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GUEST POST by Andy Naselli

It’s time to address two little controversies raised in the comments of two previous posts about Keswick theology on this blog.

1. What about Keswick today?

The Keswick Convention today is much different than it was in its first generation. What I call “Keswick theology” summarizes the theology of Keswick’s first generation (1875–1920), not Keswick today.

Case in point: Don Carson is speaking at the Keswick Convention next week!

2. Is Frances Havergal really connected to Keswick theology?

I asserted that the hymnody of Frances Ridley Havergal (1836–1879) is connected to Keswick theology, and a few people dissented. I’m not an expert on Havergal’s hymnody, so I may be missing something. Here’s what I write about it in Let Go and Let God? A Survey and Analysis of Keswick Theology:

“Fannie,” as her family and friends affectionately called her, was an Anglican hymnist, poet, and devotional author. She turned down several marriage proposals and never married. Her father was a musically gifted Anglican clergyman, and she had a gifted mind for languages and music, which she employed especially for the last six years of her life after 2 December 1873, the day that “marked the crisis of the exchanged life” for her.[1] She had already become well known for her hymns, but she then became closely associated with the Keswick Convention (as well as other gatherings such as the Mildmay Conference and Moody and Sankey’s meetings). She became known as “the consecration poet,” and she “thus was able before her early death to write those hymns indelibly identified with Keswick: Like a river glorious is God’s perfect peace [1878] and Take my Life and let it be [1874].”[2]

In 1880 The Life of Faith carried an article on “Miss Havergal’s experience of the Deeper Life.” Particular attention was paid to the words of the hymn “Take my life and let it be.” This composition, it was suggested, “may be said to have lifted Christians of all denominations to a higher standard of devotedness, and has preached the doctrine of the Deeper Life in a most engaging and persuasive manner.”[3]

“Like a River Glorious” “was seen as summing up the Convention message about entering into ‘God’s perfect peace.’”[4] In the first stanza of her hymn “I Am Trusting Thee, Lord Jesus” (1874), she writes, “Trusting Thee for full salvation, / Great and free.” In addition to her devotional books and booklets such as Kept for the Master’s Use (1879), she wrote approximately fifty hymns and two hundred poems. She was “the British equivalent of Fanny Crosby” and “was crucial to Keswick,” where her “significance as an author was unrivalled.”[5]


[1] V. R. Edman, They Found the Secret: Twenty Transformed Lives That Reveal a Touch of Eternity (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1960), 72. Havergal wrote to her sister Maria, “Yes, it was on Advent Sunday, December 2nd, 1873, I first saw clearly the blessedness of true consecration. I saw it as a flash of electric light, and what you see you can never unsee. There must be full surrender before there can be full blessedness. . . . I just utterly yielded myself to Him, and utterly trusted Him to keep me” (74).

[2] J. C. Pollock, The Keswick Story: The Authorized History of the Keswick Convention (Chicago: Moody, 1964), 16.

[3] Charles W. Price and Ian Randall, Transforming Keswick: The Keswick Convention, Past, Present and Future (Carlisle: OM, 2000), 85–86; cf. Life of Faith, 1 July 1880, 127. Havergal’s hymn begins, “Take my life, and let it be / Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.”

[4] Price and Randall, Transforming Keswick, 86. The chorus reads, “Stayed upon Jehovah, / Hearts are fully blest, / Finding as He promised, / Perfect peace and rest.” F. S. Webster turns to this “noble refrain” to answer the question “What is the distinctive ‘Keswick’ note?” “Keswick Hymns,” in The Keswick Convention: Its Message, Its Methods and Its Men (ed. Charles F. Harford; London: Marshall Brothers, 1907), 214.

[5] Price and Randall, Transforming Keswick, 85. For more information on Keswick hymnody, see Webster, “Keswick Hymns,” chap. 18 in The Keswick Convention: Its Message, Its Methods and Its Men (ed. Charles F. Harford; London: Marshall Brothers, 1907), 211–20; Price and Randall, Transforming Keswick, 84–94, 103; Mrs. Evan [Isabella] Hopkins, comp., Hymns of Consecration and Faith—for Use at General Christian Conferences, Meetings for the Deepening of the Spiritual Life, and Consecration Meetings (London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1890).


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Comments:


18 thoughts on “Andy Naselli on Keswick Clarifications”

  1. BJG says:

    Andy,

    I would be interested in knowing what you think the primary differences are between the 1st generation Keswick and today’s group. Has Keswick shifted significantly?

  2. Andy Naselli says:

    BJG,

    Short version: Today’s Keswick advocates a Reformed view of sanctification.

    Slightly longer version: See my answer to Kevin DeYoung’s first question here:
    http://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/kevindeyoung/2010/06/03/why-let-go-and-let-god-is-a-bad-idea/

  3. BJG says:

    Andy,

    So what is unique to Keswick today if they have shifted to a Reformed view? I apologize if I’m asking something that has already been addressed.

    Also, is it really a consistent change across the board? I know some modern advocates for Keswick that seem a great deal closer to the 1st generation you’ve described than to a Reformed view. (Such as: http://www.bcmedu.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=73&Itemid=138 )

  4. Andy Naselli says:

    1. The official Keswick Convention that hosts the annual Keswick conferences today holds a Reformed view of sanctification.

    2. Many people today embrace “Keswick theology” as held by the Keswick Convention’s first generation. The link you give is an example of a modern proponent of Keswick theology. And that’s what I’m arguing against.

  5. BJG says:

    Thank you for the clarification! I appreciate the research you’ve done in this area. God bless,
    -BJG

  6. Peter Collier says:

    Hi Andy

    I was amongst those who raised some concerns about one of the original posts (http://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/kevindeyoung/2010/06/30/pietistic-goofiness-how-keswick-theology-nearly-destroyed-j-i-packer/) and I’m grateful for this clarification – much appreciated.

    Peter

    PS I’ll be there next week and am looking forward to hearing Don Carson speak.

  7. Just finished the Keswick @ Portstewart Convention (North of Ireland). Derek Thomas (Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson) on Ruth. Brilliant.

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  9. John says:

    Spam filter broke? Always disliked Havargal hymns. Now I know why.

  10. JST says:

    Andy,

    (1) Can you comment on the “Exchanged Life” Movement? What about Watchman Nee (e.g., The Normal Christian Life)? Do you place these within “Keswick Theology”? My experience with them would place them both well within a “Keswick” view of sanctification, but I don’t see them discussed much or know whether they have any historical connection. I understand Nee may have had contact with some of the Keswick promoters. Nee’s books are widely read, but I have not seen them categorized.

    (2) Would you agree that the old Keswick view (or at least the “Exchanged Life”/Watchman Nee view, if one and the same) is commendable inasmuch as it seeks to give people a lot of biblical content about what actually takes place when a person is saved (crucified with Christ, buried, raised…)? It seems to be an attempt to give full weight to the radical and amazing things that were accomplished by the cross and which actually occur at salvation… which, it is supposed, should by their power have very radical results in sanctification…?

    In my experience, the Keswick/Exchanged/Nee model seeks to give the accomplished work of Jesus on the cross a high place, but actually results in a situation where an individual is in the cockpit by himself, struggling to “tap in” to the deeper truth of the cross, and hating himself for failing to consistently live “tapped in”, which he thinks he ought to be able to do. Good biblical teaching will engender a hatred of sin, but also a throwing of oneself on God for the sanctification we can’t even bring about in our own lives… not leave people trying to manage the experience by learning a “way” or self-actualize their position in Christ.

  11. Andy Naselli says:

    JST,

    1. I haven’t read many of those primary sources, but the secondary sources I’ve read seem to indicate that people like Watchman Nee are similar to what I call “Keswick theology.”

    2. Sure, Keswick theology is commendable for several reasons, and that’s one of them (though I think their exegesis and practical theological emphases are misaligned).

  12. John says:

    Here is part of the third stanza from another of her hymns, “Church of god, Beloved and Chosen”:

    “Holiness by faith in Jesus, Not by effort of thine own;
    Sin’s dominion crushed and broken By the pow’r of grace alone.”

  13. Vaclav Vasil says:

    There were men among the old Keswick teachers that are still worth reading and learning from. H.C.G.Moule is one of them. Here is a link to an online book he wrote, originally called “Thoughts on Christian Sanctity”, this online version is renamed to “Christ and Sanctification”. http://www.path2prayer.com/article.php?id=850 I’ve been greatly blessed by this little but powerful book. Blessings, Vaclav

  14. Alan says:

    A dissenting view. Faith Cook, thoroughly reformed and no apologist for Keswick Theology, writes in her book “Our hymn-writers and their hymns” page 318 ” Although some of her writings suggest that Frances confused her own liberating experience with Keswick teaching, in the view of B.B.Warfield she remained convinced that sanctification was not a gift to be appropriated by an act of faith – as taught by the ‘Keswick message’. Warfield ‘Perfectionism’ p 266

  15. Bert Amsing says:

    So where does one get a reformed evaluation of the PRESENT Keswick movement?

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    worth bookmarking for revisiting. I surprise how much attempt you set to make any such excellent informative web site.

  17. Andrew King says:

    It’s funny – I stumbled across this helpful piece while quickly googling “Havergal theology”. I am of reformed conviction, but in God’s providence associated with the Salvation Army. This morning we sang “Who is on the Lord’s side” and not for the first time I was struck by the incongruity in a Salvationist context of what I take to be FRH’s soft Calvinism. I guess that, whatever her Keswick leanings, she was very much a classic Protestant Anglican at heart, and that comes through in her hymns.

    I tend to sing her as I do Wesley – sometimes conscious of meaning something different from the author’s intention; thankful for and challenged by the godliness and grace visible in the author’s life.

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Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (PCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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