Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Finney, who underwent a personal conversion before becoming a revivalist, believed that religion is the result of human effort, that people could come to God rather than waiting to see if they were among the elect. This belief was evident in his writings and in his life’s works. As he says in Lectures on Revivals of Religion, “The object of the ministry is to get all the people to feel that the devil has no right to rule this world, but that they ought to give themselves to God, and vote in the Lord Jesus Christ as the governor of the universe.”

Because Finney believed that it was possible to use the ministry to bring people to God, he described a revival as the right use of the proper means, and he describes the method of creating a revival in his lectures. He measured the propriety of his new measures to bring about conversion by their success. He says that “when the blessing evidently follows the introduction of the measure itself, the proof is unanswerable, that the measure is wise.” If God blesses a measure with the salvation of souls, then it must be sanctioned by God. To criticize it is to think oneself wiser than God.

Conversion, Finney argued, is not something to wait on God to do, but something for us to do. We have been given free will, and we are free moral agents. To say that human beings do not have a free will, are not able to respond to the Gospel “slanders God . . . charging him with infinite tyranny, in commanding men to do that which they have no power to do.” If we are unsaved it is because we are unwilling, not because we are unable to be saved. His strong vision of what people, including women, could do led him to conclude that when a person is truly willing to be a Christian and chooses to be a Christian, that person is a Christian.