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Reading Warfield . . . Where to Begin?

Warfield%20--%20Pic%201.jpgI recently received an email from someone (Mike Swope) asking what I thought was a great question.  Since B. B. Warfield is such an important theologian, and such a prolific writer (on the order of a Barth, or an Aquinas), where should someone begin if they wish to become more familiar with the Lion of Princeton?

I can answer this in one of two ways.  First, there would be my list of favorite Warfield pieces.  This would include a number of things "off the beaten path" so to speak (some of my favorites are more technical or obscure book reviews and journal articles). Then there would be the list of those essays/books which highlight Warfield's career and importance.  What follows is the latter (although there is some overlap).

Since much of Warfield's work is easily accessible (in the ten-volume set from Baker Books, or the five-volume set from P & R, from Warfield's Selected Shorter Writings from P & R,  or even on-line), let me set out a list of a few things just to get you started.  This list is suggestive only, and is by no means exhaustive.

Online sources:  Here's a great list (Click here: Warfield Index).  To get started, I'd simply suggest that you pick essays based upon your personal interests--Warfield wrote on virtually every theological topic of his day. 

Some of these essays are quite basic (i.e., introductory articles for encyclopedias or magazines), while others are much more technical (and written for theological journals).  But be sure not to miss the following (which include a sermon, a book review, and several ground-breaking articles on critical topics--just so you get a flavor of the scope of Warfield's massive output and mastery of his subject):

Click here: Warfield - On Faith in Its Psychological Aspects


Click here: Warfield - On the Antiquity and the Unity of the Human Race

Click here: Warfield - Trinity

Click here: Warfield - The Person of Christ

Click here: Warfield - The Inspiration of the Bible

Click here: Warfield - The Real Problem of Inspiration

Click here: Warfield - A Review of Lewis Sperry Chafer's "He That Is Spiritual"

Click here: Warfield - The Christ that Paul Preached

Click here: Warfield - Calvin as a Theologian

Click here: Warfield - The Theology of the Reformation



It is my humble opinion that every Reformed Christian should read Warfield's The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible.  There is nothing like it.  It has generated no end of controversy (although it defends inerrancy) and although Warfield is crystal clear, his critics consistently misquote or misrepresent him.   This book is too important not to read.  Click here: P & R Publishing: Individual Title

I would also suggest reading Warfield's Plan of Salvation (which is available on-line--Click here: Warfield - The Plan of Salvation).

Every seminarian should read this short essay:  Click here: P & R Publishing: Individual Title


Since Warfield's main efforts are found in theological journals, here are a few which have been reprinted (in books) and which I think are must reading:

From Biblical and Theological Studies (P & R): "The Spirit of God in the Old Testament" (127 ff.).

From Studies in Perfectionism (P & R):  "The Theology of Charles G. Finney" (166 ff.).

From The Person and Work of Christ (P & R): "The Emotional Life of Our Lord" (93 ff.); "Christless Christianity" (265 ff.), "Imitating the Incarnation" (563 ff.).

From Calvin and Augustine (P & R):  "Calvin's Doctrine of the Knowledge of God" (29 ff.); "Augustine's Doctrine of Knowledge and Authority" (387 ff.).

From Studies in Theology (Baker): "Predestination in the Reformed Confessions" (117 ff); "Charles Darwin's Religious Life" (541 ff.). 

From Selected Shorter Writings, Vol 1:  "How to Get Rid of Christianity" (51 ff.);  "Hosea VI.7:  Adam or Man?" (116 ff.); "Jesus Christ the Propitiation for the Whole World" (167 ff.); "The Resurrection of Christ:  A Historical Fact" (178 ff.); "Antichrist" (356 ff.).

From Selected Shorter Writings, Vol 2:  "A Review of Herman Bavinck's De Zeherheid des Geloofs" (106 ff.); "Darwin's Arguments and Christianity and Religion" (132 ff.); "Review of John Miley's Systematic Theology" (308 ff.); "A Calm View of the Freedmen's Case" (735ff.)

This will get you started, but will barely scratch the surface of the body of Warfield's work. 

Reader Comments (12)

Happy news for Warfield fans: Logos Bible Software has just put into production a twenty volume collection of the work of B. B. warfield. This includes the ten volume set by Baker as well ten other volumes.
July 1, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Widdowson
Very helpful, Kim. I happen to think that every serious theology student should have his complete works.

My favorite is "The Christ that Paul Preached", an absolute classic.
July 1, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTim Goerz
I recently got beat up by my pastor when I cited Warfield as a reputable authority against 24-hr creation. I was told Warfield had been overly influenced by Darwin in his views of creation. I wonder if you have an opinion on this, Kim, based on your research. It amazes (and frustrates me) that Warfield couldn't be an elder in some of our Reformed churches because of his views on this subject.
July 1, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJames
James- you need to be very careful about putting BBW in the same column as Darwin.Warfield, despite the claims made by Mark Noll, was not a theistic Evolutionist. He never once referred to himself as such and strongly affirmed every aspect of Adam's historicity and the Fall. Your pastor probably got his take on BBW from the creationist group 'Answers in Genesis' who have been on a crusade against not only BBW but Charles Hodge as well.
My introduction to Warfield came by reading his volume of sermons entitled 'Faith & Life'.
July 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGLW Johnson

I am assuming that when you say your pastor "beat you up," you are speaking rhetorically? My sense is that both Warfield and Machen would have trouble being ordained today because of their views on creation.

I would echo what Gary Johnson said about lumping Warfield in with Darwin. I would add, tell the critics of Warfield to actually read Warfield's biting criticism of Darwin and Darwinism.

I do differ from Gary on one point. I think it pretty clear that Warfield did hold to theistic evolution. Warfield saw this (if true) as an argument for God's existence--things going from chaos to order. Remember too, the church situation before the Scopes trial was nothing like it is now. The attack from naturalistic evolution has been relentless ever since. Warfield would have opposed that foe with everything in him. My sense is he'd relish in the collapse of evolutionary theory and re-state his views.

And don't forget that Warfield firmly believed in the historicity of Adam and the creation account. He is also the leading defender of the modern Reformed doctrine of biblical inerrancy. He might have over-estimated the scientific consensus regarding evolution, but to call him a "liberal" as some do, and treat him like a parish because of his view of creation is positively ridiculous.
July 2, 2008 | Registered CommenterKim Riddlebarger
Kim and Gary,
Thanks for your posts. Yes, I am speaking rhetorically when I said my pastor beat me up for citing to Warfield. The ferocity with which some in the Reformed camp hold to creation science as if it were a dogma of the Reformed faith is pretty depressing; yes, things have come to a pretty pass when we are more apt to quote from Ken Ham than Warfield and the Hodges. From time to time, I go back to re-read "The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind," to assure myself I am not completely crazy on this subject.
July 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJames
In the PCA, we had a heated debate about eight years ago at our General Assembly.
Our PCA determined to accept three creation views as acceptable for our Elders in leading our denomination:
A. Literal 6 Day, 24 hour view
B. Long Day View
C. Framework View

the key was stated repeatedly by the committee that each man had to confess in the historicity of God's creation ex nihilo, that creation was good, and all of Gen. 1-3 was indeed historical.

Yet, we still had some who wanted to file an official protest. To my knowledge the only ones insisting on one view were the 6 Day / 24 hour day folks... and certainly not all of them.

It was displayed very well that Machen and others were not 6/24 and were Presbyterians affirming the historicity of Gen. 1-3, yet it fell on deaf ears for some.

A Heated Issue No Doubt.
What I recall thinking during that General Assembly was "Father, I thank you I am in a denomination that is debating these Creation views while some other denominations are debating Homosexuality, Deity of Christ, Inerrancy etc.
July 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterIvan
I'm PCA. Our pastor has made it quite clear the 24 hr creation day is the correct one, that it alone comports with the intent of the drafters of the Westminster Standards. Our elders have to adhere to this. Grrrr!
July 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJames
Hello James,
Your elders do not have to adhere to what your pastor demands.
Your elders are to adhere to the system of doctrine taught in our constitutional documents.

What might he say if you told him, "there are three views that our PCA adopted as permissible within the bounds of God created all things ex nihilo and it was all very good",

July 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterIvan

Our pastor knows of these views--he just believes they are wrong-headed and adheres to the young-earth theory. He has made clear that any future elders in our church will have to adhere to the 24 hr view; as do our current elders, because this was the view of the drafters of the Westminster Standards.
July 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJames

I'm reading "The Plan of Salvation." I find his chart at the end of chapter one interesting. Although the Anglican column concludes with the view that baptism itself saves, I don't understand why Warfield only seems to give them credit for a high view of the Sacraments. Virtually the same views could be attributed to Lutheranism (i.e., "baptism creates faith"). However, he only gives Lutheranism credit for *sanctification* through the "means of grace." All the way at the "correct" end of the spectrum (Presbyterianism), the sacraments--let alone the preached Word--don't even rate. What gives?
July 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterChris
In addition to the Warfield collection, Logos has also made available a <A href="">Charles Finney Collection.</A> Finney was the subject of much of volumes seven and eight of the Works of Benjamin B. Warfield.
July 15, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKent

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