Some people understandably and rightfully find portions of Charles Finney’s theology troublesome. Others have taken issue with his methods (an assessment which may not be as fair). But we should all recognize that Finney is excellent on faith. I recall hearing someone who had just spoken quite negatively regarding Finney in a general sense answer a question about Finney’s book on prayer. He summed up his thoughts with a brief exclamation, “It’s fabulous!”
To understand Finney you must understand faith. First, faith is always a response to God’s working. Philippians 2:13 makes clear it is God who first works in us (divine initiation) both to will (faith response) and to do of His good pleasure (divine enablement). Therefore faith originates in God. But it is not automatic. It is a human response.
Second, faith is not a work. Romans 4:5 makes clear that to him who doesn’t work, but believes, his faith is credited for righteousness. Faith is not a work; it is dependence on the worker—God. Faith is a human response-ability, but it is not a human work. Faith says, “I can’t, but God can—therefore I trust.”
Third, faith demands steps of faith. Second Corinthians 5:7 makes clear we walk by faith, and not by sight. Walking demands steps. Faith is not passivity. It is active dependence on God.
Therefore, when Finney emphasizes laws of faith, he is not giving a man-centered formula for self-dependence, but rather a God-centered challenge to actively trust in God. That Finney is right on faith does not condone where he is wrong on other matters, but where he is wrong does not nullify his correct representation of faith. Reading Finney on faith and prayer and reading how God used him in revival would encourage you in your own journey of faith.
John Van Gelderen