Recently I was sent a link to a site that apparently claims to speak God’s Word particularly to women. The link brought me to a post on that site which had the following story about a woman and the evangelist Charles Finney. I quote the account below and I do so to caution everyone about reading things like this and assuming that they are true and that they contain Godly advice. Stories like this are dangerous because they encourage abuse victims to place themselves in great danger, thinking that it is God’s will for them to do so. Here is the story and then I will make a couple of additional comments below:
I told her that her first obligation was to God; that she was undoubtedly under obligation to obey His commands, even if they conflicted with the commands of her husband . . . in no case to omit what she regarded as her duty to God for the sake of complying with his wishes. I told her that as he was an infidel his opinions on religious subjects were not be respected.”
These are the words of the famous 18th century revivalist, Charles G. Finney (1792-1873), to a woman who asked his advice on how to respond to her husband who had ordered her not to attend the revival meetings. This shows that the kind of extreme teachings reflected in this article are relatively new to evangelicalism. In her book, “In the Spirit We’re Equal,” Sue shows how this sort of thinking came in through the Charismatic Renewal of the 1960s-70s through Catholic theologians and Lutherans, like Larry Christiansen, who were steeped in hierarchical, authoritarian thinking.
In the above case, Finney tells how this woman took his advice, ignored her husband’s command and came to the revival meeting. He was so enraged that when she returned home she found that he had wrecked much of the furniture in their house. When he saw her he pulled out a large knife and swore that he would kill her. He chased her through the house screaming his threats. Eventually, he cornered her on the 3rd floor with no way of escape and approached her in a rage with the knife upraised.
At this point she fell on her knees, lifted her hands to heaven and cried out to God for mercy for herself and her husband. Suddenly, the Spirit of God “arrested” and overwhelmed him and he sunk to the floor where he sobbed and poured out his heart to God and his wife, begging for mercy and forgiveness. From that moment, said Finney, “he was a wonderfully changed man and became one of the most earnest Christians I ever knew.
First of all, this story is typical of the kind that revivalist preachers love to use to excite their listeners into some “faith decision.” It is therefore highly suspect.
Second, what of the myriads of godly women, sorely abused by their wicked spouse, who “stepped out on faith” in perhaps a very similar fashion, but no mighty, powerful, visible miracle took place? What of the ones who died?
Third, if Finney were employing truly Christlike methods, why in the world did he send this lady home to her abuser all alone and put her in such a terrbily dangerous place? This is not wisdom. This is not the love of Christ. This is throwing the victim to the wolf.
And finally, I just plain don’t believe this story. It does not square with the scores of experiences I have seen and that most all of our readers here have seen. Some “miraculous” regeneration of the wicked man on the spot so that he is struck by the Lord and marvelously changed. I don’t buy it and I urge anyone who is targeted by an abuser, a psychopath, a narcissist, or some other tyrant, not to place yourself in such a dangerous position thinking that you are doing the Lord’s will by doing so.
Mat 4:5-7 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple (6) and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” (7) Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”