Book Review – B. B. Warfield: Essays on His Life and Thoughts (5/6)


B. B. Warfield has been recommended by many to be an important giant in the christian circle. But having read none of his actual works, I took up this book eagerly as an opportunity to help me to dive into Warfield works.

9781596380370The book starts out by introducing the family of Warfield, especially the maternal side and on his grandfather, Robert Jefferson Breckinridge. This is an interesting read and frankly unexpected. But this sets the book into context, Warfield’s heroic defence against the attacks from the liberals was not something that just came up. His rich history has made him into who he was. Furthermore, one might not have expected that for someone who’s now called the “Lion of Princeton” to have joined Princeton against his parents and relative’s decision.

Following which, the apologetics of Warfield was considered. This was to answer some critiques that was made against Warfield, to be a rationalist apologist. Paul Helseth shows well that Warfield use of reason is never above his fundamental belief in the scripture.

The next 2 chapters, are rather alike, which is a mystery. Both chapters highlights just about the same points as each other, and both explains that Warfield’s doctrine of Scripture, specifically Inspiration and Inerrancy is not what many might have assumed. Both chapters seek to show readers just that, by using a close reading of Warfield, allowing us to have a clearer and more accurate picture of what Warfied himself believed and defended against.

The next chapter talked about Warfield’s effort against slavery. Warfield’s upbringing had taught him to be familiar with the treatment that the slaves has had. His own grandfather had once mis-treated a slave, and who was in turn severely punished by his mother. Warfield had tried rather unsuccessfully, to abolish the rule that forbids the black to occupy key position in church. More importantly, it was clearly shown that these were not driven solely due to his family history, but more fundamental based on Warfield’s understanding of God’s Word. This remains to be an important point that would be repeated several times within the book.

Lastly, the last 2 chapters showed the differences and similarities between Warfield and his protegé, Machen; and also the controversy Warfield had with Charles Briggs.

This book is not for the faint-hearted. This book is loaded with footnotes and will require focus to slowly read through the various essays on Warfield. What I found was that it seemed to be rather lopsided in it’s presentation. Warfield’s doctrine of Scripture is often alluded, however if I do not remember wrongly, Christology was the topic Warfield wrote on the most. It is striking that not much is spoken about in this book.

Given the content of this book, I would have to recommend others to newer books like “Warfield on the Christian Life” for an easier introduction on Warfield. But, for those who intent to do a serious study on Warfield, this alongside with “The Theology of B. B. Warfield” would be a good resource for the motivated scholar.

Rating: 3.25/5

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2 thoughts on “Book Review – B. B. Warfield: Essays on His Life and Thoughts (5/6)

    • Yes, I absolutely agree with you! I’ll be sure to read his shorter writings soon. Hope to dive into his longer works too, when I’m more able to digest Warfield.


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