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Discussion Forum : Revivals And Church History : Finney Criticism

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Joined: 2006/7/15
Posts: 153
Geneva, Alabama


Hi Robert,

For me perhaps the most troubling thing I see and hear all around repentance circles is that a great many folk have this idea, almost a pre-occupation with being 'unpopular'.

Yes, I know what you mean. I'm not seeking "unpopularity" but I do know of some who are mean spirited and seem to seek it as though it is a virtue. I also know multitudes that are running in the other direction - they are seeking "popularity" and great things for themselves and seem to have forgotten that Jesus said, "Woe to you when all men speak well of you , for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way" (Luke 6:26). It's one thing to be unpopular because you are mean and stubborn - it's another thing to be unpopular because you are God's spokesman and in direct opposition to the spirit of the age. It's one thing to have the discernment necessary to guard the flock by keeping wolves and their false doctrines out; it's another thing to have a "discernment ministry" where you believe that God has called you to go wolf hunting (I believe they will come to you, you don't have to go looking for them). If I am persecuted and suffer as a Christian I want it to be because of my love for the Lord and His truth - not because I am an evil-doer. I have at times been mean and stubborn but the Lord is teaching me gentleness when dealing with those who oppose - so that perhaps He may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth. Thanks for your timely reminder!

Grace and peace

Olan Strickland

 2006/10/19 21:42Profile

Joined: 2003/6/11
Posts: 9192
Santa Clara, CA

 Re: Pondering

Hi Olan,

I regret my spirit of contention.

Do you mean that you don't mind the fact that Finney spoke out of both sides of his mouth as long as someone doesn't comment on it? Have you noticed that while I may be contending for truth I have not been contemptuous? Even my
comment of Finney's speaking out of both sides of his mouth wasn't contemptuous - it was only to point out the truth that reading all of Finney's
work is unecessary:

A little ironic no? :-)

Brother, it [i]sounded[/i] that way originally and this isn't to go on to the ridiculous and may have misunderstood your intentions.

Do I have to study out everything that Joseph Smith, Charles Taze Russell, Mary Baker Eddy, Herbert W. Armstrong, Jim Jones, or
Muhammed has ever done, stated, or spoken to know that they are false prophets? Do I have to study out everything that a true prophet has ever done,
stated, or spoken to know that he is a true prophet? No!

That wasn't the point Olan, would you put Finney in the same category as these? It was an overstatement to be sure, perhaps I should have
asked; Have you really read much of Finney? Or is this something you picked up on by others comments regarding him? That is the reason I asked, it seems there is exactly that which Robert mentioned about throwing the baby out with the bath water ...

Mike, if it were unjust for God to allow His Son (THE JUST) to die in the place of us sinners (THE UNJUST) so that He could be JUST and
the JUSTIFIER of the one who has faith in Jesus then He did it in an unjust manner. This is my whole point of contending for the truth in this
matter - [b]Finney was not arguing from God's perspective, he was arguing from Finney's perspective.[/b]

Yes! No! Precisely ... almost...

What I have been taking this all as is that Finney's perspective is the issue is with [b]US[/b], [i]our[/i] perspective, [i]we[/i] are the
unjust, the undeserving... NOT that God was 'unjust', that we, the whole of the human race that He Himself created, of the same substance that He had already destroyed in the flood... perhaps it could be put rather crassly 'forced His hand' to do... That sounds just as repugnant and presumptuous as the thought that it could be even true. That's very poor for an analogy ...

What is it that God [u]owes[/u] us?
An explanation?
A reason?

Got to admit this easily gets quite confusing, seems there is something very telling and remarkable if we could just grab ahold of it, it is evading me ...

Olan, the above are trailing thoughts left over from yesterday and they are surely disconnected at that...

Have some questions and even a few clarifications as well, the questions are without assumption and this is not purposed to set out a defense necessarily for Charles Finney.

Have you read through Finney's Systematic Theology?

And that unbiased by what others might have said?

Do you have any scholarly understanding of all this?

To answer these questions personally, I don't have this, have read parts and try very much to keep an unbiased understanding to mix up the order of answers.

Think much of this goes far beyond the surface and is generally my particular ... persuasion, to ask and dig down into the things that make us tick. Considering and re-thinking... Found it interesting how even the subject matter at hand can be taken differently even between the two of us. My impression straight off that Finney was making the case for ... [i]responsibility[/i] of the humans, not in any way making the case that what was done on the cross was incomplete or that there is some sort of perverted justice from Gods standpoint ... Can I be frank and state the whole "penal substitution atonement" sounds like a technical ascription to a rather devastating and profound spiritual truth? In other words it has a ring of the 'high-brow' professor ... I digress, the same I am sure could be leveled at the explanations expressed by Finney and others...

Came through similar paths of apologetics as mentioned by Robert earlier. A lot of it very helpful, challenging, especially coming out from the confusion of much of the spurious things going on this day. And as the pendulum often swings too far to one end became quite enamored with the 'fundamentals' to the point where it was just an aping of their thought's (That sense of "They were right about_____ " so the assumption goes to tracking without study or checking against scripture and thinking about anything they have to say, that bandwagon approach ...)

If there is any great point to all of this it is just to be wary of assumptions, wherever they are coming from. In Finney's case, think it is far too easy to write him off in such a way that some have attempted and I think again, this goes beyond the man himself but to questions of ourselves ... on the order of '[i]darkening counsel without knowledge[/i]'.

Have a couple of excerpts to share that might challenge even more some of the assumptions about
Mr. Finney.

Mike Balog

 2006/10/20 9:56Profile

Joined: 2003/6/11
Posts: 9192
Santa Clara, CA

 Re: Preface to Finney's Systematic Theology

[i]This may be a bit long, but believe it is helpful to the discussion[/i] ...

1. To a great extent, the truths of the blessed gospel have been hidden
under a false philosophy. In my early inquiries on the subject of religion, I
found myself wholly unable to understand either the oral or written
instructions of uninspired religious teachers. They seemed to me to resolve
all religion into states either of the intellect or of the sensibility, which my
consciousness assured me were wholly passive or involuntary. When I
sought for definitions and explanations, I felt assured that they did not well
understand themselves. I was struck with the fact that they so seldom
defined, even to themselves, their own positions. Among the words of
most frequent use, I could find scarcely a single term intelligibly defined. I
inquired in what sense the terms “regeneration,” “faith,” “repentance,”
“love,” etc., were used, but could obtain no answer, at which it did not
appear to me that both reason and revelation revolted. The doctrines of a
nature, sinful per se, of a necessitated will, of inability, and of physical
regeneration, and physical Divine influence in regeneration, with their
kindred and resulting dogmas, embarrassed and even confounded me at
every step. I often said to myself, “If these things are really taught in the
Bible, I must be an infidel.” But the more I read my Bible, the more clearly
I saw that these things were not found there upon any fair principles of
interpretation, such as would be admitted in a court of justice. I could not
but perceive that the true idea of moral government had no place in the
theology of the church; and, on the contrary, that underlying the whole
system were the assumptions that all government was physical, as opposed
to moral, and that sin and holiness are rather natural attributes, than moral,
voluntary acts. These errors were not stated in words, but I could not fail
to see that they were assumed. The distinction between original and actual
sin, and the utter absence of a distinction between physical and moral
depravity, embarrassed me. Indeed, I was satisfied either that I must be an
infidel, or that these were errors that had no place in the Bible. I was often
warned against reasoning and leaning to my own understanding. I found
that the discriminating teachers of religion were driven to confess that they
could not establish the logical consistency of their system, and that they
were obliged to shut their eyes and believe, when revelation seemed to
conflict with the affirmations of reason. But this course I could not take. I
found, or thought I found, nearly all the doctrines of Christianity
embarrassed by the assumptions above named. But the Spirit of God
conducted me through the darkness, and delivered me from the labyrinth
and fog of a false philosophy, and set my feet upon the rock of truth, as I
trust. But to this day I meet with those who seem to me to be in much
confusion upon most of the practical doctrines of Christianity. They will
admit, that sin and holiness must be voluntary, and yet speak of
regeneration as consisting in anything but a voluntary change, and of
Divine influence in regeneration, as anything but moral or persuasive. They
seem not at all aware of what must follow from, and be implied in, the
admission of the existence of moral government, and that sin and holiness
must be free and voluntary acts and states of mind. In this work I have
endeavored to define the terms used by Christian divines, and the doctrines
of Christianity, as I understand them, and to push to their logical
consequences the cardinal admissions of the more recent and standard
theological writers. Especially do I urge, to their logical consequences, the
two admissions that the will is free, and that sin and holiness are voluntary
acts of mind. I will not presume that I have satisfied others upon the points
I have discussed, but I have succeeded at least in satisfying myself. I regard
the assertion, that the doctrines of theology cannot preserve a logical
consistency throughout, as both dangerous and ridiculous.
2. My principal design in publishing Systematic Theology at first, was to
furnish my pupils with a class or textbook, wherein many points and
questions were discussed of great practical importance, but which have
not, to my knowledge, been discussed in any system of theological
instruction extant. I also hoped to benefit other studious and pious minds.
3. I have written for those who are willing to take the trouble of thinking
and of forming opinions of their own on theological questions. It has been
no part of my aim to spare my pupils or any one else the trouble of intense
thought. Had I desired to do so, the subjects discussed would have
rendered such an attempt abortive.
4. There are many questions of great practical importance, and questions in
which multitudes are taking a deep interest at present, that cannot be
intelligently settled without instituting fundamental inquiries involving the
discussion of those questions that lie at the foundation of morality and
5. Most of the subjects of dispute among Christians at the present day are
founded in misconceptions upon the subjects discussed in the volume. If I
have succeeded in settling the questions which I have discussed, we shall
see, that in a future volume most of the subjects of disagreement among
Christians at the present day can be satisfactorily adjusted with
comparative ease.
6. What I have said on “Moral Law” and on the “Foundation of Moral
Obligation” is the key to the whole subject. Whoever masters and
understands these can readily understand all the rest. But he who will not
possess himself of my meaning upon these subjects, will not understand the
7. Let no one despair in commencing the book, nor stumble at the
definitions, thinking that he can never understand so abstruse a subject.
Remember that what follows is an expansion and an explanation by way of
application, of what you find so condensed in the first pages of the book.
My brother, sister, friend: read, study, think, and read again. You were
made to think. It will do you good to think; to develop your powers by
study. God designed that religion should require thought, intense thought,
and should thoroughly develop our powers of thought. The Bible itself is
written in a style so condensed as to require much intense study. I do not
pretend to so explain theology as to dispense with the labor of thinking. I
have no ability and no wish to do so.
8. If any of my brethren think to convince me of error, they must first
understand me, and show that they have read the book through, and that
they understand it, and are candidly inquiring after truth and not “striving
for masteries.” If my brother is inquiring after truth, I will, by the grace of
God, “hear with both ears, and then judge.” But I will not promise to
attend to all that cavilers may say, nor to notice what those impertinent
talkers and writers may say or write who must have controversy. But to all
honest inquirers after truth I would say, Hail, my brother! Let us be
thorough. Truth shall do us good.
9. It will be seen that the present volume contains only a part of a course of
Systematic Theology. Should the entire course ever appear before the
public, one volume will precede, and another succeed the present one. I
published this volume first, because it contains all the points upon which I
have been supposed to differ from the commonly received views. As a
teacher of theology, I thought it due to the church and to the world, to give
them my views upon those points upon which I had been accused of
departing from the common opinions of Christians.
10. I have not yet been able to stereotype my theological views, and have
ceased to expect ever to do so. The idea is preposterous. None but an
omniscient mind can continue to maintain a precise identity of views and
opinions. Finite minds, unless they are asleep or stultified by prejudice,
must advance in knowledge. The discovery of new truth will modify old
views and opinions, and there is perhaps no end to this process with finite
minds in any world. True Christian consistency does not consist in
stereotyping our opinions and views, and in refusing to make any
improvement lest we should be guilty of change, but it consists in holding
our minds open to receive the rays of truth from every quarter and in
changing our views and language and practice as often and as fast, as we
can obtain further information. I call this Christian consistency, because
this course alone accords with a Christian profession. A Christian
profession implies the profession of candor and of a disposition to know
and obey all truth. It must follow, that Christian consistency implies
continued investigation and change of views and practice corresponding
with increasing knowledge. No Christian, therefore, and no theologian
should be afraid to change his views, his language, or his practices in
conformity with increasing light. The prevalence of such a fear would keep
the world, at best, at a perpetual standstill, on all subjects of science, and
consequently all improvements would be precluded.
Every uninspired attempt to frame for the church an authoritative standard
of opinion which shall be regarded as an unquestionable exposition of the
word of God, is not only impious in itself, but it is also a tacit assumption
of the fundamental dogma of Papacy. The Assembly of Divines did more
than to assume the necessity of a Pope to give law to the opinions of men;
they assumed to create an immortal one, or rather to embalm their own
creed, and preserve it as the Pope of all generations; or it is more just to
say, that those who have adopted that confession of faith and catechism as
an authoritative standard of doctrine, have absurdly adopted the most
obnoxious principle of Popery, and elevated their confession and catechism
to the Papal throne and into the place of the Holy Ghost. That the
instrument framed by that assembly should in the nineteenth century be
recognized as the standard of the church, or of an intelligent branch of it, is
not only amazing, but I must say that it is most ridiculous. It is as absurd in
theology as it would be in any other branch of science, and as injurious and
stultifying as it is absurd and ridiculous. It is better to have a living than a
dead Pope. If we must have an authoritative expounder of the word of
God, let us have a living one, so as not to preclude the hope of
improvement. “A living dog is better than a dead lion” (Ecclesiastes
9:4), so a living Pope is better than a dead and stereotyped confession of
faith, that holds all men bound to subscribe to its unalterable dogmas and
its unvarying terminology.
11. I hold myself sacredly bound, not to defend these positions at all
events, but on the contrary, to subject every one of them to the most
thorough discussion, and to hold and treat them as I would the opinions of
any one else; that is, if upon further discussion and investigation I see no
cause to change, I hold them fast; but if I can see a flaw in any one of them,
I shall amend or wholly reject it, as further light shall demand. Should I
refuse or fail to do this, I should need to blush for my folly and
inconsistency, for I say again, that true Christian consistency implies
progress in knowledge and holiness, and such changes in theory and in
practice as are demanded by increasing light.
On the strictly fundamental questions in theology, my views have not, for
many years, undergone any change, except as I have clearer apprehensions
of them than formerly, and should now state some of them, perhaps, in
some measure, differently from what I should then have done.

Mike Balog

 2006/10/20 10:00Profile

Joined: 2004/2/12
Posts: 4636
Independence, Missouri



There is a coming counterfeit revival and if we don't learn to spot its proponents and warn others against it then can we truly say that we are lovers of the truth?

It is interesting to note that Hank Hanegraff seems to hold the position that Christ did NOT suffer separation from God on the cross while my research shows that almost every well known theologian I can find hold the traditional view of the Dereliction. I found this quote from R.C. Sproul on "The Cross of Christ":

[b]On the cross, Christ becomes a curse for us -- all the covenantal sanctions are passed to Him (cf. Galatians 3:8-13).
1. Literally, Christ was driven outside the camp. He was delivered to the Gentiles for judgment. He was killed by death on a cross, a Roman means of execution, not Jewish. He was crucified outside Jerusalem.
2. Christ was forsaken by the Father when He took on the sins of the world. He was completely and utterly cut-off. He suffered hell on the cross.[/b]

I found another quote taken from the same audio series, [i]"Let me say this, if Jesus was not really forsaken on the cross you are still in your sins. You have no redemption. You have no salvation. Because the whole point of the of the cross is that if Jesus is going to bear our sins and bear the sanctions of the covenant." [/i]

My point in bringing this out is that Hank H. has labeled folk who hold the opposite view with some strong sayings. This has filtered into our organization on the Bible College level because of fear of being numbered with the Word Of Faith movement apparently. We have had our ministers WARNED not to teach that Christ suffered the separation from the Father on the Cross. I have a strong suspicion that it originated with CRI. And if he is promoting his abberational view and is the main proponent of the concept of a 'Counterfeit Revival' then we have to ask ourselves who is the authority here? If Finney's view is unorthodox so is Hank's. Now we have the pot calling the kettle black (as we say).

God Bless,


Robert Wurtz II

 2006/10/20 12:32Profile

Joined: 2006/2/11
Posts: 2895
Philadelphia PA

 Re: mercy in justice

Hi brother Mike. A little bit back you had mentioned the qoute that we have been discussing here...

The [u]fact[/u] of our intrinsic guilt remains, and must forever remain; and our forgiveness is just as much an act of sovereign mercy, [u]as if[/u] Christ had never died for us."

I think I can see the point you are getting at in underlining it the way you did and I think it is possible that was the emphasis. It is still troubling to me.

Brother, as you said, who could doubt that our forgiveness is an act of Sovereign mercy!


As I understand it, that mercy [u]originated[/u] and I would think is [u]sustained[/u] in God's foreordained, sovereign decree [b]to save[/b], that is, [b]before[/b] even the world began, by means of satisfying the demands of His own justice by the gift His Son. For instance, the Apostle says of our redemption in Christ, that He was

[b][color=000000] ...foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,[/color][/b]

As I read these passages I got the impression that Finney objected to God forgiving us our sins(as a matter of justice) and this is exactly what troubles me. It seems like one would always be open to suffering the wrath of God for thier sins.

If that is true, how can we have confidence when Christ says

"[b][color=660033] Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.[/color][/b]"

Brothers, I think back just now to the covenant that God made with Abraham and how He showed him that He would be faithfull to fulfill it.

[b][color=000000]And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him.[/color][/b]


[b][color=000000]And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces.[/color][/b]

Well, I think, what then did Abraham do, being asleep, to ensure the blessings, continuance, and fulfillment of this promise? And does it not appear, if we should look through the fulfillment of prophesy, what lengths God Himself did go to in order to fulfill this word?

The scripture says

[b][color=000000]He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.[/color][/b]

In connection with this, I wonder what the Lord Jesus was speaking of when He said

[b][color=660033]Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.[/color][/b]

I don't know, but is it possible, that when the [i]smoking furnace[/i] and the [i]burning lamp[/i] passed between the pieces of those animals that Abraham knew or understood something of what God would do in and through Christ Jesus?

[b][color=000000]Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.[/color][/b]

Peace be with you all in Messiah Jesus.

Christopher Joel Dandrow

 2006/10/20 12:51Profile


quote]So, Christ did not satisfy Divine justice when He died? I guess His death on the cross wasn't really all it's cracked up to be then. Shame on anyone who believes that. SHOW ME SCRIPTURE that backs up Finney's point. I don't understand how people can worm their way around believing in Christ's full payment for our sins just because some preacher said so. Forget about what Finney said, forget about what Ravenhill, Reidhead, and Washer says. It doesn't matter what man has to say about anything. It only matters what God has said, and He cried with a loud voice "It is finished!" and He sealed it with His blood.


 2006/11/10 12:50

Joined: 2004/2/12
Posts: 4636
Independence, Missouri


I don't understand how people can worm their way around believing in Christ's full payment for our sins just because some preacher said so. Forget about what Finney said, forget about what Ravenhill, Reidhead, and Washer says. It doesn't matter what man has to say about anything. It only matters what God has said, and He cried with a loud voice "It is finished!" and He sealed it with His blood.

I'm not trying to be silly here, but this argument is self-defeating and discounts its own author. If it does not matter what... [i]Finney said, forget about what Ravenhill, Reidhead, and Washer says...[/i] then it would reason that the author of the statement is in the same boat with these men. Certainly scripture is the final authority, but great men and women of God have disagreed on these topics for years and all would likely make an identical statement... [i]It doesn't matter what man has to say about anything. It only matters what God has said,...[/i]. Then each one makes a quote from the word and reaffirms their position. I think the key is to listen to what each other is hearing God say (in the word) and prayerfully and honestly allow the Lord to lead us into all truth. No scripture is of a private interpretation. This is why the discussion is useful so long as we can keep a good Spirit about it and love one another in spite of our different views. this does not mean that we compromise the essentials, but that we are careful not to judge a person before we have fully heard the matter and understand what they meant. This is not always possible- especially after these men are dead (Finney, etc.). ;-)

Robert Wurtz II

 2006/11/10 13:05Profile


I just stumbled onto this discussion on Finney, and found that brother's post. I guess we could pick his post apart, but it was the spirit of the post that I was agreeing with. I believe there is a time in every christian's walk ( if one is truly seeking God) whereby God will strip us of every other man's or woman's writings/ sermons, etc., so that we can know the truth for ourselves. I'm not talking about lone ranger christianity, but a time where we can know that the Holy Spirit has taught us the Truth. Then we can go back to other writings and discern for ourselves what is true and what is false. I think that's what the brother was talking about.

I have known men and women in my life who have lauded Finney. If you looked at these folks lives you would have said " Man God is really using these folks" They looked set apart and obedient to God. We would say today, "On Fire"....and they were "on fire" their own strength.

They had no rest in God, and it reflected in their ministry; in their relationships.

I think this is the biggest contention with Finney. If you are strong enough, you can follow Finney's gospel. I am not. I need Christ.

There is a place for the law, even after we are born-again. But the law should drive us to Christ...our rest, our strength, our Life.

 2006/11/10 13:34

Joined: 2004/2/12
Posts: 4636
Independence, Missouri


Hi Mahoney,

I think this is the biggest contention with Finney. If you are strong enough, you can follow Finney's gospel. I am not. I need Christ.

I think when taken together we would conclude that Finney would have agreed that he absolutely needed Christ. His works are very thought out and extensive so its impossible to take one writing or even a section and come to any real conclusions. I have done that with him and found out later I had wrongly perceived him in an area.

God Bless


Robert Wurtz II

 2006/11/10 15:47Profile

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