Finney: Partial Holiness Is Nonexistent

HolinessWhat does it mean to be holy? What is Biblical virtue? Can we be holy as God is holy? We’re commanded to be. Some people may misunderstand that. Since we are not God, there is a difference. Charles Finney comments in his Systematic Theology,

It is a well-settled and generally admitted truth that increased light increases responsibility, or moral obligation. No creature is bound to will any thing with the intenseness or degree of strength with which God wills it, for the plain reason, that no creature sees its importance or real value, as He does.

Yet that doesn’t mean, Finney argues, that God settles for some kind of half-holiness. That would be an absurdity. We are to live up to the knowledge we have, and we are to be holy, according to the light we possess. It’s a full holiness, not partial, which is something that doesn’t really exist. He explains further:

Virtue and moral perfection . . . are synonymous terms. Virtue is holiness. Holiness is uprightness. Uprightness is that which is just what, under the circumstance, it should be: and nothing else is virtue, holiness, or uprightness. Virtue, holiness, uprightness, moral perfection—when we apply these terms to any given state of the will—are synonymous.

To talk, therefore, of a virtue, holiness, uprightness, justice, right in kind, but deficient in degree, is to talk sheer nonsense. It is the same absurdity as to talk of sinful holiness, an unjust justice, a wrong rightness, an impure purity, an imperfect perfection, a disobedient obedience. . . .

That which is not entirely conformed to the law of God is not holiness. This must be true in philosophy, and the Bible affirms the same thing. “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10).

God expects a whole heart in obeying Him. Anything less is not real obedience.