Perfectionism This doctrine is often confounded with two others, from which, however, it is philosophically distinguishable. One of these is the doctrine of the simplicity of moral action, the most powerful advocate of which is the theological school at Oberlin, Ohio. According to this theory, it is impossible that sin and virtue should co-exist in the human heart at the same time; all moral action is single and indivisible; the soul is either wholly consecrated to Christ, or it has none of his spirit. These two states may alternate: the man may be a Christian at one moment and a sinner the next, but he cannot be at any one moment a sinful or imperfect Christian. The advocates of this view, however, deny that any one can claim to be a perfect Christian under this theory, because he does not remember any conscious failure, since "even present failure is not always a matter of distinct consciousness, and the past belongs to memory, and not to consciousness." SEE OBERLIN THEOLOGY.
The other view, which is sometimes confounded with perfectionism, is that entitled by its advocates the doctrine of "perfect sanctification," or sometimes the "higher life." This is, in brief, the doctrine that Jesus Christ is a present Savior from sin; that he is able to keep those that trust in him from falling into any sin whatever; and that if the soul trusted him completely it would be preserved from all deliberate sin, and its unintentional wrong-doing — errors rather than sins — would not be imputed to it. It is true that some of the advocates of this view claim to have so lived in the presence of Christ as to have been for weeks and months unconscious of any sin; but more generally those who hold this view of the present redeeming power of Christ, while they insist that it is possible to live so near to him as to be kept by him "without sin," also confess that they occasionally fail to keep up a complete and undeviating trust in Christ, and so do, in fact, in some degree, temporarily fall away from that condition in which they maintain it to be their privilege to walk. It should be added that this doctrine of the "higher life" is one of experience rather than philosophy, and it is difficult to afford a clear and concise definition of it that will be free from every objection, or intelligible to those of an unspiritual state of mind. SEE PERFECTION, CHRISTIAN.