The Abiding Significance of Benjamin B. Warfield

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 TheologianStudies 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

When Father’s Day Is Hard, with Dan Doriani

The following is taken from a Zoom interview with Dan Doriani and Joy Woo. Dan is professor of theology and vice president at Covenant Theological Seminary. He is the founder and president of the Center for Faith & Work, St. Louis; a member of the Council of The Gospel Coalition; and a regular blogger. He was also a lead pastor for fifteen years. He is the author of many books, including The New Man: Becoming a Man After God’s Heart.

1. What can every believer rejoice in on Father’s Day?

This first question hit me because I didn’t have a very good dad. So this kind of question causes me to contemplate more, but it’s a good question. 

The first thing we do on Father’s Day is give thanks for our physical fathers–somebody is our father. The worst father at least gives us life, probably gives us food, clothing, shelter, and medical care, and almost inevitably gives us some skills or dispositions that are positive. 

At the very best, we may have fathers who taught us many things and who also introduced us to the great truths of the Scripture through Bible stories when we were little. We don’t just tell stories for the sake of stories, we tell stories that show us who God is. Fathers even have opportunities through stories to talk to their children about what God expects fathers and mothers to be, because good and godly fathers reflect the character of God our Father in heaven, who is kind, compassionate, just, and merciful, as Exodus 34 says. So at best, our fathers modeled love and kindness and told us who we are in ourselves in our created goodness but also who we are as redeemed sons and daughters of God who are under a mother and father who reflect, imperfectly but genuinely, who God is. 

2. What are some of the causes for grief that people face on Father’s Day?

Unfortunately, there are several answers to this question. We can probably divide it up into finitude, mistakes, and sin. 

Let’s start with finitude. No matter how good or well-intentioned a father might be, he doesn’t have all the skills or abilities necessary to be a perfect dad. No father can do everything that the community of believers can do or that grandfathers, uncles, brothers, cousins, friends, and teachers can help us do. This finitude is just human nature. 

Second, fathers make mistakes. These occur when fathers make bad judgment calls; maybe they push us to become engineers—when we actually have no interest in math at all—because it’s a good career with good money and so forth. Now that’s a mistake, but the intention was good. Or a mistake our fathers might have made was to spend too much time at work and therefore they weren’t there for us in some crisis. 

Last, fathers sin. There is generational sin—a father who was abused may himself be abusive; a father who was raised by a shouter will likely shout; a father who was raised by a demanding parent will likely demand. Unfortunately, there are some dads who sin all by themselves, apart from generational heritage, as they choose to be given over to some sin—maybe they give themselves to drugs, alcohol, gambling, or some other sin that hasn’t run in their family. This kind of sin also causes catastrophic damage. 

So there are lots of reasons to lament the mistakes, the finitude, and the sins of our fathers. It is helpful to distinguish between these categories and not to view every negative thing our fathers have done as deliberate. 

We also grieve fathers who have died, whom we loved dearly. Maybe we were ourselves older when our father died and we knew it was time, but we just miss our dads on this day. It is also very sad when we grieve fathers who are gone because of divorce, and it’s very sad to lose a dad who may have died at an early age of cancer. 

Or you can have grief because you weren’t as close to your dad as you hoped to be, even though he was a good dad. Maybe you were the less “favored” child or sensed you were a little bit less beloved, even if you had a good father. Parents do play favorites at times, even though they try not to, and that stings in its own way. 

Finally, surrogate fathers and their departure is another cause for grief. Personally, I was blessed with a number of surrogate fathers, including a mentor at work, and one of my grandfathers, an uncle, and so forth. When these figures die, that also leaves a hole in our lives..

3. We have seen why children may be grieving on Father’s Day, but what might even fathers themselves be saddened by on this day? 

The happiest form of grief in this case is the grief that your children are all grown up, on their own and doing so well, but you don’t see them much anymore! 

A second grief would be one over your own imperfections or certain ways in which you didn’t quite handle fatherhood right. All fathers accidentally set bad examples in different ways. These can include things like the way we eat, when we go to sleep, when we wake up; whether we work too hard, whether we don’t work enough

Of course, there is greater grief if we know we have sinned against our children. Or maybe we were self-righteous and viewed ourselves as paragons of virtue. In that case, we have reason to grieve, if in our own zeal to be good Christians we didn’t talk enough about grace or live lives of grace and repentance with our children. That is something that even a really good dad could struggle with. 

There is also the possibility that we worked too much and weren’t around enough. Or sometimes dads wish they could have provided more for their kids; maybe they had a good job and worked hard, but they didn’t have a job that paid a lot, and so their children lacked opportunities they wished they could have given them. 

4. How would you encourage those who find themselves grieving rather than celebrating this coming Father’s Day? 

The Bible is very clear that we work our way out of grief with godly or biblical celebration. First of all, we believe God is sovereign, so although my own father was profoundly imperfect, he is the father God gave me, and he was a good father in certain very important ways, no matter what his faults might have been.

If we are grieving our earthly fathers, the key is to take time to name what is praiseworthy, give thanks, and be content. Be thankful for what you can properly and genuinely celebrate about someone’s life. Trust in God’s sovereignty. Be content. Those are the best and first things to do if your own dad was imperfect. 

If you yourself were imperfect as a father, I think the first thing to do is to celebrate God’s grace. Even if it is a little bit late in life, you can express to your children that you do not take God’s grace toward you lightly but that God has indeed forgiven you, though your sins against them are still serious. You can tell them that you hope they are able to forgive you and that they also would taste God’s forgiveness and God’s grace and mercy toward them. 

So we can be encouraged as we give thanks and are aware of the gospel. Even if we had a very grim experience of a father, first we can give thanks that we live in this world because of our fathers. Second, we can give thanks for surrogate fathers, fathers in the faith, those who took a role in our lives to recognize and help us grieve our experience of poor earthly fathers. Third, we can look to God our heavenly Father. The Bible shows him as a Father to the fatherless through the life of the church. 

5. How are you planning on celebrating Father’s Day this year with your own children and grandchildren? 

Well, I have to say, Father’s Day is pretty awesome in our house. We’ll probably have a cookout, and there will probably be a battle to see who gets to be the main griller. Everybody will pitch in and help, and we spend a lot of time giving thanks. We give thanks for all four dads; this is something we do as a family—we regularly celebrate each other. All the dads will hear why they are beloved and what we appreciate about them. Then we will probably do some sports, throw children in the air, and play games together! 

The New Man is based on the traits of God—God works, therefore we work; God cared enough about our bodies to redeem our bodies, therefore we take care of our bodies. Godly parenting starts with knowing God as your Father in heaven, because good dads are like God the Father.

Interview with Jonty Rhodes

The following is taken from an interview over Zoom with Jonty Rhodes and Joy Woo. Jonty is the author of Reformed Worship, our upcoming release in the Blessings of the Faith Series. He previously wrote Covenants Made Simple: Understanding God’s Unfolding Promises to His People.

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself—your current work, your projects, your family, and your hobbies. 

I’m married to Georgina and we’ve got five kids now, from nine down to eighteen months. Both my wife and I came to faith when going to classic English boarding schools. For me it was a Christian member of staff who invited me along to summer camps and ran a little Bible study at the school. 

Long story short, I am now a Presbyterian minister and part of a little denomination—the International Presbyterian Church (IPC). The IPC was founded by Francis Schaeffer, initially in the Alps, but with two congregations planted in England in the 1960s. I used to say I was 10 percent of English Presbyterian ministers working over here. It’s marginally better than that now, but there are still very few of us! Presbyterianism in England has struggled to get much of a foothold in the country more or less since the days of the Westminster Assembly. But encouragingly we are seeing some growth recently.

As for ministry, I was converted in a different tradition, but slowly read my way to being a Presbyterian. In 2010 eight of us started a little church in Derby, a medium-sized city in the middle of England. When we brought that church into the IPC, I think it was the fourth English church in the denomination. I’m now chair of the church-planting committee for the denomination and have been encouraged to see some fledgling growth since those days: I think we’re currently seventeen congregations, most planted in the last decade. My current job is church planting in Leeds, which is the third biggest city in England. We planted here in 2017, a group of about fifteen of us to begin with, but it’s grown over the last five years to about 120 of us now.

Within IPC it feels like we are trying to plant not just churches but also a whole denomination—a whole way of doing church that is new to England, or at least hasn’t been seen for a very long time. That’s why we’re grateful for American resources and support because, although the Westminster Confession was written here, we just haven’t seen that kind of ministry in action in England for a very, very long time—certainly not in my lifetime. But the IPC and a sister denomination the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in England and Wales (EPCEW) are both growing, and Presbyterianism is becoming a viable option again in England. 

As to hobbies, I used to enjoy cricket, but I’ve got five young kids, so I don’t have hobbies anymore!  

2) What need have you personally seen in the church for a book on Reformed worship? 

In my context, obviously there aren’t loads of people who come from Reformed backgrounds. So we have a lot of folk join our church who are evangelical, and therefore know that worship is important, know the Bible tells them to worship, but may not have a particularly thought-through understanding of what that means. Certainly, they are confused or surprised by how we as a Reformed church worship on a Sunday. 

Part of the hope for the book is to introduce people who are new to a Reformed setting to why we worship how we do, as well as to explain how and what we do in worship. The book talks about the structure of the service, the pattern of the service, and the various elements, but I hope it also helps people understand what’s going on behind that—why we’re making those choices. They’re not just my personal preferences as a pastor, they’re not driven primarily by what’s popular, or even, bluntly, what will get the most people through the door. Rather, we hope our decisions are being driven primarily by what God has to say about worship in his Word. 

What I’ve found—and this was the case for me too, until I started discovering the Presbyterian and Reformed world—is that many people know that God cares that he’s worshipped, but they don’t tend to think that God really cares how he’s worshipped. That was the primary driving force for the book. Linked to that is the centrality of the blessings that are to be found in worshipping God in the way that he does lay out in his Word. To paraphrase the catechism, it’s not just a duty but also a delight. There’s real richness and blessings to be found in our understanding of worship. 

I think many people come to church thinking of worship as primarily a thing they do: “We need to come and worship; it’s about me giving to God.” They are therefore surprised—and pleased, hopefully—to understand the worship service as an event where God is acting, God is blessing and feeding his people. God is the gracious first actor in the service, not us. So who God is affects our worship. 

I hope those things come across in the book; they’re some of my motivation for writing it—and teaching on it. It began as a Sunday school series. Hopefully it will be useful elsewhere, but we’ll wait and see! 

3) What have you learned about the nature of God-honoring worship throughout the writing process? 

If I had to pick one thing, what struck me was the grace of God in worship. At one point in the book, I talk about the idea that God is self-sufficient, and therefore, ultimately, he doesn’t need our worship. He’s not like the pagan gods who need sacrifices to keep them fueled up or their tribe strong. He’s not a God who needs us: he is self-sufficient, he has all the joy he needs in himself, and he’s not dependent on us in any way. And once you get that in your head, it just transforms how you understand worship. Worship is not about me fulfilling God’s needs, but rather it’s about a God who is so gracious and overflowing in love, mercy, and generosity that he allows us to come and worship him. When you see that worship and coming to God, meeting with him, is not simply a duty and it’s not for his benefit in any way, then it must be a blessing! I think that really transforms how you approach worship. The whole series is called the Blessings of the Faith, and when you understand that God is not gaining by your worship of him, you see that the only people gaining are us! 

All these things again demonstrate the grace of God—the love of God—for his people. It’s not so much that we have to worship (though we do) as that we get to worship. In reality, because of our weakness and because of our sin, we don’t always bounce out of bed on a Sunday morning. Even pastors, I’m afraid, aren’t always full of the joy of the Lord and just desperate to get to church. It could be life circumstances—you’ve had a horrendous tragedy that week—it could just be the grind, it could be anything. There are all sorts of reasons why we don’t spring into action on a Sunday morning as we should. But if I’ve got a settled conviction that it is both good and a blessing to come before the Lord, then it’s going to get me there even when my emotions don’t.

4) If you were challenged to summarize the message of this book in one sentence, what would you say? 

I’d say that the book is about . . . the blessings of worshipping God, as he has revealed himself to be in Scripture, in the manner that he’s laid out for us in Scripture. 

I found it hard to find introductory books on worship that didn’t presume a basically Reformed background . . . but in the editing process, Amanda Martin shared that this was the “friendliest and cheerfulest” book that she had read on the regulative principle. That encouraged me, because I think sometimes books on worship can become excessively combative—dare I say it, perhaps especially those from a Reformed perspective. But actually if you get a really biblical, Reformed view of who God is, then it should make you gracious, friendly, and cheerful! So I’m glad it came across that way and not as a kind of “worship wars round 58,” or whatever we’re on now. 

I also hope it’s setting out an explicitly biblical case for why we worship in this way. I wonder if the English context helps here, too, because (I guess like many Reformed churches in the USA) we just can’t get away with saying, “Well, the Westminster Confession says this, so this must be the right way to do it . . .”  Almost no one new to us cares what the Westminster Confession says—or even knows what it is! So we’re constantly having to go back to first principles and show why the Confession says what it does. I hope the book does that in a cheerful, charitable way!

Interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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A Universal Problem by Edward Welch

The following is an excerpt taken from When People Are Big and God Is Small, Second Edition: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man by Edward T. Welch.

Don’t think the fear of man is a problem only for shy, withdrawn types. Isn’t the angry person or the person who tries to intimidate also controlled by others? Any form of one-upmanship qualifies. What about the manager who is working to be more productive than an associate in order to get ahead? The endless jockeying of egos in the corporate boardroom is an aggressive version of fear of man. And do you think that the super confident superstar athlete is somehow above seeking the good opinions of fans and sportswriters? Aggressively asserting that you don’t need anyone is just as much an evidence of the fear of man as the more timid examples we have seen. Fear of man comes in these packages and many others.

Have our criteria included you yet? If not, consider just one word: evangelism. Have you ever been too timid to share your faith in Christ because others might think you were an irrational fool?

Fear of man is part of our human fabric. How nice it would be to actually feel comfortable in our own skin rather than needing to be somebody or searching for that drop of love or sliver of approval from someone. Yes, nice, but it seems like a mere dream.

The Search for a Biblical Response

A common answer to the fear of man is “I just need to love myself more.” That would make us less dependent on the affirmation of others, but it is a paper-thin solution and never gets us to comfortable-in-our-own-skin contentment.

An answer that has more depth is “God loves me more than I know.” God can fill us with love, so we don’t have to be filled by other people. But even this answer is incomplete. The love of God is the answer to every human struggle, but sometimes we can use it in such a way that God’s job is to make us feel better about ourselves, as if feeling better about ourselves were our deepest need. God does not promise such things.

The purpose of this book is to take the answer deeper still. As we step further into Scripture, we will meet people such as Abraham and Peter, who slipped into the chasm of the fear of man and brought others down with them. We will look at the subtle ways in which our fear surfaces in our lives. Then we will find God’s way out.

To really understand the roots of the fear of man, we must ask the right questions. For example, instead of asking, “How can I feel better about myself and not be controlled by what people think?” a better question is “Why am I so concerned about self-esteem?” or “Why do I have to have someone—even Jesus—think I’m great?” We will look at these topics from many angles throughout this book. Included in the answer is the fact that we need to think less often about ourselves. We’ll talk about why—and how.

The most radical treatment for the fear of man is the fear of the Lord. God must be bigger to you than people are. This antidote takes time to grasp; in fact, it will take all our lives. But my hope is that the process can be accelerated and nurtured through what we study in this book.

Regarding other people, our problem is that we need them for ourselves more than we love them for the glory of God. God sets us the task of needing them less and loving them more. Yes, it is counterintuitive, as so many of God’s ways might first appear, but settle into them and you find yourself on the road to freedom and rest.

One important note before we begin exploring. Our interest is in the human experience of being dominated by the real or imagined opinions of other people. God has given us two ways to enter in. One is the fear of man, which follows what we bring to that problem. The other is shame, which is what other people bring, and other people can bring a lot. When you have been wronged or abused by other people, they will have an enduring impact in your life. What might surprise you is how much God says to you in your shame.

Fear of man and shame are relevant to all of us. I have delved into the details of God’s words on shame in another book,* so while I will discuss both here, I will focus on the fear of man.

Let’s get started.


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* Edward T. Welch, Shame Interrupted: How God Lifts the Pain of Worthlessness and Rejection (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2012).

AVAILABLE NOW – The Gospel of Jesus: The Four Gospels in a Single Complete Narrative by Loraine Boettner

The Gospel of Jesus weaves the entirety of the four gospels into a continuous, highly readable harmony that can be used as a helpful Bible study aid. With marginal references and clearly indicated editorial changes, this new giftable edition of a classic work features the modern Christian Standard Bible® translation and includes maps, dates, and locations.

Below is an excerpt taken from pages 112-113.


The Gospel of Jesus: The Four Gospels in a Single Complete Narrative