by Phil Johnson
IT IS IRONIC that Charles Grandison Finney has become a poster boy for so many modern evangelicals. His theology was far from evangelical. As a Christian leader, he was hardly the model of humility or spirituality. Even Finney's autobiography paints a questionable character. In his own retelling of his life's story, Finney comes across as stubborn, arrogant—and sometimes even a bit devious.
Playing with fraud from the outset
Finney's ministry was founded on duplicity from the beginning. He obtained his license to preach as a Presbyterian minister by professing adherence to the Westminster Confession of Faith. But he later admitted that he was almost totally ignorant of what the document taught. Here, in Finney's own words, is a description of what occurred when he went before the council whose task it was to determine if he was spiritually qualified and doctrinally sound:
Unexpectedly to myself they asked me if I received the Confession of faith of the Presbyterian church. I had not examined it;—that is, the large work, containing the Catechisms and Presbyterian Confession. This had made no part of my study. I replied that I received it for substance of doctrine, so far as I understood it. But I spoke in a way that plainly implied, I think, that I did not pretend to know much about it. However, I answered honestly, as I understood it at the time [Charles Finney, The Memoirs of Charles Finney: The Complete Restored Text (Grand Rapids: Academie, 1989), 53-54].