Keswick Theology

Last week I was honored to give the 2008 William R. Rice Lecture Series at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary on “Keswick Theology: A Survey and Analysis of the Doctrine of Sanctification in the Early Keswick Movement.” (Update: It’s available as a PDF.)


The manuscript for this lecture series is scheduled for publication in the fall 2008 Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal. It distills my first dissertation (“Keswick Theology: A Historical and Theological Survey and Analysis of the Doctrine of Sanctification in the Early Keswick Movement, 1875–1920,” Ph.D. dissertation, Bob Jones University, 2006; xxiv + 387 pp.) from about 100,000 to 20,000 words.

Detroit Seminary is hosting the following resources from the lecture series:

  1. Handout (five-page PDF)
  2. Power Point presentation as a PDF (eighty slides with lots of pictures) [12.1 MB]
  3. MP3s:

Keswick 2

(photos by Dr. Robert V. McCabe)

Update (June 2, 2010): This analysis of Keswick theology is updated and now available as a book.


  1. says

    Fine job on the lecture. While I had clarified a lot of these things in my mind previously, it is great to be reminded how dangerous this teaching is to living the Christian life.

  2. Jon Watson says

    Thanks for posting! I went to the site right after and they only had the mp3s. I really wanted to attend, but with BJ Bible Conference I was somewhat restricted. Looks Good, Thanks again.

  3. says

    Dr. Andy; I attended the lecture. Thanks for your very helpful work on the Keswick Movement. I noticed profound parallels between the Keswick Movement and Bill Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles. Can you comment on that?

  4. says

    Hey, Ken. I’m afraid I’m not familiar enough with Bill Gothard’s view of sanctification to comment. Based on the very little I do know about Gothard, one possible comparison comes to mind: both Keswick and Gothard use lots of lists. (Cf. my “Critique 10: Methodology: Superficial Formulas for Instantaneous Sanctification.”) Feel free to share some parallels you see.

  5. says


    I’m staying home sick from church today and I found your MP3 page. After listening to some Minnick, I started listening to your lecture on Keswick theology. I’m devouring it.

    Thanking the Lord I’m sick today!! Praising God for your good work!


    P.S. I would like to talk to you about the Welsh Revival and Evan Roberts sometime.

  6. says

    Dr. Naselli,

    I am a PhD student in Christian Missions at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. I listened to your presentation in following some leads on Keswick Theology as I researched a paper on the East Africa Revival.

    Your presentation was great and very helpful for me in understanding the background for many of the evangelical Anglicans serving in East Africa in the 1930s-40s. However, you cut things off at 1920, which I understand. Can you recommend some resources for understanding the changes in Keswick theology post-1920? Or are there sources on Keswick theology and the CMS that are must reads?

    I appreciate any feedback you are able to give. Thanks.

  7. says

    Thanks, Wesley. Probably the most helpful book for understanding the theology in the post-1920 Keswick movement is Charles W. Price and Ian M. Randall’s Transforming Keswick: The Keswick Convention, Past, Present and Future (Carlisle: OM, 2000). Hope that helps!

  8. says

    Thank you! I just received a copy of your dissertation from Bob Jones via ILL and will check into the work you mention above by Price and Randall. I greatly appreciate it. This has been very helpful for me!

  9. Steve Cowden says

    Thanks for your labors in this area. About five years ago I presented a series on personal holiness to our church body which involved research on Keswick. Tracking things down was near impossible. I could find little material on Keswick that was not sympathetic; Pollock’s book was interesting but seems to whitewash the Smith’s while giving no helpful critique of the theology. A few years later I bumped into a seminary professor who also lamented the lack of critical material. With tongue in cheek, I suggested he commission one of his phd students to fill the void. Through your presentations, the Lord has now provided far more than I hoped.

    Looking at some of the future publications you are involved with, I can see that you are quite busy. My hearts desire is that someone will do an evaluation of the current Prophetic Movement (Vinyard, Joyner, etc. & especially IHOP) similar to your Keswick material. This stuff is eating up churches across the world and is only growing in influence. The movement is reaching outside its Pentecostal circles into traditional conservative Christianity by heavily promoting deeper life revivalism while masking its neo-gnostic heresies. A good brother at our church, with leanings toward deeper life, is now drifting away into the movement. Many others outside our church body are falling prey. (btw, it might interest you to know that we are in Greenville, SC where IHOP has just opened shop using a Vinyard church building).

    As shepherds/teachers/pastors we are here in the trenches having to slug it out with this stuff and we often feel outgunned by their sophistry, misinformation and outright lies. There is some helpful material on the internet but it is intermittent and lacks the credibility of disciplined scholarly study. We need some reliable and comprehensive research that can actually nail their aberrant jello to the wall and can be presented to the younger generation being swept up in these prophetic movements by the tens of thousands.

    Thanks again, my brother!

  10. Daniel Kuhlwein says

    WOW! As I listened to your lectures the second time through light bulbs were going off. These lectures were extremely helpful. Thank you so much.

  11. says

    I just listened to the lectures while driving back from Chicago yesterday and found them very helpful. From your blog posts and interviews, I had a pretty good idea of the main identifiers and erros of Keswick, but the lectures assembled a historical big picture for me.

    I was especially intrigued by how widespread the Keswick influence is, particularly in our hymnody. Apparently, I’ve sung quite a few hymns with little/no regard for authorial intent (in this sphere and others)!

    As one who spent far too many summer camps / retreats / altar calls “re-dedicating” his life to the Lord in hope of “gaining the next big step of victory,” I very much appreciate your work. Thanks!

  12. Josh Bennett says

    Hey, Andy, long time no see! Your involvement in the school was a big influence on me during my freshman year at Bible college. Anyway, I just found this site and have been taking a better look at this theology.

    Going back to Mr. Pierpoint’s question about the correlations between the Keswisk Movement and Mr. Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles: Just today I was chatting with a friend of mine that used to be in the IBLP programs with me years ago. My comment to him was basically that the continual use of lists by the IBLP was very influential in my earlier belief that sanctification was achieved by works. It took years of study and the work of the Holy Spirit to open my eyes to the truth. While this certainly doesn’t fully answer Mr. Pierpoint’s question, it may shed some light on the perspective of a former IBLP student.

  13. says

    Ironically, almost inexplicably, I first encountered the Keswick message when Major Ian Thomas came to speak at Wheaton College. At a particularly low point in my Christian life this message was very helpful to me.

    Since then I have completed a PhD in the history of revival at a British University and have taught theology in Europe, Asia, and the U.S.

    Whilst recognizing the obvious limitations of the Keswick concept of sanctification,I also thank God for its timely impact on my life.

    • Bill Heath says

      Great article to balance and give reader two views. I agree with this article in doctrine, history, and personal experience. A more excellent way is for all believers. There are canal and spiritual and degrees of each, and backsliders and overcomers. We are all one body being transformed into the likeness of Christ.

  14. Vince Cancilla says

    Could you offer any thoughts on how far/if Watchman Nee, Leonard Ravenhill, and A. W. Tozer fit into this tradition, and any modifications they might have made to the EKT?

    I am recently coming out of a very bad year and a half under the burden of “striving” to enter into rest after being exposed to much of the holiness teaching, namely through the preaching of Leonard Ravenhill. I am having to re-evaluate the impact it has had on my life, and I am trying to see what is truly Biblical in some of the teachings, and what is erroneous. Though I was helped at a time of deep struggle with sin by the promise of power over sin through Christ (the promise of the “wedding march” of Romans 8), after coming out of that swamp of sin into victory I found myself again in a different, darker desert of failure, which I am still trying to get out of now (replete with countless marks of my own “carnality” and my constant failure to overcome said tendencies). The Lord has been leading away from this holiness preaching (and away from an Arminian theology) toward a Reformed understanding of salvation. My experience has been similar to that described by William Romaine in an article I read once, “How I Came Into This Way of Believing…” (that is, from his time with the Methodists and struggle for holiness, to a Reformed view).

    Thank you so much for this very helpful work, I have been unbelievably blessed by it, and all the questions I have been struggling with for so long now have suddenly come to light! I have no need now for some vast mystical, mysterious transfiguration experience I somehow was supposed to have the faith for, to “reckon” has been bought in Christ for me and claim it by faith, but which I have not yet inherited due to my own lack of faith or carnality… but rather I can rejoice that I have indeed already inherited it, and God is working to lead me further and further into Him, who is my All in all! Praise God.

    God bless you,

  15. says

    Thanks, Vince, for your kind words.

    I’m not sufficiently familiar with the works of Watchman Nee, Leonard Ravenhill, and A. W. Tozer to comment. Sorry!

    Blessings to you!

  16. Christopher Love says

    Dr. Naselli,
    Where would you place Dr. J. Vernon McGee in reference to historic Keswick theology and/or its descendant forms? Dr. McGee was an ordained Presbyterian minister in the PCUS but was a strong Dispensationalist and a Fundamentalist of the old guard. He received degrees from both Columbia and Dallas and was a deep admirer of Dr. Chafer. He pastored the Church of the Open Door in Los Angeles, founded by R.A. Torrey, and he taught at both Dallas and Biola.
    Dr. McGee’s underlying systematic and practical theologies seem pleasantly Calvinistic and pleasantly evangelistic when heard through the venue of his pulpit preaching. His Through the Bible Radio program, which came later, sounds a bit more Keswick. His pulpit preaching stressed faith in Christ alone for salvation and seemed to imply that sanctification is impossible by mere reasoned choice. He treated preaching as a “speech-act” in the sense of John 8:30. As far as I know, he did not opt for high-intensity altar-calls nor did he put a lot of stress upon the “making of choices.” He seemed to look more for incipient Spirit-given faith in Christ as Christ was lifted up in preaching — a faith that would, of itself, yield positive decision-making and sanctification. Dr. McGee described himself as one of those who found nothing good in himself, though he might try, but who rather found in knowing Christ all that he needed for life and godliness.
    Dr. McGee never completely abandoned the foundations of Presbyterianism in his theology or thinking, yet he greatly admired a lot of Keswick-oriented men. He even changed his opinion of pre-Keswick Finney from a highly negative opinion to a more positive one at some point in his ministry.
    Dr. McGee was broad in his acceptance of men and of movements. He tended to look for the gospel and for the good in them. In the opinion of some, he transgressed a correct Biblical separation at times. In expounding 1 Corinthians 3:21-22 on his Through the Bible Radio program, he once made the comment: “Are you a Calvinist? Well, John Calvin is mine, and so is John Wesley.”
    What do you say? Where do you perceive Dr. J. Vernon McGee as fitting into or not fitting into the Keswick lineage?

    • says

      I am not qualified to comment on Dr. McGee because I’ve merely heard him on the radio a few times back when I was a subcontractor in my college days and my boss would play him on the radio. Based on your description, he sounds like he might hold the Chaferian view.

  17. Levi Deatrick says

    Hi Andy,

    Very interesting things here. Have you read or are you familiar with H.A. Ironside’s book “Holiness, False and True”? If so, I’m curious of your thoughts on it.


    • says

      I think I read that book over 15 years ago (and I don’t recall it very well), and it was before I had studied Keswick theology (so it’d be unwise for me to share what I recall).


  1. […] * Andrew Murray. Humility: The Journey Toward Holiness. Reprint, Bloomington, MN: Bethany House, 2001. A classic by Andrew Murray, discusses the wonderful blessings to be found in true humility.  Includes a brief biography of the author. [This book is certainly edifying, but I would be remiss not to mention that Andrew Murray was probably the prominent devotional author in the early Keswick Movement. I wrote my first dissertation on Keswick theology, and my thesis is that it is theologically erroneous.] […]

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