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Sanctification By Faith

Author
Category Articles
Date January 26, 2006

Walter Marshall’sDoctrine Of SanctificationCompared With The Keswick View

AN ABSTRACT OF A RECENT WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY DISSERTATION

Many proponents of the Keswick movement have claimed that the distinctive teachings of Keswick can be traced back to Walter Marshall, a Puritan theologian and pastor, author of The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification (1692). Theologians in the Reformed camp, however, are reluctant to acknowledge such continuity between Marshall and Keswick.

The current study explores Marshall’s doctrine of sanctification to see if the Keswick view of sanctification really is the same as that of Marshall both theologically and practically. It is the thesis of this study that there are significant continuities between Marshall and Keswick in terms of their theological principles. Most of all, a vital union with Christ, by which the believer lives out the covenantal relationship with God, is the crux of the doctrine of sanctification in both. This leads to their common emphasis on the definitive aspect of sanctification and the eschatological tension of already and not yet. In this common structure, the faith of the believer plays the crucial role in the experience of the eschatological blessing of holiness in Christ. In this respect, the doctrines of both Marshall and Keswick can be fairly called “sanctification by faith” or “sanctification by grace” in the sense that through faith sanctification is confessed as a gift from God.

In practice, however, the undeniable Wesleyan influence on the Keswick view sometimes leads to practicing holiness in ways incompatible with Marshall. In contrast to Marshall, the Keswick view assumes a discrepancy between what Christ has objectively accomplished in redemptive history and what the Holy Spirit subjectively applies to believers in personal experience. To fill this gap requires a second work of the Holy Spirit in addition to the union with Christ at regeneration. Keswick views this second work of the Spirit as conditioned upon the believer’s definitive act of “surrender and faith.” This can possibly lead the “sanctification by faith” proposed by Keswick to legalism in practice.

This study concludes that while the Keswick view shares with Marshall some significant theological elements of the doctrine of sanctification, Marshall’s theological scope is much broader and more solid than that of Keswick. Marshall anticipates the biblical theology of Pauline eschatology of Geerhardus Vos and Herman Ridderbos and also the definitive sanctification propounded by John Murray. Marshall’s theology entails all those grand aspects of sanctification, but keeps them in balance.

[This article is taken with permission from Westminster Theological Journal Fall 2005, Vol. 67, No. 2]

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