Monday, June 23, 2008

A Message Charles Finney Would
Have Loved

I have read many, many sermons by Charles G. Finney, a revivalist in the 1800’s. I have read the accounts of great revivals, city sweeping revivals, that so many times followed his ministry. There are few preachers today that even come close to the fire and intensity that came from Finney’s lips, and in truth Finney would not have many welcomes to preach in churches today. But I have found a preacher today that preaches things that I have read in Finney’s messages of long ago. His name is Paul Washer and this message below about the Great White Throne judgment could just as easily come from the books of Charles Finney’s sermons.

http://christianresearchnetwork.com/?p=5227

This message contains an abundance of metaphors and similes and means of persuasion that mirror what Finney used to say and preach. The entire message is filled with sensationalism and drama, some of which isn’t Biblical but serves a purpose. Washer says that the reason that God will throw people into hell is because he needs to rid creation of sinners before he can create a new heaven and a new earth. That is a great word picture but I have not found Scriptural foundation for such a notion. And when Washer alludes to each sinner standing before God he uses the illustration of a wax figure being melted by a blow torch, another moving metaphor akin to what Finney has used.

Rev. Washer goes on to say that God will say to the lost “I’ve made myself known to you and I have extended my hand to you but you have refused. I have made promises to wicked people but you would not.” Arminianism - I love it! Washer goes on to say that every fallen thing in this earth, from suffering to childbirth, cries out for all sinners to be saved. Again, an effective tool but I am not sure sound doctrine, especially of the Calvinistic variety.

Rev. Washer goes on and asks the congregation to imagine themselves standing before the Great White Throne judgment, and feeling their cheek twitch and feeling terrified that God has seen that twitch. If that isn’t Finney nothing is. He goes on to offer the word picture of God saying “Bring them before Me”, and heaven and earth vomiting the lost up before the throne. This message is a great one, however not in any form a Calvinistic one.

Washer says that the presence of God will be so terrible that those who are already in hell would rather remain there than come out. That is rather confusing and some colossal leaps of Scriptural truth. Now all these hyperboles and sensationalism are exactly what Calvinistic and reformed churches decry from Arminians, but they seem to be alright when they come from a man who professes Calvinism. Washer is at best a backslidden Calvinist and at worst a closet Arminian.

One of the most colorful examples of Arminain theology is when Washer says that his wife has to help him with civility. Because, he says, if he was left to his own devices he would sometimes rush down into the congregation and grab people by the neck and shake them until they came to their senses. Wow, now he is almost reading from a Billy Sunday playbook. I love this guy, and I believe he is genuine and a man of God. He just isn’t a Calvinist.

Now we come to the three biggest doctrinal fax paus that are always eschewed by any Calvinist worth his five point salt. Washer uses the novel “A Christmas Carol” as an object lesson for part of his message. This equates to using a modern day movie as a base to preach Scriptural truth, something that the Calvinist camp writers systematically rail against. I could not believe my ears as I listened to Washer do exactly what the camps who post his messages preach against. Washer has used more “methods” in this one message than most Arminians use, except our friend Charles Finney. If Rev. Washer claimed to be an Arminian he would be verbally eviscerated by Calvinists for his emotional persuasion and his use of so many manipulative literary techniques.

The second major doctrinal breach comes when Washer makes this claim. “There is enough grace in the cross of Christ to save ten billion worlds”. Now watch the Calvinists come and explain this away, as if he did not say what he just said. Wasted redemptive grace? Isn’t that saying that Christ not only died for everyone in the world, he died for everyone in ten billion worlds? You know, this proves you can pretty much say anything and the camp to which you belong will defend it. I happen to believe this message should be preached in every church, but it is the furthest thing from reformed theology one can possibly get.

Finally, Rev. Washer goes into the dreaded altar call. Oh yes, and not just a dry, doctrinal call, but an emotional plea that is wrought with persuasion. He even mentions that he asks for no tears in a kind of reverse emotional technique. Washer says they will stay with those who come forward the entire night if need be, thereby revealing not just an altar call, but an extreme mourners bench and anxious seat. Wow, an all night mourner’s bench, I feel Finney right now saying “Amen!”.

My question to all the Paul Washer Calvinists is this: Why is it shallow and manipulative emotionalism when an Arminian preaches with such metaphors and literary devices, but it isn’t when a Calvinist does not only the same thing but even better. Doesn’t preaching like this run the risk of frightening a sinner so much that he makes a profession of faith based upon emotion and not true saving faith? Isn’t that what all good Calvinists contend? Isn’t that what “Hell’s Bells” and other Arminian outreaches do, and when the people come forward, isn’t that what Calvinists criticize as emotionalism?

No matter how you slice it, this message was not only Arminain, it was hyper-Ariminian. And to tell you the truth, it was great!
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The problem that can arise when a certain preacher is idolized is that when we post his messages we are usually saying "See, this man preaches what everyone else needs to hear!".

5 comments:

Rick said...

Finney is often caricatured as an Arminian, but in reality he wasn't one. He sounded like one at times, and at times he sounded like a Calvinist. But he spent more time bashing Calvinist ideas, so he is lumped in with the Arminians.

He also bashed Arminian ideas, but it was much more seldom.

He has great things to say to the church today, much of which I believe our reformed brothers would appreciate, if they would only look past their theological prejudices and glean where good is found.

Anonymous said...

Very clever post. I have often thought the same things. Even MacArthur and Piper get very emotional when it comes time to exhort the congregation to make a decision. I assume there is some prepackaged "internet Calvinist" rationalization for this that I haven't grasped, but it always seems disingenuous to me when they preach for 30 mins. on limited atonement, and then plead with everyone listening by CD, podcast, and in person, to repent and call upon the Lord to save them.

Having said that, I must admit that I am a huge Paul Washer "fan" (for lack of a better term). I believe I have listened to at least 90% of his online sermons, and I don't specifically recall him calling himself a Calvinist. Is that a label he has given himself, or just a label given him by his "reformed" apologists?

Anonymous said...

ery clever post. I have often thought the same things. Even MacArthur and Piper get very emotional when it comes time to exhort the congregation to make a decision. I assume there is some prepackaged "internet Calvinist" rationalization for this that I haven't grasped, but it always seems disingenuous to me when they preach for 30 mins. on limited atonement, and then plead with everyone listening by CD, podcast, and in person, to repent and call upon the Lord to save them.

Having said that, I must admit that I am a huge Paul Washer "fan" (for lack of a better term). I believe I have listened to at least 90% of his online sermons, and I don't specifically recall him calling himself a Calvinist. Is that a label he has given himself, or just a label given him by his "reformed" apologists?

Joseff said...

Paul Washer and Charles Finney are worlds apart:

Paul Washer is quoted as saying: Salvation is the work of God

Finney quoted: Salvation is the work of man


That pretty much sums up Calvinism vs Arminianism.

One is Biblical and right, one is unbiblical and wrong

see the following:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U49RyyHVmXQ

Finney was the supreme Arminian

By the way, I don't see how pleading and commanding all sinners everywhere to repent makes a Calvinist a hypocrite, nor does it mean he is "preaching like an arminian".

It is not an Arminian idea to preach the gospel to all creatures, it is a Biblical idea.

But the underlying foundation of *WHY THE GOSPEL WORKS* is found in Calvinism, and not in Arminianism.

The gospel works because God monergistically and supernaturally changes a man who hears the gospel. He changes his heart, and makes him a new creature which results in true, saving faith - that is Calvinism.

Arminian theology on the other hand would be to say that the man helps God or "allows God" to change his heart by offering his little contribution to the salvation process - faith.

It is not "preaching like an Arminian" when you tell sinners to repent and believe.

However, when you give man the power and the credit for his finally "deciding to believe"< THAT IS preaching like an Arminian!

Calvinism rightly teaches that man is powerless, and cannot come to Christ unless God draws him, and everyone who God does draw *WILL COME* without a doubt.

Anonymous said...

Joseff,

What you’re saying suggests that a sinner’s response to the call to salvation is not his response after all. Of course, God draws a man through the message by the power of His Spirit. However, the man must respond to the prompting and conviction of the Spirit. That does not earn the repentant sinner any credit for his salvation. It merely indicates that he has responded to God’s free offer. The glory and credit is all God’s, no doubt, but the sinner must respond. And don’t you dare call me an Armenian! Don't call me a Calvinist, either. I don’t like these labels. I just believe the Bible. The labels serve almost no other purpose than to divide us. We are saved by grace through faith. Yes, God gives the grace and the faith, but we have to believe to be saved. His gift must be received. Dalvation is of the Lord; responding to Him is our duty.