1. Why is Warfield worth reading and studying today—100 years after his death?
Fred Zaspel: “Warfield was one of those theologians who models Christian scholarship in the most important ways. The depth and the breadth of his grasp was virtually unmatched, and his heart was passionately devoted to Christ. He was a systematic theologian, and yet his approach was keenly exegetical. To this day his writings are a gold mine for scholars. And deeply informed in all the branches of theological work as he was, and with an unswerving loyalty to the truthfulness of Scripture, he remains a model for all the rest of us who wish to study and proclaim God’s Word.”
2. Broadly speaking, what were Warfield’s greatest contributions to the church and to the academy?
David Smith: “(1) His detailed exposition of the doctrine of Scripture rooted in an exposition of Scripture; (2) his essays on particular historical theologians such as Augustine and Calvin; (3) his explanation of the organic, or living, and historical nature of Christian doctrine; (4) his intricate and detailed explanation of various doctrines, especially that of the Trinity and revelation; (5) his essays on systematic theology and apologetics; and (6) his arguments against theological liberalism, as well as all other theologies or doctrines that deviate from Scripture.”
3. More specifically, what were Warfield’s greatest theological contributions?
David Smith: “It was his recognition that all such matters center on the doctrine of God as revealed in Scripture, so that God is recognized as the supreme authority about himself, so that he unfolds God’s character and revealing of himself. What this amounts to is Warfield unpacking not merely the supernatural source of Scripture and all the doctrines present in it, but the supernatural mode of God’s revealing of himself. He went deep in unpacking many of the implications of the supernatural mode of God’s revelation.”
4. Why do Warfield’s writings have a timeless quality about them, similar to those of Augustine, Calvin, and Bavinck?
Jeffrey Stivason: “Though Warfield lived and wrote during a specific time in history, his writings bear a timeless quality because he dealt with topics of perennial interest using the Word of God as a guide. For example, in his 1894 article ‘The Divine and Human in the Bible,’ we may learn from Warfield that the bookshelves are overrun with books emphasizing the human involvement in the inspiration of Scripture, but when he offers his understanding of the relationship between the human and the divine in Scripture it is not mere opinion or popular philosophy that he offers. We are reading theological construction of the sort that transcends any culture because it is rooted in God’s word.”
Fred Zaspel: “Warfield wanted only to preserve the faith once for all delivered to the saints. He never felt the need to come up with anything new. He was deeply persuaded that the truth given to us by our Lord and his apostles remains always relevant, and he wanted only to expound, preserve, and defend it.”
5. What equipped Warfield to be such a towering theologian and apologist?
Kim Riddlebarger: “His logic is razor sharp, his piety is evident throughout his writings, and the precision of his writing style ranks him among the great minds of Christian past. He also had the proper temperament for the task—a scholar and a gentleman who thought that Calvinism was the pinnacle of Christian doctrine. He made it a point to thoroughly understand those whom he opposed, so that his responses and rebuttals were not directed at mere straw men but focused upon the key points of contention.”
6. How have you personally profited by reading and studying Warfield’s writings, especially The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible and The Person and Work of Christ?
Jeffrey Stivason: “I wrote my PhD dissertation on Warfield’s understanding of Scripture. The first part of that work was historical, and the second part was theological. While working on the first part I developed a deep admiration for the man himself. I love his ability to use wit and precision in theological argumentation, but I was also gripped by how much he loved and served his wife. I found it exceptionally touching that the Warfields, not having children of their own, treated the students of Princeton as their children. They would often have them for dinner or give them gifts at Christmas. I also found him to be a man who struggled. His pugilistic tendencies kept him from attending faculty meetings near the end of his life due to his sharp disagreements with President Stevenson, and he would have to late get ‘filled in’ by his friend Vos. I have profited from Warfield in many ways and count him a grandfather in the faith.”
David Smith: “It is difficult to calculate such personal profit. I have read pretty broadly in the history of Christian theology and in biblical exposition. I did not begin reading extensively in Warfield’s writings until I decided to do my doctoral dissertation on him. It is not an exaggeration to say that Warfield is a one-man seminary curriculum. The depth and breadth of his treatment of the doctrine of Scripture and Christ is stunningly impressive, as is his treatment of everything else he decided to address. Warfield has taught me how to see that very often in biblical expositions, exhortations and theological writings men commit a false either/or. And I am speaking not simply, or even primarily, of those espousing theological liberalism, but of conservative and Reformed writers. Warfield has made me a much more careful reader and a better listener. He has increased my love for and confidence in God’s word, and therefore God himself. He has helped me to better understand the union between God’s Word and Spirit and helped me to pursue biblical and theological study and writing devotionally.”
7. What advice would you give to readers who are new to Warfield or who have not read him in many years?
Kim Riddlebarger: “Warfield can be tough going. Thankfully these new editions make reading his work much easier. One professor recommended that I read him out loud until I became familiar with the cadence of his speech. Doing this at first was very helpful.”
Fred Zaspel: “Just this: Read Warfield! Read, read, read. You’ll learn, you’ll be strengthened in the faith, and you’ll be blessed.”
About the Interviewees:
- Kim Riddlebarger, Author, The Lion of Princeton: B. B. Warfield as Apologist and Theologian, Studies in Historical and Systematic Theology (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015)
- David P. Smith, Author, B. B. Warfield’s Scientifically Constructive Theological Scholarship
- Jeffrey A. Stivason, Professor of New Testament Studies, Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Pittsburgh; Pastor, Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church, Gibsonia, Pennsylvania; author, From Inscrutability to Concursus: Benjamin B. Warfield’s Theological Construction of Revelation’s Mode from 1880 to 1915
- Fred G. Zaspel, Pastor, Reformed Baptist Church, Franconia, Pennsylvania; Adjunct Professor of Systematic Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; author, The Theology of B. B. Warfield