Higher Life movement

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The Higher Life movement was a movement devoted to Christian holiness in England. Its name comes from a book by William Boardman, entitled The Higher Christian Life, which was published in 1858. The movement is sometimes referred to as the Keswick movement, because it was promoted at conventions in Keswick, which continue to this day.

The main idea of the Higher Life movement is that the Christian should move on from his initial conversion experience to also experience a second work of God in his life. This work of God is called “entire sanctification,” “the second blessing,” “the second touch,” “being filled with the Holy Spirit,” and various other terms. Higher Life teachers promoted the idea that Christians who had received this blessing from God could live a more holy, that is less sinful or even a sinless, life. The so-called Keswick approach seeks to provide a mediating and biblically balanced solution to the problem of subnormal Christian experience. The “official” teaching has been that every believer in this life is left with the natural proclivity to sin and will do so without the countervailing influence of the Holy Spirit.

History[edit]

The Higher Life movement was precipitated by the American Holiness movement, which had been gradually springing up, but made a definite appearance in the mid-1830s. It was at this time that Methodists in the northeastern United States and non-Methodists at Oberlin College in Ohio began to accept and promote the Wesleyan doctrine of Christian perfection or entire sanctification, though Charles Finney of Oberlin thought his doctrine was distinctly different from the Wesleyan one which Asa Mahan was more attracted to. The American holiness movement began to spread to England in the 1840s and 1850s. Methodist evangelist James Caughey, as well as Presbyterian Asa Mahan and Presbyterian-turned-Congregationalist Charles Finney began to teach the concept to churches in England and then in Ireland and Scotland.

Soon after these initial infusions of holiness ideas, Dr. Walter Palmer and his wife Phoebe Palmer of New York City went to England in the 1850s and 1860s to promote them. Oddly enough, they were banned from ministering in Wesleyan churches, even though they were promoting Wesleyan doctrines and were themselves Methodist. During their time in England many people experienced initial conversion and many more who were already converted believed that they had received entire sanctification. Robert and Hannah Smith were among those who took the holiness message to England, and their ministries helped lay the foundation for the now-famous Keswick Convention.

In the 1870s William Boardman, author of The Higher Christian Life,[1] began his own evangelistic campaign in England, bringing with him Robert Pearsall Smith and his wife, Hannah Whitall Smith, to help spread the holiness message.[2]

On May 1, 1873, Rev'd William Haslam introduced Robert Pearsall Smith to a small meeting of Anglican clergymen held at Curzon Chapel, Mayfair, London. Two men whose lives were revolutionised by what they heard were Evan Henry Hopkins and Edward William Moore.[3]

Little by little, Methodist churches in the London area became open to the concept of Christian holiness, which was their rightful inheritance from their founder. Robert Pearsall Smith warned them that they would end up falling behind other churches who had embraced the movement, and they began to invite Higher Life teachers to explain the doctrine to them.

The first large-scale Higher Life meetings took place from July 17–23, 1874, at the Broadlands estate of Lord and Lady Mount Temple, where the Higher Life was expounded in connection with spiritualism and Quaker teachings.[4] The meetings were held primarily for Christian students at Cambridge University. At the end of these meetings, Sir Arthur Blackwood, Earl of Chichester and president of the Church Missionary Society, suggested that another series of meetings for the promotion of holiness be conducted at Oxford later that summer.

A convention for the promotion of holiness was held at Brighton from May 29-June 7, 1875. The prominent American evangelist Dwight L. Moody told his London audiences that the Brighton meeting was to be a very important one. About eight thousand people attended it. T. D. Harford-Battersby attended this convention and made arrangements to have one in his parish in Keswick. He was the recognized leader of this annual convention for several years until his death. Robert Pearsall Smith was going to be the main speaker, but the public disclosure of his teaching a woman in a hotel bedroom that Spirit baptism was accompanied with sexual thrills led him to be disinvited from the meeting. With the end of his career as a Higher Life evangelist, Mr. Smith ended up renouncing Christianity entirely, turning to agnosticism and Buddhism while persistently engaging in adultery.[5]

A gradual distinction developed between traditional Methodists and the newer Keswick speakers. Keswick took on a more Calvinistic tone, as Keswick preachers took pains to distance themselves from the Wesleyan doctrine of eradication (the doctrine that original sin could be completely extinguished from the Christian soul prior to death). Keswick speakers began using the term "counteraction" to describe the Holy Spirit's effect on original sin, often comparing it to how air pressure counteracts gravity in lifting an airplane. Modern Wesleyan-Arminian theologians regard the Keswick theology as something different from their own dogma of entire sanctification.

Harford-Battersby organized and led the first Keswick Convention in 1875. Over four hundred people met under the banner of “All One in Christ Jesus.” British speakers included Anglicans, such as the J. W. Webb-Peploe, Evan H. Hopkins, and Handley Moule, as well as Frederick Brotherton Meyer,[6] a Baptist, and Robert Wilson, a Friend. An annual convention has met in Keswick ever since and has had worldwide influence on Christianity.[7]

Columbia Bible College and Seminary (now Columbia International University) was founded by one of the early leaders of the American Keswick movement, Robert C. McQuilkin. His son, Robertson McQuilkin, contributed the Keswick chapter to the book "Five Views of Sanctification."

Critiques[edit]

Keswick doctrine has been sharply criticized as a disguised form of entire sanctification (or "perfectionism") by other Christian traditions, particularly Calvinism. Princeton theologian B.B. Warfield wrote a trenchant attack on the Keswick and Higher Life movement in his two-volume work Studies in Perfectionism, specifically in his articles "The Higher Life Movement" and "The Victorious Life." W. H. Griffith Thomas responded to Warfield and defended the Higher Life movement in two articles in the journal Bibliotheca Sacra.[8] Another early opponent of Keswick was J. C. Ryle, who set forth the classic Protestant doctrine of sanctification in his book Holiness as an alternative to Keswick. More modern defenders of Keswick theology include J. Robertson McQuilkin in the book Five Views of Sanctification,[9] as well as John R. VanGelderen.[10] Modern Reformed criticism of Keswick has come from J. I. Packer, as well as from Andrew Naselli, who critiqued Keswick in his doctoral dissertation on the subject.[11] The Higher Life and Keswick movement is also critiqued from a non-Reformed, historic Baptist viewpoint by Thomas Ross in his doctoral dissertation The Doctrine of Sanctification: An Exegetical Examination, with Application, in Biblical, Historic Baptist Perspective. Charismatic and Pentecostal authors may critique the Higher Life movement also as not going far enough, but Pentecostal scholars[12] recognize and appreciate the groundwork laid by Higher Life advocacy of the continuation of the gifts of healing and miracle-working for the rise of the Pentecostal movement.[13] Advocates of the need for repentance in the new birth and proponents of Lordship salvation also critique Keswick because of its ties to the Free Grace movement, while Free Grace advocates are more likely to be sympathetic to or advocates of Higher Life theology.[14] While modern Keswick writers often affirm that opponents of Keswick misunderstand the Higher Life movement,[15] Keswick critics affirm that they understand the movement very well and that they do not routinely misunderstand Keswick theology.[16][17][18]

Sources[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Chapter, "William Boardman," in The Doctrine of Sanctification: An Exegetical Examination, with Application, in Biblical, Historic Baptist Perspective, Thomas Ross, Ph. D. diss., Great Plains Baptist Divinity School, 2016
  2. ^ Chapter, "Hannah Whitall Smith," in The Doctrine of Sanctification: An Exegetical Examination, with Application, in Biblical, Historic Baptist Perspective, Thomas Ross, Ph. D. diss., Great Plains Baptist Divinity School, 2016
  3. ^ William Haslam and the Keswick Movement - cited in a forum on the William Haslam website.[self-published source?]
  4. ^ Chapter, "Hannah Whitall Smith," in The Doctrine of Sanctification: An Exegetical Examination, with Application, in Biblical, Historic Baptist Perspective, Thomas Ross, Ph. D. diss., Great Plains Baptist Divinity School, 2016
  5. ^ Chapter, "Hannah Whitall Smith," in The Doctrine of Sanctification: An Exegetical Examination, with Application, in Biblical, Historic Baptist Perspective, Thomas Ross, Ph. D. diss., Great Plains Baptist Divinity School, 2016
  6. ^ Chapter, "F. B. Meyer," in The Doctrine of Sanctification: An Exegetical Examination, with Application, in Biblical, Historic Baptist Perspective, Thomas Ross, Ph. D. diss., Great Plains Baptist Divinity School, 2016
  7. ^ "The Background and History of the Keswick Convention and Keswick Theology, in The Doctrine of Sanctification: An Exegetical Examination, with Application, in Biblical, Historic Baptist Perspective, Thomas Ross, Ph. D. diss., Great Plains Baptist Divinity School, 2016
  8. ^ Chapter, "Do Keswick Critics Routinely Misrepresent Keswick Theology?" in The Doctrine of Sanctification: An Exegetical Examination, with Application, in Biblical, Historic Baptist Perspective, Thomas Ross, Ph. D. diss., Great Plains Baptist Divinity School, 2016
  9. ^ Five Views of Sanctification. Melvin E. Dieter, Anthony A. Hoekema, Stanley M Horton, J. Robertson McQuilkin & John F. Walvoord, authors; Stanley N. Gundry, series ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1987.
  10. ^ http://indefenseofthegospel.blogspot.com/2010/07/keswick-good-word-or-bad-one-evangelist.html
  11. ^ http://andynaselli.com/keswick-theology
  12. ^ “Wesleyan and Reformed Impulses in the Keswick and Pentecostal Movements,” Peter Althouse. Pneuma Foundation,
  13. ^ Chapter, "Keswick Theology and Continuationism or Anti-Cessationism: Vignettes of Certain Important Advocates of Keswick or Higher Life Theology and their Beliefs Concerning Spiritual Gifts and Other Matters: William Boardman, Andrew Murray, Frederick B. Meyer, Evan Roberts and Jessie Penn-Lewis, A. B. Simpson, John A. MacMillan, and Watchman Nee," in The Doctrine of Sanctification: An Exegetical Examination, with Application, in Biblical, Historic Baptist Perspective, Thomas Ross, Ph. D. diss., Great Plains Baptist Divinity School, 2016
  14. ^ http://lucasbradburn.blogspot.com/2011/03/ahistorical-roots-of-free-grace.html
  15. ^ Keswick: A Good Word or a Bad One? by John Van Gelderen
  16. ^ Do Keswick Critics Routinely Misrepresent Keswick Theology? part 1
  17. ^ Do Keswick Critics Routinely Misrepresent Keswick Theology? part 2
  18. ^ Do Keswick Critics Routinely Misrepresent Keswick Thoelogy? part 3

External links[edit]