The purpose of these essays is not to argue about the theoretical legitimacy of Finney’s thought, but to point out the outcome it has had for the practice of Christianity in America. The first essay offered an overview of Finney’s religious system and mentioned several areas in which Finney introduced new ideas or methods. This second essay aims to make explicit the consequences of Finney’s ideas with respect to American Christianity.
The first such consequence was to open the door for theological modernism. If the twin criteria of reason and consciousness could nullify the authority of tradition and the confessions, they could also nullify the authority of Scripture. When modernists called an authoritative Bible a “paper pope,” they echoed the very language that Finney used in his diatribes against the Westminster Confession. Finney provided a precedent for the rejection of all external spiritual authority, as well as for undisciplined doctrinal deviation.
First 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.