Sunday, 22 November 2009

"Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." 1 Peter 5:8

The Modern Church Growth Movement had its beginning somewhere, naturally it did not just evolve from nothing. Most place it's origin in mid 1800's New England and New York which paralleled the Second Great Awakening. It's father is said to be that of George Grandison Finney the famed Evangelist. Most of us have little direct knowledge of Finney. We know a great deal about his theology however, because we are the children of it. In fact, most of todays pastors and virtually all of yesterday's pastors have studied it in great detail because his Systematic Theology has been required reading in American bible colleges and seminaries for over a century now. For instance, many of us have no idea what the "anxious bench" is, but, if you had attended one of Finney's revival meetings, you would recognize it's form in a second...today we refer it an "alter call". Many evangelical churches have abandoned this practice due to deep concerns over its emotional appeal to make a "decision" for Christ, rather than helping the lost understand clearly all that is meant by redemption and what God has done in Christ. God said, "Come, let us reason together, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made white as snow." We are neither promoting a cold, lifeless intellectualism, nor a passionate, irrational emotionalism, both are equally cruel in their exercise, but rather, a careful, diligent and loving explanation of biblical facts that the Spirit of God can use to accomplish all His good pleasure. We ought to be directed and find godly instruction in texts like these, "Pay attention to yourself, and to your doctrine, for in so doing, you will preserve both yourself and those who hear you." and again we read, "Be diligent to show yourselves approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, correctly handling the Word of truth."

Because of the continued mindless loyalty to Finney's miscarriages of theology untold millions have experienced and continue to experience "false starts" and none of the promised changes they were sold. Where there is no true conversion, soon afterwards the soul runs out of emotional fuel and lapses into bitterness, apathy or greater unbelief. Or worse yet, they become twofold more the children of heresy than their fathers. When the "levening" effect of these doctrines take hold of the "survivors" many rise to new levels of devotion and promotion....hence the Modern Church Growth Generation. The following paragraph is taken from Phil Johnson's article, "Wolf in Sheeps Clothing: How Charles Finney's theology ravaged the evangelical movement".

We read, "Predictably, most of Finney's spiritual heirs lapsed into apostasy, Socinianism, mere moralism, cultlike perfectionism, and other related errors. In short, Finney's chief legacy was confusion and doctrinal compromise. Evangelical Christianity virtually disappeared from western New York in Finney's own lifetime. Despite Finney's accounts of glorious "revivals," most of the vast region of New England where he held his revival campaigns fell into a permanent spiritual coldness during Finney's lifetime and more than a hundred years later still has not emerged from that malaise. This is directly owing to the influence of Finney and others who were simultaneously promoting similar ideas.
    The Western half of New York became known as "the burnt-over district," because of the negative effects of the revivalist movement that culminated in Finney's work there. These facts are often obscured in the popular lore about Finney. But even Finney himself spoke of "a burnt district" [Memoirs, 78], and he lamented the absence of any lasting fruit from his evangelistic efforts"

Many of you have heard me talk about the ministry of Paul Washer. Paul is dear brother and ardent warrior for Christ against the heresies of the Modern Church Growth Movement. He is passionately devoted to defending the historic Gospel which was "once for all delivered to the saints" Paul's sermon, "The True Gospel" has the honor of being the most downloaded sermon in the history of SermonAudio. And it is not because he tries to tickle anyones ears! If you have not listened to it, you can find the video version on Youtube.com under the same name. I hope you take the time to do so...it will test your anchor chains and give you a renewed devotion to the only gospel that can save. Cathy Trainor said after she listened to it, "that was the best presentation of the Gospel I have ever heard." Paul's address to a youth rally in Atlanta is a must listen also.

I am also including the web links to Phil Johnson's compete article and also Michael Horton's article on Finney as well. For those of you who do not know Michael Horton, He is the host of the web broadcast "White Horse Inn" and a professor of Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in California. (The historic White Horse Inn was a pub in England where the doctrines of the Reformation fresh from Germany and France were first heard in the British Isles.) Combined both Johnson's and Horton's articles are no more than 15 minutes reading. Please take a half hour and reflect on these things and let them sharpen you as they have me.
Just click on the highlight web address or copy and paste it into your browser (eg. internet explorer, firefox, etc) and hit enter!

1. Wolf in Sheeps Clothing by Phil Johnson http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/articles/finney.htm

2. The Disturbing Legacy of Charles Finney by Michael Horton http://www.mtio.com/articles/aissar81.htm



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