Posts Tagged ‘antinomianism’

Holiness of the True Gospel

December 12, 2008

“Whatever religion or doctrine condones or makes allowances for sin is not of Christ. The Doctrine of Christ everywhere teaches self-denial and mortification of worldliness and sin. The whole stream of the gospel runs against those things. Scripture emphasizes the ‘holy’ and the ‘heavenly’ (not the sinful and the worldly). The true gospel has not even the slightest tendency to extol corrupt nature, or feed its pride by magnifying it’s freedom and power. And it rejects everything that undermines or obscures the merit of Christ, or tries to give any credit to man, in any way. … And it certainly never makes the death of Christ a cloak to cover sin, but rather it always speaks of it as an instrument that destroys it!” John Flavel (On Religion ?)

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Charles Finney’s Defective Theology

October 25, 2008

Denying original sin, Finney asserted that we are only guilty and corrupt when we choose to sin, Christ’s work on the cross couldn’t have paid our debt but could only serve as a moral example and influence to persuade us to repent and be obedient. “If he had obeyed the Law as our substitute then why should our own return to personal obedience be insisted upon as a sine qua non of our salvation?” So Finney goes on to write, “the atonement is simply an incentive to virtue,” rejecting the view that “the atonement is a literal payment of a debt” Finney can only concede it is “true that the atonement of itself does not secure the salvation of anyone.” Justification by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness Finney says, “is not only absurd, but undermines all motivation for personal holiness. The new birth is not a divine gift, but the result of a rational choice to turn from sin to obedience.” In fact, his most famous sermon was “Sinners Bound to Change Their Own Hearts.” Christians can perfectly obey God in this life if they choose and only in this way are they justified. In fact, he adds, “Full present obedience is a condition of justification. No one can be justified while sin, any degree of sin, remains in him.”
Finney declared concerning the Reformation formula “simultaneously justified and sinful,” “this error has slain more souls I fear than all the Universalism that ever cursed the world. For whenever a Christian sins he comes under condemnation and must repent and do his first works or be lost. As I have already said,” he writes “there can be no justification in a legal or forensic sense but upon the ground of universal, perfect, and uninterrupted obedience to Law. The doctrine of an imputed righteousness or that Christ’s obedience to the Law was credited as our obedience is founded on a most false and nonsensical assumption. For Christ’s righteousness could do more than justify himself, it could never be imputed to us. It was naturally impossible, then, for him then to obey in our behalf. Representing the atonement as the ground of the sinner’s justification has been a sad occasion of stumbling for many.” Referring to the framers of the Westminster Confession of Faith and their view of an imputed righteousness Finney writes, “If this is not antinomianism then I don’t know what is.”
Folks, this is exactly the heresy that we have identified from the church councils of the fifth and sixth centuries. It is remarkable that the catholic church in fifth and sixth centuries recognized these very positions as outside the bounds of the Christian faith, while Billy Graham can say of Charles Finney that he was the greatest evangelist since the Apostle Paul. And this is a concern that is hardly limited to a few grumpy Calvinists and Lutherans. “Self salvation is the goal of much of our preaching,” complains United Methodist Bishop William Willimon and he says in this respect, “we are heirs of Charles G. Finney who thought that conversion was not a miracle, but a purely philosophical result of the right use of constituted means.

Michael Horton, White Horse Inn