Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Dangerous Doctrine of Charles Finney

Over the past few weeks I have been studying the Theology and teachings of Charles Finney. As I stated in my post The Heresy of Open Theism (Part 2) Charles Finney is one of the Theologians quoted most often by Open Theists and those who embrace the view of Moral Governmental Atonement.

Today I found a few sermons on Sermon (a great site, by the way) that give a quick biography of Mr. Finney and then show, from Scripture, where he want astray in his doctrine and teachings.

You may be asking yourself why am I even concerned with a Theologian who lived almost 200 years ago? The quick answer is that a lot of what he did is still influencing our churches today - and not in a good way. If you ever wondered where things like the Altar Call came from take some time to listen to these sermons - you might be surprised by what you learn.

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Preston N said...


I would suggest that you go read some of Finney's own writings rather than just taking the word of some preacher. I would suggest you start by going to and search and read what Finney truly said about why he had started the anxious bench and not some Calvinist that has an axe to grind. Here is what Finney said about why he started the anxious bench:

"There is the anxious seat, come out and avow your determination to be on the Lord's side," and if he is not willing to do so small a thing as that, then he is not willing to do anything, and there he is, brought out before his own conscience. It uncovers the delusion of the human heart, and prevents a great many spurious conversions, by showing those who might otherwise imagine themselves willing to do anything for Christ, that in fact they are willing to do nothing."

Even Christ asked many of his day "CHOOSE whom you will serve this very day". Finney was basically asking the same thing. The Anxious Bench was not what we have in most churches these days an "an alter call". Finney used the anxious bench to have men sit for days and he would counsel them to make sure they truly were making this decision not on the basis of emotion, but that they truly understood the commitment they were making to God.

Before you start tearing into Finney at least study the mans writings prior to rebuking him.

Chris said...


I have read his writings, Finney embraced pelagainism, he denied the sinfulness of man, he rejected substitutionary atonement, and he taught a salvation of works.

In your comment you referenced choosing whom we will serve, do we need to CHOOSE to follow Christ? Yes. But we cannot make that choice if God has not first made us alive (Eph. 2, Jn 6:44). The person who has been made alive by God WILL repent and put their faith in Christ.

Salvation is a result of God doing a miraculous work whereby He removes our old dead heart and replaces it with a new heart, and He places His Spirit within us. This is the New Birth, and without it NO ONE will enter heaven (Jn 3:3).

This is why there is no such thing as a Carnal Christian; a true Christian has a new heart and God's Spirit within them. They follow God's laws and they obey Him. And through the process of sanctification they become more like Christ every day.

This is not what Charles Finney taught, therefore his doctrine is not only dangerous, it is deadly.


Preston N said...

A few notes about Finney:

Actually Finney taught Semi-Pelagianism - he never taught that man saved himself alone, but that salvation is both a work of God and a work of man - it is a joint process. If salvation is solely of God and man has no part in it and does not repent on his own - then why doesn't God save everyone?

Finney NEVER denied the sinfulness of man, but rather holds man solely accountable for his actions and sin (contrary to Calvinism). He adhered to a belief that man was morally accountable and responsible for his own sin. He did deny substitution atonement, but put forth a retributive atonement theory.

Also,just as a note Finney was NOT an Open Theist.

Chris, I must say we keep having the same debates over and over again. What your theology really comes down to is Predestination and Preordination. Your entire theology boils down to this central point. My thought is this - if you truly believe in this doctrine, then why do you debate me to the extent that you do. Clearly, God has "ordained" me to be an Open Theist and hold to the doctrines I hold dear. If your theology is really true - then I have no control over what I do or believe.

I would put forth that you really deep down don't believe in this and are not living consistently to your theology. If you did, then you would never debate a single person with their theology as they do not have within them the ability to change, but they are merely fulfilling God's providence as put forth by Calvinism. Instead, you debate because you believe within your own heart that men do have control over their destiny.

I just find this very humorous that you debate me time after time and yet your suppose to believe that man has no freewill and all is already destined and foreordained by God.

Chris said...

For the record, I NEVER said that Charles Finney was an open theist - I said that his view of governmental atonement are favored by open theists.