Mike Horton made a surprise guest appearance on Hannity.com Sunday night. On the “forums” section of political commentator Sean Hannity’s website, a discussion about “Reasonable” Christianity vs. Revivalism in America broke out and someone posted a link to Horton’s Modern Reformation (Jan/Feb 1995) article, “The Legacy of Charles Finney.”
In addition to reading the article, listen to this 2007 White Horse Inn episode on “Charles Finney and American Revivalism.”
A former Presbyterian, Charles Finney is the godfather of American evangelicalism and his formative influence is felt today in churches across the denominational spectrum. Here’s how Mike Horton put it:
Finney’s one question for any given teaching was, “Is it fit to convert sinners with?” One result of Finney’s revivalism was the division of Presbyterians in Philadelphia and New York into Arminian and Calvinistic factions. His “New Measures” included the “anxious bench” (precursor of today’s altar call), emotional tactics that led to fainting and weeping, and other “excitements,” as Finney and his followers called them. Finney became increasingly hostile toward Presbyterian doctrine, referring in his introduction to his Systematic Theology to the Westminster Confession and its drafters rather critically, as if they had created, as he put it, a “paper pope,” and had “elevated their confession and catechism to the Papal throne and into the place of the Holy Ghost.” Remarkably, Finney demonstrates how close Arminian revivalism, in its naturalistic sentiments, tends to be to a less refined theological liberalism, as both caved into the Enlightenment and it’s enshrining of human reason and morality. Finney writes “that the instrument framed by that assembly (the Westminster Confession and Catechisms) should in the nineteenth century be regarded as the standard of the church, or of any intelligent branch of it, is not only amazing, but I must say that it is highly ridiculous. It is as absurd in theology as it would be in any other branch of science. It is better to have a living than a dead Pope.”
You can read the rest of Mike Horton’s opening commentary here.