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Entries in B.B. Warfield (17)


Incapable of being broken

Fred Zaspel discusses B.B. Warfield's view that the inerrancy of Scripture is foundational to the Christian faith. This faith is above all a revealed faith. If we question the revelation, what does that mean? Zaspel says:

"... rejecting the verbal inspiration of Scripture would imply that any given teaching may be safely neglected or repudiated. If Scripture is the word of men merely and not the word of God, then whatever value it may have, it cannot be trusted absolutely in any matter.

... if inspiration is disproved, we are left questioning not only the various doctrines of Scripture, but whether Scripture itself is an objective ground of faith. For Warfield it is all or nothing. Either Scripture is verbally inspired and therefore entirely truthful in all its parts, or we are left without a sure guide for faith and without a reliable Christ or apostolate.

Warfield reminds that Christ himself had this attitude toward Scripture:

If we are to occupy the attitude toward Scripture which Christ occupied, the simple "It is written!" must have the same authority to us in matters of doctrinal truth, of practical duty, of historical fact and of verbal form that it had to Him: and to us as truly as to him, the Scriptures must be incapable of being broken

I am often perplexed by others would want to follow the lead of famous bloggers who can draw the crowds and inspire the indignant, but who sneer at this principle of inerrancy. How likeminded can we be with those who reject verbal inspiration? At best, we are speaking past one another.

But then, many would consider Warfield outdated and would disregard him. However, Warfield is not the only theologian who taught verbal inspiration. And the attack on Scripture is just as fierce today as it was is his day.


Many long processes of final convergence

Fred Zaspel discusses B.B. Warfield's view of inerrancy and inspiration, specifically the role of human agency in transmission of the Scriptures. They were not just dropped into the minds of a willing participant, and then blindly scribbled down. There was an intimacy between writer and God:

The intimacy of relationship with men by which God gave us his Word, moreover, assumes a "complex of processes" by which God actively assured the result. The various books of the Bible were not produced suddenly by miraculous act or fiat or handed down complete out of heaven. They are the result of many long processes in final convergence. Before the writing of history there was the preparation of the history to be recorded. And before the writing there was the preparation of the writer himself -- his religious experiences; revelations of divine truth; his education; his physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual development; his gifts and biases and vocabulary; and so on. God did not decide finally to give his Word and choose men at random, any of whom would do for the conveyance of that Word. No, before giving a series of letters to the churches he first prepared a Paul -- called from his mother's womb -- to write them; and in preparing Paul, God made him all that would be necessary for the writing of these letters. To provide us with th psalms, God first prepared a David. In his providence God first provided a fervidly impetuous Peter, a tender and saintly John, a practically wise James, each of whose personalities dominate their writings. All these considerations contribute to the many "marks of human authorsip" so evident in Scripture. And so the idea of inspiration entails not only the final product but the entire process by which god gave us his Word through human agents.


"Naked Messages"

Fred Zaspel, in is book The Theology of B.B. Warfield, discusses Warfield's teaching regarding revelation.

Warfield taught that general revelation is insufficient for us as sinners. Zaspel summarizes:

There is in general revelation a disclosure of the God of nature but not the God of redemptive grace. For this knowledge of God something further is required.

When I am out walking, talking pictures, I am thankful to God for his beautiful creation. I see evidences of his handiwork, but it's not enough for someone to marvel at a beautiful sunset. It won't save him.

The revelation that is required culminates in the incarnation, a saving act. Yet, even with the coming of Christ, further explanation is needed. There needs to be more than acts; there needs to be a revelation that explains these acts:

Providence, miracle, theophany, and dream by themselves will not suffice: they require explication. Divine acts apart from words are but "naked messages." The incarnation is God's supreme self-revelation, but even this could not be understood aright or fully apart from words. It is supremely in the spoken word that god has made himself known. He has spoken to make manifest his works, his will, and his purpose.

When we think of our gratitude for the incarnation, let us give thanks for the Word of God, left behind for us to understand why Christ has come into the world.


Intrinsic holiness

B.B. Warfield, in his essay "The Jesus Paul Preached," discusses the phrase in Romans 1:4, "in the spirit of holiness," when referring to Jesus as being the Son of God:

He [Paul] is not speaking of an acquired holiness but of an intrinsic holiness; not, then, of a holiness which had been conferred at the time of or attained by means of the resurrection from the dead; but of a holiness which had always been the very quality of Christ's being. He is not representing Christ as having first been after a fleshly fashion the Son of David and afterwards becoming by or at the resurrection from the dead, after a spiritual fashion, the holy Son of God. He is representing Him as being in his very nature essentially and therefore always and in every mode of His manifestion holy.


Light through a cathedral window

In his essay, "Inspiration," (The Works of Benjamn B. Warfield, Volume 1, Revelation and Inspiration), Warfield looks at the reality of the inspired word of God being transmitted through human agency. Warfield acknowledges that the agency and its content are overseen by God's providence. He uses the analogy of light through a cathedral window:

As light that passes through the colored glass of a cathedral window, we are told, is light from heaven, but is stained by the tints of the glass through which it passes; so any word of God which is passed through the mind and soul of a man must come out discolored by the personality through which it is given, and just to that degree ceases to be the pure word of God.

But what if this personality has itself been formed by God into precisely the personality it is, for the express purpose of communicating to the word given through it just the coloring which it gives it? What if the colors of the stained-glass window have been designed by the architect for the express purpose of giving to the light that floods the cathedral precisely the tone and quality it receives from them?

What if the word of God that comes to His people is framed by God into the word it is, precisely by means of the qualities of the men formed by Him for the purpose, through which it is given? When we think of God the Lord giving by His Spirit a body of authoritative Scriptures to His people, we must remember that He is the God of providence and of grace as well as of revelation and inspiration, and that He holds all the lines of prepration as fully under His direction as He does the specific operation which we call technically, in the narrow sense, by the name, "inspiration."

We must remember that God's sovereignty is over the transmission of His word, both in content, and means.