new methods in a spiritual wilderness

A few weeks ago I posted an article highlighting something I found in the book The Scotch-Irish: A Social History by James G. Leyburn. Today I want to post an extended quotation from the book and make a few observations.

I am in the section of the book that deals with Scotch-Irish immigration to America. The chapter is “The Presbyterian Church”. The first point made is about the lack of churches among many (most) of these immigrants. Two reasons are cited: First, the lack of trained ministers. The Presbyterians insisted on a classical education for their clergy, something in short supply on the frontier. Trained ministers from the Old Country were rarely found among the immigrants.

But an even greater problem afflicted the re-establishment of the church among these immigrants, all of them Presbyterian in their native country. That problem was a general spiritual malaise that affected all the major denominations at the time, according to Leyburn. My lengthy quotation follows (including the quote in our little ‘identify’ the person and time game a few days ago). The quotation comes from pp. 277-279.

The difficulty was not wholly the lack of ministers. It may be doubted whether, even if the supply had been adequate, the set of mind characteristic of the clergy at that time could have answered the true spiritual needs of pioneers. In all major denominations of the 1730’s it seemed as if clergyman had lost sight of the meaning of such words as ‘pastor’ and ‘minister’ and had come to feel that formal discourse in the pulpit, together with the proper direction of church services and sacraments, comprised their whole duty. The Age of Enlightenment and Reason had begun, with its disdain for ‘enthusiasm’: any display of deep and fervent piety was suspect. Since the clergy came from the universities, they often reflected this attitude of intellectuality and detachment. More than this, the three denominations most concerned with Americans of the time were Established Churches, either in Britain or in the colonies. It may be suggested that the very monopoly of Establishment conduces to inertia, unadaptability, and contentment with the formal proprieties of things as they are.

The attitude of the clergy had its effect upon the people. Religion in America in the 1730’s seemed to lack vitality. New England Puritanism had lost its early zeal and spirit; Anglicanism tended to become increasingly a polite and decent social formality; Presbyterian ministers from Scotland were likely to represent the ‘Moderate’ movement of the time, and those from Ulster, polemic orthodoxy. The mood that had produced the Protestant Reformation only two centuries ago had almost vanished. Spiritual needs of the people were no fewer, but empty pews testified to the failure of the churches to meet these needs. Could a Presbyterian minister of the time speak to the intensified needs and yearnings of the Scotch-Irish pioneer?

Suddenly, in 1738, a religious transformation began to take place. John and Charles Wesley had recently been stirring up the Church of England; now their collaborator, the fiery evangelist George Whitfield, made the first of his seven visits to America. Traveling from Georgia to New England, he spoke with compelling force directly to the hearts of men, not to their minds. With him ‘the Great Awakening’ began to sweep the colonies. Whitfield had no qualms about offending good taste: religion to him was of such consuming importance that nothing else mattered. He made vivid God’s love, the reality of sin, the agony of hell, the bliss of heaven. Creeds did not concern him; the condition of a man’s soul did. Wherever he went, whether in towns or in the back-country, he drew enormous crowds, who heard him with almost desperate eagerness. He figuratively set colonial America ablaze with religious fervor, drawing into his evangelical orbit dozens of ministers who had caught a new vision of their calling. Whitfield probably excited more interest than any other contemporary, and certainly he furnished more themes for discussion and argument.

Few denominations were more drastically affected by the Great Awakening than the Presbyterian. Conservatives were contemptuous of Whitfield’s pulpit pyrotechnics, dubious of the validity of the sudden conversions he achieved, and sure that the church would degrade itself by diluting its message and making religion ‘easy’ for the common man. Other Presbyterians, however, regarded Whitfield as a true and timely prophet. He had shown the church that it must be active in going out to the people, speaking to them in their own language, in order to seek and save the lost sheep. By 1745 this divergence of opinion had reached a stage of such virulence that the Presbyterian Church underwent a schism. Those opposed the new evangelical attitudes and methods are called the Old Side, and those who favored these, the New Side or, contemptuously, the New Lights.

The points at issue concerned more than fervor and methods. The nature of the church was involved. Old Siders were, to borrow a phrase from another denomination, High Churchmen. There was a right way of doing things, one hallowed by tradition and experience. What was true and proper for the fathers was still true and proper for the church in America. When every condition of life in a new country seemed to undermine the established order of faith and morality, surely the church should be a rock and mighty fortress, unyielding and changeless. Why give up the wisdom of centuries for a fad? Old Siders agreed that the church must offer the opportunities for salvation, by providing churches: but it was man’s duty to seek the church, not the church the man. New Siders, on the contrary, said that the validity of the church rested upon New Testament teaching and experience. Christ himself and his apostles had gone out into the byways and hedges to win souls; as they tried to be all things to all men, so must their successors in the modern world.

A few observations:

  1. The emphasis on ‘scholarship’ deadens spiritual life and creates a need for revival.
  2. No generation can rest on the spiritual experiences of preceding generations – resting is deadening. Those who rested on the Reformation were in need of Awakening.
  3. Pews are filled with genuine converts by vital religion: “[Whitefield] made vivid God’s love, the reality of sin, the agony of hell, the bliss of heaven.”
  4. Evangelists must seek the lost, not wait for God to bring them.

I was talking with one of our men last night. He is quite negative about the current state of affairs and the ability to reach the lost today. One difference between our day and that of the Great Awakening is that the people being awakened in the American frontier were not much more than one generation removed from a vital Christian experience. Our generation is now at least two, maybe three generations away. We are dealing with sophisticated pagans, mostly very affluent and self-satisfied.

Yet my friend is evidence that men of this generation can be reached. I reminded him that God saved him – he can save his friends and acquaintances too. It is likely, though, that few of them will be rescued.

don_sig2

Comments

  1. Keith says:

    Praise God that he reached your friend and will reach others.

    As to your point (1) — It would be more acurate to say certain types of scholarship, certain attitudes toward scholarship deaden. Enlightenment philosophy coloring scholarship is certainly deadening.

    The reformation itself was rich in scholarship — Luther was a seminary professor, Calvin was a scholar, etc. Many (if not most) of the leading reformers were educated in schools run by the Brethren of the Common Life (the movement of Thomas a’Kempis and Gerhard Groote). If the reformation was a time of spiritual life then “scholarship” cannot be essentially deadening.

    I also don’t see how anything I wrote about the Whitefield quote previously is contradicted by this long quote.

    These different “sides” of Presbytianism still exist. The new siders (who like Whitefield, Edwards, etc.) are still strong (Tim Keller, etc.) and there are still old siders (D.G. Hart, etc.).

    • I guess I would concede ‘certain types’ of scholarship. It is probably better to say ‘certain attitudes’ to scholarship. The emphasis on scholarship for its own sake seems particularly deadening to me.

      In your earlier comment you said:

      Just one more example of how alliances deal with different issues at different times.

      But really, that isn’t the point I am trying to make with this. Your statement isn’t incompatible with this quote, but basically irrelevant.

      I am suggesting by this that there is a need for revivalistic approaches. Whitefield and the Wesleys used them. There is a current dismissal of revivalism as somehow unworthy of the more sophisticated modern church. I don’t think revivalism is incompatible with Calvinism, as some are alleging. And, in fact, I think that the strength of modern evangelicalism and fundamentalism is seen when they conform more to revivalistic practices.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  2. David Barnhart says:

    Having grown up in a fundamental methodist church (yes, those do actually exist — they are independent, of course, from the United Methodists), I have seen first hand the influence of the “revivalistic practices.” (I say this as one who still has great respect for the man who was my pastor at that church, even though he has now gone to be with the Lord.) And while there are certainly genuine converts that come through these efforts, to maintain and grow a congregation that is used to the continual revivalism, the emphasis becomes one of always having to increase the fervor. I agree with Kevin Bauder’s post today on SI emphasizing that most growth is slow and steady growth, with revivalism something that should be occasional, not the everyday status quo.

    I would agree that if we are in a state where “scholarship exists for its own sake,” and we are all happy with “tradition,” then revival is necessary. However, denigrating scholarship in favor of “pupit pyrotechnics” leads to ignorance, demagoguery, and populism, giving rise to the sermons we have all heard that are indeed fiery, but have little in common with scripture, if they even refer to a single reference.

    In short, if you emphasize revivalistic practices you might end up with big congregations, and even a number of genuinely converted people (although those times may be long gone, given what you say about how far the current generations are removed from the “vital Christian experience”, which I agree with), but I think it would be largely one with out true understanding of the scriptures or the Christian life.

    • Hi Dave

      Well, I have a friend who is a Calvinistic Methodist, but I am not aware of independent Methodists of the other variety.

      If Bauder means ‘inexorable’ by ‘slow and steady’, I think I would disagree. It seems to me that all believers need to be provoked to love and good works. In fact, that is the norm, not the average.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  3. Keith says:

    “there is a need for revivalistic approaches. Whitefield and the Wesleys used them.”

    Don, most of the debate that folks are having with Dr. Bauder about “revivalism” is an exercise in missing the point. Your comment above is an example.

    Bauder clearly means something very specific by “revivalism”, and I don’t think it is what Whitefield did. I expect that Bauder would approve of this shorthand: Whitefield good / Finney bad.

    Whether Bauder would approve or not, there is a big difference between what Whitefield was doing and what Finney did later.

    I really doubt that the “revivalists” that Bauder is opposed to could write and preach about the signs of true revival like Jonathan Edwards (a scholar and a New Light).

    There really are at least three categories here — true old siders (ordinary means only), new siders (Whitefield style), and the new schoolers (much later/Finney style).

    Being provoked to love and good works is normal Christian preaching (even old schoolers would approve). That is not the same thing as “revivalISM”.

    • I would agree that Bauder would approve of your shorthand.

      However, I don’t know enough about Whitefield’s “pyrotechnics” to comment on how different his methods were from Finney’s. I know that Finney is credited with using “new measures”, etc. I know that Finney’s theology was abominable.

      But one of the problems we have when ‘revivalist’ is used as a pejorative is that for some, if you use an altar call of any kind, you are equated with Finney. That simply isn’t so. In reading Bauder over the years, it seems to me that he wants to dismiss most of the evangelistic efforts and methods of the last 150 years.

      In any case, I still think the Old Side reaction to Whitefield is interesting. I also think that the comments of this author are quite interesting. I don’t know if he is a believer. The book is certainly presented in a secular framework and I haven’t been able to find much information about the author.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  4. Watchman says:

    It seems clear to me (though of course I should be mistaken since to the best of my knowledge he hasn’t specified) that by “revivalism” Dr. Bauder is targeting the likes of Dr. Bob Jones Sr. and Dr. John R. Rice for whom he seems to hold a special animus. It is not clear to me why his objections to them wouldn’t also apply to Whitefield with his “pulpit pyrotechnics” and “creed does not matter” approach to revival ministry.

    It may be oversimplified to say that the basis of the dispute is “Calvinism Uber Alles” but it sure looks pretty close to that from here.

    • Very good, Watchman. I think you are exactly right.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  5. Keith says:

    It’s only Calvinism Uber Alles if you think Finney is a legitimate option alongside of Whitefield/Edwards style Calvinism.

    Again, you guys are pulling terms — like pyrotechnics — out of context and defining them anachronistically. What a colonial New Englander would consider pyrotechnics and what a post Billy Sunday middle American would consider pyrotechnics are not the same thing. There is no point focusing on the term, you need to focus on the behavior referenced by the term in the context of the work using the term.

    Whitefield’s methods passed Jonathan Edward’s scrutiny. Finney’s new measures — which were part and parcel of his abominable theology — would not.

    I don’t know anything about any personal animus of Bauder toward Jones Sr. or Rice. If it is there, I wonder if it might have something to do with the fact that a portrait of Finney could end up on a wall mural in the seminary of the institution Jones founded.

  6. Roger Carlson says:

    I can’t speak for Bauder, so I won’t. In my study of Whitefield and Finney, I believe there differences were like a canyon. But I will leave that for someone else who is much more studied on these men.

    I think the rub for guys like me (we long for genuine revival, and abhor revivalism) is that those who practice revivalism do some pretty bad things albeit, unintentionally. I was affiliated with a church that used to purposefully put the VBS prize table right next to where kids would go during the inivtation. That is a play right out of Finney’s book and I think it is horrible. That is an extreme example. But how often have we tried to “set the mood” with our piano? That is a milder form of “the mourner’s bench” and it needs to be acknowledged as wrong, IMHO.

    I use invitations. The call that Whitefiled, Sprugeon and even our Lord used was, “here is the Truth, respond to it.” There is no need for manipulation when you are comepletely dependent on the Holy Spirit to work as He sees fit.

    I think there are someroots of Finnyism in our movement that need to be rooted out. I am sure the CE’s have them too, but they are really not my concern right now.

    • I should clarify something. My original intention with respect to this post was simply to set it out as a matter of interest concerning the time period involved and to consider parallels or insights we might apply to the current climate in general, not revivalism and/or Bauder etc.

      However, since I have let the conversation go in this direction, we can carry on.

      First, to Keith,

      I am not defining pyrotechnics anachronistically. I have already noted that I don’t know much about Whitefield. I do know that he was not the same as Finney.

      My contention is that while Finney’s theology was abominable, his methodology and innovations may have some use. I am not certain that Jonathan Edwards would not have approved, it is hard to tell. He died too young. But one of his sons was involved in the second Great Awakening. It is hard to tell how much influence Edwards Sr had on Jr (at least hard for me, I haven’t read much about that either).

      I am sure Bauder’s attitude towards Jones and Rice has nothing to do with the presence of a portrait at BJU.

      Second, to Roger

      I would agree that the VBS prize table thing would be at least unwise. If it was purposeful, to get ‘decisions’, it would be abominable.

      But come on, ‘setting the mood’ with a piano? Listen, we set the mood with our preaching also. The gospel isn’t just a dry recitation of facts. Why do we use illustrations? Surely we are trying to make the truth connect emotionally with our hearers. (This can be overdone and abused as well, of course.)

      We do need to guard ourselves against mere psychological manipulation, but we shouldn’t resort to mechanical deadness in response.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  7. I am by no means an expert on this topic, but what I’ve read so far indicates that Edwards Sr. may have been a little revivalistic himself. Some of my reason for saying this can be found in a book review of “The New England Theology: From Jonathan Edwards to Edwards Amasa Park” (http://eternalviewpoint.com/?p=912). It was an interesting read to be sure.

  8. Roger Carlson says:

    Don,
    Sorry I wasn’t clear. I don’t want mechanical deadness. But what I was getting at is this. When I was at BJ, a very godly man gave us instrcution on “how to give an invitation.” He had the piano player play a certain way, and he used certain mannerisms. Every guy in that class wanted “to go forward” and the Word was not preached! That is what I mean by setting the mood – using tactics that compel people to do something. It is nothing more than manipulation and I am pretty certain God is not glorified in that. I hope that is more clear.

    • Hi Roger

      Yes, I would agree that is an abuse of the means.

      But in addition, I would argue that using a piano during an invitation isn’t inappropriate. We do need wisdom and balance in knowing how and what means to use as we call for decisions. We do need to call, though, it seems people don’t just get it on their own (at least not very often).

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  9. “Bauder clearly means something very specific by ‘revivalism’, and I don’t think it is what Whitefield did. I expect that Bauder would approve of this shorthand: Whitefield good / Finney bad.”

    In response to Keith’s comment #5 above …

    Keith, I hope you are right, but I don’t think so. You will notice in my commenting back and forth with Dr. Bauder at Sharper Iron (see http://sharperiron.org/filings/8-30-10/16111#comments) that I asked him to consider expanding his definition of revivalist/revivalism to leave room for men who are revivalists but not manipulative and divisive. He refused to do that. So he continues to broad-brush all of revivalism as “an indictment on fundamentalism.” By his own definition, that would include Moody, Torrey, Jones, Rice and, yes, Whitefield.

    Jim Hollandsworth
    http://www.eternalviewpoint.com

    • Hi Jim

      I edited the time of your post so that it would come up in the queue and not be lost in previous posts. It had gotten caught by the spam filter for some reason. Maybe more than one link in the body? Not sure. Anyway, I don’t always look at my spam filter because it is almost always right… hence the delay on your post. Sorry about that.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  10. Roger Carlson says:

    Don,
    Using a piano is fine, it’s a tool. Because music is emotional, it can be used wrongly. I think we in our movement sometimes are disjointed. We say we need to be careful about music (good we do) but then when it comes to invitations, some of us almost purposefully try to sway people through the music.

    I use an invitation and my wife plays during it. But what you don’t see is her playing a certain way or me doing ANYTHING to illicit a response. I will present the Truth, invite people and leave the rest to the Holy Spirit.

    • Roger, it sounds like our methodologies are almost identical.

      I generally don’t ask people to come forward but to stay in their seats as others go out (we have a time of coffee fellowship after our morning service, then our Sunday School after). I have found that those who are serious about dealing with something the Lord is dealing with them about will respond to this method. Of course there are more who SHOULD respond, but that is another story.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  11. Keith says:

    Jim,

    “By his own definition, that would include Moody, Torrey, Jones, Rice and, yes, Whitefield.”

    I think you are missing his point. Can you point me to where in his definition Whitefield is included?

  12. Keith says:

    Jim,

    Here’s why I think you are wrong about Bauder’s position:

    In response to you he says there are circumstances under which crisis decisions are desireable: “The first is that crisis decisions may be needed when believers have been neglecting or resisting growth. Perhaps they are entertaining serious sin; perhaps they are simply negligent in their duties. Under those circumstances, confrontation and persuasion are required, and that kind of confrontation and persuasion may be manifested from the pulpit as well as other places.”

    As per Don’s quotation, negligence and/or serious sin were a big part of American life in the day of Whitefield and Edwards. So, it seems Bauder would approve of Whitefield’s confrontations. What Bauder describes is what Whitefield was doing.

    Also, Bauder says, “You can get visible decisions by appealing to passions such as shame, guilt, and pride. These decisions, made for the wrong reasons, always produce the wrong results. Right decisions must involve an appeal to the mind through the affections.”

    Bauder here is almost chanelling Edwards — the author of Religious Affections and Signs of True Revival.

    Whitefield, Edwards, et. al. were doing nothing like Finney, Sunday, OR classical Keswick.

    Seems like Bauder is right in saying: “The fact that this distinction [between Edwardsian confrontation and later “revivalism”] is lost on most Fundamentalists is one reason that we have been so open to manipulative revivalism.”

  13. David Barnhart says:

    Don,

    Interesting that you mention “Calvinistic Methodist,” as I would originally have thought that to be more or less an oxymoron, given that Wesley was anything but Calvinist. The son of the man that pastored the church I attended as a child is now the pastor, and he is indeed a strong Calvinist, but the church retains Methodist in its name. He is also a strong fundamental pastor, but definitely different from his father, who was much more old-time methodist.

    The reason I brought up methodism was specifically because you mentioned the “approaches” (methods) of the Wesleys. I remember that we had services that would be almost “high church” and others that were more like the camp meetings in Sheffey, but Calvinistic, we weren’t. As a child/teen, I didn’t really see a lot of what was done as a problem, but I view it a little differently now. My pastor was consumed with doing God’s will and winning souls, and lived it out with a godly, humble life, all of which I still find commendable, but I now question some of the revivalistic tactics that occurred in service of that goal, and looking back, I find more excess than I would like.

    I would agree with you that slow and steady growth (or growth at all for that matter) is not inevitable — as you said, we need to be provoked to love and good works. However, if “growth” only occurs because of spectacular provocation, something is very wrong. I would argue that the spectacular (or crisis) should be exception, not the rule in normal Christian growth. The rule is hearing preaching and exhortation, as well as getting together with other believers to admonish and encourage one another.

    • Hi Dave

      I would agree that crisis only growth is a problem.

      Re the Methodists, are you talking of the McKnights? That’s who I’m thinking of. Remember that Whitefield was also considered a Methodist, even though he differed from the Wesley’s on soteriology.

      Keith,

      There is a sense in which we need to confront others with respect to areas where they need to grow, etc. That is one kind of revival. The work of Whitefield was basically a work of converting sinners to saving faith, either those who made no previous profession or those who had earlier assumed a false profession. Many of Edwards’ parishioners were unconverted though members of the church (due to infant baptism and Half-way covenant).

      I think that revivalist preachers have been doing the same work ever since.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  14. David Barnhart says:

    Don,

    Yes, I’m speaking of the McKnights. I didn’t realize you knew them. I grew up in Donald McKnight’s church. If you know them, you know that his son John now leads that church. I knew Whitefield differed from the Wesleys in his view of the doctrines of Grace. I guess I just didn’t know many “Calvinistic Methodists” until John. His father certainly was not. Our church was definitely more in the Wesley vein at the time I was a part of it. I guess the Whitefield branch is a branch of Methodism I’m unfamiliar with, to my chagrin. Once I went away to college and didn’t go home, I haven’t been a part of Methodism since.

    • Yeah, cool. It is interesting how fundamentalists seem to have a network of connections. (Some would say it is a sign of spiritual inbreeding, but that would be unkind.)

      John was here in Victoria last May, preaching for a group mostly dominated by Free Presbys. He is a tremendous preacher. We were able to go to just one service out of three, much to my regret. I really like John, in spite of our theological differences. We were in school about the same time. I have a couple of chapel messages his dad preached way back in our day at school. I didn’t realize they differed on the theology. But I was impressed with his dad and I am glad to be acquainted with John.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  15. Keith says:

    Lloyd-Jones is a more recent (than Whitefield) Calvinistic Methodist.

  16. Keith says:

    Don, comments like this: “I think that revivalist preachers have been doing the same work ever since,” are exasperating.

    Bauder and everyone else has made it clear that what you call “the same work” (preaching repentance and conversion) isn’t the problem. The problem is with inappropriate messages (everyone ought to be in “full time service”) and methods (a la Finney) — with revivalISM and revivalISTS.

    You claim to not be anachronistic. Fine, call it what you will, but you insist on using good examples of preaching to argue that what Bauder (and quite a few others) mean by “revivalism” should not be disparaged. This is equivocation — just like Bauder said.

  17. Keith says:

    If I may have one more post, here’s what I mean:

    Finney, Hyles, and quite a few “Evangelist Brother so and sos” were not doing the same thing as Whitefield and Edwards.

    • Hi Keith,

      FWIW, I am not claiming that Finney and Hyles and others are doing the same thing as Whitefield and Edwards. But I would submit that a number of men who would be lumped into Bauder’s sneer, “revivalist,” were more in keeping with Whitefield and Edwards than Finney and Hyles. R. A. Torrey, Moody, Dr. Bob Sr. and others were after the same object and were used of God in their day.

      I reject the blanket dismissal of all revivalists simply because there are some revivalists who are manipulative demagogues.

      Re: Lloyd-Jones, you are correct. His church in Aberystwyth (sp??) was a Calvinistic Methodist church, one of several in Wales of that denomination.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  18. Keith says:

    Ok Don,

    But I think Billy Sunday was doing a lot of what Bauder is talking about and I think that BJU has a dorm named for his wife and an auditorium named for his song leader. Hmm. . .

    • Maybe so, but I don’t have a huge problem with Billy Sunday.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

      P.S. I forgot to remind you, but Billy was a Presbyterian, eh? heh, heh

  19. Keith,
    Sorry, but I had to drop out of the dialog for a day or so. In response to your comment #20, I would agree with parts of what you said. However, I think Bauder goes too far. I would agree with what Don says in comment #28. Clearly there are excesses in revivalism, but there are also many who have a revivalist spirit who are much more careful not to manipulate or become divisive. Bauder broad-brushes all of them into the same category, which I do not think is fair.
    Jim

  20. David Barnhart says:

    Doing some research on Calvinistic Methodists, I see they are often actually considered Presbyterians of a certain type. It makes sense that John would be preaching for and associating with Presbyterians, given his theology. I agree with you that he’s a great preacher. So was his Dad. In fact, Pastor McKnight (the elder) was one of the Bible Conference speakers at BJU during my time there. It was probably the 83 or 84 school year, I can’t remember which — I was either a sophomore or junior at the time. And of course, since Dr. Bob Sr. was a Methodist, it makes sense that fundamental Methodists would be welcomed at BJU.

    I still greatly respect both men, though I consider myself one of those “neither-nors,” kind of between them as regards the whole Calvinism-Arminianism question. There was a big directional change when John became pastor of EMC. As a result, my parents now are members of a Baptist church in the area as they disagree with John’s Calvinistic theology. I’ve gone back and visited a couple times when going home, but I’ve mostly lost contact with my old church as I worship with my parents when visiting them.

    As much as I might disagree with John’s theological direction, I’m happy to see that a lot of the excess revivalism (which I didn’t think anything of while growing up there) has now been tempered. I believe there is a happy medium in that area as well, and that’s all I was attempting to communicate. To be clear, I’m not against invitations, but they have been overused and misused in some churches I’ve been a part of, and I believe there is a fine line that is often hard not to cross, where invitations become more emotional and manipulative. I believe it’s worth erring on the side of caution when using them.

    • I heard John himself preach a tremendous message at Bible Conference a few years ago. It was on assurance of salvation, challenging the complacency of those who might be self-deceived. It was one service where I wish they had given an invitation – I think it was one of the morning services, where invitations are not the norm.

      I also have a tape of Don McKnight on Romans 6. “Drop Dead” was the title. It was from a chapel session, if I recall – not sure what year. It was great.

      Anyway, I pretty much agree with you about invitations.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  21. T. Pennock says:

    DON, NOT SURE WHAT’S GOING ON, BUT I’VE TRIED TO POST THIS SEVERAL TIMES. BUT IT WON’T TAKE. I’LL TRY AGAIN. PLEASE DELETE MY OTHER ATTEMPTS.

    Don,

    Here’s a reply I gave to a brother on another forum concerning Finney’s “new measures.” Some of these “new measures” are a hoot!
    ________________________________

    Brother,

    You gave a good outline and some excellent comments.

    I’m glad you didn’t use your revival talk as an opportunity to slander those who truly pray for revival among God’s people. Too often these days revival talk degenerates into Finney-bashing and the undermining of true evangelism.

    There are many good men out there who still seek and pray for genuine revival among God’s people and, of course, the salvation of the lost. And while they’re not all Finney worshippers, they nevertheless find value in Finney’s “new measures.”

    And what were those measures?

    1. That sinners shouldn’t hide behind the religious respectability of a high-toned Calvinism

    2. That sinners shouldn’t count on their church membership, baptism, or and their Christian parents to get them on the election roll

    3. That singing hymns should be included with the singing of psalms

    4. That meeting for evening services wasn’t a crime

    5. That having stoves and fireplaces in the church house didn’t offend God

    6. That extended evangelistic meetings were okay

    7. That churches could use evangelical preachers from the community and surrounding towns to preach at a local revival meetings

    8. That the inquiry room was helpful in privately addressing the concerns of people

    9. That preachers, after preaching the gospel, should publicly call upon all present to respond to it

    10. That preachers weeping in the pulpit as they preached wasn’t a disgrace

    11. That preachers should express fervor in preaching and should abandon the strangled style of a frozen piety

    12. That Christians should promote itinerant preachers and their circuits

    13. That laymen and established clerics could function as evangelists

    14. That is was okay to express a little noise during the preaching

    15. That camp meetings were worthwhile

    16. That the mourner’s bench could be used effectively with grieving and convicted people

    17. That women could pray publicly

    18. That advertising meetings was permissible

    19. That sinners should give public testimony to their salvation

    20. That preachers should demonstrate salvation in their own lives (according to some accounts I’ve seen, New England at this time was plagued with unsaved preachers, especially was this so among the Calvinists of the Presbyterian and Congregational churches; and that partially explains the hostility and opposition Finney encountered to his “know-so” salvation message)

    21. That praying for people by name from the pulpit or in public meetings was okay

    Not surprisingly, the Calvinists opposed everyone of these “new measures.” They attacked them as scandalous, inventions, and impious. They flipped out over the notion that men could be saved right where they stood, right now. And they flamed over the practice of Finney calling those already “born into election” to salvation.

    Again, I appreciated your words.

    tjp

    • Hi Tracy

      Sorry about that. My spam filter has made two mistakes on this thread… weird. Don’t know why. You had no links in your post. It caught all three attempts (you don’t have beady eyes, do you???).

      Anyway, I appreciate the words. I have always disagreed with Finney’s theology, but many people saw value in the things you listed. Surely these new measures are acceptable in gospel work.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  22. David,

    When I lived in Maryland, I visited the McKnight’s church once to hear a BJU choir. That was well over 15 years ago but I still remember details, like meeting my cousin’s fiancee who was in the choir, and the subject of the message that was preached (it was from the book of Esther).

    My understanding is that Don McKnight died while he was praying during family devotions, or something very similar to that. He was very well thought of by other pastors in the area. I remember one of my pastor’s saying he was really a Baptist but didn’t know it.

  23. David Barnhart says:

    Don,

    If you wish to filter this, since it’s getting more than a little off the topic, that’s fine, but I wanted to respond to Andy’s post.

    ————

    Andy,

    You and Don are bringing back a lot of memories! When I was at BJ, I was a part of a choir that went to EMC to sing for a special service, but that was considerably more than 15 years ago! I’m not surprised that BJ choirs still go there, as EMC is one of the stronger churches in that part of Maryland.

    You are pretty close with respect to how Pastor McKnight passed on. From what I was told by those who were there, he was praying at a cottage prayer meeting, and died just as he finished. I also knew that he was well-respected by other pastors in the area. From the life he lived, I can understand that. Even one of the local papers, with whom he sparred many times over the years on various issues, gave him a nice obituary and recognized his service to the people in the Dublin/Darlington/Street area of Maryland (even though I’m sure they still disagreed with his preaching as much as ever).

    He surprised me by attending my wedding, which was held in SC, which I certainly never expected, even though he had been invited. I was sure he would be too busy, but that’s not the kind of man he was.

    Well, I’m way off the topic now, sorry about that. Back to the merits/disadvantages of revivalism. Thanks for the look back!

    • Hey, Dave, I started the rabbit trail! The McKnights are a real success story of fundamentalism, in my opinion. We could go on, but I guess we could bore everyone else.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  24. David Barnhart says:

    I agree about being a success of fundamentalism. I remember getting to BJ and being asked how Methodists could possibly be fundamental, when Methodists were most of the fundamentalists I actually knew at the time. Now I realize just how small a segment of fundamentalism we actually were, but the question sure seemed odd when I heard it. My background still makes me bristle when I hear things like “the only true fundamentalists are IFBs!”

  25. T. Pennock says:

    Don,

    Don asks, “You don’t have beady eyes, do you???”

    Tracy replies: No, not at all, but I do have a bloodshot one!

    tjp

  26. Keith says:

    Yes TJ, and WHY did he use those measures you list?

    A quick excerpt from the Founders website:

    Did Finney hold the same doctrine of salvation as Pelagius? Or were Finney’s similarities with Pelagius superficial and their differences deep? Foundational one’s views of salvation are the doctrines of man and sin. Both Pelagius and Finney held to the innate ability of man to do good and thus, to choose God. They argued that there is no justice if man does not have the ability (absolute free will) to obey what God has commanded.[11] And because neither believed that man has an inherent flaw, they concluded that man possesses the possibility for sinless perfection. Both rejected imputation and guilt from Adam, although Finney did ambiguously state Adam left a tendency in man to sin.[12]

    As one might guess from the preceding discussion, both men also essentially rejected orthodoxy when it came to the doctrine of salvation. Pelagius, understanding that Christ counteracted Adams’s bad example, saw Christ as the good example for man to follow. Finney opted for the Governmental Theory of the atonement, which says that through Christ’s death, God was showing man that He was serious about judging sin. Thus, for neither man was the atonement a literal payment of a debt.

    Salvation then, for both men, essentially becomes a human work.

    That’s what’s wrong with his “measures”.

    • Hi Keith,

      Not sure what this has to do with the measures TJ listed. Which would be the point we are making.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jeremiah 33.3

  27. Keith says:

    Well, first off, TJ’s 1 & 2 were definitely not new — Jonathan Edwads was kicked out of his church for making these points years before.

    3 & 4 were also not unique to Finney. Certain branches of the reformed — who held to a strict construction of the regulative principle — still sing Psalms exclusively, but most did/do not. And, the Westminster Confession — long before Finney — directs believers to spend the entire Lord’s Day in acts of worship.

    The rest of the list, TJ has composed in such a way as to make Finney’s practices seem innocent and inocuous — if not down right laudable. The problem is, practices don’t occur in a vacuum. They aren’t abstractions.

    Finney designed and implemented his measures “to utilize the laws of mind in order to engineer individuals and crowds into making a choice which was ostensible based upon free will [3] (Founders).” At root his measures were intentional manipulation.

    Finney’s measures (not the superficial similarities to the practices of others) were a PART of his message. His measures only made sense — to HIM not just his opponents — because of his view of human nature and the nature of the atonement.

    “On October 11, 1821, the day after the young lawyer’s dramatic conversion to Christianity, Charles Finney told a client, “I have a retainer from the Lord Jesus Christ to plead his cause, and I cannot plead yours.”[1] With this statement, modern evangelism was born. Although his theology had not yet been fully formulated, in that one utterance, Charles Finney had just encapsulated modern revivalism’s message. For the courtroom scene was to be changed in the American mind from sinners being the accused with Christ as our advocate and God as the judge, to Christ as the accused with the Christian as His advocate and witness, and the mass of humanity as a hostile jury [2] (Founders).”

    Again, it is not true that “The Calvinists” opposed every one of these new measures, as TJ claims. By Finney’s time there had long since ceased to be a single/unified/monolithic group that could be called “The Calvinists” in America (if there ever had been). Yes, a certain group of hyper calvinists reacted to everything Finney did (kind of like certain fundamentalists react to everything Mark Driscoll does today) — and in fact he was reacting to their hyper calvinist practices. However, many other calvinists going back for many years engaged in some practices that were superficially similar but essentially different than Finney.

  28. T. Pennock says:

    Hi Keith,

    I’m with Don. I don’t see what your post has to do with Finney’s new measures. I’m with you concerning his theology. Yet the vast majority of his “innovations” are, to one degree or another, practiced by every church in America. The Calvinists simply wigged out when their traditions were stepped on.

    By the way, it appears your boys at the Founders are as messed up as Finney and Pelagius. Where is the atonement every the literal payment of a debt?

    Have a good one!

    tjp

    • Keith and Tracy,

      It appears your posts crossed each other in the darkness of cyberspace. I’ll let you sort out the counters to each other!

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  29. T. Pennock says:

    Hi Keith,

    Just got back from church. Enjoyed some new measures today. Great service! All to the glory of God!!!

    I agree. Finney’s “new measures” are laughable, petty, and absurd. But what do you make of a theology that gave rise to such practices as Finney opposed? As you said, things “don’t occur in a vaccum.”

    I’m not privy to Finney’s motives, and I’m not entirely sure why he did what he did. Perhaps he was less than sterling in his designs, yet it appears his “new measures” were necessary, even if sometimes abused. Not surprisingly, even today many Finney bashers practice his innovations, or things built upon them.

    I’m a freewiller, though not of the Finney variety. And I count as abominable the Calvinistic practice of “waiting for the day of His power” (something Finney also found repugnant). I believe Paul is correct when he says, “Behold, now is the day of salvation,” which explodes the Calvinistic myth of “the day of His power” (whenever that may be). More accurately, the day of His power is, according to Scripture, RIGHT NOW (2 Cor. 6:2).

    If Finney was a manipulator, so is every Calvinist. Every Calvinist believes God should be worshipped in a certain manner and crafts his service and ministry toward that end. Isn’t that manipulation? If manipulation is always evil, then the Calvinists are as damned as the Arminians.

    When you say, “Finney’s measures (not the superficial similarities to the practices of others) were a PART of his message,” I say, So are every Calvinist’s! And when you say, “His measures only made sense — to HIM not just his opponents — because of his view of human nature and the nature of the atonement.” Well, that’s true enough. After all, what expressions of freewill make any sense to any fatalist, necessitarian or determinist?

    You say, “Again, it is not true that ‘The Calvinists’ opposed every one of these new measures, as TJ claims.” Sorry, but you’re dead wrong. Calvinists, by an large (especially the dead orthodox Calvinists) opposed him viciously. Obviously not EVERY Calvinist opposed Finney because many supported him. But the MAJORITY did oppose his new measures, and the literature of the day confirms it.

    And it wasn’t just the hyper-Calvinists who opposed Finney. It was the consistent Calvinists, those who took their Calvinism to its logical conclusion. Finney confronted Calvinism because he saw the damage it did; and, in many respects, he set out to correct it, realizing it’s not a self-correcting system. However, when it does attempt self-correction, it usually spawns another “ism,” like Unitarianism or Universalism.

    I’m not a big critic of Finney. I’ll leave that to the extreme Calvinists (Emmonites), Unitarians, dead orthodox preachers, and unsaved church members who savaged him mercilessly in the public press of his day. In the main, I think he was an extraordinary man who preached powerfully and served fearlessly.

    Of course we can see why Finney was attacked for his manner of ministry. After all, he often preached without notes and rarely read his sermons, which were both huge taboos in Calvinist New England. He flouted New England pulpit decorum, and that was inexcusable. In that day, it wasn’t good form to “preach from the cuff.”

    Not only was he chided by the New England “divines” for instituting the ungodly practice of sitting during prayer and standing during singing (the exact opposite form prevailed in New England during his time), but he was viciously attacked for reading prayer requests from the pulpit before the service, an unheard of innovation, as we’ve previously noted.

    Let me close by saying this: During the days of Finney there were many problems among the Calvinist clergy, especially among the Presbyterians and Congregationalists. The most serious problem was that many were unsaved. Dead orthodoxy reigned everywhere. And there was a deep cry for converted preachers. Many of the Tennent men “complained of the dead orthodoxy of the churches, of the lack of genuine piety in the ministry, and of the great need of converted ministers.”

    This same concern was echoed by Charles Finney, who often complained that many of the preachers he met were lost and had no vital testimony for Christ. The Calvinist system had produced an entirely new category of unregenerate elect, those who were waiting for the “day of God’s converting power,” a day which many never came for many.

    Interestingly, during the ministries of the Tennents, Whitefield, and Finney, many predestinarian preachers were raised from the coffin of Calvinism into the salvation of Christ. One man wrote about the spiritual condition of many in those days, “No inconsiderable portion of the ministers, and multitudes of church members, were ignorant of the gospel as an inward and spiritual power”

    Such may be a harsh judgment, but the observations of many of the leading preachers of that day support it. New England had its troubles. And Calvinism was at the heart of them.

    Have a good one!

    tjp

  30. Keith says:

    TJP: But what do you make of a theology that gave rise to such practices as Finney opposed? As you said, things “don’t occur in a vaccum.”

    Keith: Hyper Calvinism gave rise to the practices Finney opposed. It was a harmful theology.

    TJP: I’m not privy to Finney’s motives, and I’m not entirely sure why he did what he did.

    Keith: Then read a little Finney. He was pretty open about his motives.

    TJP: Every Calvinist believes God should be worshipped in a certain manner and crafts his service and ministry toward that end. Isn’t that manipulation?

    Keith: No, that is not manipulation.

    TJP: When you say, “Finney’s measures (not the superficial similarities to the practices of others) were a PART of his message,” I say, So are every Calvinist’s!

    Keith: Yes. And, their message is not that man can save himself.

    TJP: You say, “Again, it is not true that ‘The Calvinists’ opposed every one of these new measures, as TJ claims.” Sorry, but you’re dead wrong. Calvinists, by an large (especially the dead orthodox Calvinists) opposed him viciously.

    Keith: Yes calvinists opposed Finney. I didn’t say otherwise. I said that not all groups of calvinists opposed every thing in the list of measures that you provided.

    TJP: Finney confronted Calvinism because he saw the damage it did; and, in many respects, he set out to correct it, realizing it’s not a self-correcting system. However, when it does attempt self-correction, it usually spawns another “ism,” like Unitarianism or Universalism.

    Keith: And how is Pelagianism a better corrective than Unitarianism or Universalism?

    TJP: I think he was an extraordinary man who preached powerfully and served fearlessly.

    Keith: So, as long as one preaches “powerfully”, it doesn’t matter what he preaches?

    TJP: Dead orthodoxy reigned everywhere.

    Keith: Is the solution live heresy?

  31. T. Pennock says:

    Keith,

    Lest I forget. I appreciate your acknowledging that not all the “new measures” were Finney’s creations. Unfortunately, Calvinists have so perfectly and negatively identified Finney with these things that he pretty much stands as the poster boy for them.

    Calvinists were in total meltdown in Finney’s day. A large number of their churches were simply the synogogues of Satan. In many cases the preachers of those churches were either lost or thoroughly given to the “wait for the day of His power” nonsense. Unfortunately, Calvinism, being an anemic spiritual remedy, couldn’t act as its own “medicener.”

    I say it again, I’m not a big critic of Finney. I’ll leave the criticism to the Calvinists and Unitarians. Again, in the main, I think he was an extraordinary man who preached powerfully and served fearlessly, an assessment, I believe, that was shared by many Calvinists in his own day. Finney’s ministry, while it had its questionable aspects, was certainly blessed by God and used of Him to raise many Calvinists (preachers and parishioners) to new life in Christ.

    Keith, you continue to say that “Hyper Calvinism gave rise to the practices Finney opposed.” That’s only partly so. The bulk of Finney’s opposition to many of his “sensible measures” came from the Princetonians (or old school Calvinists), most of whom are not necessarily associated with hyper Calvinism.

    If by “saving yourself” you mean sinners must believe in order to be regenerated and not regenerated in order to believe, then I join that noble band of “heretics” who early on declared that men must “save themselves” (Acts 2:40) by responding to the conviction of the Spirit (Acts 2:37) and embracing the gospel message, just as we find on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:.38-42)

    You ask, “How is Pelagianism a better corrective than Unitarianism or Universalism?

    Well, it’s not, at least in my way of thinking. Yet God chose to use Finney to bring new life to many, but He ignored the Unitarians and Universalists. Perhaps, in some strange sense, it’s better, but not the best, given the historical circumstances.

    Again, you say, “So, as long as one preaches ‘powerfully’, it doesn’t matter what he preaches?”

    Oh, no. But he did preach powerfully. And many of his messages were thoroughly Scriptural. Thousands of genuine converts could attest it. His enemies could attest it, and so could his friends. God often visited His preaching with an unusual unction. Even many Calvinists ultimately realized God was using Finney and consequently joined him in many of his campaigns. But make no mistake, Finney was a powerful servant, all theological flaws aside.

    You query, “Is the solution live heresy?”

    No, not at all. But it’s not dead orthodox Calvinism, either. It’s Christ crucified! Hold up Christ! Preach Christ! Invite every sinner within earshot to close with Him immediately, telling them they have a provision for their sins and that He died for them–specifically, and not simply some men somewhere.

    It’s not necessarily to limit our choices between dead orthodoxy or live heresy. We can simply proclaim Christ crucified, as Paul did to the Corinthians, informing them, while they were still in their unsaved state, Christ died for them specifically (1 Cor. 15:1-4). That’s the cure. And that’s what Finney, to his credit, hit upon.

    Have a good one!

    tjp

  32. Keith says:

    TJP: Unfortunately, Calvinists have so perfectly and negatively identified Finney with these things . . .

    Keith: You continue to lump all calvinists together inappropriately. Yes, the Old Side calvinists oppose the things you listed. The New Side does not and they do not identify all of those things as springing from Finney. The New Siders and the Old Schoolers (distinct from Old Siders) still usually maintain that Finney practiced them inappropriately and from a faulty theology.

    TJP: Calvinists were in total meltdown in Finney’s day. A large number of their churches were simply the synogogues of Satan.

    Keith: And what happened to those dowstream of Finney in his “Burned Over District”. Would you say Mormonism is a synagogue of Satan? Is that how Finneyism self-corrects? I said that things don’t happen in a vacuum. That’s different from holding that everything upstream is directly responsible for everything downstream. If you maintain that. Then Finney’s got a lot to answer for in the district.

    TJP: Perhaps, in some strange sense, [Pelagianism is] better, but not the best, given the historical circumstances.

    Keith: Pelagianism is heresy. It is thoroughly unChristian. Even Roman Catholics don’t claim that man is born neutral and is able to independently work his way to holiness. If you seriously think Pelagianism is ok just because you like the style and product of some of its practitioners — then you’ve once again made Bauder’s point.

    TJP: It’s not necessary to limit our choices between dead orthodoxy or live heresy.

    Keith: I agree. That’s why I’ll pass on Finney. I don’t have to choose him — or similar “revivalists” — or be left with dead orthodoxy. That’s also what Bauder appears to be saying. You pro-revivalists are the ones who seem to want to force a bifurcation.

    TJP: that’s what Finney, to his credit, hit upon.

    Keith: If that’s all he did, no one — including Bauder would have the slightest quible with him.

  33. T. Pennock says:

    Hi Keith,

    You said: “Pelagianism is heresy. It is thoroughly unChristian. Even Roman Catholics don’t claim that man is born neutral and is able to independently work his way to holiness.”

    I agree. I’m not defending Pelagianism. But in the context in which Finney ministered, God chose to use him even with his doctrinal flaws. Surely the Calvinists must have questioned why God would bless so little of the truth Finney had and by pass “all the truth” they had. Again, history is history, and God chose Finney–and not the Calvinists or Unitarians–to initate a great movement that would bring thousands to Christ and would rescue many from a souless predestinarianism.

    Again, you said: “If you seriously think Pelagianism is ok just because you like the style and product of some of its practitioners — then you’ve once again made Bauder’s point.”

    No I don’t think Pelagianism is okay. I simply made an observation that, in the religious milieu of that day, God chose a Pelagian and not a Augustinian to drive a spiritual work that resulted in enormous spiritual blessing to untold thousands. That’s not an endorsement of Pelagianism. But it is what God did. (By the way, God has used many heretics in church history.)

    I’m not recommending Finney’s hybrid system of theology, but I am recognizing God used him and that He used him marvelously. I don’t need to embrace Calvinism to avoid Finneyism. It’s not necessary to slouch toward the former in order to get clear of the latter. Neither system is particularly attractive to me. I personally prefer something akin to the Cumberland Presbyterian soteriology, or the mediate view salvation.

    You mentioned the “burned over district.” Apparently, you believe it accurately reflects and appropriately characterizes all revivalist efforts in central and upstate New York during Finney’s time there. Yet one Presbyterian historian, P. H. Fowler, cites several men concerning the “burned over district.”

    “Central New York has since been the land of revivals. The dews of heaven and its copious showers have seemed to fall continuously upon it;” and Dr. Aiken, one of the eminent pastors with whom Finney labored in New York during the early years of his activity, wrote in 1871: “After forty years I am persuaded that it was the work of God;” and in 1856, Dr. Lansing, another of the pastors in the region to which Dr. Nevin refers, bore testimony that the influence of Finney’s revivals had continued till that time for good in every respect.”

    (Funny, I once called that same area, “the frozen over district,” believing it represented the dreadful consequences of a long-held Calvinism.)

    Have a good one!

    tjp

  34. Keith says:

    TJP: Again, history is history, and God chose Finney–and not the Calvinists or Unitarians–to initate a great movement that would bring thousands to Christ and would rescue many from a souless predestinarianism.

    Keith: So God never moves through the souless predestinarians? What about Whitefield?

    TJP: No I don’t think Pelagianism is okay. I simply made an observation that, in the religious milieu of that day, God chose a Pelagian and not a Augustinian to drive a spiritual work that resulted in enormous spiritual blessing to untold thousands.

    Keith: God can and does use whatever He wants. If He can use Balam’s ass, then I’m sure he can use any human. That’s really not what we’re debating here though. The question is how should we evangelize and minister. Should we do it like Finney or not? Just because God can use someone in error doesn’t mean I should perpetuate the error.

    TJP: Funny, I once called that same area, “the frozen over district,” believing it represented the dreadful consequences of a long-held Calvinism.

    Keith: The burned over district was, I believe, Finney’s own term for the area. Regardless, you continue to insist on the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.

    • Hey, no speaking in tongues without interpretation!

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  35. T. Pennock says:

    Hi Keith,

    Propter hoc here.

    You ask: “The question is how should we evangelize and minister. Should we do it like Finney or not?”

    At times I say . . . yes, do it like Finney.

    If I’m preaching to lost folks, I preach Christ crucified and call for them to close with Christ immediately and publicly. Before I close, I tell them if they have any questions, either they can come to the front at the invitation time or they can see me after the service. I always stress that Christ desires their immediate salvation. So I declare the gospel, spell out its terms, and call them to close with it.

    Happily, Finney insisted that sinners could respond to the gospel when it came to them; and even though he had the machinery of freewill and depravity messed up, he had the principle of evangelism correct: He knew all things were ready and that all could come. He believed, and I think rightly so, that God’s callings are His enablings. With that notion, he went after sinners, and thousands of Presbyterians and Congregationalists found Christ (as well as untold numbers of drunkards, harlots, saloon keepers. lawyers, clergy, and business men).

    Finney preached that sinners should “return from [their] ways and live.” But, then again, so did Ezekiel. Finney preached for results, and I believe he was wise in doing so. He preached for decisions, for people to decide immediately for Christ and to receive His salvation. He despised the idea that sinners had to “wait for the Holy Spirit” (as if He weren’t already striving with them through the gospel) or the notion that they must sense a certain “somethng” to know they had an interest in Christ before believing.

    Finney didn’t tolerate the Calvinist claim that sinners had no self-determining power. He believed every sinner who came under the sound of the gospel was enabled by that very gospel to “return.” And, of course, he conducted his ministry accordingly. In his mind it was really quite simple: If the gospel not only frees men to believe and saves all who do, then all should immediately repent, all questions of depravity, freewill, and predestination aside.

    Finney preached that sinners should “Repent and turn [themselves] from all their transgressions.” He completely (and correctly) dismissed the Calvinist theory that sinners must first be regenerated before they can repent. He scorned the concept of sinners “waiting at the pool of the ordinances” to be saved. He confronted many Calvinist wives’ fables, such as the idea that if a man wasn’t willing to be happily damned for the glory of God, then he couldn’t be saved. Finney had his problems, all right; but so did the Calvinists.

    Finney preached that sinners should “cast away” their transgressions and “make [themselves] a new heart and a new spirit.” (But, again, so did Ezekiel.) He opposed the Calvinist notion that regeneration was secret and unconditional and that sinners were entirely passive in salvation. He sneered at the teaching that sinners should “wait for an effectual call” or “wait God’s good time” or “wait the day of His power.” To Finney those were simply Satanic devices to further darken men’s minds. As he saw it, sinners needn’t gather around the ordinances hoping to be regenerated. They could be regenerated immediately. And that view of evangelism shook New England.

    Believing sinners could immediately respond to the gospel at the behest of the Spirit and word, Finney called men to instant repentance. This sent shockwaves through the nursery-born Calvinists and their cap-and-gown preachers. He never minced words. He called upon men to “turn [themselves] and live” and to “turn ye, turn ye from your evil way.” And he believed they could (and I am with him on that, though for different reasons). And God blessed his efforts. Obviously, He didn’t bless his error. But He did wonderfully visit the truth he preached.

    I commend Finney’s approach and insistence that men can be and must be immediately saved and that there is no mysterious decree barring most from Heaven. But I would anchor such efforts on a better foundation.

    Have a good one!

    tjp

  36. Keith says:

    “At times I say . . . yes, do it like Finney.”

    And there it is . . . of course it seems like you misunderstand real calvinism as badly as Finney, so it’s not surprising that you’d side with him (in spite of his errors) over the misunderstandings of calvinism.

    That’s all the time I have for this discussion. You have a good one too.