Thursday, December 21, 2006

Fineprint on Finney

I have read much of Finney's heresy in the blogosphere. While not very familiar with Charles Finney, I did read a short biography the other night as I was very curious to see who this man was. However, I found nothing in that biography worthy of labeling him a heretic. So my dear readers, could you please enlighten me as to what exactly this man is guilty of. I would appreciate a point form list of what exactly you find disconcerting.


Bhedr said...

I guess most sight his pelagian views and I've even heard some free gracers call him a heretic outright. I guess he was into perfectionism and would make a puritan look like a renegade from what I am told. Other than that I have no sources. Just what I have observed from reading what folks wrote about him. Seemed to me like someone branched off from his brand and formed the Seventh Day Adventist but i might be confusing some facts....its been so long since I read on him. Keith Green read a lot of his works and ol Keith had a hard time resting in his salvation after that.

Jim said...

Thanks Brian, so basically what you're saying is that from what you have heard, he would qualify as a heretic.

I have just stumbled across some articles about him as well.

Blaurock said...

Finney denied substitutionary atonement and imputed righteousness. He rightly denied law-obedience as imputed, but went even further by denying imputation as a whole through Christ's death and resurrection.

He held the "moral government" view of the atonement. The burden of righteousness is put on the sinner to live in obedience as the grounds of their justification.

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Read his 'Lectures in Systematic Theology.' It is really disgusting stuff.

I find it amazing that he is so respected, even by many Calvinists.

God Bless


Jim said...


Yes it does seem like he overreacted to the Calvinism of his day.

I was reading some critics of him last night, and from what I can gather he did have a few strange views. However, I think he also had a few great insights.


I guess that is why I am curious about him, the fact that he is so well respected by some, and vilified by others.

Blaurock said...

Some quotes from Finney:

"The Christian, therefore, is justified no loger than he obeys,"

"Whenever a Christian sins he comes under condemnation, and must repent and do his first works, or be lost"
Without imputation of sin to Christ, and the righteousness of God to those in Christ there is no gospel. Finney was more philosopher than theologian, and knew nothing of Pauline theology of the Adam/Christ Romans 5 truths of basic Justification, much less the Romans 6-8 basis of Sanctification. It would have been confusion to say the least to have been under his teaching.

Even if he'd said some very pointed and challenging things in other areas, these areas qualify him as a heretic.

Substitutionary, propitious sacrifice is the basic of basics for any man stepping into the pulpit. When Finney bent these truths out of shape he lost the privilege to preach.

Have a great Christmas!
Today I took the boys shopping in a nearby town where they have toys, and they helped me get things for the girls. It was funny. I can't wait to see their faces. I hope you have a wonderful day!

Jim said...


Those are indeed some serious charges. From what I read, the Presbyterians were complicit in their approval of Finney simply because they wanted to keep up with the Baptists and Methodists.

Have a truly wonderful time with your family, and may Christ be especially real to you! It is fun to watch children open gifts.

Bhedr said...

yes, that is basically what I was saying but it looks like Joe would be the one to listen to here.

Daniel said...

here is an article written by Phil Johnson on Finney that more or less outlines the basic heresies he believed. His tone suggests to me that he has no great love for the damage this man's doctrine has done to modern Christianity.

I personally think that Finney was soundly saved, and profoundly used by God -in spite of his doctrinal error. Sadly, it is Finney who seems to have paved the way for easy-believism, even if Finney himself didn't preach it. The mourner's bench (which Finney made popular) heralded in decisionism and altar calls. He himself acredited his spiritual accomplishments to pragmatic methodologies, and encouraged others to follow suit - and erred profoundly in doing so.

A note of correction regarding how his theology was a reflection of his radical departure from the HYPER-calvinism of his day. Jim you said he was reacting to Calvinism, but that is not the case - he was reacting to Hyper-calvinism.

Hypercalvinism believes that God drags unwilling elect sinners kicking and screaming into heaven, and at the same time slams the door shut in the face of the "unelect" who are clawing at the door trying to get it. Such a picture is an abominable perversion of calvinism, a hysterical caricature that would be laughable if there were not actually some hyper-calvinists around who believe just that. Notwithstanding, it is as inappropriate as it is erroneous to confuse hyper-calvinism with calvinism.

Finney was not reacting to calvinism, he was reacting to hyper-calvinism - and while the label sounds similar, the doctrines behind them are not.

The sad thing is that even with all his error Finney did more for Christ than most of loudest critics ever will.

It isn't how much we know, it is how surrendered we are to Christ that makes us his servant.

Jim said...

Daniel, nice to hear from you again.

I actually read that article when I was looking for info on Finney. It was linked from Wikepedia.

I appreciate you giving Finney some credit because I do agree that he was greatly used of God. However, it does seem that he went astray theologically.

While Finney was probably reacting to Hyper, I think he really didn't see the difference and therefore lumped it all together. I believe this caused him to err on the side of being extreme in his theology.

If we can read his story and learn from it then we have benefited. I was not familiar with Finney, except for the vitrolic comments of reformed bloggers. I was curious as to why one man could elicit such obvious contempt. I believe it was because of his opposition to Calvinism and his wild success in seeing conversions.

It is sad though whenever a man of God strays from Biblical truth into obvious wrong teachings. This is why we need to be careful not to be a follower of one man's teaching but simply look to the Word of God as our guide.

Bhedr said...

Yes I agree with Daniel in that heretics can be used of God but we must grieviously address heresy in hopes that men will come to repentance. There are also some Calvinists that have made Hyper-Calvinists statements that skirt this edge wherein I think we need to be honest about it. There are times though where bold statements need to be addressed as well as a pattern of unbelief that appears off kilter and we ourselves need to always step back and look outside of our own imaginative box of intellectual acheivements and see if there may be some unwanted and/or unwarranted assortments that we need to repent of.

Bhedr said...

"These are times that try men's souls. The Spirit has spoken expressly that in the latter times some should depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron. Those days are upon us and we cannot escape them; we must triumph in the midst of them, for such is the will of God concerning us.

Strange as it may seem, the danger today is greater for the fervent Christian than for the lukewarm and the self-satisfied. The seeker after God's best things is eager to hear anyone who offers a way by which he can obtain them. He longs for some new experience, some elevated view of truth, some operation of the Spirit that will raise him above the dead level of religious mediocrity he sees all around him, and for this reason he is ready to give a sympathetic ear to the new and the wonderful in religion, particularly if it is presented by someone with and attractive personality and a reputation of superior godliness.

Now our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, has not left His flock to the mercy of the wolves. He has given us the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit and natural powers of observation, and He expects us to avail ourselves of their help constantly." I Thess. 5:21 and I John 4:1 - A.W Tozer, How To Try The Spirits

Bhedr said...

It is odd that Johnson has critiqued Finney for Perfectionism and Easy Believism. What an odd trip and sometimes if one trys to harmonize human logic with Scripture he does indeed make a fine mess and may never discover his own trap that he is setting for himself.

Jim said...

Hi Brian,

Thanks for your comments, you make some valid points.

God bless,

Shawn L said...

I have read about 1/3 of his systematic theology and it has definite problems.....Here's a sum up.

From Finney

Charles Finney says in one of his books that Christ's Righteousness "could do no more than justify himself. It can never be imputed (or credited) to us...It was naturally impossible, then, for him to obey in our behalf."

"The Lord our righteousness" (Phil. 3:9). . . . "Christ our righteousness" is Christ the author or procurer of our justification. But this does not imply that He procures our justification by imputing His obedience to us... [Charles Finney, Systematic Theology (Minneapolis: Bethany), 372-73].

"That gospel justification is not to be regarded as a forensic or judicial proceeding."

"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..."

"[R]epresenting the atonement as the ground of the sinner's justification ... has been a sad occasion of stumbling to many."

Shawn L said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jim said...

Hi Shawn, thanks for stopping by. From what I can gather, there are many who have some serious concerns with Finney's writings.

I appreciate your summaries here.

God bless,

Bhedr said...

Man I don't know about Finney. I hope he believed the truth. Some troubling stuff out there, but if I were around in his day I would not have been supporting him. We really got to be careful about that aspect. We may need to be careful about attacking a professing believer and not focusing on his heresy but we need to be even more careful about affirming a false teacher. Either way we shall have to give an account for our words on day.

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Matthew, I would be curious to know what Calvinist you are thinking of that respects Finney.