Issues Etc. recently had Dr. Mike Horton on the show to talk about American Christianity’s favorite
heretic hero, Charles Finney. The audio can be found here.
From Spurgeon.org, Phil Johnson writes:
Charles Grandison Finney was a heretic. That language is not too strong. Though he excelled at cloaking his opinions in ambiguous language and biblical-sounding expressions, his views were almost pure Pelagianism. The arguments he employed to sustain those views were nearly always rationalistic and philosophical, not biblical. To canonize this man as an evangelical hero is to ignore the facts of what he stood for.
Don’t be duped by sanitized 20th-century editions of Finney’s works. Read the “Complete and Newly Expanded” 1878 edition of Finney’s Systematic Theology, recently published by Bethany house Publishers (the unabridged 1878 version with a couple of Finney’s later lectures added). This volume shows the real character of Finney’s doctrine. (The unabridged 1851 version is now online, and it also exposes Finney’s errors in language not toned down by later redactors.) By no stretch of the imagination does Finney deserve to be regarded as an evangelical. By corrupting the doctrine of justification by faith; by denying the doctrines of original sin and total depravity; by minimizing the sovereignty of God while enthroning the power of the human will; and above all, by undermining the doctrine of substitutionary atonement, Finney filled the bloodstream of American evangelicalism with poisons that have kept the movement maimed even to this day.
UPDATES (More links will be added as they come):
But the origin really goes back to American revivalism and goes back to Charles Finney, 1792-1875. It was Finney who decided that religion, to be valid, had to have some kind of high impact, high energy emotional element. It was about methods, feelings, experiences, sentimentalism, and it all trumped sound doctrine and theology. Gradual growth, by the normal ordinary means of grace, prayer, the study of the Word, fellowship was exchanged for a radical experience, the anxious bench, and there was introduced into the evangelical world a restlessness of those looking for something extreme.