Theology and Politics from a Conservative, Biblical Perspective
I’d like to take a step back for a minute to say critiquing people who have spoken publicly or written books that are available when it appears their doctrine is askew or outright heretical is desperately needed today. Those folks have defined their positions publicly and because of that, they are open to critiquing. I have written numerous books and the same holds true for me. If people disagree with what I write either on this blog, in book form, or in audio or video format, my views are fair game if they are in error or even if someone simply disagrees.
By critiquing people’s views and opinions, this does not fall under the guidelines of Matthew 18:15-20 where we learn that if your brother “offends” you, you should personally go to that brother and try to reason. If that doesn’t work, then take a few people from the church that you both attend to see what can be ironed out. This is when a brother has done something that has offended/affected you personally. To critique someone’s doctrinal views does not mean that the person critiquing is “judging” that person. It means they are comparing those written or spoken views to Scripture.
We find that Paul had no problem calling out certain people by name who were teaching things that were not doctrinally aligned with Scripture. This should be done publicly because it does several things: First, it warns the offender that they need to rethink what they are teaching because of their error. Second, it alerts others to the problems of listening to that person who is teaching error; in essence, it warns the flock of the danger. Allowing error to go unchecked can and does create heresy and compromise with the world.
I’d also like to state that not one of us is going to find that we were 100% correct in this life when we stand before the Lord. I’ve noticed in my own life, my position on certain doctrines has changed or been slightly modified over time through intense study of His Word. We are all growing in maturity (hopefully), and that includes our ability to rightly divide the Word.
Throughout history, there have always been serious errors that have infiltrated the church. We are called to contend for the faith (Jude 3), and to learn to rightly divide it (2 Tim 2:15). We’ve seen one denomination after another ultimately taken over by heretics. We’ve also watched Christian colleges/universities fall to Leftism’s ideologies. It makes complete sense that Satan would do whatever he could to attack these institutions, to try to turn them to himself and away from the truth that most were founded on. For him to ignore these places would be moronic.
As this series continues, it needs to be understood that all the specific people who are aligned to some degree with bad doctrine and outright lies cannot possibly be covered here. Though I will continue to mention specific individuals, it may be more beneficial for me to list false doctrines routinely espoused today by false teachers and the damage they have caused. With that knowledge, people can then determine which folks they pay attention to fall into the “heresy” category.
But before I get into anymore examples of people alive today and who might be guilty of teaching heresy, I’d like to go back to someone who many continue to revere as a great man, a wonderful preacher and a fantastic Bible expositor and evangelist. This one man has done quite a bit of damage and it was during the 1800’s that he lived. The problem is that people during my lifetime, some of whom are still alive, lionize that man, in spite of the fact that his theology was literally perverse and his methods of soul-winning were not based in Scripture, but on humanistic philosophy. This particular person was pivotal in modern church history, unfortunately.
I’m talking about Charles Finney. It was literally under Finney that soul-winning or evangelism, became an actual “method” of converting the lost to salvation through specific formulae, with virtually no follow-up. Truth be told, there is no formula, whether it’s quick prayerism or something else to convert the lost. It is a work of God. We simply plant seeds or water seeds planted by others.
I wrote about Finney back in December of 2019 with the article, “Charles G. Finney: Hero or Heretic?” As I stated in that previous article, “After delving into his personal memoirs and Systematic Theology, it is difficult to come away without concluding that Finney was, by and large, a heretic, having clearly rejected many of the most basic truths found within Christendom as taught by Jesus and the apostles.”
In fact, it is absolutely appalling to me the amount of doctrinal error Finney believed, professed and built his ministry upon. If you take the time to read what he believed the Bible taught, you’ll be forced to come away understanding that he must have believed in a completely different God. Yet, today, many continue to revere him!
The God Finney worshiped was clearly not the God of the Bible. There is no way anyone could believe and preach what he believed and preached and “know” God. Will Finney be one who stands before Him with, “But Lord, didn’t I do this and such and such in your Name?”
For instance, Finney believed that the doctrine of original sin was “a monstrous and blasphemous” doctrine.  He could not wrap his brain around the biblical concept that all sinned in Adam as Paul explains in Romans and the sin nature created in Adam and Eve was passed along to every person born of them (Romans 5:12) – all of us.
Ephesians 2:3 clearly states the following: “Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”
Notice Paul states clearly that all people, prior to receiving salvation “were by nature the children of wrath…” Yet, Finney says the following:
That it cannot, consistently with natural justice, be understood to mean, that we are exposed to the wrath of God on account of our nature. It is a monstrous and blasphemous dogma, that a holy God is angry with any creature for possessing a nature with which he was sent into being without his knowledge or consent. The Bible represents God as angry with men for their wicked deeds, and not for their nature.
Finney also believed that people had the ability to do the right thing in and of themselves. We should simply decide to do what was right and do it. For Finney, it wasn’t a matter of our innate spiritually dead condition prior to being saved. It rested solely on whether or not we want to follow Christ. Wanting is tantamount to being able to do that and leads to “salvation.” This is not what Scripture teaches. Even after we become Christians, with the Holy Spirit living within us, we must submit to Him in order to be able to overcome sin in our life. Finney believed that this decision could be made before even becoming a Christian but by making the decision, one “becomes” a Christian.
Finney’s denial of original sin naturally led to his doctrine of “bootstraps salvation,” in which a person is able to save himself through his own efforts in imitating Christ’s life and sacrifice. If we sin because we follow Adam’s disobedient example, so we can save ourselves by following Jesus’ moral example of doing good works, including his suffering and death on the cross.
For Finney, regeneration is ultimately man making the choice to cooperate with God, not the work of God alone in making a person a new creation…
Turns out that Finney also seemed to be abhorred by the substitutionary atonement, believing that the death of Jesus was not really a substitution for us. Note his words regarding that subject:
The atonement would present to creatures the highest possible motives to virtue. Example is the highest moral influence that can be exerted. If God, or any other being, would make others benevolent, he must manifest benevolence himself. If the benevolence manifested in the atonement does not subdue the selfishness of sinners, their case is hopeless…
Had he obeyed for us, he would not have suffered for us. Were his obedience to be substituted for our obedience, he need not certainly have both fulfilled the law for us, as our substitute, under a covenant of works, and at the same time have suffered as a substitute, in submitting to the penalty of the law.
The double speak above is from the mind of a philosopher, not a theologian. Do you see from his words above how twisted Satan can make things so that they may “sound” even good at first, but after careful inspection, are seen as fully heretical?
These are simply a few examples of Finney’s complete lack of biblical understanding. Finney seemed to enjoy hearing his own words as a religious philosopher, rather than attempt to truly discern what the Bible actually teaches.
Beyond all of this, Finney’s most remarkable “achievements” were in the area of evangelism. He introduced numerous methods to get people to come to the front that heretofore had not been used. In what is known as the Second Great Awakening, Finney would use numerous methods of manipulation including what he called the “anxious seat” to get people to come forward and lead them through a series of questions that ultimately forced them to answer the way he wanted them answered. I’ve seen modern day evangelists do the same type of thing.
The saddest part of all of Finney’s revivals are the results seen in people afterwards who were alleged to have received Jesus as Savior. Most, if not all, showed no evidence of any change in their lives, no interest in reading God’s Word or in attending church. Yet, for looks sake, people came forward in droves and were emotionally charged about their “conversions” at the time.
Today, so-called evangelicals continue to lionize Charles Finney though it seems clear they cannot really know what he believed and taught. If they do, that’s even worse for them. To hold up someone like Finney who questioned and even vilified major portions of Scripture, used manipulative techniques to force people into “conversions” to Christianity and essentially leave them in the dust after he left town is despicable.
Modern day “revivals,” methods used to bring sinners down front and quick prayerism to “convert” are abhorrent and should be avoided at all costs. Unfortunately, they continue to be the norm in too many churches and religious conventions.
Today’s world is rife with all sorts of errors and heresies and because too few Christians actually read and study God’s Holy Word, they are unable to pick out any errors at all, preferring to believe that we all need to just “get along.” Unfortunately, that saves no one.
Finney was a tremendous orator because he was a practiced attorney. Public speaking was his gift. Unfortunately, I cannot help but wonder how many were led astray by this man’s “ministry.” Only God knows.
In future articles in this series, I want to include some folks in the modern day “church growth” movement who tend to use some of the same gimmicks and bad theology as Finney did. The Bible says this will occur and it is so we need to be aware of it.
Theology and Politics from a Conservative, Biblical Perspective
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