Charles Finney,who was he really?

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Plain Old Bill, Jul 30, 2007.

  1. Plain Old Bill

    Plain Old Bill
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    I have seen negative remarks about him on this board without any specifics.I always take some remarks with a grain of salt depending on who is making the remark. folks go from hyper-cal to Wesleyism to charismatic/wewsleyism and it shows.
    Frankly I'm taking the lazy man's way out because my reading list is very very full. So any help would be appreciated.:godisgood:
     
  2. John of Japan

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    Well Bill, I'd say by the response here that you aren't going to get any specifics from Finney's detractors on this board.

    Finney has his problems. I've read his systematic theology and it isn't very systematic, lacks anything about the inspiration of Scripture, etc. Of course he didn't outright write it, but it was his lectures written down by someone else. At any rate, I disagree strongly with him about losing salvation, some elements of the holiness movement he strengthened, etc.

    However, and here is the kicker, I think he was a great evangelist. If you read his autobiography, it has seasons of prayer, the power of the Holy Spirit, trusting in God to save souls, etc., in every chapter.

    Finney's detractors accuse him of several things that are not true:

    (1) Inventing the invitation at the close of the service. He did not invent this, but even if he did I fail to see what is wrong with encouraging people to make public professions of faith. The invitation, though, was actually invented by the Separate Baptists (Calvinists, folks!). H. Leon McBeth writes, "The Separates apparently helped popularize what is now known as the 'evangelistic invitation.'" He then quotes Rober I. Devin (A History of Grassy Creek Baptist Church, p. 69): "At the close of the sermon, the minister would come down from the pulpit and while singing a suitable hymn would go around among the brethren shaking hands. The hymn being sung, he would then extend an invitation to such persons as felt themselves poor guilty sinners, and were anxiously inquiring the way of salvation, to come forward and kneel near the stand." McBeth then writes, "The separates thus devised a method of encouraging on-thje-spot religious decisions, to the singing of a hymn, well before the revivals of Charles G. Finney, who is often credited with inventing the invitation" (The Baptist Heritage, p. 231).

    (2) Finney is accused of using means to win souls instead of leaving it up to the Lord. While it is true that he believed in human means for saving souls, this by no means proves that he didn't depend on the Lord working through the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. Note the following quotes which I gave on another thread:

    "All ministers may be, and ought to be, so filled with the Holy Spirit that all who hear them shall be impressed with the conviction that 'God is in them of a truth!'" (The Autobiography of Charles Finney, Condensed and Edited by Helen Wessel, p. 76)

    "In regard to my own experience, I will say that unless I had the spirit of prayer I could do nothing. If I lost the spirit of grace and supplication even for a day or an hour I found myself unable to preach with power and efficiency or to win souls by personal conversation" (ibid, p. 105).

    So how did Finney practice evangelism? Prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit, folks--just as we should! :jesus:

    (3) Furthermore, Finney was a brilliant and complicated character. Those who criticize him never give him the benefit of the doubt. "That man was eeeeevil!" they say, but they never give any quotes or other proof. For the record, he was distressed by much of the emotionalism and shallow preaching that accompanied the revivals of the "Second Great Awakening." Calvinists take note of what a mid-life Finney wrote: "There is much less probing of the heart by a deep and thorough exhibition of human depravity, than was formerly the case.... The unutterable depravity of the human heart has not, I fear, been laid open to the very bottom as it formerly was" (Reflections on Revival, by Finney, pp. 16-17).
     
  3. Hardsheller

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    More Finney-ism
    "Nothing is innocent unless it proceeds from supreme love to God and equal love to man, unless the supreme and ultimate motive be to please and honour God. In other words, to be innocent, any amusement must be engaged in because it is believed to be at the time most pleasing to God, and is intended to be a service rendered to Him, as that which, upon the whole, will honour Him more than anything else that we can engage in for the time being. I take this to be self-evident. What then? It follows:
    1st. That none but benevolent amusements can be innocent.Fishing and shooting for amusement are not innocent. We may fish and hunt for the same reason that we are allowed to eat and drink--to supply nature with aliment, that we may be strong in the service of God. We may hunt to destroy noxious animals, for the glory of God and the interests of His kingdom. But fishing and hunting to gratify a passion for these sports is not innocent.
    Again, no amusement can be innocent that involves the squandering of precious time, that might be better employed to the glory of God and the good of man. Life is short. Time is precious. We have but one life to live. Much is to be done. The world is in darkness. A world of sinners are to be enlightened, and, if possible, saved. We are required to work while the day lasteth. Our commission and work require dispatch. No time is to be lost. If our hearts are right, our work is pleasant. If rightly performed, it affords the highest enjoyment and is itself the highest amusement. No turning aside for amusement can be innocent that involves any unnecessary loss of time. No man that realizes the greatness of the work to be done, and love, to do it, can turn aside for any amusement involving an unnecessary waste of time. Again, no amusement can be innocent that involves an unnecessary expenditure of the Lord's money. All our time and all our money are the Lord's. We are the Lord's. We may innocently use both time and money to promote the Lord's interests and the highest interests of man, which are the Lord's interests. But we may not innocently use either for our own pleasure and gratification. Expensive journeys for our own pleasure and amusement, and not indulged in with a single eye to the glory of God, are not innocent amusements, but sinful.
    Again, in the light of the above rule of judgment, we see that no form of amusement is lawful for an unconverted sinner. Nothing in him is innocent. While he remains impenitent and unbelieving, does not love God and his neighbor according to God's command, there is for him no innocent employment or amusement; all is sin.

     
  4. John of Japan

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    So Finney believed in 1 Cor. 10:31 and Col. 3:17. Sounds right to me!
     
  5. Paul1611

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    Ditto. Could not agree more with Bro. John. I would recommend Finney's autobiography to be read by all. While I do not agree with alot of his theological views, there is no doubt God used him in a mighty way. The same goes with John Wesley, Luther, Calvin,...
     
  6. Paul1611

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    Ditto. Could not agree more with Bro. John. I would recommend Finney's autobiography to be read by all. While I do not agree with alot of his theological views, there is no doubt God used him in a mighty way. The same goes with John Wesley, Luther, Calvin,...
     
  7. npetreley

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    Here's a criticism of Finney by Philip Johnson.

    http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/articles/finney.htm

    Johnson's quotes from Finney seem authoritative, and from them, one gets the impression Finney was not even a semi-pelagian, but a full fleged pelagian. It also appears as if Finney rejected substitutionary atonement, and believed that a Christian is justified by continual obedience to the law. Add to this the fact that Finney started his career as a fraud and ended it as a sinless perfectionist, one wonders if Finney was even a Christian.

    If Johnson's quotes or analysis are flawed, I'd like to see how. Otherwise, I'm not sure any criticism of Finney could possibly be too harsh.

    .
     
    #7 npetreley, Jul 31, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 31, 2007
  8. Rippon

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    Finney was a disgrace . He would not be accepted into most fundamentalist pulpits today . He died more biblical doctrines than he affirmed . Michael Horton wrote a paper on Finney some time ago . It was called :"Finney Against The Westminster Confesion Of Faith . Yeah he was a "Presbyterian" who lied about his ordination vows .

    A sound preacher/evangelist of the same era was Asahel Nettleton ( 1783-1844 ) . He is the better biblical model .
     
  9. Andy T.

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  10. npetreley

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    After reading the following article, I can't help wonder if Finney is the father of the KS/ME heresy.

    http://www.mtio.com/articles/aissar81.htm

     
  11. Plain Old Bill

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    Joj, thankyou for a fair and balanced statement. I suspect several of the folks here are reporting what others have said and have read nothing of Finney themselves.That does'nt get me to excited because that is thier particular style of critisism. They never have any firsthand comment on what they themselves have read but will point you to what others say. It's like someone has commanded them to check thier brains at the door and they obey.
    I especially appreciated from you John the little bit of information that it was a calvinist who started thew alter call and not Finney.:godisgood:
     
  12. npetreley

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    Actually, most of the criticisms of Finney quote him extensively, and also point to his works. I read some of Finney's works (thanks to the links), and what I've read so far is just as appalling as these critics say. You can pretend he was a great man, but he was close to being a pelagian and sinless perfectionist, and preached outright heresy.
     
  13. Plain Old Bill

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    I'm not pretending he was any kind of man. please read my original post.I would imagine he like we had his own faults.I imagine that the hopeless wreck that he was that Jesus saved him anyway,warts and all. I'm thankful that Jesus loves me enough to save me warts and all.

    I am glad however that you have at least read some of Finney yourself so your comments take more wieght as firsthand contact.:godisgood:
     
  14. Rippon

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    May we call a spade a spade here ? Finney was a heretic , plain and simple . He denied ( not "died" as my typo had it earlier ) too many biblical doctrines .
     
  15. russell55

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    I once had to put something together that included quotes from various historical and living Christian leaders on the subject of original sin. Here's the one from Charles Finney:

    "We deny that the human constitution is morally depraved, because it is impossible that sin should be a quality of the substance of soul or body. It is, and must be, a quality of choice or intention, and not of substance. To make sin an attribute or quality of substance is contrary to God's definition of sin.

    ....To represent the constitution as sinful, is to represent God, who is the author of the constitution, as the author of sin."


    This quote is from Charles Finney in his Systematic Theology. As you can tell from this quote, Charles Finney denied the doctrine of original sin. He believed that our constitution (or our nature) is not sinful. I have also noted in my notes that he believed that we all come into this world in the same state as Adam and Eve before the fall, but I forgot to record the source for that, so I am unable, at the moment, to back that up with a primary source.

    Right after that quote, I collected this one:

    "...all who deny this, call it original sin, or by any other title, are but Heathens still, in the fundamental point which differences Heathenism from Christianity. They may, indeed, allow, that men have many vices; that some are born with us; and that, consequently, we are not born altogether so wise or so virtuous as we should be; there being few that will roundly affirm, "We are born with as much propensity to good as to evil, and that every man is, by nature, as virtuous and wise as Adam was at his creation." But here is the shibboleth: Is man by nature filled with all manner of evil? Is he void of all good? Is he wholly fallen? Is his soul totally corrupted? Or, to come back to the text, is "every imagination of the thoughts of his heart only evil continually?" Allow this, and you are so far a Christian. Deny it, and you are but an Heathen still."

    This quote is Charles Wesley's, from one of his sermons. You'll notice that he's calling anyone who doesn't believe in original sin, anyone who denies that our nature (or constitution) is "filled with all manner of evil", that our soul is "totally corrupted," a Heathen. Wesley saw the doctrine of original sin as one of the essential teachings of Christianity.

    Had Charles Wesley lived in Finney's time, it seems that he would have considered him "a Heathen still."

    Edited to add: In the linked piece written by Finney, he writes this:

    The dogma of constitutional moral depravity, is a part and parcel of the doctrine of a necessitated will. It is a branch of a grossly false and heathenish philosophy. How infinitely absurd, dangerous, and unjust, then, to embody it in a standard of Christian doctrine, to give it the place of an indispensable article of faith, and denounce all who will not swallow its absurdities, as heretics!

    In other word Finney calls what Charles Wesley taught "heathenish philosophy", and thought it was absurd to include original sin as an essential of the faith, as Charles Wesley obviously does in the above quote. It's hard not to imagine that he had Wesley in mind as one of the people whose ideas he was arguing against when he mentions those who "denounce all who will not swallow [the doctrine of original sin's] absurdities, as heretics!"
     
    #15 russell55, Jul 31, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 31, 2007
  16. TCGreek

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    1. Finney, trained in law, took a legal approach to every text of the Bible.

    2. Finney thought and taught that Romans 3-5 were "theological fiction."

    3. Finney took a pragmatic approach to evangelism--the end justifies the means. Many seminaries, church growth books, telepreachers take this approach. Finney's influence is still alive and well.

    4. Finney was a heretic.
     
  17. npetreley

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    True. I did think it was rather amusing to see Phillip Johnson trash Finney, though, since Phillip Johnson is also trained in law, and it usually shows. ;)

    I agree. Sad, but true, that his influence is alive and well.
     
  18. Plain Old Bill

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    Rippon,
    would you please be more specific?:godisgood:
     
  19. Rippon

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    Nick , you have the Phils confused . Phil Johnson , who is John MacArthur's editor , wrote against Finney . Phillip Johnson on the other hand was trained in law and has written a number of books including :"The Wedge of Truth" .
     
  20. TCGreek

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    You're right about that. Phil Johnson of GTY was educated at Moody Institute with a BA in Theology/Bible and Phillip E. Johnson is a grad. of Harvard and the Unvi. of Chicago. I have his "Wedge of Truth" and "Reason in the Balance," which were written against naturalism.
     

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