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tjservant
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Joined: 2006/8/25
Posts: 1658
Indiana USA

 Re:

Thank you all for taking the time to respond; much good info has been brought forth. I notice however, that those who are not so thoroughly opposed to Finney usually still issue a warning concerning some of his teachings. I, as I’m sure many of you as well, have become accustom to picking out the ‘theological bones’ found in my Christian diet. That being said, I believe we should not attempt to lump all theological disagreements into the same indiscriminate pile. Chris made a good point in reminding us all of the mistakes that are so easily made in our spiritual infancy; mistakes many of us would love to retract and abolish.

But I also believe it wise to make known the difference between mistakes stemming from immaturity in a young believer as compared to propagating a doctrinal error that could potentially shape a theological landscape. I wish not to engage in a Finney theological debate and will leave this topic for now.

However, the issue of “methods of invitation” particularly surrounding the “alter call” is of concern and interest to me. Also the results of Finney’s revivals seem to be greatly conflicted. Many saying it changed the area permanently, while others say they did not have the lasting effects so many claim.

Anyone having additional insights and/or articles on the topics surrounding this issue please contribute.


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TJ

 2008/8/26 9:16Profile
RobertW
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Joined: 2004/2/12
Posts: 4636
Independence, Missouri

 Re:

Quote:
We renounce Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, etc.; however, why not Finney? What we fail to realize is that it is the exact same message. "Be good, and God will bless you." The only difference between the two is the tone of voice and demeanor of the delivery.



The thing that gets lost in these conversations is the challenge that Finney faced in his day. He faced what AW Tozer has called 'a stalemate' between God and men. Men were stuck waiting on God to 'move them' and totally placed their own salvation into the hands of God. We cannot understand this today because we have a very much Armenian slant to things overall in our times. Tozer concluded that Finney helped break the stalemate between God and men to get things moving along again. He added that he did not agree with Finney on his conclusions. I think Tozer was right.

The altar call has a history that begins with Finney. But it is completely unfair to charge Finney with the condition of our times. I dare think we have not heard a preacher like Finney and if we had we may all well be different men and women.


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Robert Wurtz II

 2008/8/26 9:50Profile
ccchhhrrriiisss
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Joined: 2003/11/23
Posts: 4499


 Re:

Hi Taylor...

Quote:
It doesn't matter how holy we think Finney was, his view of the atonement was not Christian.


Im not sure if you are being sarcastic, but I don't think that anyone is promoting just how "holy" that Finney was. Finney, like you and me and everyone else, was confined to his humanity. He was prone to error just like the rest of us. I don't think that anyone is promoting that he was "perfect" or "holy." Actually, he is rarely brought up here at SermonIndex. In fact, most of the discussions that I have noticed in the forum about Finney seem to be an effort to discredit him.

I think that there is a fine line between the spiritual integrity of a man and his doctrine.

Personally, I don't believe in most of the tenants of Calvinism. In fact, I utterly reject some of the arguments about "eternal security." I personally think that the doctrine can be dangerous in the hands of some people. I have met people who attempt to justify the relationship between their ongoing conduct and their eternal, spiritual condition on the grounds of their belief that salvation cannot be "lost" (attributed to the idea about "once saved, always saved"). When I remind them of Scriptures that emphatically state the end of individuals living in sin, they claim what seems to be an "easy way out" Scriptures about the "gifts and calling of God" being "without repentance" as they continue in their sin. Of course, the accusation is that I am promoting salvation through the fulfillment of the Law. I usually try my best to explain that this doesn't have anything to do with "fulfilling the Law" as it does to not continually fulfill the "lusts of the flesh" (and other sins).

In a sense, I personally find that this sort of doctrinal teaching is extremely flawed. But do I reject those who either teach or embrace such a doctrinal stand? Not at all!

As I stated before, Paul the Apostle was forced to confront Peter to his face regarding a doctrinal matter. Peter was a Jew living like a Gentile, yet forcing Gentiles to uphold the Old Covenant's rules and regulations for the Jews. Paul boldly confronted Peter -- even though Paul was barely starting out in his ministry. Obviously, Peter "came to his senses," because he spoke highly of Paul and his Scriptural teachings at a later time (II Peter 3:16).

The point that I am trying to make is that we often use quite a bit of effort to discredit men who simply disagree with us. I know that we should do this with doctrinal issues that are inarguably contrary to Scripture. Yet most of the conflicts within the Body of Christ deal with personal persuasions or inclinations that are not ultimately clear. To be clear: When I am asked which side of the "eternal security" conflict that I stand, I usually say, "Neither." I see some truth in what both sides are saying, mingled with what I feel to be misunderstandings.

Personally, I don't like to read very many books about doctrine. In fact, the only book that I have read completely that is attributed to Finney is his [i]Memoirs[/i] -- which also happens to be the only book actually penned by his own hand. I just don't care to know [u]what[/u] Finney preached. I just think that the best way to understand the truth of a doctrine is to focus only on the Word of God. It is not to say that I don't read books (from time to time) that include doctrinal views. Usually, however, I consult these books only as a means to know what other people believed about an issue -- and not to either validate or criticize my own views.

I imagine that, if we tried hard enough, we could find some issues with any peacher. Yes, for some of them, their flaws are quite obvious to those of us who read and study the Word of God with eagerness. For instance, I know that the teachings of the "prosperity" movement are flawed. I know this because I know what the Word says (or doesn't say) about such things -- and not because I heard someone else explain it. This shouldn't be equated as an attack on prosperity preachers, just a realization that the doctrine that the preacher teaches is flawed. The same can be said about all such doctrines.

But I imagine that, if someone really sought to do so, they could find some flaws within the writings or teachings of men like Leonard Ravenhill. But is that what we are called to do? Are we called as [i]doctrinal examiners[/i]? Are we supposed to "expose" anyone with whom we have a disagreement? Or are we simply supposed to expose error when we happen upon it?

Anyway, these are just a few thoughts. This shouldn't be construed as either an embrace for or attack upon the person of Charles Finney. However, I have read the autobiography of Finney, and I have been challenged and blessed. It isn't that I agree with everything that Finney might (or might not) have taught. However, I think that his aims are transparent enough. He saw a Church that was filled with individuals who did not have a relationship with God or a true conversion experience. He then preached about such things -- and many lives were caused to agonize over their spiritual and eternal status. Come to think of it, I pray that more preachers today would do the same.

:-)


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Christopher

 2008/8/26 11:17Profile
Ruach34
Member



Joined: 2006/2/7
Posts: 296
Beijing

 Re:

Hello dear friends...Although I cannot gush over sources and references, I will make mention of a conversation I had with Richard Owen Roberts concerning this man Charles Finney.

These thoughts are not word for word what came out of Brother Roberts' mouth but his idea that he presented for concern:

First of all, Finney was saved in a revival that had already been going on, so the Work of God was being manifested as Finney started his own minstry. Finney was not the lone, responsible figure for the revival that he worked in.

Secondly, Finney's systematic theology speaks of revival as a man planting a crop and suggests that if the work is done properly then revival must happen. this is the famous 'if-than' statement. He asserted that if people would only properly use the means God has given, they could secure revival.
This brought the whole focus of revival down. It brought our eyes and focus off the giver of revival onto the workers in revival. This is the major error that is implied from Finney's systematic theology that Brother Roberts suggested.

In no way do i imply that Finney was a bad dude, or did not do a great work for the Lord, but his theology was messed up...It seems he has been known as the great Revivalist when, in fact, he was only riding the waves of something that God had started prior to his conversion...

Just a thought...anyone, anyone?


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RICH

 2008/8/26 11:24Profile
boG
Member



Joined: 2008/5/21
Posts: 349
Las Vegas, NV

 Re:

It is always true that no "Revivalist" ever began a revival. God is the Revivalist and in every account that I have read it often begins with 2 or 3 old ladies or some people devoting themselves to praying off in a corner somewhere.

And as the Lord moves the body comes into action, thus, a leader, or leaders, of some sort are raised up as God calls them up.


The problem I have personally noticed is the extreme imbalances percieved in God's relations to man.

On one hand, we have God being utterly sovereign; even to the point that man becomes nothing more than God's "shoes".

On the other hand, we have God being utterly dependant upon man.

Both of these views have a portion of truth but the extremes to which they have gone in shaping the whole of theology is bizarre.

Though to me it is understandable how these things might happen, just as we have mentioned here for Finney.

If we have everybody waiting around for God to move (as I have heard it said before, "waiting for God to get off His behind and move") then it only stands to reason that we need someone to lead men to action, obedience.

While on the other hand, more so for today, we have a great deal of action and activity but we do not see on the whole God moving WITH US. I have seen a great deal of spirituality but ... where is the truth? God is working and man is working but they are not doing so together, there is a lack of unity.

The "if - then" statements are Scriptural, that should not need to be explained. God is a conditional God, that is exactly why we have a convenant.

"If you do this ... that ... etc."
"Then I will do this ... that ... etc. says God."

I like the way C.S. Lewis wrote it in the Chronicles of Narnia, The Silver Chair. Aslan says to the girl that He called them into Narnia for a purpose; she had work to do. But then she asks Aslan, "didn't we call you to let us in and then we opened the door?" But Aslan is straight-forward, "You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you."

This is not a new doctrine. God says "if you do ..." not because we can but because He is calling us to do those things that He Himself is already doing. And neither does He call us to go by ourselves but rather He will never leave us nor forsake us.

God working sovereignly in the unseen places and Christ and man working together in the world.

As I have said to many people about Matthew 25, the parable of the sheep and the goats. As we have done to the least of these we have done unto our Lord Jesus. Likewise, it is not I who live but Christ who liveth in me. Thus it is the same as saying, "Christ serving Christ" -- Christ Jesus all in all.


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Jordan

 2008/8/26 16:42Profile
TrueWitness
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Joined: 2006/8/10
Posts: 521


 Re:

Finney was surely a complete Pelagianist and did not believe in the substitutionary work of Christ. Read more about this misguided soul here:
http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/articles/finney.htm

He was the first to have "altar calls" at the end of his sermons and I don't object to them as long as those who respond don't think there is anything magical about walking to the front. It's what is in your heart (repentance, faith, love).

 2008/8/26 19:32Profile
ccchhhrrriiisss
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Joined: 2003/11/23
Posts: 4499


 Re:

Hi TrueWitness...

Quote:

TrueWitness wrote:
Finney was surely a complete Pelagianist and did not believe in the substitutionary work of Christ. Read more about this misguided soul here:
http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/articles/finney.htm


I very much disagree with both the tone and conclusion of this article. While the author calls Finney a "wolf in sheep's clothing" and uses "Clintonesque" answers to questions -- I don't think that it is fair to make such rash judgments based upon both limited sources (mostly secondhand) and mere disagreements in doctrinal persuasion.

If it comes down to the question of Calvinism (or Pelaginanism -- like you assume about Finney), I must admit that I think the basic tenants of Calvinism (or more precisely, the tenants of "once saved/always saved") are fundamentally flawed. It is my opinion that, in the wrong hands, such a teaching can cause great damage to an individual by offering "false security." From his autobiography, I don't think that Finney believed that people must "work" or "earn" their way to salvation. There is a difference between believing that works are necessary to save the soul -- and a belief that salvation doesn't exist if it is not exemplified by holiness. I believe that Finney was deeply concerned with [i]false security[/i] much more than the concept of [i]eternal security[/i] (if that makes sense). From reports written about Finney and Co. regarding the multitudes of conversions during the Second Great Awakening, it appears that he was highly successful in confronting false conversion that was rampant in the American Church at the time.
Quote:
He was the first to have "altar calls" at the end of his sermons and I don't object to them as long as those who respond don't think there is anything magical about walking to the front. It's what is in your heart (repentance, faith, love).

I agree. However, we might want to illustrate that Finney's "altar calls" (which were not called that at the time) did not resemble the modern "altar call" in the least! Finney pushed for individuals to agonize under the weight of their sin! According to Finney's own words (and contemporary news reports), people would sometimes crawl to the front of the Church in a desperate attempt to find a remedy for their dire eternal condition.

It is my belief that Finney did a good job of this. He confronted an American Church that had become filled with false converts who were merely going through a protestantized version of Catholic tradition. People really thought they were saved merely by making a decision to follow Christ and being baptized. This is not salvation. Finney tried to expose that those who continue to live a life of sin are not truly born again. This, in my opinion, is clear from the Scriptures. It was needed for the Church in his day -- and it is desperately needed in today's modern Church!

I'm not concerned at all about what Finney supposedly believed in regard to doctrinal persuasions. However, I find it extremely odd that people are willing to crucify a man based upon some articles that really cannot be verified or validated but by a very limited amount of material (mostly secondhand). It is extremely disheartening that someone is willing to label the man a "wolf in sheep's clothing" over a mere doctrinal issue for which Finney is rumored to have held at one time. Are we truly willing to strain such gnats? I wonder: How many people would say the same thing about Leonard Ravenhill if they knew every single details of what he believed and preached? Believe it or not, I have met people who have labeled Brother Ravenhill a "wolf" too.

It is extremely sad.

:-(


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Christopher

 2008/8/27 0:01Profile
RobertW
Member



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

 Re:

Quote:
He was the first to have "altar calls" at the end of his sermons and I don't object to them as long as those who respond don't think there is anything magical about walking to the front. It's what is in your heart (repentance, faith, love).



What is more grievous is the seated sinners prayer. Salvation comes about as the person responds to God. I believe Finney understood this. He was a great believer in Holy Ghost conviction. He believed that since God sent man out with a commission that God would back the man in the effort. You will recall that Finney had prayer warriors that showed up to the towns in advance of Finney to began praying with extreme fervency for the meetings. They were also praying during the preaching. I recall one of the statements made as Finney seemed to be a little leary of preaching, it was to the effect "It's OK Bro. Finney, God's come!" They had prevailed in prayer and God moved.

So by no means is Finney any where near the flip attitude of today towards souls. His works on counsel to anxious sinners are some of the best there is that I know of. He pressed the people to surrender to God on the point of controversy that they had with God. He knew that the Holy Spirit was performing His work. He attributed conversion to:

1) The Word of God
2) The Spirit of God
3) The preacher
4) The sinner themselves

Finney showed from the scriptures that there is a 'sense' in which all of these are involved in the conversion of the sinner. Not one or the other- but ALL of them working together. I think Finney was right on [i]that[/i] point.


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Robert Wurtz II

 2008/8/27 9:08Profile
tjservant
Member



Joined: 2006/8/25
Posts: 1658
Indiana USA

 Re:

Quote:
I wonder: How many people would say the same thing about Leonard Ravenhill if they knew every single details of what he believed and preached? Believe it or not, I have met people who have labeled Brother Ravenhill a "wolf" too.



This is not to you in particular Chris…just building on this statement.

This is one of the reasons I started this investigation. I believe people have poured over the theology of men like Ravenhill, Wesley, and Tozer, just to name a few, and though they may disagree, you don't find the multitude or magnitude of opposition anywhere near that of what has historically been leveled at Finney.

Once again, we have had several ‘opinions’ for and against Finney expressed on this thread, a lot of ‘I believe’ and ‘I once read” statements.

I am still looking for primary sources validating the lasting effects of his ministry. It would seem that history would be able to reveal this answer, but I am still finding equal amounts of information declaring both sides as the correct one; both having witnesses that have returned to the very towns and found contradictory evidence.

Strange that such controversy and skepticism surrounds this one man. I have heard many Arminian and Calvinistic preachers alike quote Ravenhill, Wesley and Tozer, all recognizing the work of God in their lives. But with Finney it is different, he is often portrayed as a hero…or zero.

Thank you all for sharing thus far.

Grace and peace


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TJ

 2008/8/27 10:32Profile
RobertW
Member



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

 Re:

Quote:
I am still looking for primary sources validating the lasting effects of his ministry. It would seem that history would be able to reveal this answer, but I am still finding equal amounts of information declaring both sides as the correct one; both having witnesses that have returned to the very towns and found contradictory evidence.



Having been to Oberlin College and Finney's final resting place I found it discouraging that almost no one I met knew anything relevant about Finney. Other false religions were using the church named after him. Pagan insignia and paintings littered the front lawn of the college.

I read where a brother returned lately to where Edwards preached "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" and the area is infested with New Age book stores and occult type things. From what I gather, one could hardly tell there had been an awakening.

But I am not sure that the [i]longevity[/i] of a move of God is a valid means of discerning its legitimacy. We need look no farther than the book of Galatians to see how quickly folk can leave off of a genuine move of God to 'something else'. We see it at Corinth and in the Book of Hebrews.

Finney emphasized the need to return and break up the people over and over again as they fell down in their walk with God. This was due to hardness of heart that was believed to be caused by quenching the Spirit and remedied by 'breaking up the fallow ground and seeking the Lord.'

Finney believed the 'Spirit of prayer' must pave the way for any effective preaching. He focused on how it was God's presence that was important. But he believed that if folk would pray and break up their hearts God would move. He targeted assurance and questioned whether folk were really saved.

Finney searched the consciences of men. He flushed out folk hiding in deception and brought them face to face with the question, "Am I really saved?"


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Robert Wurtz II

 2008/8/27 20:01Profile





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