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Oberlin Theology.

Doctrine of Christian perfection taught at Oberlin (Ohio) Coll. by C. G. Finney,* A. Mahan,* and assocs. Did not claim that a Christian could be absolutely perfect, but only that he could grow toward perfection. Held that all responsible character pertains to the will in its voluntary attitude and action and that each individual determines for himself, in exercise of his own freedom, under motives that gather about him, whatever is morally good or bad in his character and life; that sin is a voluntary failure to meet obligation; that righteousness is a voluntary conforming to obligation; that neither sin nor holiness can be transmitted, inherited, or imputed. Atonement cannot involve transfer of our guilt to Christ or of His righteousness or merit to us. The repentance required as a condition of salvation is the renunciation of sin, an obligation that rests on every sinner and that is always in his power. The power to sin involves the power to renounce sin, and this voluntary renunciation is the change required of every sinner in order for him to obtain acceptance with God. The work of the Holy Spirit in a sinner's conversion is a moral work, wrought by the presentation of motives that induce repentance; the subsequent work of sanctification and preservation in faith is essentially of the same nature and is wrought by the Holy Spirit through the truth. The sovereignty of God always works in harmony with the freedom and responsibility of the creature, so that one factor in man's salvation must always be his own voluntary cooperation. See also Perfectionism, 4.

H. S. Smith, R. T. Handy, and L. A. Loetscher, American Christianity: An Historical Interpretation with Representative Documents, II, 1820–1960 (New York, 1963). LJM

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
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