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Peter Althouse: Wesleyan and Reformed Impulses in the Keswick and Pentecostal Movements

sinful nature [was] not removed, but its tendencies [were] counteracted by the indwelling life of Christ in the believer. Thus, while the sinful nature still exist[ed] in the believer, it need have no power over the life of the believer. What [was] necessary to maintain this Spirit-filled life [was] a moment-by-moment surrender of the self to Jesus, and a moment-by-moment appropriation by faith of the cleansing and strengthening power of Christ. So long as the self [was] surrendered and Christ appropriated by faith, the Christian [could] be free from known sin.64

The Reverend H. Webb-Peploe, a conference speaker, opposed perfection teaching, but he preached a life of holiness which insisted that “sin remain[ed] in us to the last, and that through Christ’s will by His Holy Spirit’s power [kept] the true believer moment by moment from failing into known and unknown sins, yet that every thought and deed of the Christian—to the last moment on earth—[was] tainted by the fact of indwelling sin or corruption, and that therefore the blood of Christ [was] needed….65 Anglican bishop C.G. Moule articulated sanctification as “the work of the Spirit, ‘strengthening’ the Christian ‘in the inner man,’…with the Christian’s ‘faith,’ obviously as the result of that divine work.” He then contrasted the Keswick view with the older Wesleyan view by stating that the blessing was “secured and retained, on our side, ‘by faith;’ not by a process of discipline and labour, but by the same humble and reverent reliance on God….”66

Moule’s view depicted the contrast between Keswick sanctification and the older theological views (both Wesleyan and Calvinist), which demanded a life of disciplines. Holiness and Keswick ideas of sanctification reformulated older Methodist ideas. Firstly, traditional Methodism taught that sanctification came at the end of a long spiritual quest, but Keswick and Holiness views saw it as a beginning. This change represented the difference between the Enlightenment view of “goal” and the Romantic view of experience. Secondly, where Wesley expected few to achieve perfection, the Holiness/Keswick school believed the experience was general and accessible to many. Thirdly, and this was specifically true for Keswick theology, there was a shift from the Wesleyan conviction that sin could be totally removed from the believer’s heart to a view that in a life of holiness the operation of sin was suspended.67 It was this last point which took its influence from Calvinist theology, for one’s righteousness was imputed by the righteousness of Christ, but the essential nature of the believer was not changed, just suppressed.

The Wesleyan-Holiness movement thus emphasized an instantaneous removal of original sin by an instantaneous act of grace, but Keswick theology maintained a Reformed view of sin and a gradual process of sanctification, which commenced with a crisis:

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Category: Church History

About the Author: Peter F. Althouse, PhD (University of Toronto), is Assistant Professor of Religion at Southeastern University. He is the author of Spirit of the Last Days: Pentecostal Eschatology in Conversation with Jürgen Moltmann (T & T Clark, 2003), and has written many articles on eschatology, pneumatology and Pentecostal studies. Faculty page. Facebook.

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