Charles Grandison Finney, Part 1: Finney's System

ArchivesFirst appeared at SharperIron on June 3, 2005. Original post and discussion are available here

But as yet the state of the Christian world is such, that to expect to promote religion without excitements is unphilosophical and absurd. The great political and other worldly excitements that agitate Christendom, are all unfriendly to religion, and divert the mind from the interests of the soul. Now, these excitements can only be counteracted by religious excitements. And until there is sufficient religious principle in the world to put down irreligious excitements, it is in vain to try to promote religion, except by counteracting excitements. This is true in philosophy, and it is a historical fact.

- Charles Finney in Revivals of Religion

An hour west of Denver, Interstate 70 passes through the Eisenhower Tunnel. Rain that falls east of the tunnel will eventually flow to the Gulf of Mexico. Whatever falls to the west finds its way to the Pacific Ocean. The tunnel straddles the Continental Divide, a place where raindrops that fall only inches from one another may end up separated by thousands of miles.

American Christianity has its own continental divide: Charles Grandison Finney. Finney’s thought and ministry (expressed in the Revivals of Religion, the Systematic Theology and the Memoirs) radically reshaped American Christianity. We fundamentalists work in Finney’s shadow. His thought and practice have become so deeply ingrained in our movement as to be almost invisible to us. In order to know who we are, we must grasp what Finney was and how he differed from those who preceded him.

FinneyFinney’s approach to Christianity began with an embarrassment over traditional theology, especially the theology of the Westminster Confession. He rejected the authority of that confession and of any kind of church tradition. Finney insisted that people who taught traditional Reformed theology were both thoughtless and inconsistent. He accused them of being unwilling to define their concepts, even to themselves.

Instead of the authority of tradition, Finney accepted the double authority of reason and consciousness. By reason, Finney meant something like plausibility; this kind of reason was his chief tool in understanding the Bible. He supplemented reason with consciousness or self-awareness, which (he argued) granted full and immediate access to one’s own mental states. In Finney’s system, no interpretation of Scripture was allowable which contradicted one’s own self-awareness. That is why he rejected Jonathan Edwards’s distinction between natural and moral freedom.

Finney’s rejection of tradition carried him far beyond the simple rejection of a particular confession. Rightly considered, a tradition involves not so much a continuity of doctrine as a continuity of culture. This continuity of culture provides a context within which doctrines make sense. The proper authority of tradition consists more in providing context than in providing content. From the time of the apostles until the time of Edwards, one can trace a continuity of Christian culture in the West. With Finney, however, came the emphatic rejection of the historic culture of the church. In the truest sense of the term, Finney must be called a religious liberal.

This shift in culture grew out of a shift in theology. Finney began with the “reasonable” proposition that moral obligation always implies moral ability. Thus, the sinner was always morally capable of acting upon the truth. Finney concluded that the work of the minister must be to devote himself to argument and persuasion with sinners, as if he “expected to convert them himself.” Finney then drew the corollary that the minister was morally obligated to use means toward the conversion of sinners.

The question of means was very important to Finney, who held that religious revival results from the appropriate use of means. To him, revival was the work of man, and it was the responsibility of the believer (especially of the minister) to use whatever means would prove effective in reviving religion.

Finney held that a revival presupposed a declension. On his view, godly people naturally tend to decline and fall asleep spiritually (in Finney’s thought, this decline would actually result in the loss of salvation). While theoretically believers could experience gradual, steady spiritual growth, no one should expect such growth in the real world. Rather, God’s people must be suddenly awakened by some spiritual crisis. This crisis and awakening Finney called revival.

Unlike Edwards, Finney held that people must not wait upon God for revival. Humans were quite capable of producing revivals by creating religious excitements. Most individuals were typically occupied with matters having little to do with the gospel. To create interest in the gospel, the preacher must first raise an excitement so as to get their attention. This initial excitement was a necessary condition of revival.

According to Finney, the preacher could not create this excitement without some novelty, some new measure. The key question for determining the propriety of any new measure was, Does it lead to success? Generally, whatever was being done in the world to stir up excitement (in a political campaign, for example, or by the advertisers) should be done more effectively by the church.

One could evaluate numerically the success of any measure used to promote a revival. Whatever produced the greatest number of visible conversions was the most successful measure. Indeed, the spiritual wisdom of any minister or ministry could be determined by the number of conversions produced. In Finney’s thought, soul-winning became the touchstone of spiritual wisdom. The spiritual wisdom and integrity of a minister could be determined, mutatis mutandis, by the number of conversions that he produced.

Finney’s system and methods became widely influential within most of American Christianity. Fundamentalism and other movements within evangelicalism have their roots mainly in those branches of American Christianity that were most influenced by Finney. Therefore, these versions of American Christianity would be well served to understand how their own movement has been shaped by the ideas of this influential man.

(Part 2 will post later this week)

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There are 29 Comments

AndrewSuttles's picture

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:
He rejected the authority of that confession and of any kind of church tradition.

Finney rejected all tradition? I wonder how many books he had in his Bible, and where he put the chapter and verse divisions, and on what days he met for worship, etc?

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:
The question of means was very important to Finney, who held that religious revival results from the appropriate use of means. To him, revival was the work of man, and it was the responsibility of the believer (especially of the minister) to use whatever means would prove effective in reviving religion.

I think the folks that came before Finney believed in 'means' also. They believed that the Spirit used the preaching of the Word to open blind eyes. The minister uses the means and the Spirit opens the eyes howsoever he will. Finney didn't invent means, but rather new innovations, and non-Biblical means.

Kevin T. Bauder wrote:
According to Finney, the preacher could not create this excitement without some novelty, some new measure. The key question for determining the propriety of any new measure was, Does it lead to success? Generally, whatever was being done in the world to stir up excitement (in a political campaign, for example, or by the advertisers) should be done more effectively by the church.

Perhaps Finney should have recognized that the gospel is a stench of death (2 Cor 2:15-17) and foolishness (1 Cor 1:18-29) to those not regenerate.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Bauder's article rang pretty true to me. It has been a long time since I read a biography on Finney, but I have long thought that much of what I did not appreciate about revivalism in general originated with him. I think I remember reading he would have the room especially warm to make it more likely for sinners to be uncomfortable and populate the anxious bench.

IMO, the whole "revival" concept is not founded in Scripture, at least not the typical version of it. I do not think the word is found in the New Testament, at least in the versions I use. Yet, at the same time, the terms "revival" and "evangelism" have been interchanged as though they were one and the same.

My contention is that God nowhere demands we try to reproduce past happenings in American history; he does expect us to make disciples, which should be our focus.

I am looking forward to seeing where Kevin goes with this series; I suspect we will make a stop at the church growth movement station along the way.

"The Midrash Detective"

Bob T.'s picture

I would recommend the book; "Charles Grandison Finney, Revivalist and Reformer" by Keith J. Hardman, Baker, 1987.

More than one secular book on American History give great credit to the converts of Charles Finney for being a major factor in the abolitionist movement.

The last paragraph of Hardman's book states:

Quote:
"Oberlin mourned for the man who had been its spiritual father for forty years, and buried Charles Grandison Finney in nearby Westwood Cemetary. And across America, and in the British Isles as well, those who had been influenced or converted by him, who numbered in the hundreds of thousands, thanked God for his life."

AndrewSuttles's picture

Bob T -

Thanks for the quote. That cemetery is not far from where I live. I'd like to check it out one day.

Forrest's picture

Perhaps the underlying problem is his heterodoxy concerning the heart of the gospel. On justification Finney says,

Quote:
Gospel Justification is not the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ.Under the gospel, sinners are not justified by having the obedience of Jesus Christ set down to their account, as if he had obeyed the law for them, or in their stead. It is not an uncommon mistake to suppose that when sinners are justified under the gospel they are accounted righteous in the eye of the law, by having the obedience or righteousness of Christ imputed to them.*

@Ed
I don't know that we can utterly disregard the idea of a revival. Perhaps the idea of doing things to make a revival come about are bogus. Jonathan Edwards is one of the best writers on revival and conversion that I know of, particularly his A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God and Religious Affections.

*Finney, Charles. "Lecture V. Justification by Faith" Lectures to Professing Christians 1837.

Forrest Berry

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

The results argument actually underscores Kevin's point. It's true that Finney's movement fed abolitionism (and prohibition, too eventually, btw), but it's not unusual for some good things to come from bad ideas.

Andrew S wrote:
Finney rejected all tradition? I wonder how many books he had in his Bible, and where he put the chapter and verse divisions, and on what days he met for worship, etc?
I think you're misreading the piece there. The point is that Finney rejected tradition as a matter of principle. Whether he actually lived up to his assertions on that point is another question. Fair to say he did not entirely.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Dick Dayton's picture

After God reached down and saved me, by first church exposure was to a highly energetic, results driven, invitation pressured church. Bauder's article helped me see that history in perspective. If we really believe that God is sovereign, then we are confident that our efforts to share the gospel will not be fruitless, because He is the One blessing the Word. It is a great relief not to be forced into being a "spiritual salesman" with full responsiblity for results. Now, we must not use the sovereignty of God as an excuse for laziness in evangelism. In fact, God's sovereignty should give us incentive to be diligent.
A few years after salvation, I was introduced to J I Packer's book "Evangelism And The Sovereignty Of God" I would recommend that as a good read.

Dick Dayton

Ed Vasicek's picture

Dick Dayton wrote:
After God reached down and saved me, by first church exposure was to a highly energetic, results driven, invitation pressured church. Bauder's article helped me see that history in perspective. If we really believe that God is sovereign, then we are confident that our efforts to share the gospel will not be fruitless, because He is the One blessing the Word. It is a great relief not to be forced into being a "spiritual salesman" with full responsiblity for results. Now, we must not use the sovereignty of God as an excuse for laziness in evangelism. In fact, God's sovereignty should give us incentive to be diligent.
A few years after salvation, I was introduced to J I Packer's book "Evangelism And The Sovereignty Of God" I would recommend that as a good read.

I agree with you in all points. I, too, was impressed by Packer's book. Unfortunately, I have also seen the fruits of what some call hyper-Calvinism which is very different from just believing in election. The idea that we should "constrain them to come in" does not sit well with the hypers.

Still, I am not arguing that God had no part in the great revivals in our land, but I am saying that there is not Scriptural admonition to try to replicate such movements. We are to be absorbed with making disciples and helping believers reach maturity. If God leads some to become great leaders who reach many in evangelism or to be used by God's Spirit to stir up the hearts of believers, it is hard to be against such a thing. But I am arguing that this is not what we should seek. Rather than resting on a great spokesperson, the Kingdom is best nurtured when every believer follows God's will., in my understanding.
A strong, enduring Christianity is a grassroots Christianity.

"The Midrash Detective"

Bob T.'s picture

Quote:
Kevin Bauder wrote:

This continuity of culture provides a context within which doctrines make sense. The proper authority of tradition consists more in providing context than in providing content. From the time of the apostles until the time of Edwards, one can trace a continuity of Christian culture in the West. With Finney, however, came the emphatic rejection of the historic culture of the church. In the truest sense of the term, Finney must be called a religious liberal.

I am not sure what Dr. Bauder meant here. Historian Mark Noll makes a point in his book "America's God" that there was a collapse of the "Puritan umbrella" that made the emerging of Democracy possible. He indicates there was a change of culture occurring before the Revolution and after.

There was a change of culture prior to the Revolution that was brought about by the awakenings. This involved a modifying of theology. There was also a change of culture and theology that occurred with the Revivals that started with the Cane Ridge meetings at about 1790 at places and 1801 at Cane Ridge, Kentucky. The 19th Century was the century of revivalism. Finney was part but far from all of it.

Finney's anti Calvinism was not alone or a sudden change. The Wesley Revivals were hardly Reformed in context and there was the establishing of thousands of Methodist and Baptist churches which emerged. There were many local revivals from 1770s to the 1780s that were largely on the frontier. In 1770 there were 20 Methodist churches. In 1790 there were 712. In 1860 there were 19,883. The Baptists went from 150 to 12,150. The Presbyterians went from 500 to 6,406. This was due to revivals that predated and went beyond Finney.

The American revivalism appears to predate Finney, goes beyond Finney, and was changing culture before Finney. By 1860 there was an American Culture that had been changing for two centuries. Christianity was "de Europeanized and the common sense philosophy, and a literal Bible hermeneutic had become the popular religious approach of the American culture. This would eventually result in a theology emerging in America that reestablished Israel as having a future hope and a literal kingdom. It also would result in the emerging of a new over arching viewpoint of scripture that was less philosophical than Calvinism and the Westminster confession. It would be called Dispensationalism. The prejudices and anti semitic philosophy of European Calvinism would be less prominent and Wesleyism and Dispensationalism would emerge. This was a result of a "Bible Onlyism" that emerged in America.

Some Calvinist interpreters emphasize the errors of Revivalism based on the Finney model. However, true revivalism is much more in history than Finney. Finney certainly had a very confused theology that involved a "Governmental" view of the Atonement instead of a substitutionary view. Many appear to have been born again through his ministry.

So far as results go, I do not know of a church that does not look at results of some sort and at some times and learn from them. Many look at numbers. They even mention results and numbers in the book of Acts. Can you imagine that?

AndrewSuttles's picture

Bob T. -

I agree. The newer feelings-based religious and cultural shift certainly has brought a lot of change to American Christianity. I also agree that Dispensationalism and Weslyism is largely responsible for our recent 'Christian culture' in the US.

Ron Bean's picture

In the early part of the 20th century, Finney's books were texts for some fundamentalist colleges. I didn't realize how much Finney's philosophy was ingrained into these people until one of them told me that he didn't believe in praying for God to save sinners because God had done all He was going to do and now it was up to men to make a decision.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

BobT wrote:
Kevin B wrote:

This continuity of culture provides a context within which doctrines make sense. The proper authority of tradition consists more in providing context than in providing content. From the time of the apostles until the time of Edwards, one can trace a continuity of Christian culture in the West. With Finney, however, came the emphatic rejection of the historic culture of the church. In the truest sense of the term, Finney must be called a religious liberal.
I am not sure what Dr. Bauder meant here.

Me neither. He loses me for a bit there.
Well, I get the "liberal" part. The meaning of "liberal" is relative to your baseline but it's always about change toward the new (whereas "conservative" is about retaining the baseline or returning to something older). So I get that Finney was a radical proponent of new ideas... he was all for departing from the then-current status quo but also from centuries that preceded it. Thus, "liberal."

But Kevin's brief references to tradition and continuity of culture... don't know what he means by that.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Charlie's picture

I think Bob T. is right here, in that Finney is more a prime example of an accomplished paradigm shift than the actual hinge. We see in him a radicalization of previous trends. The Enlightenment represents the great break with tradition; the entire epistemology of the Enlightenment, even in its moderated Scottish form, was designed specifically to bypass tradition in favor of individual perception of truth. It is a justification for discounting the conversations, conclusions, and institutions of previous centuries.

When this hits America just before the revolution, the result is a radical democratization of social structures. By around 1800, American culture had radically shifted. The single best volume on this topic is Nathan Hatch's The Democratization of American Christianity. The point is that up until Edwards, Protestant culture had held the Bible to be the final authority and source of spiritual knowledge, but not the only one. Tradition and history still provided a context for discussing and solving problems. In the turn to radical democracy, tradition became viewed as a hindrance rather than a help, an accretion of inferior thinking to be expunged by rationalism or common sense.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Quote:
In the turn to radical democracy, tradition became viewed as a hindrance rather than a help, an accretion of inferior thinking to be expunged by rationalism or common sense.

I don't doubt it, but it doesn't really make sense. I mean, even the most egalitarian versions of democratic thinking are not really inherently at odds with tradition. Somebody said "Tradition is the democracy of the dead" (Chesterton?). So it's just "the people" of the past rather than "the people" of the present.
And it's not really very rational to reject tradition outright either.
Common sense? What can be more idiotic than assuming the thoughts of millions who lived and died before are pretty much worthless? So personally I think democracy, rationalism and common sense actually all commend respect for tradition.

But it didn't happen that way.
Is this perhaps because "tradition" at that point in time happened to be very (a) authoritarian and (b) hierachical?
(I say "happened to be" because if current trends continue, radical egalitarianism will be very "traditional" in 500 years, so "rejecting tradition" in AD 2510 would mean the radicalism of a high view of authority and a love for stratefied/hierarchical structures.)

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

RMSprung's picture

Yes, Fundamentalists today tend to revere Finney and his revivalist approach to theology, preaching, getting results, and discarding the former ways (Calvinism mostly) as the sense of igniting "evangelistic" fires. But the discourse of Part One above (and many of the associated like minded comments) recognizes that Finney's influence is very prevalent in Fundamental circles. I recall a few of his works as required reading in college evangelism classes (and some of it has value). However, the overall approach to orthodox doctrine was an affront to him for he saw it as a handicap to souls being saved. He had his own story line of a young person oft repeated to bolster his view: [quote]If Dr. Green [a theological opponent ] had only told us this [Finney's Arminian gospel ] that you have told me we should all have been converted immediately. But my friends and companions are lost.[quote] (Revival and Revivalism by Ian Murrary, p. 291. - an extended historical view of Finney is presented in this work).

Moreover, any comparison of Finney to Edwards is absurd!!! Jonathan Edwards left a body of work and an example of pastoral care in the face of the upheaval of Unitarianism. That would be akin to comparing Al Gore to Albert Einstein. Edward's "Freedom of the Will" is an emancipating look at man in his full nature. The testimony of preaching is listed even in American Anthologies -- "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." I fear the word pictures the humble Edward's crafted were nothing but fodder to the Finneys' of their day.

One commenter above noted: "I agree with you in all points. I, too, was impressed by Packer's book. Unfortunately, I have also seen the fruits of what some call hyper-Calvinism which is very different from just believing in election. The idea that we should "constrain them to come in" does not sit well with the hypers."

Adding "hyper" seems to justify many who have little true understanding and history of the doctrines of grace. Understanding "election" and the 2 Cor 5:11 and Luke 14:23 are not verses that excuse preaching the Gospel, but are actually warnings for us to leave no one without an excuse!!! Compelling and persuading does not imply believing. Election has nothing to do with whom we preach to but is an assurance that as God providentially uses His word and Spirit, the Cross will have its soul saving effect. Beware not to cloak all those who are 5 point Calvinists as "hyper" or as depriving the Gospel to whosoever will.

Preachers would have time well spent reading Packer's "Introductory Essay to John Owen's the Death of Death in the Death of Christ." [url ]www.monergism.com for a download. Then reevaluate your Gospel!!!

Finney's excitement left a wake of spiritual disaster to the towns he "evangelized." Again, read Murray and see the vestiges of his theology as churches were left theologically scorched as he found a welcoming audience who had "itching ears" and needing the excitement to move past what Finney proclaims as an old orthodoxy entangled in and rooted in ancient tradition [my summation, not a direct quote ]. The fires still burns -- but it's not from revival -- rather it is the stench of souls believing a lie.

Bob

JohnBrian's picture

Ron Bean wrote:
...one of them told me that he didn't believe in praying for God to save sinners because God had done all He was going to do and now it was up to men to make a decision.
A non-Calvinist pastor friend of mine asked me:

Quote:
Does Calvinism prevent us from praying for the conversion of all men?

Turns out that it is not the monergists who have no recourse to prayer on behalf of the lost, but rather the synergists.

It is also strange that many synergistic sermons end with monergistic prayers!

CanJAmerican - my blog
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JohnBrian's picture

RMSprung wrote:
Adding "hyper" seems to justify many who have little true understanding and history of the doctrines of grace.

I am in the process of reading John R. Rice's http://swordbooks.com/hyper-calvinsimafalsedoctrine.aspx ]Hyper-Calvinism: A False Doctrine

The back cover states:

Quote:
Hyper-Calvinism! Sometimes it is called five-point Calvinism.

and on page 2 Rice declares:

Quote:
Those who do believe a doctrine of God's limited love, limited grace, limited atonement, and unchangeable plan to damn millions who could not be saved, are called hyper-Calvinists.

Clearly he doesn't understand the difference between a "hyper" and "regular" Calvinist. His influence no doubt, is why many fundamentalists are convinced that 5 pointers are hyper.

CanJAmerican - my blog
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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

There's never going to be a consensus on what "hyper" means. It's like "neo." People attach it to whatever they don't like.
But Ed's use of the term above does not specify 5 pointers, etc. He was clearly talking about folks who use "Calvinism" to neglect proclaiming the gospel. He referred to this as "what some call hyper-calvinism."

(Surely we're all aware by now that there are 5 pointers who are very energetic about preaching the gospel and 4, 3, 2, 1 or even 0 pointers who are not.)

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

AndrewSuttles's picture

...OK, I'm not really that annoyed...

It's too bad that every time the discussion of the doctrines of grace come up, it degenerates into Calvin's role in Geneva's execution of a heretic and whether consistent Calvinists are 'hyper-Calvinists.' Aside from the popular use of the term, there is a theological definition of the term (those that deny the use of means in conversion) and it would be clearer if we stick to that. Strictly and theologically speaking, I think a true hyper-Calvinist is a pretty rare bird. I've never met one in my life (though I'm sure they are around - somewhere). To my best understanding, they are mainly limited to English Baptists of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Spurgeon squared off with some of them and so did Andrew Fuller. It is the writings of these men that John R. Rice used to hijack for the SoTL. By equating 5-point Calvinism with Hyper-Calvinism, Rice makes Spurgeon a bullwork of anti-Calvinistic rhetoric. That view has flowed from SoTL unto many an IFB pulpit. It's a pity that what so many non-calvinists oppose as unbiblical, Calvinists do also.

Regardless, there is much in the revival movement to be proud of. Not all of it was a rebellion against sound orthodox theology. Read up on Asahel Nettleton, for example.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I had only heard and read good things about Finney until coming upon http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/articles/finney.htm this article some time ago. By that point I was ready to accept the notion that good men are not always wise, and that those we had been taught to revere were as susceptible to faulty doctrines as anyone else.

What I have found a bit scary is that I had read so much about Finney but had never read his Memoirs or any of his writings without realizing it. And those who practice Finney inspired revivalism methods often do so without knowing anything more about Finney than his name and reputation. I believe it is imperative upon church leadership to know everything they can about WHY they do what they do, and not just accept traditions as good because they are 'old fashioned' and therefore pure. http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys.php ][img ]http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys/smiley-confused002.gif[/img ]

rogercarlson's picture

RMSprung,

One of the best posts on this thread. Thank you for it!

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

Charlie's picture

Susan R wrote:
I had only heard and read good things about Finney until coming upon http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/articles/finney.htm this article some time ago. By that point I was ready to accept the notion that good men are not always wise, and that those we had been taught to revere were as susceptible to faulty doctrines as anyone else.

What I have found a bit scary is that I had read so much about Finney but had never read his Memoirs or any of his writings without realizing it. And those who practice Finney inspired revivalism methods often do so without knowing anything more about Finney than his name and reputation. I believe it is imperative upon church leadership to know everything they can about WHY they do what they do, and not just accept traditions as good because they are 'old fashioned' and therefore pure. http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys.php ][img ]http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys/smiley-confused002.gif[/img ]

Exactly. I've gone through much the same process with Billy Sunday.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Thanks for that reply- Am I ever glad I'm not the only one who's ever done that. Isn't it funny how you can get the feeling that you've read someone when really all you've ever done is read about them? Talk about wanting to slap oneself upside the head. http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys.php ][img ]http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys/smiley-ashamed005.gif[/img ]

I once heard a preacher say that people treat the Bible that way- they read about the Bible but seldom read the Bible itself- "Don't read books about a Book you don't read". If I wore T-shirts with writing on them, that'd be the one I'd want. I've applied that idea to everything in the last few years, especially in our homeschool. For instance, we seldom read history textbooks- we read memoirs and autobiographies and the like.

I had the same epiphany about Billy Sunday when I read about his sons- what does it profit if you gain the world and lose your family? Finney strikes me the same way- all these 'results' and yet, for someone obsessed with fruit inspection, what has been the fruit of his teaching and methods?

JohnBrian's picture

In post 77 of the http://sharperiron.org/forum/thread-why-did-adam-sin ]Why did Adam sin? thread I wrote:

Quote:
...synergism insists that responsibility requires ability (God can only require what man in his natural state is able to do), while monergism denies that requirement. Hyper-Calvinists go the other way - recognizing that man has no ability, they then affirm that he has no responsibility.

Maybe this will help:

Mon: responsibility - no ability
Syn: responsibility - ability
H/C: no ability - no responsibility

Robert H. Lescelius, the Associate Pastor of Peachtree Baptist Church, in his article http://www.peachtreebaptist.org/hyper.htm What Is A Hyper-Calvinist? defines Hyper-Calvinism as a

Quote:
distortion of Calvinism. In reality a hyper-Calvinist does not believe enough. Spurgeon stated his position in the Hyper-Calvinist Controversy of his day: “I do not think I differ from any of my hyper-Calvinist brethren in what I do believe, but I differ from them in what they do not believe.”[sup ]2[/sup ] Iain Murray echoes Spurgeon by noting that “the danger with Hyper-Calvinism is not so much what it believes, but that it does not believe enough.”[sup ]3[/sup ] What is it that they do not believe? Hyper-Calvinism is the position that does not believe in the indiscriminate offer of the gospel to the elect and non-elect.

He then references the Gospel Standard Baptist churches http://www.gospelstandard.org.uk/files/Articles.pdf ]Articles of Faith and Rules .

Quote:
ARTICLE 24: GOSPEL INVITATIONS
We believe that the invitations of the Gospel, being spirit and life*, are intended only for those who have been made by the blessed Spirit to feel their lost state as sinners and their need of Christ as their Saviour, and to repent of and forsake their sins.

Quote:
ARTICLE 26: DUTY FAITH AND DUTY REPENTANCE DENIED
We deny duty faith and duty repentance – these terms signifying that it is every man’s duty to spiritually and savingly repent and believe[sup ]1[/sup ]. We deny also that there is any capability in man by nature to any spiritual good whatever. So that we reject the doctrine that men in a state of nature should be exhorted to believe in or turn to God[sup ]2[/sup ].

Quote:
ARTICLE 29: INDISCRIMINATE OFFERS OF GRACE DENIED
While we believe that the Gospel is to be preached in or proclaimed to all the world, as in Mark 16. 15, we deny offers of grace; that is to say, that the gospel is to be offered indiscriminately to all.

Quote:
ARTICLE 33: PREACHING TO THE UNCONVERTED
Therefore, that for ministers in the present day to address unconverted persons, or indiscriminately all in a mixed congregation, calling upon them to savingly repent, believe, and receive Christ, or perform any other acts dependent upon the new creative power of the Holy Ghost, is, on the one hand, to imply creature power, and, on the other, to deny the doctrine of special redemption.

Additional resources:

http://www.amazon.com/Spurgeon-v-Hyper-Calvinism-Battle-Preaching/dp/085... ]Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching

http://drjamesgalyon.wordpress.com/2010/03/18/hyper-calvinism-isnt-calvi... Hyper-Calvinism isn’t Calvinism

http://blog.rbseminary.org/2009/01/spiritual-declension-lessons-from-ear... The Chilling Effect of Hyper-Calvinism

http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/articles/hypercal.htm A Primer on Hyper-Calvinism

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Susan wrote:
...and not just accept traditions as good because they are 'old fashioned' and therefore pure

Yes... it's pretty hard to get more "old fashioned" than sin itself.
(Still, other things being equal, I think I prefer old fashioned sin to newfangled sin. Wink )

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I would have totally agreed with you a few months ago, but I recently read http://www.amazon.com/1001-Books-Must-Read-Before/dp/0789313707/ref=sr_1... ]1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die , and I was taken aback at the debauchery depicted in novels from a time I had always thought of as a bit more moral and noble than our time. Reading reviews of books such as Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Dangerous Liaisons) by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, published in 1782, and writers like François Rabelais (1494-1553) didn't leave me with the feeling that there was any significant difference between old fashioned sin and newfangled sin.

IOW, I think we idolize the past more than it deserves, and it's done way too much in our churches.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

You mean a really, really old trashy novel isn't better than a new trashy novel? Smile Since I'm pushing 45 now I feel entitled to revere the past and be nostalgic.
(Actually, as a died in the wool conservative, I do have an intentional bias in favor of the past... but it doesn't require believing everything was better--and certainly not better in every way)

Back to the OP... got a request via email for some documenation.
Don't really have time to go through and footnote the essay but some links that might be helpful:

Finney's http://www.ccel.org/ccel/finney/revivals.titlepage.html Lectures on Revivals of Religion
Finney's http://www.ccel.org/ccel/finney/theology.html Systematic Theology
Looks like you can find the Memoirs http://charlesgfinney.com/memoirsrestored/memrestindex.htm here

Some general history on Finney
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/131christians/evangelistsandapologis... at Christian History
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Grandison_Finney ]Wikipedia (has some useful links)

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Matthew J's picture

I knew something of Finneyism growing up in an experiential fashion. I learned later what the results of Finneyism later and realized that I did not like it nor the "evangelist/apologist" Charles Finney; But when I read his systematic theology (I couldn't read all of it, pretty difficult, but I read enough to understand where he is coming from), my eyes were opened to the utter heresy espoused by Finney. It made me realize that reason elevated to equal or above doctrine will pervert not only doctrinal beliefs, but will utterly change (assuming there was an actual "change") the practice and philosophy of a man and leave a wake of theological disaster for centuries. God help me know his Word so well, that I don't leave a legacy, tiny or massive, like that of Charles Finney. Who cares if good came from it, if it isn't according to Truth, the "good" results (whatever they might be) are of no consequence.

I echo what Susan said, we need to be zealous to read source documents and compared them to the greatest source of all, the revealed Word.

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