Category Archives: B.B. Warfield

The Tone of Joy

Writes theologian B. B. Warfield (Works, 7:114):

We are sinners and we know ourselves to be sinners, lost and helpless in ourselves. But we are saved sinners; and it is our salvation which gives the tone to our life, a tone of joy which swells in exact proportion to the sense we have of our ill-desert; for it is he to whom much is forgiven who loves much, and who, loving, rejoices much.

Adolf Harnack declares that this mood was brought into Christianity by Augustine. Before Augustine the characteristic frame of mind of Christians was the racking unrest of alternating hopes and fears. Augustine, the first of the Evangelicals, created a new piety of assured rest in God our Savior, and the psychological form of this new piety was, as Harnack phrases it, “solaced contrition,” — affliction, for sin, yes, the deepest and most poignant remorse for sin, but not unrelieved remorse, but appeased remorse.

There is no other joy on earth like that of appeased remorse: it is not only in heaven but on earth also that the joy over one sinner that repents surpasses that over ninety and nine just persons who need no repentance.

The Savior

B. B. Warfield, The Saviour of the World (1914), 247–49:

He came to save every age, says Irenæus, and therefore He came as an infant, a child, a boy, a youth, and a man. And there is no age that cannot find its example in Him.

We see Him, the properest child that ever was given to a mother’s arms, through all the years of childhood at Nazareth “subjecting Himself to His parents.”

We see Him a youth, laboring day by day contentedly at His father’s bench, in this lower sphere, too, with no other thought than to be “about His father’s business.”

We see Him in His holy manhood, going, “as His custom was,” Sabbath by Sabbath, to the synagogue,—God as He was, not too good to worship with His weaker brethren. And then the horizon broadens.

We see Him at the banks of Jordan, because it became Him to fulfill every righteousness, meekly receiving the baptism of repentance for us.

We see Him in the wilderness, calmly rejecting the subtlest trials of the evil one: refusing to supply His needs by a misuse of His divine power, repelling the confusion of tempting God with trusting God, declining to seek His Father’s ends by any other than His Father’s means.

We see Him among the thousands of Galilee, anointed of God with the Holy Ghost and power, going about doing good:

with no pride of birth, though He was a king;
with no pride of intellect, though omniscience dwelt within Him;
with no pride of power, though all power in heaven and earth was in His hands;
with no pride of station, though the fulness of the Godhead dwelt in Him bodily;
with no pride of superior goodness or holiness:

but in lowliness of mind esteeming every one better than Himself,

healing the sick,
casting out devils,
feeding the hungry,
and everywhere breaking to men the bread of life.

We see Him everywhere offering to men His life for the salvation of their souls: and when, at last, the forces of evil gathered thick around Him, walking, alike without display and without dismay, the path of suffering appointed for Him, and giving His life at Calvary that through His death the world might live.

Church Attendance: What Would Jesus Do?

B.B. Warfield, Selected Shorter Writings (P&R, 1970), 1:421–422:

If ever there was one who might justly plead that the common worship of the community had nothing to offer him it was the Lord Jesus Christ. But every Sabbath found him seated in his place among the worshipping people, and there was no act of stated worship which he felt himself entitled to discard.

Even in his most exalted moods, and after his most elevating experiences, he quietly took his place with the rest of God’s people, sharing with them in the common worship of the community. Returning from that great baptismal scene, when the heavens themselves were rent to bear him witness that he was well pleasing to God; from the searching trials of the wilderness, and from that first great tour in Galilee, prosecuted, as we are expressly told, “in the power of the Spirit”; he came back, as the record tells, “to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and” — so proceeds the amazing narrative — “he entered, as his custom was, into the synagogue, on the Sabbath day.”

“As his custom was!”

Jesus Christ made it his habitual practice to be found in his place on the Sabbath day at the stated place of worship to which he belonged. “It is a reminder,” as Sir William Robertson Nicoll well insists, “of the truth which, in our fancied spirituality, we are apt to forget — that the holiest personal life can scarcely afford to dispense with stated forms of devotion, and that the regular public worship of the church, for all its local imperfections and dullness, is a divine provision for sustaining the individual soul.”

“We cannot afford to be wiser than our Lord in this matter. If any one could have pled that his spiritual experience was so lofty that it did no require public worship, if any one might have felt that the consecration and communion of is personal life exempted him from what ordinary mortals needed, it was Jesus. But he made no such plea. Sabbath after Sabbath even he was found in the place of worship, side by side with God’s people, not for the mere sake of setting a good example, but for deeper reasons. Is it reasonable, then, that any of us should think we can safely afford to dispense with the pious custom of regular participation with the common worship of our locality?”

Is it necessary for me to exhort those who would fain be like Christ, to see to it that they are imitators of him in this?

All The Doctrines In The World

B.B. Warfield, The Right of Systematic Theology (1897), pages 84-85:

There is no creative power in doctrines, however true; and they will pass over dead souls, leaving them as inert as they found them: it is the Creator Spiritus [Holy Spirit] alone who is competent to quicken dead souls into life; and without Him there has never been, and never will be, one spark of life produced by all the doctrines in the world.

HT: Zaspel, p. 76.

Simul iustus et peccator

B. B. Warfield (Works, 7:130):

Sin and Christ; ill desert and no condemnation; we are sinners and saints all at once! That is the paradox of evangelicalism. The Antinomian and the Perfectionist would abolish the paradox—the one drowning the saint in the sinner, the other concealing the sinner in the saint. We must…out of evangelical consciousness, ever see both members of the paradox clearly and see them whole.

HT: Zaspel, p. 488.

The Theology of B. B. Warfield

For months I’ve eagerly awaited the release of Fred G. Zaspel’s book The Theology of B. B. Warfield: A Systematic Summary (Crossway, Sept. 30, 2010). Over the past two weeks I have been reading a copy of the book and it reminds me how thankful I am for able theologians who can break down the writings of a theological giant. Zaspel is doing this for me with Warfield. Not only is the systematic approach very thoughtful and very well executed, Zaspel also scatters within his summary many rich (and often devotional) quotes from Warfield’s works. Here’s just one example (page 300; from Warfield’s works, 2:434–435):

Christianity did not come into the world to proclaim a new morality and, sweeping away all the supernatural props by which men were wont to support their trembling, guilt-stricken souls, to throw them back on their own strong right arms to conquer a standing before God for themselves. It came to proclaim the real sacrifice for sin which God had provided in order to supersede all the poor fumbling efforts which men had made and were making to provide a sacrifice for sin for themselves; and, planting men’s feet on this, to bid them go forward. It was in this sign that Christianity conquered, and it is in this sign alone that it continues to conquer. We may think what we will of such a religion. What cannot be denied is that Christianity is such a religion.

Beautiful.

Warming flame or hardening ice?

tsslogo.jpg“We are frequently told, indeed, that the great danger of the theological student lies precisely in his constant contact with divine things. They may come to seem common to him, because they are customary. As the average man breathes the air and basks in the sunshine without ever a thought that it is God in his goodness who makes his sun to rise on him, though he is evil, and sends rain to him, though he is unjust; so you may come to handle even the furniture of the sanctuary with never a thought above the gross early materials of which it is made.

The words which tell you of God’s terrible majesty or of his glorious goodness may come to be mere words to you – Hebrew and Greek words, with etymologies, and inflections, and connections in sentences. The reasonings which establish to you the mysteries of his saving activities may come to be to you mere logical paradigms, with premises and conclusions, fitly framed, no doubt, and triumphantly cogent, but with no further significance to you than their formal logical conclusiveness.

God’s stately stepping in his redemptive processes may become to you a mere series of facts of history, curiously interplaying to the production of social and religious conditions, and pointing mayhap to an issue which we may shrewdly conjecture: but much like other facts occurring in time and space, which may come to your notice. It is your great danger.

But it is your great danger, only because it is your great privilege. Think of what your privilege is when your greatest danger is that the great things of religion may become common to you!

Other men, oppressed by the hard conditions of life, sunk in the daily struggle for bread perhaps, distracted at any rate by the dreadful drag of the world upon them and the awful rush of the world’s work, find it hard to get time and opportunity so much as to pause and consider whether there be such things as God, and religion, and salvation from the sin that compasses them about and holds them captive. The very atmosphere of your life is these things; you breathe them in at every pore; they surround you, encompass you, press in upon you from every side. It is all in danger of becoming common to you! God forgive you, you are in danger of becoming weary of God! … Are you, by this constant contact with divine things, growing in holiness, becoming every day more and more men of God? If not, you are hardening!”

- B.B. Warfield, The Religious Life of Theological Students (P&R). Address delivered at Princeton Theological Seminary on Oct. 4, 1911.

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