On August 16, 1875, Charles Grandison Finney died. Few if any memorial services will be held on the centennial of his death. No major institution, denomination, or movement would be fully comfortable in honoring him. Finney is too Arminian for Calvinists, too Calvinistic for Arminians; too rationalistic for mystics, too pietistic for rationalists; too perfectionistic for Presbyterians or Lutherans, too limited in his view of Christian perfection for many followers of Wesley; too conservative for radicals, too innovative for traditionalists; too concerned with individual salvation for those who subscribe to the social gospel, and too committed to the social implications of the Gospel for fundamentalists. It is fitting that a magazine such as CHRISTIANITY TODAY, representing the broad scope of evangelical conviction, should seek to honor this man of God on the one hundredth-anniversary of his death.
Finney’s spiritual experience has become for many an ideal of Christian aspiration. His dramatic conversion to Christ in 1821, when he was twenty-nine (“I will accept it [salvation] today, or I will die in the attempt”), his subsequent baptism of the Holy Spirit (“… like a wave of electricity, going through and through me … waves and waves of liquid love … like the very breath of God”), his call to preach (“Deacon B—, I have a retainer from the Lord Jesus Christ to plead his cause, and cannot plead yours”), his entrance into a deeper life of holiness in 1843 (“I was enabled … to fall back in a deeper sense than I had ever done before upon the infinitely blessed and perfect will of God.… Holiness to the Lord seemed to be inscribed on all the exercises of my mind.… It seemed as if my soul was wedded to Christ.… The language of the ...1
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