Friday, January 29, 2010

Finney's Fiendish Formula: Immunity to the Gospel

I used to belong to a group where the preacher would speak on something (usually with a lot of jokes cracked in-between and rarely, if ever, expositional) and afterwards invite anyone who has not "received Jesus" to come forward and enunciate a prayer—all without even having presented the gospel! This got to the point when I couldn't stomach it anymore, so I left.

Perhaps the snippet below is worth some careful reflection:

"Altar calls are not the right way to draw the net in. Altar calls started with Charles Finney in the 1830s. Finney, who was trained as  a lawyer, and who became an evangelist shortly after his conversion, relied heavily on emotional manipulation and other psychological  tools to get people to come forward to what he called 'the sinners bench' where further pressure was applied to get a decision for  Christ. Such methods usurp the work of the Holy Spirit and ought to be abhorrent to all Reformed believers. Finney believed that  decisions for Christ were guaranteed if you just used the right method. Reformed believers who understand that they should not have  altar calls in church, should not...want to do them in living rooms either. Also, the results of evangelism should not be measured in  decisions made, but rather in disciples made, baptized and taught all the things Christ has commanded.

One of the best things that laymen can do to bring people to Christ is live winsome and attractive Christian lives. The Apostle Peter  tells us we  are a 'royal priesthood' and fulfill that priesthood, in part, by living 'such good lives among the pagans...that they see  your good works' 1 Peter 2:9-12. Christians should invite their friends and neighbors to church where they will hear the Gospel  proclaimed by the King's herald. Scattering pamphlets to people who don't know you may bring in one out of a thousand. There is nothing  inherently wrong with such a method, but it is hardly an effective use of time or pamphlets. It is better to give them to people who are  impressed by the character of your Christian life because you visited them when they were sick or in prison or because you lent a  helping hand when they were in need."

Rev. Ralph A. Pointer, 'Evangelism in the Local Church (An Evaluation of Evangelism Explosion)',  Ordained Servant, Vol. 8, No. 3, July 1999

Arguably, the greatest danger inherent in this practice of "altar calls", "the sinner's prayer", and overall Finneyism is this:

"Giving assurance of salvation to someone who has demonstrated no repentance (actual turning from sin to new obedience, not just a few  moments of tears) is wrong and reaps a bitter fruit. It can inoculate people against further calls to repentance and faith." (emphasis mine) — idem.


  1. Excellent comments! Have you read Revival and Revivalism by Iain Murray? It compares and contrasts Puritan preaching and "Finney-esque revivalism" of 18th and 19th century America. Good stuff.

    Thanks brother!

  2. Thanks, brother!

    I haven't read it, but after I read through my current backlog, I'll consider getting into it.

    By the way, I'd also like to recommend R. Scott Clark's "Recovering the Reformed Confession", bro. I'm currently reviewing the book as a blog series as I go through it. An excellent piece.

  3. Enlightened! Thank you for writing and sharing this.Most of Christian Pulpits now in the Philippines are mere venue of entertainment , where they tackle current events, politics, what's new and what's-the-future-will-going-to- be-like topics and lacks more in-depth study and espositional teaching about the Word of God.

    I've been a Christian for alost 13 years now but I still lack deeper understanding of what real "christianity" is. I can leave the sole rresponsibilty to the Church/Congregation that I'm attending to.My question is where should I begin? Aside from reading my Bible, what lists of books should I read and digest? should I enroll to a Bible School to understand more things( things that preachers and pastors don't explain)?

    By the way, I do attned bible study and still find it not enough....I want to dig and learn more.What should I do?

  4. Correction- * I can't leave the sole responsibility the the Church.....

  5. Hi, Cristina,

    You might try attending Pasig Covenant Reformed Church for starters.

    Contact Ptr. Nollie Malabuyo for details: 09278636364

  6. It's called easy believism. It's a sign of evangelicalism's mindlessness when their hero is a heretic.


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