many Keswick adherents. As a matter of fact, he takes time in his second lecture sincerely to point out many commendable features of Keswick proponents. His humility on this score is exemplary.

I am well aware that three hours of lecture to a crowd of seminary students may not be everyone’s cup of tea. If this is simply not possible for you, might I recommend that you at least study his five-page handout and PowerPoint presentation? It is sure to stoke your thinking and (maybe?) commit you to a few well-spent hours with your iPod. If that doesn’t whet your appetite, perhaps this quotation from Andy’s introductory lecture will:

Large swaths of modern fundamentalism and evangelicalism chronologically separate the point when believers first experience justification and begin sanctification. That’s really what this is all about. . . . This is evident, for example, in the way many believers give their salvation testimony. I used to give mine this way. I used to say, “I was saved when I was eight, and I surrendered to Christ when I was twelve,” or “I accepted Christ as my Savior when I was eight, and as my Lord when I was twelve.” . . . That type of thinking really reflects the influence of Keswick theology. So you may have been influenced by it, and not really known that you were.

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