Finney, Charles G.


Finney, Charles G.
(1792-1875)
   early American frontier revivalist and educator
   Charles Grandison Finney, evangelist, theologian, and social activist, emerged as an important voice of frontier revivalism in early 19th-century America. He was born on August 29, 1792, in Warren, Connecticut, and grew up in oneida County, New York. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1818. While serving as a lawyer in 1821, he experienced an intense religious experience, and shortly thereafter left the practice of law to preach.
   He was ordained as a minister by the St. Lawrence Presbytery in 1824, and then began traveling and conducting revival meetings. He developed creative "new measures" to encourage people to accept the Christian message. He summarized these in a series of talks delivered in 1835 and subsequently published as Lectures on Revivals of Religion. Beginning in 1832, he pas-tored the Second Free Presbyterian Church in New York City.
   In 1836, Finney resigned from the presbytery to assume the leadership of the seminary at the new antislavery oberlin Collegiate Institute (now oberlin university); he considered himself a Con-gregationalist from then on. Finney accepted the position on condition that black students would be admitted. He also opened a place for women in worship and let women study for degrees at ober-lin. Finney was named professor of systematic theology and of pastoral theology, and served as pastor of oberlin Congregational Church. He became president of oberlin in 1851. He also founded the Oberlin Evangelist.
   Finney was strongly influenced by Wesleyan views on sanctification and the idea of a second work of grace that made one perfect in love. His wedding of Calvinist and Wesleyan perspectives, shared by fellow Oberlin theologian Asa Mahan (1800-89), was called the Oberlin theology. It favored the Methodist view that individuals are always ready to accept Christ and that Christians have a capacity for holy living. Among his many works were his Lectures to Professing Christians (1837); Skeletons of a Course of Theological Lectures (1840); and the Systematic Theology (1846), the latter being one of the first theologies to offer an apology for the kind of revolution that brought the United States into existence.
   Finney taught well into his 80s, though he resigned the presidency in 1865. He died in Ober-lin on August 1875 of heart problems.
   See also Holiness movement; revivalism.
   Further reading:
   ■ David B. Chesebrough, Charles G. Finney: Revivalistic Rhetoric (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2001)
   ■ Charles G. Finney, An Autobiography (New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1908); , Lectures on Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans, 1953)
   ■ ----, Sermons on Gospel Themes (New York: Dodd, 1876)
   ■ Keith Hardman, Charles Grandison Finney 1792-1875: Revivalist and Reformer (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1987).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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