Two More Articles for the Local Paper : B. B. Warfield

B. B. Warfield, Part 1
It was 1870.  Princeton College students gathered around the two combatants. One, a young man named Warfield, had drawn a cartoon depicting the other in what could be called “an exceedingly uncomplimentary picture.” The cartoon was circulated among the other students during a particularly boring lecture. The student saw the sketch of himself, and he was livid. After class, the fight was on. The amateurish fight earned Warfield a nickname: “The Pugilist.”

After a religious experience he was reluctant to speak of, Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (1851-1921) was ordained in 1879. He taught at Western Theological Seminary from 1878 until he went to Princeton Theological Seminary in 1887, where he served as Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology. In addition to teaching, his task was to familiarize himself with current writings and challenge those who departed from the confession and faith of the seminary. His fighting spirit had found a calling to wholeheartedly embrace.

He followed A. A. Hodge and maintained the conservative Calvinistic position of that great theologian. Some conservative Presbyterians consider him to be the last of the great Princeton Theologians. His many books include Biblical and Theological Studies, Calvin and Augustine, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, The Person and Work of Christ, Perfectionism, and Counterfeit Miracles.

Warfield’s primary emphasis was the authoritative view of the Bible, a view relentlessly attached in his time. He taught that the Bible was the ultimate authority for Christian belief and behavior and that it was sufficient in and of itself for that purpose. He contended for the truth of inerrancy, that the Bible is true in all that it says, in theology and history.

Due to his refined writing style and pointed rhetoric, Warfield’s pen was regarded as a “sword” by one contemporary. It was a refined and effective weapon in his hands.

Warfield’s theology was really just an expression of his confession: The Westminster Confession of Faith. He held that this statement of faith was merely a summary of the teachings of the Bible. To Warfield, the confession was not the ultimate authority, but it was a summary and expression of what the Bible teaches. But make no mistake about it: this was a confession worth fighting for.

“Warfield: The Person Behind the Theology,” Hugh Thomason Kerr, Annie Kinkead Warfield Lecture of 1982, Princeton Theological Seminary, ed. William O. Harris, 1995, 21.

B. B. Warfield, Part 2

As seen in last weeks’ article, Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (1851-1921) taught at Princeton Theological Seminary. Some conservative Presbyterians consider him to be the last of the great Princeton Theologians. He preached often for a professor, and often told stories in his sermons to illustrate his points.

In one story, a little Dutch boy had disobeyed his father and was playing to close to a windmill. He ignored the danger posed by the moving blades and gears. The boy found himself pulled from his feet as blows began to rain down on him. His feet off the ground; he closed his eyes and feared for his life.

The boy opened his eyes to find that he was not caught by the blade of the windmill, but by the hands of his father. He was receiving the discipline his father had threatened him with if he went to close to the mill. He learned the difference between falling into the wheel of a machine that had no care for him and falling into the hands of a father who loved him and did not want to see him seriously hurt. What a difference indeed.

Few people who heard the story knew just how well qualified Warfield was to make these comments.

Warfield had married Annie Pierce Kinkead when he was 25. On their honeymoon in Germany, Annie was struck by lightning. The accident left her paralyzed for the rest of her life.

Warfield cared for here for thirty-nine years until she died in 1915. He never went far from her side. He scheduled the classes he taught so he could return home to care for her when needed. The many books and articles he authored were penned in his home as he listened for his wife’s call.

Warfield’s trials were not the fault of his sins as the young boys were in the story, but he endured discipline nonetheless.

Romans 8:28 says, “All thing work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to his purpose.” What was Warfield’s comment on this verse after all of his trials?

The fundamental thought is the universal government of God. All that comes to you is under His controlling hand. The secondary thought is the favor of God to those that love him. If He governs all, then nothing but good can befall those to whom He would do good…He will so govern all things that we shall reap only good from all that befalls us.

Warfield trusted Himself to the strong hand of a loving father.


The Purifying Power of Living by Faith in Future Grace, John Piper. Sisters, Oregon: Multinoma Books, 1995, p. 176.

“Warfield: The Person Behind the Theology,” Hugh Thomason Kerr, Annie Kinkead Warfield Lecture of 1982, Princeton Theological Seminary, ed. William O. Harris, 1995, 21.

The Fundamentals, R. A. Torey and other, eds. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1958, 1990.

http://en.wikepedia.org/wiki/ B. B. Warfield


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