Finney: Man’s Ability to Obey

Finney's Systematic TheologyCharles Finney, in his Systematic Theology, makes some statements regarding moral law that many find controversial. As for me, I find them eminently sensible. Here’s what he says:

Moral law is no respecter of persons—knows no privileged classes. . . . That which the precept demands must be possible to the subject. That which demands a natural impossibility is not, and cannot be, moral law. The true definition of law excludes the supposition that it can, under any circumstances, demand an absolute impossibility. Such a demand could not be in accordance with the nature and the relations of moral agents [i.e., human beings with free will], and therefore practicability must always be an attribute of moral law. To talk of inability to obey moral law is to talk nonsense [emphasis mine].

I realize this disturbs some people, but think: if you are incapable of doing what God says, you are also not accountable for your actions. There would be no reason to feel guilt or shame; we would all simply be victims. There’s enough victimology in our society already; Christians should never contribute to it. “Inability” undercuts the whole idea of man being responsible for his sins. I believe all real Christians understand, in their hearts, that they are accountable for their actions. Why don’t we allow our theology to support that obvious fact? Why don’t we line up our theory with what we know to be true in practice?