Keswick theology addresses only sanctification and teaches sanctification by faith. Much emphasis is placed on Christ in the believer accessed by faith based on passages like Galatians 2:20, “Christ liveth in me…by faith.” Keswick theology pays much attention to Romans 6-8, Galatians 2-5, Ephesians 4-5, Colossians 1-3, and similar passages. Progressive sanctification is understood to progress through faith and be hindered through lack of faith.
Occasionally, I hear someone charge Keswick theology with sinless perfectionism, and often, the charge is made with discernible ire. It strikes me as strange because I have personally read thousands of pages from Keswick authors, authors like F.B. Meyer, A.T. Pierson, Evan Hopkins, Handley G.C. Moule, G. Campbell Morgan, A.J. Gordon, S.D. Gordon, Hudson Taylor, Jonathan Goforth, Andrew Murray (founder of Keswick in South Africa), R.A. Torrey, Griffith Thomas, W. Graham Scroggie, and more. I have read three different histories of Keswick and the most representative work that lays out Keswick theology, Steven Barabas’ So Great Salvation: The History and Message of the Keswick Convention. Never once have I read the teaching of sinless perfection. So it appears that the ones making the charge either have not done their homework (and are just passing along hearsay) or are being intellectually dishonest.
Misinformation and disinformation is not just a problem in the political world. Sadly, it’s a problem in the Christian world too. Ideas matter. Propaganda can influence even if untrue. Some say, “Where there is smoke, there is fire,” but this fails to take into account fires started by propagandists. To disagree is fair. To misinform is illegitimate. For believers in Jesus, these things ought not to be. To just read a critic of Keswick and pass along their claims without reading Keswick teaching is shallow. It’s neither scholarly nor brotherly.
Keswick theology teaches and emphasizes the life-changing truth of the indwelling Christ. “Christ lives in me” (Gal.2:20). This is the inspired text of Scripture. Jesus in the believer is sinless provision. But that is not at all the same as sinless perfectionism. Keswick theology in a nutshell is “sanctification by faith” emphasizing Christ living in the believer by faith (Gal. 2:20). Again, this is the inspired text of Scripture. Yet, the condition of faith to experience the provision of the indwelling Christ is the reason why no one is experiencing sinless perfection. No one exercises faith perfectly. Without faith you do not experience the full blessing of Christ living in you. Keswick theology acknowledges this reality and at the same time teaches that the sanctifying life of Jesus is accessible by faith—exactly what Paul, under inspiration, in Galatians 2:20 says. This is not sinless perfectionism. It is a blessed provision.
John Van Gelderen