From the Archives: Lectures on Systematic Theology
Finney’s Lectures on Systematic Theology was issued in two volumes in 1846 and 1847. Though it appears Finney planned a work of a number of volumes, only the two were finished: Volume 2 in 1846, and Volume 3 in 1847 (Volume 1 never appeared). In the Preface of the first volume, Finney states “What I have said on the ‘Foundation of Moral Obligation’ is the key to the whole subject.” Finney’s system was based upon the premise of the complete freedom of the human will and the moral responsibility that involves. Dr. Keith Hardman, Finney’s recent biographer, points out that for Finney “… a person must be completely holy or totally sinful. There can be no gradation or degrees. Every person is therefore at any given instant perfectly sinful or perfectly holy. As Finney declared“ Moral agents are at all times either as holy or as sinful as with their knowledge they can be.” Dr. Hardman goes on, “It cannot be overemphasized that Finney makes these states mutually exclusive.” He again quotes Finney, “Sin and holiness, then, both consist in supreme, ultimate, and opposite choices, or intentions, and cannot, by any possibility, coexist.” These difficult concepts begin to explain Finney’s emphasis on the need for perfection. Strong criticism followed the publication of the Systematic Theology, especially from Charles Hodge of Princeton, the renowned Calvinist theologian. Hodge argued that Finney’s system was consistent, but that it was a total departure from the traditional Protestant teaching about justification by Faith, and was more a system of morals. Nevertheless, it is recognized that this work is one of a high degree of sophistication, and despite its difficult reasoning and use of terms, it has had a wide influence.