November 14, 2007

An Oldie, but Goodie!

Its hard to believe this was written by Charles Finney over 130 years ago - given how relevant it is for today! This might be old in the sense as to when it was written, but it I think we need to apply these words of wisdom from our brother Charles for today!

HOW TO PREACH WITHOUT CONVERTING ANYONE - Charles Finney


Preach on every doctrine that centers the attention on man rather than Jesus. Teach every doctrine that makes man the center of God's attention rather than God the center of man's devotion. Tell people only what God will do for them.
Avoid preaching about the necessity of a radical change of heart, through the truth revealed to the heart by the agency of the Holy Spirit.
Let your supreme motive to be popular with all people, then, of course, your preaching will be suited for that purpose, and not to convert souls to Christ.
Avoid preaching doctrines that are offensive to the carnal mind, so that no one should say to you, as they did of Christ, "This is a hard saying, who can hear it?"
Make no distinct points, and do not disturb the consciences of your hearers so that they may become truly alarmed about their souls.
Avoid all illustrations, repetitions, and expressive sentences that may compel people to remember what you say.
Avoid all heat and enthusiasm in your delivery, so that you never make the impression that you really believe what you say.
Make appeals to the emotions, and not the conscience, of your hearers.
Be careful not to testify from your own personal experience of the power of the gospel, so that you never should produce the conviction upon your hearers that you have something which they need.
Do not stir up uncomfortable memories by reminding your hearers of their past sins.
Denounce sin in a general way, but make no reference to the specific sins of your present audience.
Do not make the impression that God commands your listeners here and now to obey the truth. Do not let them think that you expect them to commit themselves right on the spot to give their hearts to God.
Give the impression that they are expected to go away in their sins, and to consider the matter at later time of their convenience.
Preach salvation by grace; but ignore the condemned and lost condition of the sinner so that he never should understand what you mean by grace, and know his need of it.
Preach the gospel as a remedy or a cure, but conceal or ignore the fatal disease of the sinner.
Do not speak of the spirituality of God's holy law (by which comes the knowledge of sin), so that the sinner never should see his lost condition and repent.
Make no appeals to the fears of sinners; but give them the impression that they have no reason to fear.
Preach Christ as an infinitely friendly and good-natured being. Ignore those scathing rebukes of sinners and hypocrites which so often made His hearers tremble.
Do not rebuke the worldly tendencies of the church, so that you should never hurt their feelings, and finally convert some of them.
Admit, either obviously or casually, that all men have some moral goodness in them; so that sinners should never understand that they need a radical change of heart, from sin to holiness.
Say so little of hell that your people will think that you do not believe in its existence yourself.
Make the impression that, if God is as good as you are, He could not send anyone to hell.
Make no disagreeable reference to the teachings of self-denial, cross-bearing, and crucifixion to the world, so that you should never convict and convert some of your church members.
Do not rebuke extravagance in dress, so that you should never make an uncomfortable impression on your vain and worldly church members.
Encourage lots of church socials, and attend them yourself.
Aim to make your hearers pleased with themselves and pleased with you, and be careful especially not to wound the feelings of anyone.
Make sure you avoid preaching to those who are present. Preach about sinners, but not to them. Say "they," and not "you," so that anyone should never take your subject personally, and apply it to their own life, Securing the salvation of their soul.
Preach that the new birth is something God deposits in people, not a fundamental change in the ultimate purpose of our lives.
Never tell people that they must cease from serving self and serve God and do His will.
Never tell them that repentance is man's ability and responsibility to turn from his sin to God! Teach them to delay turning away from all known sin toward God.
Preach predestination in such away that results in fatalism and apathy on the part of all people. Make each person believe that God has already determined who shall be saved, and nothing can change His will. You never want anyone to think that their actions can make any difference.
Preach that man is totally unable to obey God. Teach him that no one can turn to God, but he must wait upon God to turn (change) him. Make sure that no one realizes his true responsibility requiring him to repent in order to be saved. You never want anyone to know that man can turn from sin to God but the real problem is that he will not!
Preach that every one is born a sinner and a criminal. Teach that every baby is born guilty before God. You never want anyone to consider the fact that man is born morally innocent. You do not want anyone to know that he becomes a sinner because, in his rebellion, he has refused to love God with all his heart according to the light and has selfishly sought his own happiness above all else.
Preach that a person can be saved without making Jesus his lord.
Teach that holiness is just an option and not a requirement of the gospel. Teach them that they can be Christian without becoming true disciples.
Preach eternal security in such away that requires no perseverance in faith or continuance in holiness on the part of the believer. Make every person think he has his ticket to heaven that is all paid for so that he will always safely scoff at all calls for repentance and righteous.
Teach Christians that sin is a normal and natural part of their every day life and that they can never truly expect to ever overcome sin through the power of Christ.
Preach that no Christian needs to do anything. Teach them that they are safe and heaven bound even if their lives are disobedient and rebellious.

7 comments:

Dean Lusk said...

As I re-read this, I think that the only other thing I thought was out of place or off-base was this one:

"Encourage lots of church socials, and attend them yourself."

That's another left-field one for me. I believe there's an intent behind it that isn't hashed out in the statement.

But I am wholeheartedly in agreement with everything else.

Thanks for the link to your blog, by the way! Maybe we can meet for coffee or something some time, seeing as how you're in north Alabama. My e-mail address is at my blog site -- just not a clickable link (don't want automated web crawlers adding me to spam lsits).

D. L. Talley said...

Finney’s doctrine of justification rests upon a denial of the doctrine of original sin. Held by both Roman Catholics and Protestants, this biblical teaching insists that we are all born into this world inheriting Adam’s guilt and corruption. We are, therefore, in bondage to a sinful nature. As someone has said, "We sin because we’re sinners": the condition of sin determines the acts of sin, rather than vice versa. But Finney followed Pelagius, the fifth-century heretic, who was condemned by more church councils than any other person in church history, in denying this doctrine.

Finney believed that human beings were capable of choosing whether they would be corrupt by nature or redeemed, referring to original sin as an "anti-scriptural and nonsensical dogma" (p.179). In clear terms, Finney denied the notion that human beings possess a sinful nature (ibid.). Therefore, if Adam leads us into sin, not by our inheriting his guilt and corruption, but by following his poor example, this leads logically to the view of Christ, the Second Adam, as saving by example. This is precisely where Finney takes it, in his explanation of the atonement.

The first thing we must note about the atonement, Finney says, is that Christ could not have died for anyone else’s sins than his own. His obedience to the law and his perfect righteousness were sufficient to save him, but could not legally be accepted on behalf of others. That Finney’s whole theology is driven by a passion for moral improvement is seen on this very point: "If he [Christ] had obeyed the Law as our substitute, then why should our own return to personal obedience be insisted upon as a sine qua non of our salvation" (p.206)? In other words, why would God insist that we save ourselves by our own obedience if Christ’s work was sufficient? The reader should recall the words of St. Paul in this regard, "I do not nullify the grace of God’, for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing." It would seem that Finney’s reply is one of agreement. The difference is, he has no difficulty believing both of those premises.

That is not entirely fair, of course, because Finney did believe that Christ died for something—not for someone, but for something. In other words, he died for a purpose, but not for people. The purpose of that death was to reassert God’s moral government and to lead us to eternal life by example, as Adam’s example excited us to sin. Why did Christ die? God knew that "The atonement would present to creatures the highest possible motives to virtue. Example is the highest moral influence that can be exerted ... If the benevolence manifested in the atonement does not subdue the selfishness of sinners, their case is hopeless" (p.209). Therefore, we are not helpless sinners who need to,’ be redeemed, but wayward sinners who need a demonstration of selflessness so moving that we will be excited to leave off selfishness. Not only did Finney believe that the "moral influence" theory of the atonement was the chief way of understanding the cross; he explicitly denied the substitutionary atonement, which

"assumes that the atonement was a literal payment of a debt, which we have seen does not consist with the nature of the atonement ... It is true, that the atonement, of itself, does not secure the salvation of any one" (p.217).

Then there is the matter of applying redemption. Throwing off Reformation orthodoxy, Finney argued strenuously against the belief that the new birth is a divine gift, insisting that "regeneration consists in the sinner changing his ultimate choice, intention, preference; or in changing from selfishness to love or benevolence," as moved by the moral influence of Christ’s moving example (p.224). "Original sin, physical regeneration, and all their kindred and resulting dogmas, are alike subversive of the gospel, and repulsive to the human intelligence" (p.236).

Having nothing to do with original sin, a substitutionary atonement, and the supernatural character of the new birth, Finney proceeds to attack "the article by which the church stands or falls"— justification by grace alone through faith alone.

As the noted Princeton theologian B. B. Warfield pointed out so eloquently, there are throughout history only two religions: heathenism, of which Pelagianism is a religious expression, and a supernatural redemption.

Sounding not a little like a deist, Finney declared, "There is nothing in religion beyond the ordinary powers of nature. It consists entirely in the right exercise of the powers of nature. It is just that, and nothing else. When mankind becomes truly religious, they are not enabled to put forth exertions which they were unable before to put forth. They only exert powers which they had before, in a different way, and use them for the glory of God." As the new birth is a natural phenomenon for Finney, so too a revival: "A revival is not a miracle, nor dependent on a miracle, in any sense. It is a purely philosophical result of the right use of the constituted means—as much so as any other effect produced by the application of means."

The belief that the new birth and revival depend necessarily on divine activity is pernicious. "No doctrine," he says, "is more dangerous than this to the prosperity of the Church, and nothing more absurd" (Revivals of Religion [Revell], pp.4-5).

When the leaders of the Church Growth Movement claim that theology gets in the way of growth and insist that it does not matter what a particular church believes: growth is a matter of following the proper principles, they are displaying their debt to Finney.

When leaders of the Vineyard movement praise this sub-Christian enterprise and the barking, roaring, screaming, laughing, and other strange phenomena on the basis that "it works" and one must judge its truth by its fruit, they are following Finney as well as the father of American pragmatism, William James, who declared that truth must be judged on the basis of "its cash-value in experiential terms."

Thus, in Finney’s theology, God is not sovereign, man is not a sinner by nature, the atonement is not a true payment for sin, justification by imputation is insulting to reason and morality, the new birth is simply the effect of successful techniques, and revival is a natural result of clever campaigns.

What a hero for heretics!

D. L. Talley said...

Charles Finney (1792-1875) is thought by many to be one of the foremost evangelists of this period. Those who believe this, however, are likely not aware of his heretical theology and unsavory evangelical methods. For example (based on his own writings):

• His theology was based on natural theology, rationalism and human emotion. The phrases in his books are frequently, "It seems to me that..." "It is logical that ..." and "All reasonable men agree that ..." - rather than what Scripture says.

• Finney believed that liturgies were nothing but "popery" and "priestcraft." Finney denounced the Westminster Confession as a "paper pope." (Of course, in reality, the Westminster Confession was part of the Reformation movement away from the Pope.

• Finney did not want people to "think." Rather, he wanted them to "feel" because he was (a self-proclaimed) expert at controlling the emotions of others.

• He was condemned by almost every learned theologian of his day as a heretic. BB Warfield, for example described him as a "fountain of very harmful teaching."

• Jesus, His apostles, Augustine and the Reformers preached to the intellect. They answered the question, "Why." Finney used stories, crying and anecdotes as he preached to the feelings. He pushed for an emotional decision.

• Finney introduced the teaching that if you want to be saved, come down to the altar. He used crowd psychology and emotion to get them to walk to the altar.

• Finney introduced the "sinner’s prayer" - which is not found anywhere in the Bible.

• Finney taught that if you say the sinner’s prayer you will be saved. (His own form of "Repeat after me-ology"). This ‘fire insurance’ type of salvation has carried-on until this day in many churches around the world. Tragically, over the years, this has left tens of millions of people under the illusion they are saved Christians because they repeated a prayer - even though their lives remained the same as before because no regeneration of their hearts took place. (1 Jn 2:3-6, 15, and 19; 1 Jn 3:7-9, 22.)

• Finney was a Pelagian, a semi-Pelagian and an Arminian. (See article on Calvinism vs. Arminianism for background on these teachings.)

• Finney believed in sinless perfection, rather than the depravity of man.

• Because of this, Finney taught that a person could be saved any time they wanted to be.
E.g. you choose God.

• Being an attorney, Finney reasoned (human rationalism) that it was not fair and just for all men to be punished for the sin of Adam. Ergo, he rejected the imputation of original sin from Adam to all of us!

• Finney went on to deny the justification taught by Scripture, where the Bible teaches that the death of Christ is imputed to His elect to justify them before God.

• Finney introduced the expression "the age of accountability" - which is not found in Scripture. He taught that children were not human until they reached that age of accountability. Before then they were just animals. (The pro-choice people of today would love that one!)

• In summary, when you have (so-called) Christians who have this type of "you choose" salvation (on the basis of a "repeat after me" sinner’s prayer), they usually end up as "carnal Christians." e.g. not Christians at all. More than anything, this is the reason that most Pentecostals and Arminians believe you can lose your salvation. (Reformed thinking would be that they never had their salvation in the first place.)

Preston N said...

DL Talley - Have you ever read Charles Finney or are you custom to parroting what you have heard from others? Or are you in the habit of simply copying and pasting from other websites and blogs and claim its your own comments?? (is this being honest??) I honestly had to laugh at some of the accusations you made about dear Mr. Finney. Sadly it is very easy to attack dead men as they are not here to defend themselves. Some of what you said is true (his comments about the Westminster Confession for example - but then again Synods and Confessionals are of man and not Scripture), but the sinners prayer and alter call was not of Finney.

If you would have read Finney you would see he had what was called the "anxious bench" whereby he would require convicted sinners to sit for days before coming to conversion - to make sure their decision was not one of emotion. The sinners prayer as defined by today's standards - was not invented by Finney. Finney did require sinners to confess their sins before God and that may include a prayer.

As for the "age of accountability" issue - Finney did not invent this either. I suggest you provide proof of this accusation.

As for BB Warfield's comments - well all I can say is he had a Calvinist axe to grind and much of his comments have been shown to be not only misleading, but down right slanderous.

This might help clarify Warfield and Boyle's accusations against Finney

http://www.gospeltruth.net/nouncertain.htm

D. L. Talley said...

Preston,
I have read both Charles Finney's Lectures on Revivals of Religion, and its antidote, John W. Nevin's The Anxious Bench.

"If I had my time over again I would preach nothing but holiness. The converts of my revivals are a disgrace to Christianity!"--Charles G. Finney, assisstant of Satan in counterfeit salvation

D. L. Talley said...

"Finney believed that proof of the truths he was preaching concerning revival was in the great numbers of those being converted. He never wearied of telling his fellow ministers that, if they would just follow his techniques, revival would inevitably follow. However, by Finney's own admission, rather than a continuous revival sweeping across the land 'The glory has been departing and revivals have been becoming less and less frequent—less powerful'(Murray, p.285f). Worse, he admits that the great body of those who were thought to have been converted were a 'disgrace to religion' (Murray, p.289). By Finney's own standard, his teachings on how to produce converts and revival, as well as their underlying assumptions, were proven wrong.

Finney's theology betrayed him. Because he believed that everyone had the ability to instantly receive Christ upon hearing the gospel, many who were spiritually unprepared decided to accept Christ, but in reality were still, at best, seekers. Finneyism, in seeking to close the sale, actually served to close hearts and minds to the biblical message of salvation, leaving people deceived as to their spiritual state, wondering why the Christian life eluded them. Tragically, Finneyan theology is still all the rage in much of Evangelicalism. One can only hope that its defective fruit will plague, burden and shame us to the point where our humiliation will turn to humility which will lead to the pursuit of biblical truth and godly practices."

Copyright 1996 Monte E. Wilson Classical Christianity PO Box 22 Atlanta, GA. 30239

Preston N said...

Mr. Talley - we really do need to get better sources. I know of the very website you picked these from and much of what had been written here has been taken out of context twisted to fit the authors intention.

For example on the website you pulled this information from they have ignorantly used a book that actually promotes revival and is a positive book on Finney, entitled "Finney on Revival"by E.E. Shelhamer.

BTW - the book by Murray you quote from "Iain H. Murray, Revival & Revivalism: The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism 1750-1858" Again, a book written by another angry Calvinist. I always find it odd that all of the negative books ever written about Finney are all by Calvinist - is this simply a Coincidence??

BTW - Before you go throwing stones, you really shouldn't live in a glass house. Do we really care to discuss the "sins" of John Calvin and his murder of Michael Servetus, or the 50 some murders he was associated with. Let's not forget to mention the Anabaptist he had tortured and murdered all in the name of heresy. So before you go tearing down other people's theological hero's maybe you need to take a long hard look at your own doctrines namesake.