Let Go and Let God? Examining a Popular View of Christian Living: or, Why a Quick Fix to Your Struggle with Sin Will Not Result in a Victorious Life, Higher Life, Deeper Life, More Abundant Life, or Anything Other Than a Misguided, Frustrated, Disillusioned, and/or Destroyed Life.
I became a Christian when I was seventeen years old, and the first theology I knew was Keswick theology. I read many books and heard numerous sermons that exhorted me to ???let go and let God,??? to live the victorious Christian life, to surrender absolutely and completely to the Lord, to live in unbroken victory for significant periods of time, to live as a spiritual Christian instead of a carnal Christian. I read Hannah Whitall Smith, Charles Trumbull, Andrew Murray, Watchmen Nee, Major Ian Thomas, John Hunter, etc. My youth pastor, who discipled me and taught me the rudiments of the Christian faith, gave a steady diet of Keswick teaching as well.??…??Let me be quick to say how much I learned from Keswick theology. It upholds the Scriptures as the authoritative and inerrant word of God. It highlights the majesty and beauty of Christ. It embraces and rejoices in orthodox Christian theology. Most important, it takes the Holy Spirit seriously. Christians can and should live in a way that pleases God through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not a theological cipher; his presence is vital and energizing so that believers can triumph over the flesh.??Nevertheless, Keswick theology, which was so wonderful to read about, did not match my experience. I didn???t enjoy the sustained victory over sin that I read and heard about in books and sermons. I comforted myself with the thought that I was a young Christian. I hoped that when I was more mature I would experience consistent victory. In my seminary years, however, two things weaned me away from Keswick theology. For the first time in my life I started doing serious exegesis. It became apparent to me fairly quickly that Keswick theology does not match up with what the scriptures teach. The Christian life has an already-not yet tension, and sanctification is progressive and partial. Believers do not and cannot live on clouds during their earthly sojourn. Second, I was getting older and more mature. I noticed that my pastor who espoused Keswick theology, although he was a godly man, was not adept at recognizing his own sin. His ???theology,??? unbeknown to him, did not match his experience either.??Keswick theology is still popular today. …The Keswick movement has done much good, and we are allies and friends in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Still, iron sharpens iron, and Keswick theology has too often produced discouragement and despair with its exalted and finally unbiblical view of sanctification.
The above quote could very well be my own, but it is not.?? The personal experience of Keswick theology is very similar to my own.?? I even used to have a basketball poster in my room that said “Let go, Let God.”?? I dare not look back to see what yearly Keswick-driven church “themes” I grew up with.?? The above is actually Thomas R. Schreiner’s foreword to Andy Naselli’s new e-book, Let Go and Let God? A Survey and Analysis of Keswick Theology.?? See this PDF of the book’s front matter for more information.