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Discussion Forum : Scriptures and Doctrine : Finney... Again

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havok20x
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Joined: 2008/9/14
Posts: 975
Pineville, LA

 Re:

“You can’t argue with the fact that Charles Finney was anointed by God, greatly used by the Lord and many souls were saved through his ministry.”

I can argue with that “fact.” I have objectively looked at Finney’s theology, practices, and conversion. I must admit that the effect he had was profound and long-lasting. The claims he made about his ministry were amazing and to be grateful for, if indeed done in the power of the Spirit. However, an incredibly high percentage of his converts fell away (see the article I posted earlier). The methods he used were, by his own mouth, contrived and man-centered. His theology was Pelagian at best. I know a lot of people love Finney, but He has done a great deal of damage to the Church and introduced pragmatic means by which he successfully filled churches with false converts and poor practices.

You cannot measure any minister’s success by the number of professing conversions. You measure it by Ephesians 4, 1 John, and Matthew. 7.

 2022/7/31 16:51Profile
ChrisA
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Joined: 2022/7/8
Posts: 11


 Re:

Replying to Mike's question, chapter 21 of Finney's Systematic Theology will give the answer. Many online researchers have analyzed Finney's writings. Here is an excerpt of one, regarding the aforementioned book, which sheds some light on Finney's theology:

The first thing we must note about the atonement, Finney says, is that Christ could not have died for anyone else’s sins than his own. His obedience to the law and his perfect righteousness were sufficient to save him, but could not legally be accepted on behalf of others. That Finney’s whole theology is driven by a passion for moral improvement is seen on this very point: "If he [Christ] had obeyed the Law as our substitute, then why should our own return to personal obedience be insisted upon as a sine qua non of our salvation" (p.206)? In other words, why would God insist that we save ourselves by our own obedience if Christ’s work was sufficient? The reader should recall the words of St. Paul in this regard, "I do not nullify the grace of God’, for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing." It would seem that Finney’s reply is one of agreement. The difference is, he has no difficulty believing both of those premises.

That is not entirely fair, of course, because Finney did believe that Christ died for something—not for someone, but for something. In other words, he died for a purpose, but not for people. The purpose of that death was to reassert God’s moral government and to lead us to eternal life by example, as Adam’s example excited us to sin. Why did Christ die? God knew that "The atonement would present to creatures the highest possible motives to virtue. Example is the highest moral influence that can be exerted ... If the benevolence manifested in the atonement does not subdue the selfishness of sinners, their case is hopeless" (p.209). Therefore, we are not helpless sinners who need to,’ be redeemed, but wayward sinners who need a demonstration of selflessness so moving that we will be excited to leave off selfishness. Not only did Finney believe that the "moral influence" theory of the atonement was the chief way of understanding the cross; he explicitly denied the substitutionary atonement, which

"assumes that the atonement was a literal payment of a debt, which we have seen does not consist with the nature of the atonement ... It is true, that the atonement, of itself, does not secure the salvation of any one" (p.217).

Then there is the matter of applying redemption. Throwing off Reformation orthodoxy, Finney argued strenuously against the belief that the new birth is a divine gift, insisting that "regeneration consists in the sinner changing his ultimate choice, intention, preference; or in changing from selfishness to love or benevolence," as moved by the moral influence of Christ’s moving example (p.224). "Original sin, physical regeneration, and all their kindred and resulting dogmas, are alike subversive of the gospel, and repulsive to the human intelligence" (p.236).

Having nothing to do with original sin, a substitutionary atonement, and the supernatural character of the new birth, Finney proceeds to attack "the article by which the church stands or falls"— justification by grace alone through faith alone.

 2022/7/31 18:30Profile
havok20x
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Joined: 2008/9/14
Posts: 975
Pineville, LA

 Re:

https://www.monergism.com/charles-finney-vs-westminster-confession

Here are some quotes:

“ It is a monstrous and blasphemous dogma, that a holy God is angry with any creature for possessing a nature with which he was sent into being without his knowledge or consent.”

“ Original or constitutional sinfulness, physical regeneration, and all their kindred and resulting dogmas, are alike subversive of the gospel, and repulsive to the human intelligence.”

“ There is nothing in religion beyond the ordinary powers of nature.”

“ It [religion] consists entirely in the right exercise of the powers of nature. It is just that and nothing else. When mankind become religious, they are not enabled to put forth exertions which they were unable before to put forth. They only exert powers which they had before, in a different way, and use them for the glory of God. A revival is not a miracle, nor dependent on a miracle, in any sense. It is a purely philosophical result of the right use of constituted means--as much as any other effect produced by the application of means.”

The man was a heretic and a pragmatist. His own words prove it.

I am not being hard on Finney just to ruffle your feathers or win some debate. Finney’s theology and influence is destroying my denomination right now (SBC). The emphasis on the number of responses/baptisms, the pragmatic use of psychological manipulation and the “New School” view of depravity have gutted any genuine Gospel that was left.

 2022/7/31 19:46Profile
havok20x
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Joined: 2008/9/14
Posts: 975
Pineville, LA

 Re:

Narrowpath,

If what we believe (theology) does not count as fruit, then why did God inspire the Pauline Epistles, John’s writings (read John 1!!!), Peter’s writings, Jude’s, James, Hebrews? Those books are replete with theology and many doctrines are essential to even be considered Christian (read 1 John, Jude, 2 Peter, Hebrews, and Romans for proof on that.)

What you believe has everything to do with this. Finney taught ungodly ideas:

“The doctrine of an imputed righteousness, or that Christ's obedience to the law was accounted as our obedience, is founded on a most false and nonsensical assumption, for Christ's righteousness could do no more than justify himself. It can never be imputed to us....It was naturally impossible, then, for him to obey in our behalf. Representing the atonement as the ground of the sinner's justification has been a sad occasion of stumbling to many.“ —Finney

And I am not committing blasphemy of the Holy Spirit because Finney’s words no more align with the Gospel of Christ than Joseph Smith’s did.

 2022/7/31 19:53Profile
Altimus
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Joined: 2022/6/24
Posts: 7


 Re:

Finney's theology was full of Pelagianism. Though I confess I have not read anything by him explicitly. I have a gathered a baseline knowledge to his rejection of original sin from various sources which is further cemented by the Quotes by ChrisA and Havoc20x.

Pelagianism is a dangerous heresy as it undermines one of the core tenants of man's state before God: His utter depravity. Man is born in his sin and cannot come to God by any means. Any righteousness he does is already his due(Romans 4:4) and any works are similarly not clean in GOd's sight but instead filthy rags(Isaiah 64:6). By denying the state of man as lost and in need of a savior and instead moving them from completely dead to just sick due to their own idiocy, you destroy the need for a savior. If man is not evil but simply wicked though he could be good, he does not need a regeneration, or a new birth by the power of the Holy Spirit but instead in inspiration to change his mind and revert his course. This the moral influence theory asserted by ChrisA that is present in Finney's writings.

If one holds to a pelagian doctrine of man's state there is no need for a savior as many only needs to be reverted or perhaps healed but not redeemed from his death to sin. He can make his way to God if he so chooses, he just must be persuaded.

Understanding this denial of original sin and the sin nature of man, makes Finney's tactics much more understandable since he believed man only needed to be corrected to reach his true potential not saved out of the death of his sin. As a result he used manipulative tactics that brought "results" but rarely actual true salvation.

Finney's key contribution was the sinner's prayer in which he stated that a 15 minute prayer will bring you out of God's condemnation and into his favor. He asserted that once this was completed a man was saved(in essence by his own merit). This was one reason why the burned over districts were created as these were led to believe that were saved as a result of this prayer and no further action was needed to punch their ticket to heaven. They missed the glory of God and the joy of walking with Christ as the gospel of Jesus was perverted from a need of salvation to the uttermost sinner to instead a formulaic action to get into heaven.

To the member who asserted that Finney was a man of God because of the "salvations" this does not stand up against scripture. Many can profess to know Christ but we know true faith from the changed life that it produces and the fruits it yields in the long-term.

The Gospel conversion often requires further investigation as occurred in the book of Acts when Peter and John were sent to Samaria to discern whether the gospel had indeed come to the gentiles(Acts 8:9-25) and lay hands on the new believers. Furthermore, we are to test every spirit against the scripture to see whether or not it is from God(1 John 4:1). Many movements have come and gone and we can know whether or not they are of the Lord based upon whether they agree with the Gospel that is given us in Christ. Anything that disagrees on the Gospel is counterfeit, and no matter the perceived results is not from God. After all, many will be led away in the last days by the false prophet. Just because something appears to be getting results does not mean it is from God.

The judge of Finney will not be his mark on history, but ultimately how his teachings reflected the true gospel of salvation from utter depravity and sin through Christ alone. And I believe from what has already been said this judge will be everything but favorable.

 2022/7/31 20:30Profile
ccchhhrrriiisss
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Joined: 2003/11/23
Posts: 4663


 Re:

Hi ChrisA,

Quote:

Many fine preachers and evangelists have espoused Finney as a great revivalist and soul winner, but when I dug into his own writings I was stunned to read that he did not believe that Jesus paid the price for our sins at Calvary's cross. This is absolutely fundamental to the Christian faith.



Thanks for sharing. Did you read this directly while reading through his writings or is this something that you read in other sources about Finney's writings?

If the former, let me pose two questions:

1.) Did he ever write or say something that is effectively contrary to the statement that you asserted (i.e., "...he did not believe that Jesus paid the price for our sins at Calvary's cross.")?

2.) Is it possible that Finney ever changed his mind during his very long life?

For the first question, I think that it is important to know whether this is something that Finney clearly believed -- having never said/wrote anything else that could be construed otherwise.

This would rule out that this statement than a small morsel of something from a particular context. Because, if he did, in fact, ever write something contrary to the statement of belief that you've attributed to him, then it would contradict that attributed statement.

As for the second question: There are individuals who have been known to change their views on many such matters. I've known hyper-Calvinists who later disavowed any belief in Calvinism and I've known anti-Calvinists who later became hyper-Calvinists. The same can be said of many different views -- even among believers who have regularly posted here on SermonIndex over the last nearly two decades.

Many of the writings from Finney books were actually transcribed from lectures and notes early periods in his ministry. Moreover, some of his teaching may have been more personal views that may have been taught in a theological setting (such as Oberlin) as opposed to what he would have taught to a congregation of believers.

I must admit that I am not an expert on the life and teachings of Charles Finney. Apart from his Memoirs, I haven't read much in terms of theology from Finney (or most other preachers for that matter).

I do know that Finney was mentioned in my U.S. history class in public high school (at a time when I didn't even believe in Christ) as well as in two of my required undergraduate history courses that I took at a secular university. Those particular courses included sections on the impact of the "Second Great Awakening" and the role that Finney played in it during the first century of this nation's history.

So, I suppose, that my questions are more cautionary -- but also to ascertain whether or not this statement of belief (that you asserted) was never contradicted by something else that Finney said or wrote. Moreover, I think that it is important to know whether he believed this throughout his life (rather than merely at a point in which that particular lecture was notated).

I have previously read many claims about Finney and "Pelagianism." However, I've noticed that a handful of those sources seem to be an exercise in confirmation bias -- seeing something that would confirm a suspicion.

On the other hand, I haven't read anything from Finney apart from his Memoirs. So, I am unaware of his statements that would affirm what you wrote or any potential conflicting statements where Finney may have actually written or uttered something about the work of the cross that might contradict what you've stated.

Quote:

Finney also wrote that many of his converts in New York's "burned out district" had quickly fallen away with reprobate behavior.



Interesting point. However, I think that the same can be said of many of the "revivals" and evangelical crusades that are more widely embraced too. I do think that, in a historic perspective, the Second Great Awakening wasn't just about people coming to Christ but about an "awakening" where people thought about and became concerned with the condition of their souls. The historic impact of that movement is cemented in the history of this country.


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Christopher

 2022/8/1 1:05Profile
havok20x
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Joined: 2008/9/14
Posts: 975
Pineville, LA

 Re:

Good questions Chris. Finney ascribed to the New Haven / New School theology. He stated that his theology did not change at all, but it absolutely did. He didn’t start out a pelagian (he didn't even know that term, truthfully). However, he was insistent that his understanding of Scripture was superior to all others. Finney’s systematic theology, which we have been quoting is written by him and for the purpose of codifying his teachings.

 2022/8/1 1:37Profile
TMK
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Joined: 2012/2/8
Posts: 6255
NC, USA

 Re:

Finney’s conversion testimony:

“In studying the law, I found that the authors frequently quoted Scripture, and referred especially to Moses as authority for many of the principles of common law. This excited my curiosity so much that I went and purchased a Bible, the first I had ever owned; and whenever I found a reference to the Bible, I turned to the passage and consulted it in its connection. This soon led to my taking a new interest in the Bible, and I read and meditated on it much more than I had ever done before in my life. However, much of it I still did not understand.
I began to talk to the local minister, but found it impossible to attach any meaning to many of the terms which he used. What did he mean by repentance? And what did he mean by faith? And I was particularly struck by the fact that the prayers that I listened to, from week to week, were not, that I could see, answered. And so as I read my Bible and attended prayer meetings, I became very restless.

But I was very proud without knowing it. I had no regard for the opinions of others, and was unwilling to have anyone know that I was seeking the salvation of my soul. When I prayed I would only whisper, after having stopped the key-hole to the door, lest someone should discover me. And I kept my Bible out of sight. If I was reading it when anybody came in, I would throw my law books upon it, to create the impression that I had not had it in my hand. I was unwilling to converse with the minister, because I did not want to let him know how I felt, and for the same reason I avoided conversation with the elders of the church.

Then one night in October 1821 a strange feeling came over me, as if I was about to die. I knew that if I did I should sink down to hell; but I quieted myself as best I could until morning.

At an early hour I started for the office. But just before I arrived at the office, something seemed to confront me: “What are you waiting for? What are you trying to do? Are you endeavoring to work out a righteousness of your own?”

Just at this point the whole question of salvation opened to my mind in a manner most marvelous to me. I saw, as clearly as I ever have since, the reality and fullness of the atonement of Christ. I saw that his work was a finished work; and that instead of having, or needing, any righteousness of my own to recommend me to God, I had to submit myself to the righteousness of God through Christ.
Salvation seemed to me an offer to be accepted; it was full and complete; and all that was necessary on my part, was to give up my sins, and to accept Christ. North of the village lay a piece of woods, and I turned and bent my course toward these woods, feeling that I must be alone, and away from all human eyes and ears, so that I could pour out my prayer to God.

But still my pride showed itself. As I went over the hill, it occurred to me that someone might see me and suppose that I was going away to pray. Probably there was not a person on earth that would have suspected such a thing, had he seen me going. But so great was my pride, and so much was I possessed with the fear of man, that I crept along under the fence, till I got so far out of sight that no one could see me. Then I penetrated into the woods and knelt down for prayer, vowing that I would give my heart to God, or never come down from the woods again.

As I returned to the village, I found that my mind had become wonderfully quiet and peaceful.

No words can express the love that was in my heart. I wept aloud with joy; and I literally bellowed out the unutterable gushings of my heart.

The next morning, a client came into the office and said to me, “Mr. Finney, do you recollect that my cause is to be tried at ten o’clock this morning? I suppose you are ready?” I had been retained to attend this suit as his attorney. I replied to him, “Mr. B-, I have a retainer from the Lord Jesus Christ to plead his cause, and can no longer plead yours.” He looked at me with astonishment, and said, “What do you mean?” I told him, in a few words, that I had enlisted in the cause of Christ; and that he must go and get somebody else to attend court; I could not do it. Without making any reply, he went out, and I sallied forth from the office to converse with those whom I should meet about their souls. I had the impression, which has never left my mind, that God wanted me to preach the Gospel, and that I must begin immediately.

No longer had I any desire to practice law. Everything in that direction was shut up. My whole mind was taken up with Jesus and his salvation; the world seemed to me of very little consequence. Nothing, it seemed, could be put in competition with the worth of souls; no labor could be so sweet, and no employment so exalted, as that of holding up Christ to a dying world.“


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Todd

 2022/8/1 19:34Profile
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Joined: 2022/6/24
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 Re:

It is encouraging to hear the conversion testimony of Finney as it appears to be strong and real. According to his testimony he has a strong understanding of the atonement and the need for the righteousness of Christ. However, I believe we need to continue to observe what he taught and what fruit came from this conversion. Simon the sorcerer was converted, but then he sought to buy the power of the Holy Spirit and only made himself a greater son of hell. I could give you further examples of individuals who acknowledged and had an understanding of the true gospel and a repentance of their former false teaching, yet did not turn to Christ and instead continued preaching false doctrine to the people they lead.

I do not suppose to say that like Simon, Finney was unregenerate. I have not studied his writing as much as some of you have and will have to cede in large part to your research as I don't have access to Finney's writings beyond what I already know. Still, the discussion does not need to be settled by one conversion story, but instead by the fruit that this conversion produced.

Were his teachings in line with the atonement of Christ alone through faith alone? Was he calling on sinners to repent of their sin and to turn to Christ as their only hope? Did he exhort sinners to come with no righteousness but only a repentant heart as that is all they can provide and that by the work of the Holy Spirit? That is the question that needs to be answered based on his teachings.

Though there may have been a difference in style to different audiences as Chris noted, the message of any man of integrity will remain the same. So the question remains, what was the message that he taught?

 2022/8/1 20:03Profile
TMK
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Joined: 2012/2/8
Posts: 6255
NC, USA

 Re:

In the recent thread titled “Deal Radically with Impure Thoughts by Zac Poonen” he says in effect that failure to stop sinning will end a Christian in hell.

Isn’t that, in effect, what Finney said?

Are both correct or neither correct? Both put a very high bar on personal holiness to the point that failing to be personally holy puts a person at risk of hellfire. But is this what the gospel teaches? Surely a person should strive to be holy but if he fails in moments of weakness or is in a period of backsliding is he doomed to hell if he has truly accepted Christ?


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Todd

 2022/8/2 7:32Profile





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