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RANDISON) Finney (1792-1875. American revivalist. Born in Warren, Connecticut, and reared in Oneida County, New York, he entered a law office in Adams, New York, after limited formal education and was later admitted to the bar. At Adams he began attending church services conducted by a friend, George W. Gale. Although at first critical of religious dogmas, Finney after studying the Bible for himself was converted in 1821. This involved, as he said, “a retainer from the Lord to plead his cause.” Turning from law, he began to preach and in 1824 received Presbyterian ordination. For the next eight years he conducted revivals in the eastern states with unusual results. In 1832 he became pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church in New York City, but dissatisfaction with the disciplinary system in Presbyterian churches soon led to his withdrawal from the presbytery. He also delivered a series of lectures on revivals during these years in New York. These were soon published (1835) and widely read.
In 1835 he became professor of theology at a new college in Oberlin, Ohio. During the remainder of his life he was linked with the school, serving as president from 1851 to 1866. Through most of these years, however, he remained active in evangelistic work, devoting a part of each year to revivals. Finney fits no theological pattern. In general he was a New School Calvinist, but he laid heavy stress on man's ability to repent, and he made perfectionism* a trademark of Oberlin teaching.