In 1972 Don McLean released an album entitled American Pie. The title song, American Pie went number one in 1972 for four weeks. The song is a lamenting of the plane crash and death February 3, 1959 of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper. The song’s message proposes that this was “The day the Music Died.” This mysterious song has been the subject of many interpretations and McLean refuses to elaborate.
While the combination of the ministry of Charles Finney and the Dedham Decision may not have been “The Day that the Music of Biblical Evangelism” died, but it is close. The Doctrines of Grace are still taught today in many places. There is certainly a “revival” of the biblical doctrine of soteriology. However, many things changed in the American churches with the advent of Finney; particulary in the aftermath.
In the latter part of the 18th century Henry Ward Beecher stopped preaching the “negative” aspects of the gospel, such as hell, judgment, and damnation and he began preaching a “gospel” of love. He came so popular that he was called to the Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, NY.
The latter part of the 19th century became a breeding ground for newly styled preaching and evangelists. First, the bible doctrine of sin and its effect on the volition (will) has been rejected by Finney. Second, the New Divinity had developed various strains of aberrant theology, and third, prominent preachers were now changing the gospel to a gospel of love.
All the right ingredients were in place for men like D. L. Moody and Billy Sunday to come along and redefine evangelism and revivalism. In all fairness, from what is known, both of these men were “sincere” and had an almost insatiable desire to “win people to Christ” and they both possessed a tremendous distaste for, what one article called “complicated theology.” As a matter of fact Sunday was on record for stating that he knew as much about theology as a jack-rabbit knows about Ping-Pong.
Billy Sunday followed closely in the steps of Charles Finney. Sunday held to Finney’s free will teaching. Believing a sinner could will himself to salvation at any time he chose, Sunday developed revival techniques that were designed to “move” or “manipulate” the will of a sinner to make a decision.
Thus, with the advent of new “evangelists” like Billy Sunday, revival or evangelism became a performance. Evangelists would put on a show, preach a very simple gospel of love, and presto! Thousands of people would be “moved” to walk the aisle and make a profession or decision for Christ.
In 1949 another Evangelist came to prominence. After a number of celebrities reportedly converted to Christ in a 1949 Los Angeles crusade, William Randolph Hearst told his people to “puff” a new evangelist. This evangelist was Billy Graham.
Graham is an interesting and for some, complicated man. His theology and methodology has been debated by many for years. Graham studied and learned much from Whitefield, Finney, and Billy Sunday. Graham, although seemingly a model of purity and one of the most admired man in America can be an enigma.
Graham is not really a product of Edwards or Finney. It seems he does not believe that conversions come with the right use of the proper means. Graham does not hold to the biblical doctrines of grace and has a skewed view of salvation. He holds to “man’s free-will” theology of Pelagius and Finney. He certainly uses unbiblical terminology in his gospel presentations, such as “receive Jesus into your heart,” or “accept Jesus in your life,” or “make a decision for Christ.” Graham also has made some very poor choices with whom he has held crusades with and has moved to a more “universal” position of redemption in his older years.
I mention Graham because he has heavily influenced evangelicals, evangelists, preachers, and revivalists more so than any other man in the 20th century. Revivalism has been heavily influenced by the Arminian, free-will decisional regeneration mentality. Since Finney’s day and the latter part of the 19th century preaching has been aimed at leading sinners to make “a decision” for Christ.
GOD STILL SAVES
Despite all that Charles Finney, Henry Ward Beecher, Billy Sunday, Billy Graham, Norman Vincent Peal, Robert Schuller, Bill Hybels, or even Rick Warren preach or practice evangelism, God still saves sinners. God alone saves sinners. Conversion is not a by-product of a well-staged theatrical event designed to “manipulate” the will to make a decision.
Decisional regeneration, defined as using whatever means and methods that are needed to induce a sinner to make a decision is not biblical. Many false conversions result from men and women making a decision. Some of these false professions are known in a short period of time. Some however are not made known until eternity. (Matthew 7:21-22)
Happy Birthday to my darling 4th daughter, Stacy A. Gallegos of San Tan Valley, Arizona. Happy Birthday SAM4