Monday, June 16, 2008

More On Charles Finney

A few days ago I posted a couple of sermon links along with a few paragraphs explaining the dangerous doctrine of Charles Finney. Since then I have had an exchange with a fellow blogger who holds to theses doctrines and has been challenging my conclusions. In order to show that I am not alone in my classification of Finney as a heretic I am posting this link to an article by Phil Johnson (Pyromaniacs, The Spurgeon Archive) where he examines the teachings of Charles Finney and shows where he went wrong by using Finney's own words; I highly recommend this article:

A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing: How Charles Finney's Theology Ravaged the Evangelical Movement


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12 comments:

J. R. Miller said...

You may be interested to know that Finney's influence goes beyond his theology. The church today is still recovering from his deeply flawed methods. I did a 7 part series on Charles Finney's impact on the American Church that you may be interested in reading.

Chris said...

Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for the link. I will definitely check it out.

God Bless,
Chris

Preston N said...

Chris

Seems your preaching to your own choir again. Why is it you selectively choose Calvinist authors to make your point? Again, Finney was a great man of God and it is sad that Calvinist such of yourself have read very little of his teaching or writings, but take a wide paint brush to blame poor Finney for all the woes of Christianity. If anyone is to blame let's blame Calvin for Easy-Beleivism. Where I can say a little prayer and I am "Eternally Secure" or where Calvin and Augustine promotes Platonism and introduces Pagan philosophy/heresies into the Christian faith. Fingerpoint all you want Chris at least Finney never said such hateful remarks remarks about the Jews as one of your beloved "Fathers":

Quotes from the "Father of Reformation Theology" - Martin Luther. How can any "light" come from such "Darkness"??

"We ought to take revenge on the Jews and kill them."

"Now just behold these miserable, blind, and senseless people."

"eject them forever from this country"

"What then shall we do with this damned, rejected race of Jews?"

"Such a desperate, thoroughly evil, poisonous, and devilish lot are these Jews"

"They are the real liars and bloodhounds"

"We are at fault for not slaying them."

"I shall give you my sincere advice: first to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them."

"Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed."

"Burn down their synagogues, forbid all that I enumerated earlier, force them to work, and deal harshly with them"

"If I had to baptize a Jew, I would take him to the river Elbe, hang a stone around his neck and push him over with the words `I baptize thee in the name of Abraham'."


Also lets not forget the murder of Michael Servetus at the hands of John Calvin! These are such Christ like men Chris! Between these two fellows I'll take Finney any day.....

Chris said...

Preston,

You tell me to show Finney's errors using his own words, and I do (through Phil Johnson's article) and then you attack me because Phil Johnson is a Calvinist?

And for the record, I am not following the teachings of John Calvin (or Martin Luther, or Phil Johnson) I am following the teachings of Jesus Christ, it just so happens that on the issues of election, total depravity, and the absolute sovereignty of God that John Calvin was right.

Do I agree with everything he did? No. But he was a human, just like the rest of us, and he sinned, just like the rest of us. That does not change the fact that what he taught was accurate and Biblical.

And to your comment on easy believeism. If you have ready anything that I have written you would know that I DO NOT teach or believe in easy believeism. I do teach the eternal security of the believer, but I also teach that there are those who think they are saved who are not. If a person says that they are a Christian and there is not any of the fruit of a changed life they are not a Christian and they still in their sins and there is no security for them.

However, if a person has truly repented and placed their trust in the atoning death of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins then they are "saved" and they are eternally secure. If they fall away or turn back to their sin they are not loosing their salvation - they NEVER had it!

Chris

Preston N said...

Chris

First, I have seen this article by Johnson – it’s been around for years. Nothing new here, but the same old gross distortions of Finney and Moral Government theology by a Calvinist who has a bone to pick.

On another note, I am confused by your statements here. In one breathe you say:

“Do I agree with everything he (John Calvin) did? No. But he was human just like the rest of us and sinned, just like the rest of us”

Then you turn right around in the same breathe and say that a genuine Christian is marked by “changed life” and if there is no fruit (I assume your speaking of a life of sin here) then they are not truly saved. You then go on to defend Once Saved Always Saved by saying:

“if they fall away or turn back to their sin they are not loosing their salvation – they NEVER had it!”

Chris, what you have just stated here is a total contradiction. In one breathe you say the Christian life is marked free from sin , but yet you say John Calvin or Luther were just being “human” when they clearly were not being Christ like in their sinful and murderous actions. Aren’t you really promoting Carnal Christianity here?

Furthermore, this is an old argument of Calvinist to defend OSAS – “they were never really saved to begin with”. How then can you ever reconcile that you’re not in this category yourself? What’s to say that somewhere in the future you won’t fall into some apostasy and thus you were never really saved? By this I mean that the only indication that one has never been saved is the final act of apostasy. Previous to this act however, everyone would believe that they were indeed saved including yourself. This is a really poor argument and one that could easily boomerang on someone who adheres to OSAS. I just hope for your sake God has not foreordained it in your future that you fall into some apostasy and thus you were never really saved.

Chris said...

Preston,

Yes, I do believe in OSAS, I do believe that a true Christian will have a changed life, I do believe that a true Christian will persevere to the end, and I believe that we can know that we are saved. But I also believe that there are those who have "asked Jesus into their heart" but who have never repented of their sins yet think they are saved - these people are not saved; they are deceived.

Also, I don't think that the Bible teaches sinless perfection until we get to heaven; salvation is a three part process: Justification, Sanctification, Glorification. When we repent and put our faith in Jesus we are Justified (you are saved penalty of sin), throughout our life we then experience Sanctification (you are being saved from the power of sin), and finally, when we get to heaven will will be Glorified (saved from the presence of sin).

Spend some time studying the New Covenant and you will see that salvation begins with a changed heart and a new spirit - you become a new person. The person for whom this is true will NOT fall away into apostasy because they cannot. And remember, in Matthew 7 when Jesus tells those who say "Lord, Lord" to depart, He tells them "I NEVER knew you."

Preston N said...

Chris

Again, you didn't answer my question - how do you know your not one of the deceived? Is it when you finally commit that one last act of apostasy? How do you know your truly saved? Just because you "feel" it or "know it". There have been many who have backslidden who at the present moment were asked these same questions and they too would have answered the same as you - so how do you know you too will not commit some gross sin that will show you were really never one of the "elect"??

Also an interesting comment here you made:

"Also, I don't think that the Bible teaches sinless perfection until we get to heaven"

Where is this taught in the bible? Second, why would God have to wait until we get to heaven to provide relief from sin. I thought we were free from sin when we becomed a follower of Christ? I would be interested to see how you support this from a scriptural position. I beleive the scriptures tell us we will get a new "body", but we will still have the same will, the same mind and the same heart as we do here on earth.

Chris said...

Ok, one more time:

1st question: How do I know that I am truly saved and not one of the deceived?

I know because I have repented of my sin and placed total trust in Jesus Christ and His Atoning work on the cross. Now His Spirit dwells within me and testifies with my spirit that I am a child of God (Romans 8). How do you know you are?

2nd question: So how do you know you too will not commit some gross sin that will show you were really never one of the "elect"?

I don’t know that I will never commit a “gross sin”, I pray that I don’t. But even if one of the “elect” does commit a “gross sin” they will immediately fall on their knees before God in repentance and sorrow proving once again that they are one of the “elect.” When the Bible talks about a Christian being someone who does not “practice” sin, the key word is “Practice.” We are all capable of falling into any sin, but a true Christian will not do this as a habitual practice, which brings us to your next question:

3rd question: Where does the Bible teach that we will not achieve sinless perfection before we get to Heaven?

How about Romans 6 & 7, Galatians 6, and 1st John 1 for starters? These passages all show that true Christians can (and do) fall into sin. And in the 1st John passage it actually says that if you say you have no sin you are a liar and the truth is not in you.

4th question: Why would God have to wait until we get to heaven to provide relief from sin?

First of all, I don’t think that God has to do anything, but for some reason He has chosen to leave us here in this fallen, sinful world. And although we are free from the penalty of sin, we still live in a sinful body (Paul calls it a “body of death”). Our resurrected bodies will be a new body that is free from the curse of sin and death; it will be a body without a sin nature (but since you reject that we are born with a sin nature I suspect you will reject this too).

So my question to you then is this, are you saying that you have reached sinless perfection? If you say “yes” you contradict 1st John, and if you say “no” then how do you ever know if you are saved or lost (and how do you know that you might not have committed some sin that you are unaware of thereby forfeiting your salvation)? Also, Hebrews 6 makes it clear that if you can loose your salvation you can NEVER GET IT BACK. So according to what you believe, if a person becomes a follower of Christ, repents of their sins, and then has one little slip their salvation is lost forever and they are doomed to hell – you can’t have it both ways.

Preston N said...

Chris

Response to Item 1: “How do I know I am saved?” I would say the same as you have defined here in Romans 8. I would however add that I became broken over my sins as a result of God revealing his love for me through the gospel and the leading and convicting of the Holy Spirit. This revelation of God’s Truth resulted in me making a choice to either to continue in my selfishness or to become broken hearted over my sins (2 Cor 7:10-12). Without this Truth of the Gospel message, I would still be dead in my sins. This brokenness led me to repentance which is the changing of my heart from selfishness to Loving God with all my entire heart, my entire mind and all of my might).

Response Item #2: My point here Chris is there is never a future guarantee that you will not turn and backslide sometime in the future. For example, there have been many pastors who have had dynamic ministries who have later gone and left the faith. If you were to ask these people if their former beliefs were genuine they would answer in the affirmative.

Your defense of OSAS here must state that these men of God were never saved. Somehow they dedicated their lives to the Lord and his work. They appeared to operate in the blessing and presence of the Holy Spirit. Many came to a legitimate saving faith, yet in the end we "know" that all of this was accomplished without a saving relationship with Christ? This should strike fear into every believer. How do we in fact know that we are not deceived and that our final act of apostasy is coming up tomorrow? That only tomorrow will we understand that everything that we have done up until this point was a mere illusion? We also must look at the issue of Judas Iscariot – clearly here was a man of whom Jesus picked specifically to cast out demons (Matt 10:1-27), Jesus even declared Judas as one of his sheep (Matt 10:1-4,16), Who received the Truth (Matt 10:1-4, 8) Whose father was God (Matt 10:1-4, 20), who even had a throne in Heaven upon which he would judge Israel (Matt 19:28, Lk 22:30)! And yet he was never “Saved to Begin with”??? The story of Judas pokes holes all through OSAS. How can it be that a man, who once delivered demons out of people, was never really saved to begin with?

Response Item 3: Chris you still have yet to answer the question, so I’ll state it again “Where is it taught that we will not achieve sinless perfection until we get to heaven?” Maybe I should answer it for you – It doesn’t. You have to believe in this theological concept because you believe sin is physical and not moral. Therefore, according to Calvin and Augustine sin is remedied when we get a new body. But clearly the bible says that man sins from the “Heart” or the “Will”. Sinners are not cripples, but criminals. If we take your line of logical reasoning here Chris, criminals who are in prison are not there because they made an evil choice, but they are there because they have a physical defect that prevents them from doing anything other than sin. They should be pitied, and not punished. The scriptures you provided say nothing of a future state of sinless perfection as a result of a new body – as a matter of fact the bible is clear that only those who are sinless will receive a new body. You have the cart before the horse here. Another thing to consider here is “Can someone sin in Heaven?” – The answer is yes! Lucifer and the angels sinned and they had a resurrected body, so what makes you think a new body will stop someone from sinning? Clearly we see from scripture that the fall from heaven was not a result of a “sin nature” or a sinful body” but of a freewill moral choice made by the angels. Man and angels all have freewill. If one can go without sinning here on earth think how mush easier it will be in Heaven. I agree that it is possible to sin in heaven, but it is highly improbable.


4th Item: Chris, why is it that according to your belief God is more focused on relieving the penalty of sin, rather than relieving sin itself? This is like treating the pain, but not curing the cancer. If God pardons only the penalty and does not reform the sinner from sin, then he has diminished the power of the law. Since punishment of sin is so to enforce God’s laws and God pardons and yet does nothing to reform sinners here on earth, then there is nothing to say that the law was right and violating it was wrong, there would be no deterrent from future rebellion, but future disobedience would be encouraged under the impression that you can break the law with impunity. So to say that God pardons and does nothing to completely reform the sinner’s heart is implying God is not serious about His laws and cares more about the penalty and nothing about the moral suffering of others within his Kingdom. God must secure the hearts of the criminal (sinner) prior to forgiving them. Retributive Atonement emphasizes only retributive justice (penalty) and does nothing to secure or uphold public justice (the benevolence of others).

As for your use of 1st John to say I am a liar – Chris you really need to start using the laws of interpretation and hermeneutics. You have committed what is known as “proof texting”, whereby you selectively taken a verse out of context to make your point. In 1 John 1:6,10 note that the word “sinned” is in past tense – John is talking about those who claim to have never sinned (past) and feel they are not in need of repenting and are claiming they can still have fellowship with God. This was a common problem with Jews during John’s day, as many held to the belief that they had committed no sin and were in no need of repentance. I find it rather deceiving of you Chris to use this verse and yet choose to over look Chapt 2 here whereas John says:

1Jn 2:3-6 And hereby we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. (4) He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; (5) but whoso keepeth his word, in him verily hath the love of God been perfected. Hereby we know that we are in him: (6) he that saith he abideth in him ought himself also to walk even as he walked.

So then who’s a liar? Those who claim they have never sinned AND those who claim to know God and yet do not keep his commandments.

Finally, my denial of OSAS does not mean I believe that one little sin will negate your salvation. If by chance a Christian should sin, then repentance should be immediate. However, if someone is sinning daily and is living as an apostate, then they have so damaged their mind and their heart, that they have committed blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. The one thing that OSAS denies is the ability of a Christian committing blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Matt 12:31) – as only a Christian could commit such a thing. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit can only be committed by a Christian as this is the continual apostasy as a Christian to the point that you have blasphemed (mourned) God’s Spirit to the point it can no longer function within you. Sinners can not commit this as the holy Spirit does not live within a sinner – but only one that is saved. Thus the dire warning of Hebrew 6 to Christians. Better yet – why is Hebrews giving such warnings to those who are Once saved always saved??? If OSAS is true don’t you find it odd that the author of Hebrews is giving such a warning to sinners or the deceived? The truth here is the author of Hebrews is giving this stern wanting to Christians because they CAN loose their salvation.

Rick said...

Hello Chris-

I stumbled on to this post. Phil Johnson writes some good stuff, but his article on Finney is a classic case of "Finney Derangement Syndrome" and is widely off the mark.

Love or hate Finney, he shouldn't be treated the way he is by his critics. Please see what I hope is a balanced treatment of him at:

http://ricksbell.wordpress.com/articles/charles-finney-is-not-a-wolf-in-sheeps-clothing/

Preston N said...

Rick

Thank you for this great article. This is a very "fair and balanced" overview of Finney and one that I appreciate you sharing. Just as the article stated I find those who wish to smear Finney's good name do so mainly out of ignorance. If you simply take the time to read Finney and understand where he is coming from, you will see he is very logical in his approach to scripture and he is hard to refute.

God Bless!

Rick said...

Thanks for checking the article out, Preston. I would only qualify things by saying this: though I love Finney, I don't agree with everything he teaches. But I also love Jonathan Edwards, and I don't agree with everything he teaches. Both men used logic incessantly, and I believe that is where they messed up.

It is not difficult to reason through any Biblical proposition, if one is as intellectually capable as these men - or Calvin or Augustine for that matter.

Their errors stemmed from the fact that they couldn't see PAST their logic.

Notwithstanding, this is one reason I believe it is important to read Finney in our day- because he often challenges the reader to re-think the old logic. Iron sharpens iron.