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Why “Let Go and Let God” Is a Bad Idea

What is “let-go-and-let-God” theology? It’s called Keswick theology, and it’s one of the most significant strands of second-blessing theology. It assumes that Christians experience two “blessings.” The first is getting “saved,” and the second is getting serious. The change is dramatic: from a defeated life to a victorious life; from a lower life to a higher life; from a shallow life to a deeper life; from a fruitless life to a more abundant life; from being “carnal” to being “spiritual”; and from merely having Jesus as your Savior to making Jesus your Master. People experience this second blessing through surrender and faith: “Let go and let God.”

Keswick theology is pervasive because countless people have propagated it in so many ways, especially in sermons and devotional writings. It is appealing because Christians struggle with sin and want to be victorious in that struggle now. Keswick theology offers a quick fix, and its shortcut to instant victory appeals to genuine longings for holiness.

Keswick theology, however, is not biblically sound. Here are just a few of the reasons why:

1. Disjunction: It creates two categories of Christians. This is the fundamental, linchpin issue.
2. Perfectionism: It portrays a shallow and incomplete view of sin in the Christian life.
3. Quietism: It tends to emphasize passivity, not activity.
4. Pelagianism: It tends to portray the Christian’s free will as autonomously starting and stopping sanctification.
5. Methodology: It tends to use superficial formulas for instantaneous sanctification.
6. Impossibility: It tends to result in disillusionment and frustration for the “have-nots.”
7. Spin: It tends to misinterpret personal experiences.

You can tell that Keswick theology has influenced people when you hear a Christian “testimony” like this: “I was saved when I was eight years old, and I surrendered to Christ when I was seventeen.”

By “saved,” they mean that Jesus became their Savior and that they became a Christian. By “surrendered,” they mean that they gave full control of their lives to Jesus as their Master, yielded to do whatever He wanted them to do, and “dedicated” themselves through surrender and faith. That two-tiered view of the Christian life is let-go-and-let-God theology.

We shouldn’t determine our view of sanctification by counting up who we perceive to be the most holy Christians and seeing which view has the most. Scripture, and Scripture alone, must determine our view of sanctification.

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  • John T. Jeffery

    You are spot on in this post. It is pervasive as you indicated, very much so, sadly. It is also known as “Penielism, “the Higher Life teaching” or “the Victorious Life teaching”. B. B. Warfield’s “Perfectionism” and John Murray’s “Definitive Sanctification” are the best correctives to this error in print that I know of. One of the most interesting and illuminating interactions on this in modern times was Warfield’s 1919 review of L. S. Chafer’s book “He That Is Spiritual”, and Chafer’s attempt to answer Warfield’s criticisms in an extensive footnote in a later edition of the book.


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