Charles Finney: Hero or Villain?

“Danger Ahead!” should be the sign stamped on the cover of every study of Charles Finney and the New Haven Theology that was at the heart of his revised Palagian teaching known as Oberlin Holiness Theology. Yet, in casual reference after casual reference from both evangelicals like Ray Comfort (of Way of the Master fame) to scholars such as George Marsden (Duke University) list him as a leader in the early evangelical/fundamentalist movement and a champion of evangelism.

Finney and New Haven Theology

The New Haven Theology  (a new perspective on the revival theology pioneered by Jonathan Edwards and others in puritan infused New England) with its Palagian leanings opened the door at the end of the 19th century to a greater danger to the gospel than the evangelical and fundamentalist church faced in liberalism, because he came from a man who some consider to be a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”. This new theology argued essentially that “All sin is voluntary, not inherited” and that “People always have the power to act contrary to sin”. This is not Protestant theology, nor even modern Roman Catholic teaching, but accurately represents an historic Palagianism, which the Church has recognized as a heresy for 1500 years.

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