A CRITIQUE OF THE HIGHER LIFE MOVEMENT

Higher-Purpose

A CRITIQUE OF THE HIGHER LIFE MOVEMENT 

By Jay Wegter

INTRODUCTION

The concept of the higher Christian life arose in the nineteenth century in connection with the holiness tradition in America.  The movement grew in popularity and ultimately spread to England.  Keswick, England became the home of the higher life conventions.  In time, the movement returned to America with great momentum.  “The Higher Life movement has influenced the rise of other theologically conservative movements, the founding of a number of institutions, the growth of foreign missions, and the theological perspective of several denominations.”1

Description of the Movement

          The higher Christian life is an explanation of the means and methods involved in advancing the believer’s progressive sanctification.  The purpose of this paper is to identify the areas where the higher life model of sanctification differs from the scriptural doctrine of sanctification.

          Though not identical, three terms are used synonymously to refer to the movement; “The higher Christian life,” the “Victorious Christian Life,” and “Keswick Teaching.”  In this paper, any of the three terms may be used to refer to the whole body of higher life teaching.

HISTORIC BACKGROUND

          The inception of the higher life movement is often identified with the publication of William Edwin Boardman’s book, The Higher Christian Life (1858).  The book argued that Christ was to be received for sanctification sometime after justification. Continue reading

Lordship Salvation aka Progressive Sanctification? High fashion, yes, but not for Christians.

jesus is your sanctification

Grant Swart

I needed to jot down just a few more recent thoughts concerning the subject of (progressive) sanctification, as I have seen it gaining in popularity as a subject for discussion in certain circles, particularly I suppose, in the social media. This is additional to my most recent article on the subject at SANCTIFICATION: Why & how can God accept sinners into His Presence?

As a subject, I don’t believe that progressive sanctification should be handled with much kindness. It is a hideous and potentially fatal religious proposition. The highest possible price was paid for it, it belongs to God’s people exclusively, and it should not be allowed to become a plastic accessory to be worn by fashionistas of the commercial free-will religious order.

Free-will, works religion, also known as Arminianism or various forms of synergism, is the highly fashionable religion being practiced by great numbers of churchgoers in these times. Followers of this religious form of worship, under the guise of Christianity, now crowd the pews of the great majority of what were once, Biblical and God-fearing churches.

In these shiny new will-worshipping theatres are man-made pavilions with many steps leading upwards, each step representing a higher level of self-righteousness and perceived holiness on which proud men stand and display their shame before other men, as witness to them worshipping their own efforts and abilities (Col. 2:23).

In order to solicit more support, in the great eagerness of their own driven will, they have named this system of will worship. Some call it “Lordship Salvation”. Even more ostentatiously they might call it “progressive sanctification” and deluded men heap wondrous praise and elevated prestige onto those who put great effort into achieving improved righteousness. These great congregations, having placed themselves under the spiritual governance of the powerful hierarchies and church councils which they have elected for themselves to serve under, often find themselves becoming the victims of their own ill-begotten belief systems when the whip of contrived church discipline inevitably turns on them. Continue reading

TELL THE TRUTH ABOUT SALVATION

truth-is-still-truth

Grant Swart

I pray that it is my humble and heartfelt intent to write concerning an earnest directive which believers have been given, and that is, to truthfully pass on to those who do not know the Lord, the liberating and glorious facts concerning the means of salvation which the Gospel proclaims. When we consider all which constitutes the doctrine of salvation in the Gospel, it is impossible to disentangle it from the truth about God, the truth about men, the truth about sin, and the truth about Christ.

So often today the word “salvation” is used in very loose terms, ascribing to it many man-centered, phony ideas and fanciful doctrines which sound reasonable and very appealing to man’s conscience and which man readily accepts. Many of these are simply intended to soothe man’s guilty conscience, and leave him with a false comfort that man himself remains the ‘captain of his soul’ and in control of his eternal destiny. However, biblical truth about salvation is that man is not in any position to determine or secure his own salvation, by means of a decision or by applying his will or effort.

One is not likely to hear from the mouths of most preachers, that man is hopelessly unable to choose to follow God, or to decide to allow God into his life. Contrary to what many billboards around our country proclaim, man cannot, and indeed will never want to, turn back to God, unless he has been called to do so by God. Continue reading

Altar Calls: Why you should refuse to “walk the aisle” (Part 3 of 3)

Grant Swart

In Parts 1 and 2 of this article, I considered what should constitute, in part, the Christian approach to the ritual or adopted tradition which is now commonly referred to as the altar call. In this, the third posting in the little series, I consider the opinion of one of the foremost and effective biblical evangelists.

In “The Way of the Master”, Ray Comfort gives tongue in cheek advice to those preachers who, by means of their own conjured traditions and motions, wish to impress gullible sinners and make of them commercial converts. Rather than preaching the simple truth of the Gospel to the congregants, they preach variations of “easy-believism”. Thereby unscrupulous preachers proffer to do what they are unable to do and that is to attempt to “make” true believers at altar calls. Continue reading

Altar Calls: Why you should refuse to “walk the aisle” (Part 2 of 3)

Grant Swart

The practice of alter calls (calling people forward to make a public “decision for Christ”, usually at the end of a sermon) has gained in prominence and popularity, more commonly in Pentecostal – type churches. Ever since Charles Finney produced his “new measures” early in the nineteenth century by conjuring up the “anxious bench”, altar calling has been regularly practiced in some adventurous denominations and so-called non-denominational churches.

While altar calls are not prescribed or described in the Bible, advocates of this ritual cite certain biblical examples in support. Often it is said that Jesus demanded outward identification with Himself on the part of those who would be His disciples by telling them “follow Me” and expecting immediate response from them. This argument fails, however, when the problem of Judas is considered. Judas also responded publicly by immediately following Jesus, but the call he responded to did not bring about his salvation.

The question remains as to whether an altar call-induced “decision” is sincere repentance and faith, or whether it is simply an emotional response to a particularly convincing speaker or a charged-up atmosphere.       Continue reading

Altar Calls: Why you should refuse to “walk the aisle” (Part 1 of 3)

Grant Swart

In all likelihood, Charles Grandison Finney (1792-1875) can be attributed with being the “father” of the altar call. Years before our Lord effectually called me to repentance and salvation, I was once also duped into responding to an altar call which promised elaborate, but false, assurances of salvation. Wonderfully though, the Lord placed severe doubts in my mind at the time, regarding the possible validity of the ritual. What I regarded, back then as being my reliance on simple common sense, led me to distrust the embarrassing proceedings of the altar call I had responded to.

Needless to say, not much changed in my life as a result, in the days, weeks and months subsequent to that day. Great was and is the Grace of our Lord and true Saviour. I also now know that it was not only common sense which led me to doubt the honesty and biblical integrity of the altar call. I never responded to a single one again, praise be to the Lord. Continue reading

POLL: Is it important to know and to note when you were saved?

Grant Swart

1 John 5:13 tells us, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” God wants us to understand salvation. God wants us to have the confidence of knowing for sure that we are saved. Briefly, let’s go over the key points of salvation:

(a) We have all sinned. We have all done things that are displeasing to God(Rom 3:23).

(b) Because of our sin, we deserve to be punished with eternal separation from God (Rom 6:23).

(c) Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins (Rom 5:8; 2 Cor 5:21). Jesus died in our place, taking the punishment that we deserved. His resurrection proved that Jesus’ death was sufficient to pay for our sins.

(d) God grants forgiveness and salvation to all those who place their faith in Jesus – trusting His death as the payment for our sins (John 3:16; Rom 5:1; Rom 8:1).

That is the message of salvation. If you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are saved! All of your sins are forgiven, and God promises to never leave you or forsake you (Rom 8:38; Matt 28:20). Remember, your salvation is secure in Jesus Christ (John 10:28-29). If you are trusting in Jesus alone as your Savior, you can have confidence that you will spend eternity with God in heaven.

However, there are some who believe differently, and that salvation is not such a simple matter of faith. They would argue that salvation is a far more detailed and on-going process of actions whereby the sinner needs to retain their possible salvation by proving his or her worth. They may also believe that salvation is not to be attained during this life and that it will be determined according to their good works, sinless life or efforts in reaching a higher standard of holiness or increased spirituality.

Some may believe that they were saved subsequent to them having responded to an altar call, where they might have been asked to pray a certain prayer, or they were prayed for by an elder or other congregants. These people may have been told to carefully note the date of this “decision for Christ” for their future referral.  After these events, some might have undergone life-changing experiences and for those believers we praise the Lord for His Grace in their lives, while others might have encountered no changes in their lives at all and may have become disillusioned with Christianity as a result. It is often important to these people to know and note the exact date and circumstances surrounding their “decision”.

Some may believe that they were saved by birthright or by infant baptism. Still others hold to the belief that salvation cannot be attained or assured during this life, as good works have yet to be performed to earn their salvation; some believe that only a sinless life can lead to salvation and that ever increasing holiness is necessary for any hope of salvation. In certain circles it is also referred to as “theosis” or becoming more like God by upholding certain traditions or ancient rituals, or by performing certain acts and deeds. For these people it is impossible to note when they were saved, or even when they will be saved.

Please tell us what your position is regarding this most important matter in the poll below. Of course, not all possibilities are covered by the choices available, so if your understanding does not appear among the choices, please give us a little detail of what you believe to be important, in the comments below the poll.

May your life be blessed with His Grace and with coming to know His Truth!

– Grant