The Second Great Awakening: American Church History 2

I. Making of an Evangelist. Charles Finney and the new kind of revivalism, beginning of evangelization. (3rd phase of the 2nd Awakening)

A. Comments for Calvinists on Charles G. Finney. There is really continuity between what Finney does and the rest of evangelists. Under Finney’s direction modern revivalism takes place. His pattern is followed even by Billy Graham. He is connected with Nathaniel W. Taylor and Lyman Beecher. At first Taylor and Beecher did not like Finney’s preaching but by 1835, Beecher was saying that he had never even heard great preaching such as Finney. Taylor and Beecher are sort of the brains behind Finney.


One should note the contrast between J. Edwards comments on the first awakening in 1735, when he called it the surprising work of God. In 1835, Finney lectured on revivals saying that revival is not a miracle nor does it depend on the work of God as any means. Yet Finney believes that faith is necessary. On the frontier, Armenian Methodists focus on preaching only Christ. Remember Finney is not a theologian, like Edward’s was, he is an evangelist through and through. His leadership is increasingly recognized in the secular universities today as one of the greats leaders in American history. (See book title: Donald Daton: “Discovering An Evangelical Heritage”) Finney’s social reforms have often gone unpublished but in 1845 his reflections on revival appears. Finney is an abolitionist. “The spirituality of revival depends upon the structure of social issues” –Finney Thus you see a real connection between revival and social reform. You can tell the impact of a movement by the size of its opponents. In 1847, both Horace Bushnell, the father of American Liberalism and John Neven, a conservative German Reformer, are defining themselves against Finney.

B. Life and Conversion 1792-1875. Born in Connecticut. Family Moved to NY. He entered law and stated a legal practice. Still he was unhappy. Then in 1821 he experienced a dramatic conversion with Christ. His pride is broken , and he totally believed in the supernatural world. He made the spiritual warfare alive to his hears. Ordained in 1824 in a Presbyterian church. He was tall, thin, and charismatic by 1825-26 he is considered the best in the Pulpit in the area. He started out in small villages. It is reported that around 1827-35 he is the most sought after speaker. Then he goes to Overland College and helps with the abolitionist movement and eventually becomes the President of the College. His most influential work is “Lectures on Revival”


C. Theology of Finney. Ordained as a Presbyterian, but did not like Presbyterian theology as much as he liked popular religion. He is of the New School, and he was certain that the dogma of Calvinism that the sine they had, they could not overcome. His style was more of a combo between simply going to the Bible and to his law degree and doing straight forward preaching. His thought was that the rejection of the offer of free salvation means that they will be punished in Hell. “Sinners bound to change their own hearts” Here is a quote that shows the Human responsibility to change their own hearts. But where people have been complacent this is important. He also develops a place to the role of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit brings about the opportunity for the persons to change. But he also depends upon the preacher and the human choice. Conversion is still the work of God. Finney lists what he believes are the fundamentals of theology. (Scripture, the necessity of the influence of the Holy Spirit, Divinity of the Holy Spirit, Total Depravity, Total Regeneration, Necessity of Atonement, Justification of Faith, and Eternal Punishment of the Wicked. Then he qualifies total depravity to what he calls voluntary. He also talks about something he calls voluntary regeneration. He is making sure people understand that they are to make a choice.