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Joined: 2004/6/28
Posts: 141

 Charles Finney, your discernment?

I have been working my way through "Lectures on the Revival of religion" lately, but knew there was some heated feeling aganst Finney. So i thought I would do a [url=]google search[/url] for him. The fourth most relevant result gave me a clear idea of the negative feelings about him. For example,

. By corrupting the doctrine of justification by faith; by denying the doctrines of original sin and total depravity; by minimizing the sovereignty of God while enthroning the power of the human will; and above all, by undermining the doctrine of substitutionary atonement, Finney filled the bloodstream of American evangelicalism with poisons that have kept the movement maimed even to this day.


What do you think? These areas of doctrine are quite important, but we can't ignore the legacy he left (some say good, others bad). I know sermonindex is pro-finney, but was wondering what everyone's responses were to [url=]this article?[/url]


 2006/4/29 22:38Profile

Joined: 2004/6/28
Posts: 141

 Re: Charles Finney, your discernment?

Something more neutral:

[i]Finney was a primary influence on the "revival" style of theology which emerged in the 19th century. Though coming from a Calvinistic background, Finney rejected several tenets of "Old Divinity" Calvinism which he felt were unbiblical and counter to evangelism and Christian missions.

In his Systematic Theology, Finney fully embraced the Calvinist doctrine of the "Perserverance of the Saints." [3] At the same time, he took the presence of unrepented sin in the life of a professing Christian as evidence that they must immediately repent or be lost. Support for this position comes from Peter's treatment of the baptized Simon (see Acts 8) and Paul's instruction of discipline to the Corinthian Church (see 1 Corinthians 5). This type of teaching underscores the strong emphasis on personal holiness found in Finney's writings.

While some theologians have attempted to associate Finney with Pelagian thought, it is important to note that Finney strongly affirmed salvation by faith, not by works or by obedience. (see [4] and [5]). Finney affirmed, however, that works were the evidence of faith. The presence of sin thus evinced that a person never had saving faith.

There are also questions over Finney's understanding of the meaning of Jesus' death on the Cross. His view is complex and has suffered from multiple misunderstandings, often due to reading quotes out of context.

Besides making Christ's death the centerpiece of justification rather than Christ's obedience, Finney's understanding of the atonement was that it satisfied "public justice" and that it opened up the way for God to pardon people of their sin. This was the view of the disciples of Jonathan Edwards' followers, the so-called New Divinity which was popular at that time period. In this view, Christ's death satisfied public justice rather than retributive justice. As Finney put it, it was not a "commercial transaction." This view, typically known as the governmental view or moral government view, differs from the Calvinistic view where Jesus' sufferings equal the amount of suffering that Christians would experience in hell.

Since the early 1990s, a number of well-known Reformed theologians have raised serious questions about Finney's theology and have even claimed that his understanding of the Evangelical Gospel was deeply flawed.[/i]

Would it be fair to say that we should read the Lectures on Revival of Religion more intellectually than spiritually? It might do us more good to test everything said before we "take in on board". In particular, a good read of The Atonement by Albert Barnes might be good to ensure we have a solid grasp of that theology before we risk confusion at the hands of Finney's lectures.

What does everyone think? Feel free to nicely disagree! :-)


 2006/4/29 22:50Profile

Joined: 2003/11/23
Posts: 4538

 Re: Charles Finney, your discernment?

Hi coops...

It might be helpful to remember that Finney only personally penned a single work -- his [url=]memoirs[/url]. In that work, he is careful to explain his hesitation at writing -- and only decided to in order to verify the record of what happened to the best of his recollection. And even then, he never had it published during his lifetime. He left it to his family, who later had it published. The rest of "his books" were actually paraphrases from his sermons.

I read through the website in your first post. It seems to me that the author indicates some clear resistance to Finney's beliefs about "justification through faith" -- but particularly his disbelief in Calvinism. But from what I read, the website seems to believe that Finney stood completely opposed to all aspects of Calvinistic approaches of faith. However, I feel that it wasn't so much that Finney stood opposed to it, as much as he felt that any sort of belief in calvinism could not be used as an excuse to live an unholy life. In fact, upon reading his memoirs, you will notice that Finney preached mostly in churches from denominations that hold at least some sort of calvinist beliefs.

Even if the author of the website that does not agree with Finney, it is odd that he feels secure enough to describe him as "a [i]fraud[/i]," "a [i]heretic[/i]," and even "a [i]wolf in sheep's clothing[/i]." That is a strong statement for anyone to make about a man -- particularly if the reason is because of a simple doctrinal disagreement.

On a side note, I have read Finney's memoirs. While I may not agree with all of Finney's doctrinal positions (as stated in his "books") -- his passion for the honor of God is completely evident. In a day in which many believers feel comfortable in sin due to their "justification" -- Finney's messages seem to be needed today more than ever.



 2006/4/30 1:36Profile

 Re: Charles G. Finney

User removed.

 2006/4/30 10:46

Joined: 2004/7/4
Posts: 1014
Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

 Re: Charles Finney, your discernment?

Hi Coops,

If you want to find out about how this Finney stuff pans out, get hold of RobertW, he is on the top posters list.

I know he has read allot of Finney and has spent allot of time working through 'his' theology.

God bless,

Zeke Oosthuis

 2006/4/30 12:25Profile

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

 Re: Charles Finney, your discernment?

Hi coops,

What do you think? These areas of doctrine are quite important, but we can't ignore the legacy he left (some say good, others bad). I know sermonindex is pro-finney, but was wondering what everyone's responses were to this article?

It is typical of those who have (to put it mildly) a dislike for Finney and his theology. I have often asked myself the question, based on what works I have read of Finney's, if he would have taken a different posture towards Calvinism had the emphasis in his day been on Arminianism. His lectures on Revival indicate that the reason his emphasis was on 'man's responsibility' was because the church had shifted so far to the right on God's sovereignty. He seemed to be reacting to conditions that do not exist in tthe church at this time, so it is difficult to come to terms with a lot of his teachings. Obviously his works have had a powerful influence on the church in the West as certain 'beliefs' as he described them are no longer in vogue.

Having said that I try to focus personally on Finney as a revivalist and [i]not[/i] a theologian. I do not recommend his teachings on justification, etc. I can also say the same thing about other great teachers of bygone generations that I also highly esteem. There were good contributions to the church and others that we can leave alone. Prove all things and hold fast to that which is good.

Personally I believe Finney's strong points are in the area of preparation for Revival. I also believe his teachings on how to counsel anxious sinners are tremendous. His message "God Cannot Please Sinners" is a must for every Christian as it deals with the conscience. I [i]do not[/i] believe that Christians can benefit in the long run from constantly 'breaking them down' and bringing them to a state of repentance over and over again. To me, that is contrary to Hebrews teachings:

Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; [u]not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works[/u], and of faith toward God, (6:1)

Finney's beliefs (depending on what point in his life in which you look at his theology) centered on man needing to be broken down and brought to repentance for the purpose of maintaining a 'spirit of revival'. I requires a salvation assurance of very thin ice. A sort of 'hair trigger' loss of salvation. Again, perhaps he could not get past fundamental excesses in his times on the doctrine of election and sovereignty that caused folk to place everything in God's hands. Almost as if someone would say, "The Lord has not sovereignly chosen to save me yet, so I'm still living in Sin" or maybe, "We don't have revival yet because God has [u]not[/u] chosen to sovereignly send one." Finney's reaction? [i]"STIR UP the fallow ground for it is time to seek the Lord!"[/i] He believed that man could respond to God's commandments and if he does not he/she is in rebellion.

I could go on and on... Just be mindful of what you are reading and have a good understanding of justification, regeneration, adoption and walking in the Spirit prior to allowing his soteriological (salvation) doctrines to have too much influence over you. ;-)

Robert Wurtz II

 2006/5/1 8:35Profile

Joined: 2005/1/14
Posts: 2164

 Re: Charles Finney, your discernment?

Hello Coops,

Here is a rebuttal to that article that you linked to.


Josh Parsley

 2006/5/1 10:11Profile

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