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Should Arminianism or Calvinism Be An Issue For Unity?

I want to say from the beginning that I enjoy various Calvinist blogs, podcasts, and ministries.  My wife and I have financially supported a few Calvinist ministries now and again.  I have no trouble praying, worshiping, fellowshipping, and even evangelizing with my Calvinist brethren.  I would stand with my Calvinist friends to defend the gospel, to defend key doctrines such as the inerrancy of the Bible, and I would stand with my Calvinist brethren to preach the gospel.  I have no ill will toward my Calvinist friends.  I simply believe they are wrong in their starting point for their theology though I regard them as brothers and sisters in the Lord.

If I had a larger ministry context, I would not exclude Calvinists from my group.  I would love to have a ministry that reaches people with the gospel much like Ray Comfort’s Living Waters or Paul Washer’s Heart Cry Missionary Society.  In Ray Comfort’s ministry, it is well known that both Arminians and Calvinists have served together with one another.  There has been unity even in the midst of theological disagreements.  The reason is simple: the gospel is not about Arminianism or Calvinism.  One can be an Arminian or a Calvinist and be lost.  This is clear from our churches were people attend but are lost.  There are many people who would claim to be an Arminian or a Calvinist but are not saved.  Salvation is not an ism.  Salvation is found in the living Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).  Salvation is found in Jesus alone (John 1:12-13; 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy 2:5-6).  Salvation is not agreeing with facts about Jesus (James 2:19).  Salvation is loving Jesus and worshiping Him alone for His saving work on the cross (John 14:21-24; 1 John 2:3-6).

In fact, Calvinist Tony Miano wrote this when he was part of Living Waters ministry:

Silence by Living Waters regarding various theological or philosophical issues should not be seen as a position in favor or against those various theological or philosophical issues. And all members of the Living Waters staff are free to believe, study, worship, and fellowship according to their personal convictions and preferences, without compromising their deeply held spiritual beliefs, so long as those beliefs, convictions, and preferences are consistent with the ministry’s Statement of Faith.

This was part of a blog post Miano did on Living Waters and whether they are “anti-Pentecostal.”  While Miano admitted he was not a Pentecostal, he stated his love for them and the fact that they had a few Pentecostals working at Living Waters.  He also wrote this about Arminianism:

A Christian can be a non-Calvinist without being anti-Calvinist in their doctrinal positions; just as a Christian can be a non-Arminian without being anti-Arminian.

I agree with Tony Miano here.  I agree that one can be a non-Calvinist and not be anti-Calvinist.  That would describe myself and so many other Arminians I know.  I am not against my Calvinist brethren but I am not a fan of Calvinism.  I can read Calvinist books, pray with Calvinist saints, preach with my Calvinist brothers, and yet not agree with Calvinism.  Why?  Because Calvinism is the not the gospel.  Jesus doesn’t save Calvinists nor does He save Arminians.  Jesus saves sinners (Luke 19:10; 1 Timothy 1:15).

Yet Miano recently stated in his blog talk radio program that Arminianism is the problem with the American church.  He blamed the “sinner’s prayer” and altar calls on the Arminianism of the 19th century here in the United States.  He went on to rant that Arminianism is one of the unbiblical problems in the American church (along with some other things).

I have watched this slowly developing in my brother Tony.  I am not like some who will call Tony a liar nor will I berate him as a sinner.  I love Tony Miano and love his work for the Lord.  I appreciate his heart to preach the gospel to the lost.  I appreciate his service for the King.  I don’t agree with Tony on every issue.  His Calvinism is often where we disagree.  That said, I appreciate him as a brother.  I would ask he do the same toward me and other Arminians.

What I would like to say to Tony (and other Calvinists) is this: read Arminians.  I wonder when Calvinists attack Arminians, have they read the Works of Arminius?  Have they read any Arminian theologians such as Adam Clarke, Vic Reasoner, or Roger Olson?  Do they know the Arminian Puritan John Goodwin?  Have they read the writings or sermons of John Wesley?  Do they know that Whitefield said that Wesley did evangelism better than he did for Wesley put his converts into bands or small groups?  When was the last time they had meaningful time with Arminian brothers and sisters and talked about theology with them?

The fact is that if brother Tony had read Arminius or the works of Arminians he would see that what he berates as sloppy American evangelicalism does not come from Arminius nor the Arminians of the 19th century but rather from the semi-Pelagianism of Charles Finney.  While many Calvinists try to make Finney an Arminian, he was not.  I would admit that many Arminian churches fell prey to Finney’s theology at the turn of the 20th century and sadly many Arminian churches today look more like Finney than like Wesley.  Dr. Vic Reasoner in his excellent two-volume work, Holy Livingshows that Finney’s theology does not reflect the teachings of Arminius nor Wesley regarding salvation, sin, holiness, etc.  I recommend the book.

I appreciate my open air brethren who happen to be Calvinist.  I would appreciate if they take the time to read Arminians.  I suspect many will not because they have begun with a presupposition in mind and that is that Arminianism equals man-centered theology, that Arminianism equals heresy, or that Arminianism is not God-exalting theology.  All of this is false.  I confess that Arminian books are not as easy to find as Calvinist books but they are there.  I would appreciate them reading Arminius or reading Wesley and seeing that the current state of the American church has nothing to do with Arminius or Wesley but with the teachings of Finney.

Let me end by asking my Calvinist brothers to not do one thing and that is draw a line in the sand with Calvinism being the gospel.  I heard Jeff Rose from Jeremiah Cry (a ministry I support and appreciate again in spite of their Calvinism) saying that he was going to start making a call for people to abandon all forms of theology but Calvinism to work with them.  I ask why?  If Calvinism is not the issue?  If Calvinism does not save?  If Calvin was but a man who saved no one?  Why do this?  Why make Calvinism a gospel issue?

Let us return to the gospel.  Let us return to preaching the gospel and uniting around the fact that the blood of Jesus saves us from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10).  Let us draw near to God through the Lord Jesus Christ through His precious blood (Hebrews 9:14).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

02/16/2015 at 12:24 PM

My 2013 Christmas Book List

Every year I ask for books for Christmas.  This year, because my wife and I asked for a Keurig, I received only one book for Christmas.  That by far is the lowest I have asked for in many years.

I received the book, Holy Spirit Revivals by Charles Finney.  The book was not actually written by Charles Finney but is an assortment of stories from the autobiography of Finney that the publisher put together to help “find forgiveness and freedom from sin, receive answers to all you prayers, know God’s will for your life, increase your faith, be guided by the Holy Spirit, discover keys to winning souls, and see the fulfillment of your heart’s desire.”  I am not sure Finney would have approved what was written as a reason to read his biography.  It sounds more like Word-Faith preacher and reasons to read a book based on the false teachings of the Word-Faith movement than Finney.

I know some folks are troubled by Finney.  I have learned to read Finney like I read Calvinists.  I take what is good and ignore what is bad.  Finney has to be understood in the environment in which he preached and lived.  Calvinism had dominated the northeast of the United States for many years by the time Finney came on the scene.  Finney often reacted to the dead, cold Calvinism of his day.  His harsh words about Calvinism or the exaltation of free will is a response to that.  Most of the theological battles that Finney raged were against the academic Calvinists of his day who were bent on hanging onto old Calvinism and its dead state.  Finney longed for pure, hot Christianity that saw mighty revivals all over the place.  His preaching and his life maintained that passion.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

12/27/2013 at 12:35 PM

Charles Finney on the Extent of the Atonement

Note: While I would not argue that Charles Finney was an Arminian but a moral government theologian, I do agree with some of Finney’s writings (though not all).  Below Finney defines the atonement of Christ and for whom did Jesus die.  An Arminian could easily read this and agree with Finney for what he calls a general atonement.

1. God does all things for himself; that is, he consults his own glory and happiness, as the supreme and most influential reason for all his conduct. This is wise and right in him, because his own glory and happiness are infinitely the greatest good in and to the universe. He made the atonement to satisfy himself. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” God himself, then, was greatly benefited by the atonement: in other words, his happiness has in a great measure resulted from its contemplation, execution, and results.

2. He made the atonement for the benefit of the universe. All holy beings are, and must be, benefited by it, from its very nature, as it gives them a higher knowledge of God than ever they had before, or ever could have gained in any other way. The atonement is the greatest work that he could have wrought for them, the most blessed and excellent, and benevolent thing he could have done for them. For this reason, angels are described as desiring to look into the atonement. The inhabitants of heaven are represented as being deeply interested in the work of atonement, and those displays of the character of God that are made in it. The atonement is then no doubt one of the greatest blessings that ever God conferred upon the universe of holy beings.

3. The atonement was made for the benefit particularly of the inhabitants of this world, from its very nature, as it is calculated to benefit all the inhabitants of this world; as it is a most stupendous revelation of God to man. (Its nature is adapted to benefit all mankind. All mankind can be pardoned, if they are rightly affected and brought to repentance by it, as well as any part of mankind.)

4. All do certainly receive many blessings on account of it. It is probable that, but for the atonement, none of our race, except the first human pair, would ever have had an existence.

5. All the blessings which mankind enjoy, are conferred on them on account of the atonement of Christ; that is, God could not consistently wait on sinners, and bless, and do all that the nature of the case admits, to save them, were it not for the fact of atonement.

6. That it was made for all mankind, is evident from the fact that it is offered to all indiscriminately.

7. Sinners are universally condemned for not receiving it.

8. If the atonement is not intended for all mankind, it is impossible for us not to regard God as insincere, in making them the offer of salvation through the atonement.

9. If the atonement was made only for a part, no man can know whether he has a right to embrace it, until by a direct revelation God has made known to him that he is one of that part.

10. If ministers do not believe that it was made for all men, they cannot heartily and honestly press its acceptance upon any individual, or congregation in the world; for they cannot assure any individual, or congregation, that there is any atonement for him or them, any more than there is for Satan.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/29/2013 at 11:33 AM

What Must I Do To Be Saved? By Charles Finney

Note: I know that in our time it is common to hear people attack Charles Finney.  Some believe he was a complete wolf in sheep’s clothing.  Some believe he was a false teacher who taught outright lies.  I have found that Finney had a heart for God.  He was, in many ways, a product of his time and his trade (a lawyer and not a trained theologian).  Read this sermon from Charles Finney on what sinners must do to be saved and notice his emphasis on Jesus Christ and His finished work.

What sinners must do to be saved.

1. You must understand what you have to do. It is of the utmost importance that you should see this clearly. You need to know that you must return to God, and to understand what this means. The difficulty between yourself and God is that you have stolen yourself and run away from his service. You belong of right to God. He created you for Himself, and hence had a perfectly righteous claim to the homage of your heart, and the service of your life. But you, instead of living to meet his claims, have run away–have deserted from God’s service, and have lived to please yourself. Now your duty is to return and restore yourself to God.

2. You must return and confess your sins to God. You must confess that you have been all wrong, and that God has been all right. Go before the Lord and lay open the depth of your guilt. Tell Him you deserve just as much damnation as He has threatened.

These confessions are naturally indispensable to your being forgiven. In accordance with this the Lord says, “If then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity, then will I remember my covenant.” Then God can forgive. But so long as you controvert this point, and will not concede that God is right, or admit that you are wrong, He can never forgive you.

You must moreover confess to man if you have injured any one. And is it not a fact that you have injured some, and perhaps many of your fellow-men? Have you not slandered your neighbour and said things which you have no right to say? Have you not in some instances which you could call to mind if you would, lied to them, or about them, or covered up or perverted the truth; and have you not been willing that others should have false impressions of you or of your conduct? If so, you must renounce all such iniquity, for “he that covereth his sins shall not prosper; while he that confesseth and forsaketh them shall find mercy.” And furthermore you must not only confess your sins to God and to the men you have injured, but you must also make restitution. You have not taken the position of a penitent before God and man until you have done this also. God cannot treat you as a penitent until you have done it. I do not mean by this that God cannot forgive you until you have carried into effect your purpose of restitution by finishing the outward act, for sometimes it may demand time, and may in some cases be itself impossible to you. But the purpose must be sincere and thorough before you can be forgiven of God.

3. You must renounce yourself. In this is implied,

(1.) That you renounce your own righteousness, forever discarding the very idea of having any righteousness in yourself.

(2.) That you forever relinquish the idea of having done any good which ought to commend you to God, or be ever thought of as a ground of your justification.

(3.) That you renounce your own will, and be ever ready to say not in word only, but in heart–“Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” You must consent most heartily that God’s will shall be your supreme law.

(4.) That you renounce your own way, and let God have his own way in everything. Never suffer yourself to fret and be rasped by anything whatever; for since God’s agency extends to all events, you ought to recognize his hand in all things, and of course to fret at anything whatever is to fret against God who has at least permitted that thing to occur as it does. So long therefore as you suffer yourself to fret you are not right with God. You must become before God as a little child, subdued and trustful at his feet. Let the weather be fair or foul, consent that God should have his way. Let all things go well with you, or as men call it, ill; yet let God do his pleasure, and let it be your part to submit in perfect resignation. Until you take this ground you can not be saved.

4. You must come to Christ. You must accept of Christ really and fully as your Saviour. Renouncing all thought of depending on any thing you have done or can do, you must accept of Christ as your atoning sacrifice, and as your ever-living Mediator before God. Without the least qualification or reserve you must place yourself under his wing as your Saviour.

5. You must seek supremely to please Christ, and not yourself. It is naturally impossible that you should be saved until you come into this attitude of mind–until you are so well pleased with Christ in all respects as to find your pleasure in doing his. It is in the nature of things impossible that you should be happy in any other state of mind, or unhappy in this. For, his pleasure is infinitely good and right. When therefore his good pleasure becomes your good pleasure, and your will harmonizes entirely with his, then you will be happy for the same reason that He is happy, and you cannot fail of being happy any more than Jesus Christ can. And this becoming supremely happy in God’s will is essentially the idea of salvation. In this state of mind you are saved. Out of it you cannot be.

It has often struck my mind with great force, that many professors of religion are deplorably and utterly mistaken on this point. Their real feeling is that Christ’s service is an iron collar, an insufferably hard yoke. Hence they labour exceedingly to throw off some of this burden. They try to make it out that Christ does not require much if any self-denial–much if any deviation from the course of worldliness and sin. O, if they could only get the standard of Christian duty quite down to a level with the fashions and customs of this world! How much easier than to live a Christian life and wear Christ’s yoke!

But taking Christ’s yoke as it really is, it becomes in their view an iron collar. Doing the will of Christ, instead of their own is a hard business. Now if doing Christ’s will is religion, (and who can doubt it?) then they only need enough of it, and in their state of mind, they will be supremely wretched. Let me ask those who groan under the idea that they must be religious–who deem it awful hard–but they must–how much religion of this kind would it take to make hell? Surely not much! When it gives you no joy to do God’s pleasure, and yet you are shut up to the doing of His pleasure as the only way to be saved, and are thereby perpetually dragooned into the doing of what you hate, as the only means of escaping hell, would not this be itself a hell? Can you not see that in this state of mind you are not saved and cannot be?

To be saved you must come into a state of mind in which you will ask no higher joy than to do God’s pleasure. This alone will be forever enough to fill your cup to overflowing.

You must have all confidence in Christ, or you cannot be saved. You must absolutely believe in Him–believe all his words of promise. They were given you to be believed, and unless you believe them, they can do you no good at all. So far from helping you without you exercise (sic.) faith in them, they will only aggravate your guilt for unbelief. God would be believed when He speaks in love to lost sinners. He gave them these “exceeding great and precious promises, that they by faith in them, might escape the corruption that is in the world through lust.” But thousands of professors of religion know not how to use these promises, and as to them or any profitable use they make, the promises might as well have been written on the sands of the sea.

Sinners too, will go down to hell in unbroken masses, unless they believe and take hold of God by faith in his promise. O, his awful wrath is out against them! And He says–“I would go through them, I would burn them up together; or let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me, and he shall make peace with me.” Yes, let him stir up himself and take hold of my arm, strong to save, and then he may make peace with me. Do you ask how take hold? By faith. Yes, by faith; believe his words and take hold; take hold of his strong-arm and swing right out over hell, and don’t be afraid any more than if there were no hell.

But you say–I do believe, and yet I am not saved. No you don’t believe. A woman said to me–“I believe, I know I do, and yet here I am in my sins.” No, said I, you don’t. Have you as much confidence in God as you would have in me if I had promised you a dollar? Do you ever pray to God? and, if so, do you come with any such confidence as you would have if you came to me to ask for a promised dollar? Oh, until you have as much faith in God as this, aye and more–until you have more confidence in God than you would have in ten thousand men, your faith does not honour God, and you can not hope to please Him. You must say–“Let God be true though every man be a liar.”

But you say–“O, I am a sinner, and how can I believe? I know you are a sinner, and so are all men to whom God has given these promises. “O, but I am a great sinner!” Well, “It is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom,” Paul says, “I am the chief” So you need not despair.

7. You must forsake all that you have, or you cannot be Christ’s disciple. There must be absolute and total self-denial.

By this I do not mean that you are never to eat again, or never again to clothe yourself, or never more enjoy the society of your friends–no, not this; but that you should cease entirely from using any of these enjoyments selfishly. You must no longer think to own yourself–your time, your possessions, or anything you have ever called your own. All these things you must hold as God’s, not yours. In this sense you are to forsake all that you have, namely, in the sense of laying all upon God’s altar to be devoted supremely and only to his service. When you come back to God for pardon and salvation, come with all you have to lay all at his feet. Come with your body, to offer it as a living sacrifice upon his altar. Come with your soul and all its powers, and yield them in willing consecration to your God and Saviour. Come, bring them all along–every thing, body, soul, intellect, imagination, acquirements–all, without reserve. Do you say–Must I bring them all? Yes, all–absolutely ALL; do not keep back any thing–don’t sin against your own soul like Ananias and Sapphira, by keeping back a part, but renounce your own claim to every thing, and recognize God’s right to all. Say, Lord, these things are not mine. I had stolen them, but they were never mine. They were always thine; I’ll have them no longer. Lord, these things are all thine, henceforth and forever. Now, what wilt Thou have me to do? I have no business of my own to do–I am wholly at thy disposal–Lord, what work hast thou for me to do?

In this spirit you must renounce the world, the flesh, and Satan. Your fellowship is henceforth to be with Christ, and not with those objects. You are to live for Christ and not for the world, the flesh, or the devil.

8. You must believe the record God hath given of his Son. He that believes not does not receive the record–does not set to his seal that God is true. “This is the record that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” The condition of your having it is that you believe the record, and of course that you act accordingly. Suppose here is a poor man living at your next door, and the mail brings him a letter stating that a rich man has died in England, leaving him 100,000 pounds sterling, and the cashier of a neighbouring bank writes him that he has received the amount on deposit for him, and holds it subject to his order. Well, the poor man says, I can’t believe the record. I can’t believe there ever was any such rich man; I can’t believe there is 100,000 pounds for me. So he must live and die as poor as Lazarus, because he won’t believe the record.

Now, mark; this is just the case with the unbelieving sinner. God has given you eternal life, and it waits your order–but you don’t get it because you will not believe, and therefore will not make out the order, and present in due form the application.

Ah, but you say, I must have some feeling before I can believe–how can I believe till I have the feeling? So the poor man might say–How can I believe that the 100,000 pounds is mine–I have not got a farthing of it now–I am as poor as ever. Yes, you are poor because you will not believe. If you would believe, you might go and buy out every store in this country. Still you cry, I am as poor as ever. I can’t believe it;–see my poor worn clothes–I was never more ragged in my life; I have not a particle of the feeling and the comforts of a rich man. So the sinner can’t believe till he gets the inward experience! He must wait to have some of the feeling of a saved sinner before he can believe the record and take hold of the salvation! Preposterous enough! So the poor man must wait to get his new clothes and fine house before he can believe his documents and draw for his money. Of course he dooms himself to everlasting poverty, although mountains of gold were all his own.

Now, sinner, you must understand this. Why should you be lost when eternal life is bought and offered you by the last will and testament of the Lord Jesus Christ? Will you not believe the record and draw for the amount at once! Do for mercy’s sake understand this and not lose heaven by your own folly!

I must conclude by saying, that if you would be saved you must accept a prepared salvation, one already prepared and full, and present. You must be willing to give up all your sins, and be saved from them, all, now and henceforth! Until you consent to this, you cannot be saved at all. Many would be willing to be saved in heaven, if they might hold on to some sins while on earth,–or rather they think they would like heaven on such terms. But the fact is they would as much dislike a pure heart and a holy life in heaven as they do on earth, and they deceive themselves utterly in supposing that they are ready or even willing to go to such a heaven as God has prepared for his people. No, there can be no heaven except for those who accept a salvation from all sin in this world. They must take the gospel as a system which holds no compromise with sin–which contemplates full deliverance from sin even now, and makes provision accordingly. Any other gospel is not the true one, and to accept of Christ’s gospel in any other sense is not to accept it all. Its first and its last condition is sworn and eternal renunciation of all sin.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

07/15/2013 at 6:24 PM

Conversion in the Theology of Charles Finney (Part 1)

Charles Finney is often presented as an Arminian.  Often times I have heard Calvinists refer to Finney as an Arminian or that his soteriology was essentially Arminian.  While I agree that Finney often uses language that is similar to Arminians and he often defends points of Arminianism that we would defend such as an unlimited atonement, conditional election, or conditional perseverance of the faith, nonetheless I do not agree that Finney is an Arminian.  The goal of this article is to point out the differences in Finney’s theology that marks him outside of Arminianism.

Charles Finney is known for the “new measures” that he was using for his revivals.  While Finney did not invent the sinner’s prayer or the altar call, he did refine them and bring them to the forefront of evangelism.  Now, nearly 200 years later, the use of the altar call or the sinner’s prayer is so rampant in the Church that few even stop to consider whether it is biblical or not.  I know of churches that have either split or removed the Bible teacher over altar calls.  I myself do not give altar calls when preaching.  This has led some to believe that I oppose evangelism (which I do not) or that I oppose calling people to salvation (which I do not).  Some so defend the usage of the altar call that to not have an altar call is heresy.  This all comes from the ministry of Charles Finney.

But what did Finney believe about salvation?  What did he believe about man’s inability and the gospel?  First, let us look briefly at the teachings of Arminius concerning justification.  This will help us see the key differences between Arminius and Finney.

Arminius stated this about grace and free will:

Concerning grace and free will, this is what I teach according to the Scriptures and orthodox consent: Free will is unable to begin or to perfect any true and spiritual good, without grace. That I may not be said, like Pelagius, to practice delusion with regard to the word “grace,” I mean by it that which is the grace of Christ and which belongs to regeneration. I affirm, therefore, that this grace is simply and absolutely necessary for the illumination of the mind, the due ordering of the affections, and the inclination of the will to that which is good. It is this grace which operates on the mind, the affections, and the will; which infuses good thoughts into the mind, inspires good desires into the actions, and bends the will to carry into execution good thoughts and good desires. This grace goes before, accompanies, and follows; it excites, assists, operates that we will, and co-operates lest we will in vain. It averts temptations, assists and grants succour in the midst of temptations, sustains man against the flesh, the world and Satan, and in this great contest grants to man the enjoyment of the victory. It raises up again those who are conquered and have fallen, establishes and supplies them with new strength, and renders them more cautious. This grace commences salvation, promotes it, and perfects and consummates it.

I confess that the mind of a natural and carnal man is obscure and dark, that his affections are corrupt and inordinate, that his will is stubborn and disobedient, and that the man himself is dead in sins. And I add to this — that teacher obtains my highest approbation who ascribes as much as possible to divine grace, provided he so pleads the cause of grace, as not to inflict an injury on the justice of God, and not to take away the free will to that which is evil.

Thus Arminius taught that while man is free, he is bound by sin.  This is the same teaching as Martin Luther or John Calvin.  Arminius did not teach that man was free to just up and choose Christ.  In fact, he agreed with Romans 3:10-18, that man was sinful and depraved.  Apart from the grace of God and the drawing power of the Holy Spirit through the gospel, mankind has no hope.  We are utterly sinful and we, by nature, are children of wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3).  Our desire is not to seek after God which is why He must first seek us (1 John 4:10).  The Lord is the great evangelist who seeks after the lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7).  He is the one who opens the sinner’s heart for the gospel (Acts 16:14).  He is the one who regenerates us (Titus 3:5-7).  No doubt faith is that which receives this salvation as Arminius stated,

Faith is the instrumental cause, or act, by which we apprehend Christ proposed to us by God for a propitiation and for righteousness, according to the command and promise of the gospel, in which it is said, “He who believes shall be justified and saved, and he who believeth not shall be damned.”

When a person believes the gospel, they are saved (John 5:24).  We are justified through faith (Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:8-9) and not by works (John 6:29; Romans 4:5).  This act of justification leads to the imputation of righteousness as Arminius states,

The form is the gracious reckoning of God, by which he imputes to us the righteousness of Christ, and imputes faith to us for righteousness; that is, he remits our sins to us who are believers, on account of Christ apprehended by faith, and accounts us righteous in him. This estimation or reckoning, has, joined with it, adoption into sons, and the conferring of a right to the inheritance of life eternal.

Clearly Arminius stood with the Reformers in his views regarding justification and salvation by faith in Christ.  Arminius stated,

I believe that sinners are accounted righteous solely by the obedience of Christ; and that the righteousness of Christ is the only meritorious cause on account of which God pardons the sins of believers and reckons them as righteous as if they had perfectly fulfilled the law. But since God imputes the righteousness of Christ to none except believers, I conclude that, in this sense, it may be well and properly said, to a man who believes, faith is imputed for righteousness through grace, because God hath set forth his Son, Jesus Christ, to be a propitiation, a throne of grace, [or mercy seat] through faith in his blood.

To summarize Arminius’ views regarding salvation.  Arminius taught that:

  • Salvation is accomplished through the cross of Christ alone.
  • Salvation is received by God’s grace through faith in Christ.
  • A believer is then declared righteous before God because of the gracious act of Christ and His salvation that He Himself accomplished on the cross.
  • Salvation is the gracious work of God who must open the sinner’s heart to receive salvation.  The Spirit of God does this work of conviction and He alone regenerates.  Salvation is not obtained by any works (Isaiah 64:6) nor by the act of the will (John 1:12-13).
  • The nature of humanity is that we are totally depraved, dead in our sins and without the life of God in our souls (Romans 3:23).  The wages of our sins is death (Romans 6:23) and we deserve God’s just wrath against our sins (Romans 1:18-32).  Yet God is good and loving and He sent His Son to die for our sins (John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  Jesus alone is our substitute for the forgiveness of our sins (Isaiah 53:4-6; Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 2:21-24).

Next we will turn to the theology of Charles Finney to see if he agrees with Arminius over these doctrines.  In the end, I hope to show that Finney was not an Arminian but was semi-Pelagian if not a Pelagian.  Further, let it be shown that Arminius opposed Pelagianism in all its forms.  To ascribe to Arminius that he was a semi-Pelagian is not only inaccurate but unfair.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

06/08/2012 at 7:47 PM

Some Thoughts on Charles Finney’s Influence Upon The Modern Church

Having just finished up a series of posts from the works of Charles Finney upon original sin, allow me to make some brief observations.  I am reading a book on the theology of Finney in comparison to the Calvinists of his day and will have more to say about Finney later.  For now, allow me to make these brief observations about Finney’s influence upon the modern church.

First, it can not be underestimated the influence that Charles Finney has had upon the modern Church.  Both Arminians and Calvinists must acknowledge this.  I believe that his influence has not been for the better.  I oppose, as do nearly all Calvinists, the usage of the anxious seat or the sinner’s prayer as a means to salvation.  I find nothing in Scripture to suggest that a person come forward and say a prayer to receive salvation.  Not once in the Bible do we find the Lord Jesus nor the Apostles doing any thing close to the modern altar call.  While Finney did not create the anxious seat, mourners bench, or the sinner’s prayer, he definitely influenced others in using the methods.  Finney clearly believed that a person can will themselves to salvation at any time so long as the arguments were set forth correctly for the person to understand and he clearly believed that repentance was a matter of the will and not the work of the Spirit entirely.  This led him to start calling for a public response to the gospel that demanded that a person will their way to salvation through tears, prayer, mourning, etc.  Finney’s practice is now fully practiced in most semi-Pelagian American churches that find their roots in Finney, Torrey, Moody, Billy Sunday, and Billy Graham.  I once challenged a pastor over this and he responded that “it works” and that was enough for him.  This pragmatic approach to evangelism has hurt the church.

Secondly, Finney’s usage of the anxious seat led to thousands of false converts.  New England today remains the “burned over” district of the United States.  Few have seen evangelistic success in New England mainly because of the usage of the sinner’s prayer.  People were incorrectly taught that you need only pray this prayer and you are a Christian which led to countless false converts who were not following Jesus as Lord (Matthew 7:21-23).  This also led to Finney developing his perfection teachings later on at Oberlin College.  Finney begin to see the fruits of the sinner’s prayer and he begin to say that what people needed was not just to pray for salvation but also to pray for entire sanctification to God.  Christian perfection as a second work of grace was needed to help these sinning saints get rid of sin.  I have read Finney’s book on perfection and they are full of works sanctification such as we need to be praying more, stop sinning in our own power more, lay all on the altar, etc. and while they are sometimes good at exhorting toward holiness, the books fail to point to Jesus as our Advocate when we sin nor to the power of His blood to cleanse us from sin (1 John 1:7; 2:1-2).  The power to overcome sin lies in the power of God in the gospel and not in our power.  Holiness flows not from will power but from God’s power (Romans 8:1-4).  The Holy Spirit is the One who helps me to be holy (Acts 15:9-11; cf. John 16:8-11).

Thirdly, I fear that evangelism has largely followed Finney in regard to seeking to convert people to Christ merely by correct arguments and little trust in the power of God in the gospel.  Romans 1:16-17 is clear that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.  It is God who saves and He saves alone.  Correct arguments and the right atmosphere are not the power to salvation. The gospel is the power of God to salvation.  The gospel brings repentance.  The gospel produces results.  The duty of the Church is to preach the gospel (Acts 1:8).  The Lord is the one who adds to His Church those who are being saved (Acts 2:47).  The Lord uses the gospel preached to save the lost and not our fleshly arguments (1 Corinthians 1:18-31).  I fear that too often modern evangelism is all about “get them to pray the prayer” instead of preaching Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).  Again, nothing in Scripture suggests that salvation comes through a sinner’s prayer but through faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ (John 5:24; Ephesians 2:8-9).  The proper response to the gospel is baptism (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 2:38, 41).

I will have more to say about Charles Finney and his theological views later.  For now, I do believe that Finney loved God, loved people, and I believe that he desired to see souls saved but I do fear that his methods have produced fruit that is not good and sadly, the Church has suffered because of them.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

06/06/2012 at 5:08 PM

Posted in Charles Finney

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