What do I look for in a spiritual theologian?
By “spiritual theology,” I mean a theology of how to live the Christian life.
The problem is that so many of the “classic” spiritual teachers were steeped in works salvation, so their spiritual theology is an extension of a false gospel. You can still learn from them, but there are plenty of bones to spit out.
This is an area where the Free Grace movement can grow. We’re excellent on grace in salvation but weak on grace in sanctification and discipleship. Too often, our approach to spiritual growth combines “try harder to study the Bible” and “try harder to obey.” We reject legalism in justification, only to accept it in sanctification.
But what’s the alternative?
I’m still looking.
For example, I am very interested in the early Keswick movement. Named after a market town in Northwest England, the Keswick Convention has been held every July since 1875. Their message is on the deeper or higher Christian life and how it is to be lived by faith alone in Christ alone. It came to my attention when I heard Lordship Salvation proponents attacking it. “If they don’t like it, it can’t be all bad!” I thought.
Evan H. Hopkins was the quintessential Keswick theologian. The more I read of him, the more I like him. I might write a short book about his theology, similar to my book on Major Ian Thomas.
What I look for in a Biblical spiritual theology is a commitment to salvation by faith apart from works and to eternal security. It is even better if I can find someone who admits that eternally secure Christians may fail to persevere in faith and good works.
With that in mind, here’s a quote from Hopkins:
“While, then, we insist on the necessity of regeneration—the communication of a new nature—before there can be a spiritual mind, let us not forget that a man may relapse into a worldly condition, though he has become a new creature. He may become ‘carnally minded.’ He may de-generate, though he cannot become un-regenerate” (Hopkins, The Law of Liberty, p. 69).
You can become de-generate because there’s no guarantee you’ll be faithful to the Lord, but you can never become un-regenerate because He’s guaranteed always to be faithful to you.
Send your questions or comments to Shawn.
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