Are You a Sectarian?

Walter Conser, in his 1984 book, Church and Confession, presents Charles G. Finney’s stance on the numerous denominations that existed in America in the early 19th century.

“Finney’s methods contained another prominent characteristic of American evangelicalism–a nondenominational approach to church life. With his pietistic emphasis upon a change of heart and his belief in a set of readily accessible fundamental religious truths, Finney had little use for what he saw as the poison of sectarianism.”

“In discussing measures to promote revivals, Finney stated simply that ‘all sectarianism should be carefully avoided.’ Like his evangelical brethren in England and parts of Germany, Finney hoped to leave behind the denominational consciousness he believed had spawned so much division within Christendom. Hence, the pietistic emphasis upon an awakened heart and a changed life in dutiful obedience to the Lord as instructed by Biblical injunction–this was the message Finney proclaimed” (Walter H. Conser, Jr., Church and Confession [USA: Mercer University Press, 1984], 241).

This spirit still lingers in American Evangelicalism. And, striving for unity is a worthy goal. Yes, we should avoid sectarianism, yet we should not do so by throwing out or watering down the confession of the church.