Saturday, February 28

Im simply gonna entitle this entry "Charles Finney: The Heretic!"

I know not too many people would appreciate this entry, but truthfully and with all sincerity- WHO CARES! Im not saved to please mankind, or play the "I gotta be sensitive card" If you know me you know that I dont have hair on my tongue, and I can care less about ruffling feathers, or rubbing someone the wrong way. I dont post so that you or anyone can "like" me, I post out of the conviction of my heart, and right now I wanna tell you about:


Michael S. Horton wrote an awesome article on Finney, I will be breaking his paper into various portions and posting them throughout the week.

Read cause if you got Charismatic, Pentecostal, or mainstream Christian background, you are going to appreciate the truths said here! Not only that but Finney initiated a lot of the practices that are exercised today in modern Christian Churches, that you need to see where, why, and how these practices came to be.

The Legacy of Charles Finney by Michael S. Horton

Jerry Falwell calls him 'one of my heroes and a hero to many evangelicals, including Billy Graham.' I recall wandering through the Billy Graham Center some years ago, observing the place of honor given to Finney in the evangelical tradition, reinforced by the first class in theology I had at a Christian college, where Finney's work was required reading. The New York revivalist was the oft-quoted and celebrated champion of the Christian singer Keith Green and the Youth With A Mission organization. Finney is particularly esteemed among the leaders of the Christian Right and the Christian Left, by both Jerry Falwell and Jim Wallis (Sojourners' magazine), and his imprint can be seen in movements that appear to be diverse, but in reality are merely heirs to Finney's legacy. From the Vineyard movement and the church growth movement to the political and social crusades, televangelism, and the Promise-Keepers movement, as a former Wheaton College president rather glowingly cheered, 'Finney lives on!'

That is because Finney's moralistic impulse envisioned a church that was in large measure an agency of personal and social reform rather than the institution in which the means of grace, Word and Sacrament, are made available to believers who then take the Gospel to the world. In the nineteenth century, the evangelical movement became increasingly identified with political causes--from abolition of slavery and child labor legislation to women's rights and the prohibition of alcohol. At the turn of the century, with an influx of Roman Catholic immigrants already making many American Protestants a bit uneasy, secularism began to pry the fingers of the Protestant establishment from the institutions (colleges, hospitals, charitable organizations) they had created and sustained. In a desperate effort at regaining this institutional power and the glory of 'Christian America' (a vision that is always powerful in the imagination, but, after the disintegration of Puritan New England, elusive), the turn-of-the-century Protestant establishment launched moral campaigns to 'Americanize' immigrants, enforce moral instruction and 'character education.' Evangelists pitched their American gospel in terms of its practical usefulness to the individual and the nation.

That is why Finney is so popular. He is the tallest marker in the shift from Reformation orthodoxy, evident in the Great Awakening (under Edwards and Whitefield) to Arminian (indeed, even Pelagian) revivalism, evident from the Second Great Awakening to the present. To demonstrate the debt of modern evangelicalism to Finney, we must first notice his theological departures. From these departures, Finney became the father of the antecedents to some of today's greatest challenges within the evangelical churches themselves; namely, the church growth movement, Pentecostalism and political revivalism.

Who Is Finney?

Reacting against the pervasive Calvinism of the Great Awakening, the successors of that great movement of God's Spirit turned from God to humans, from the preaching of objective content (namely, Christ and him crucified) to the emphasis on getting a person to 'make a decision.'

Charles Finney (1792-1875) ministered in the wake of the 'Second Awakening,' as it has been called. A Presbyterian lawyer, Finney one day experienced 'a mighty baptism of the Holy Ghost' which 'like a wave of electricity going through and through me...seemed to come in waves of liquid love.' The next morning, he informed his first client of the day, 'I have a retainer from the Lord Jesus Christ to plead his cause and I cannot plead yours.' Refusing to attend Princeton Seminary (or any seminary, for that matter), Finney began conducting revivals in upstate New York. One of his most popular sermons was, 'Sinners Bound to Change Their Own Hearts.'

Finney's one question for any given teaching was, 'Is it fit to convert sinners with?' One result of Finney's revivalism was the division of Presbyterians in Philadelphia and New York into Arminian and Calvinistic factions. His 'New Measures' included the 'anxious bench' (precursor to today's altar call), emotional tactics that led to fainting and weeping, and other 'excitements,' as Finney and his followers called them. Finney became increasingly hostile toward Presbyterianism, referring in his introduction to his Systematic Theology to the Westminster Confession and its drafters rather critically, as if they had created a 'paper pope,' and had 'elevated their confession and catechism to the Papal throne and into the place of the Holy Ghost.' Remarkably, Finney demonstrates how close Arminian revivalism, in its naturalistic sentiments, tends to be to a less refined theological liberalism, as both caved into the Enlightenment and its enshrining of human reason and morality:<>What's So Wrong With Finney's Theology?

First, one need go no further than the table of contents of his Systematic Theology to learn that Finney's entire theology revolved around human morality. Chapters one through five are on moral government, obligation, and the unity of moral action; chapters six and seven are 'Obedience Entire,' as chapters eight through fourteen discuss attributes of love, selfishness, and virtues and vice in general. Not until the twenty-first chapter does one read anything that is especially Christian in its interest, on the atonement. This is followed by a discussion of regeneration, repentance, and faith. There is one chapter on justification followed by six on sanctification. In other words, Finney did not really write a Systematic Theology, but a collection of essays on ethics.

But that is not to say that Finney's Systematic Theology does not contain some significant theological statements. First, in answer to the question, 'Does a Christian cease to be a Christian, whenever he commits a sin?', Finney answers:

Whenever he sins, he must, for the time being, cease to be holy. This is self-evident. Whenever he sins, he must be condemned; he must incur the penalty of the law of God...If it be said that the precept is still binding upon him, but that with respect to the Christian, the penalty is forever set aside, or abrogated, I reply, that to abrogate the penalty is to repeal the precept; for a precept without penalty is no law. It is only counsel or advice. The Christian, therefore, is justified no longer than he obeys, and must be condemned when he disobeys; or Antinomianism is true...In these respects, then, the sinning Christian and the unconverted sinner are upon precisely the same ground. (p. 46)

Finney believed that God demanded absolute perfection, but instead of that leading him to seek his perfect righteousness in Christ, he concluded that

...full present obedience is a condition of justification. But again, to the question, can man be justified while sin remains in him? Surely he cannot, either upon legal or gospel principles, unless the law be repealed...But can he be pardoned and accepted, and justified, in the gospel sense, while sin, any degree of sin, remains in him? Certainly not (p. 57).

With the Westminster Confession in his sights, Finney declares of the Reformation's formula 'simultaneously justified and sinful', 'This error has slain more souls, I fear, than all the universalism that ever cursed the world.' For, 'Whenever a Christian sins he comes under condemnation, and must repent and do his first works, or be lost' (p. 60).

Part 2 coming soon!

In the meantime if you want to read more, read this great article:
Finney: The Heretic!

I have also provided a video if you dont want to read:

If you read enough you will see where this character will lead us to the ALTAR CALL! Then we shall examine that! Its gonna be fun, stay tuned!


1 comment:

Doulos said...

Thanks Les, thats good stuff. Phil Johnson did a good article on Mr Heresy too.

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