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The Theology of B. B. Warfield: A Systematic Summary Hardcover – September 2, 2010
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“Serious Christians who have dipped into Warfield find his writings to be a wholly admirable mix of rigorous exegesis, mature theological synthesis, and frank devotion to Christ. Much of his work is known only to specialists, not least because when Warfield first published it, it was scattered over many journals and books. Indeed, a fair bit of it was never published. Zaspel’s Warfield remedies the problem admirably: one hopes and prays that it will entice a new generation of readers to delve deeply into Warfield’s contributions.”
—D. A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; Cofounder, The Gospel Coalition
“B. B. Warfield’s distinguished achievements as a systematic theologian have been obscured by the episodic, ad hoc publication of his major theological statements. But even if Warfield did not think it necessary that he write a single, connected systematic theology, it is nonetheless most welcome that Fred Zaspel has done the job for him! The result is a very useful compendium that gives both admirers and detractors of Warfield a full and coherent account of his theology. All who are in the least interested in Warfield or who care at all about vigorous Calvinist theology will find this a most valuable book.”
—Mark A. Noll, Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History, University of Notre Dame; editor, Protestantism after 500 Years
“B. B. Warfield does not need an introduction for evangelical Christians. He is well known as a major conservative theologian at the close of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries. His scholarship in biblical, historical, and doctrinal fields was often without a match. As a Professor in Didactic and Polemic Theology in Princeton Theological Seminary, he was content to use the three volumes of Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology as the textbook and to pour out the fruits of his labor in a flow of searching articles in a number of theological reviews. Many of these have been republished in book form, but they have not been systematically arranged in one text. That is what Dr. Zaspel has done in culling from the great mass of Warfield’s writings his actual statements in the order they could have followed had Warfield written a one-volume Reformed theology. In this form Warfield may enjoy a renewed effectiveness for our age. With great enthusiasm I highly recommend this volume and hope it will receive a wide reception.”
—Roger Nicole, Cofounder and President Emeritus, Evangelical Theological Society
“B. B. Warfield was without doubt the greatest of the theological minds of Old Princeton, and he remains a towering influence within both his own confessional Presbyterian tradition and wider conservative evangelicalism. Nevertheless, while his writings are still in print, clearly written, and very accessible, their occasional nature means that there is no convenient way of gaining from them a good grasp of the overall shape of his theology. Until now, that is. In this volume, pastor-theologian and passionate Warfield aficionado Fred Zaspel has produced a work of historical and theological synthesis that sets Warfield’s thought in context and offers a comprehensive account of his thought on the major loci of theology and the controverted points of his day. In this, Fred has left us all—the veteran Warfield fan and the neophyte—deeply in his debt.”
—Carl R. Trueman, Professor of Biblical and Religious Studies, Grove City College
“Well before the transdenominational convergence of what we now call the evangelical church, B. B. Warfield spent forty years as the Presbyterian Horatius, holding the bridge that leads into the citadel of the Westminster Standards against those he saw as spoilers from the wastelands of liberalism. A heavyweight academic and a complete player in the fields of systematic, exegetical, historical, and polemical theology, he scattered his wisdom in hundreds of articles, which this book surveys and integrates with great skill. Warfield can now be seen in his full stature as the godly giant that he was, thanks to Fred Zaspel’s labor of love. Best thanks, and hallelujah!”
—J. I. Packer, Board of Governors' Professor of Theology, Regent College
“This work is long overdue. That a theologian of the stature of B.B. Warfield should not have had a comprehensive overview of his entire corpus such as this one by Dr Zaspel says far more about the thinking of Evangelicals and the ranks of the Reformed in the twentieth century than it does about Warfield. This truly excellent and eminently readable work will serve both as a primer to Warfield's thought as well as an outline of the systematic theology he never wrote. Highly recommended.”
—Michael A. G. Haykin, Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Director, The Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies
“B. B. Warfield was the last towering figure in a long line of Old School Presbyterian intellectuals known for their unshakable faith in the truth of Scripture and their practical, experiential Calvinism. That strain of scholarly conviction had a long history in New England, especially in Princeton. Its seeds were planted by New England’s earliest Puritan ministers—men such as John Cotton and Richard Mather. It gained widespread influence (and set down roots in the soil of Princeton) under the ministry of Jonathan Edwards. It gave birth to Princeton Theological Seminary under the leadership of Archibald Alexander. Charles and A. A. Hodge carried on the legacy at Princeton Seminary, and when the younger Hodge died in 1886, B. B. Warfield became that institution’s fourth Principal. He also was its last great conservative theologian. Both profound and prolific, Warfield produced an invaluable body of theological and polemical writings that remain immensely influential—because the issues Warfield contended with are virtually the same issues that trouble the church today.
“Fred Zaspel’s work is the first detailed, readable digest of Warfield’s theology, and it is an immensely helpful volume. Dr. Zaspel puts Warfield’s published writings in clear perspective against the theological issues that dominated that era. He also shows how those same issues—and Warfield’s clear and persuasive teaching—remain relevant to us today. Dr. Zaspel writes with such clarity and simplicity that this volume will be a valuable help and encouragement to lay people and serious theologians as well—a highly recommended addition to anyone’s library.”
—John MacArthur, Pastor, Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, California; President, The Master's University and Seminary
“The great B. B. Warfield was essentially an occasional writer. His works are largely made up of learned articles, encyclopedia entries, and popular journalism. Fred Zaspel had the great idea of rendering this vast body of material into a compendium, a Warfield systematic theology. He clearly has what it takes to do the job superbly well: a love for his subject, care and attention to detail, and, above all, a thorough knowledge of Warfield’s writing. The result is a book that does not replace the Warfield volumes, but provides an accurate, thematic entry into them. It will be of inestimable benefit to all students of this outstanding Reformed theologian. Well done!”
—Paul Helm, Professor of the History and Philosophy of Religion Emeritus, King’s College, London; author, The Providence of God
“The ‘Lion of Old Princeton’ roars and purrs in this helpful survey. The author finely displays the passion and wit as well as intellectual credibility of Warfield’s remarkable work.”
—Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary California; Host, White Horse Inn; author, Core Christianity
About the Author
Fred G. Zaspel (PhD, Free University of Amsterdam) serves as the pastor at Reformed Baptist Church in Franconia, Pennsylvania, an adjunct professor of systematic theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and the executive director of Books At a Glance. He is the coauthor of New Covenant Theology and has published numerous booklets, articles, and book reviews.
Sinclair B. Ferguson (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is Chancellor’s Professor of Systematic Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary and the former senior minister of the First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina. He is the author of several books, the most recent being By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me. Sinclair and his wife, Dorothy, have four grown children.
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I've raised the review to three stars on the promise of an updated kindle version. When the time comes that I can actually get a fixed kindle version I will remove this review.
At nineteen, Benjamin Warfield graduated first in his class, not from high school, but from Princeton University. After further education, he spent time preaching in Presbyterian churches and teaching at Western Theological Seminary before he began his career at Princeton, where he taught from 1887 to 1921. Warfield is known as one of the last of the great Princeton Theologians, "a towering figure in the counterattack against liberalism." Even those who disagree with his theology say that he "had the finest mind ever to teach at Princeton Theological Seminary."
J. Gresham Machen, one of Warfield's colleagues, said that Warfield "has done about as much work as ten ordinary men." That's hard to deny when we consider that Warfield wrote "more than 40 books and booklets, nearly seven hundred periodical articles, more than a thousand book reviews," and so on. That's too much for most of us to survey, but no need to worry, Fred Zaspel has done the work for us. Besides the above, Zaspel gleaned from Warfield's unpublished manuscripts, sermon notes, lecture notes, and even Warfield's student's class notes. There's a heap of research packed into these 600 pages, and there are thirteen pages of bibliography and innumerable footnotes to prove it.
Warfield was an apologist. In his day, nearly every historic Christian doctrine was under attack. This he could not ignore: "To be indifferent to doctrine is thus but another way of saying we are indifferent to Christianity." Most of his work, therefore, is a response to what he saw as a challenge to the gospel, which is why he is distinguished as "the polemic theologian."
Warfield is best known for his defense of the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. These doctrines, Zaspel writes, "were the issues of Warfield's day." Warfield saw, rightly, that "Apart from inspiration there is no reference point and therefore no well-grounded reason for the Christian hope or life. Without an inspired Bible the ground for any of Christianity's teachings is lost." Since Warfield published over 1,500 pages on the subject, it is only right that Zaspel spends a considerable amount of time on it, too. But the doctrine of Scripture wasn't Warfield's only interest. According to Zaspel, it wasn't even his primary interest:
"The person of Christ and his work clearly topped the list of Warfield's many interests as measured by his literary output and preaching....For Warfield, to maintain vigorously and carefully the doctrine of Christ set forth in Scripture is to preserve Christianity itself....Without question, in the person and work of Christ ...we have reached the heart of Benjamin Warfield."
The scope of Warfield's work is vast. "The theological labors of B.B. Warfield touch virtually every department of biblical and theological studies." We can say the same for Zaspel's book.
Zaspel writes for the serious student, so we can't fault him for using scholarly language. Most readers will benefit from a dictionary; I did, and I was happy to learn that "piacular" means "expiatory." But an English dictionary will only get you so far. Some of the questions that Zaspel works through revolve around the meaning and use of Greek words. These sections of the book, though few, give the non-Greek speaking audience trouble. Zaspel is also repetitive, which adds to the bulk of this already not so slim volume, but that will only be apparent to those who read straight through. When viewed as a reference, the repetition is probably necessary. Overall, Zaspel's book is accessible to anyone with a serious interest in Warfield or theology. It is well written, well edited, and well worth both the money and effort. It's hard to imagine anyone ever writing a more definitive work on this great theologian.
I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Crossway.
The odd thing about this survey of theological truths was perhaps it's authorship. The text was not systematically put together but Warfield himself but at the pen of Fred Zaspel this work has come to be. The Theology of B.B. Warfield (Crossway 2010) is a systematic summary of his works which were spread out vastly among the landscape of literature and journals. Zaspel has compiled a monumental work of Presbyterian theology and I'm taken back by the sheer immensity of this work. There were some chapters which included much more Greek and Latin than I will ever come to know. Zaspel did a good job to interpret into English many of the references but they were so numerous as to leave me in a state of slight confusion. The summaries of each chapter, however wrapped up the main points well and led me to the ultimate pinnacle of Warfields writings.
As soon as this text is opened one would immediately notice the profundity of Warfields works. The arrangement of his thought pattern is a matter to be studied all on its own. The way Warfield used both the Scirptures as a defense and arguments against them is far superior than anything i have yet read. Zaspel captures me with sweeping summaries of Warfield by making them "low hanging fruit" upon which I can feast.
Theology is the science of God, in which case it deals with a body of objective facts, truth God has revealed about himself. These facts are assumed by theology and explicated in their various branches of thought. But it would be absurd to assume and develop these facts before they are established, indeed, as facts. Theology is the science of God, and the science of God has no right to exist until it is first established that God does exist, that he may be known, and that we have a trustworthy means of learning about him. This is the role of Apologetics, and it therefore stands first.
Warfield does an excellent job of systematizing his theological beliefs into attainable thoughts which I'm sure his students were very grateful for. He stands in sharp contrast to any theology or system of thought which would seek to discredit the Scriptures and Zaspel does an excellent job of stating so. Even those whom have been stood side by side with Warfield have received some criticism for not being as zealous or thorough as Warfield, i.e Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck.
The "Lion of Princeton" would stand in sharp contrast, and at times humorous opposition to those who would seek to dismantle the Calvinist notion of supernaturalism, which Warfield saw as a pillar of the Christian faith. If there were a pinnacle which this book reaches for I would contend that it comes in the form of Soteriology and more specifically Christology. A large portion of this book is dedicated to the works of Warfield in those areas, and rightly so. I would say that from reading this text that Warfield held a center of theology which circled these two heads of theology. Most of my notes and underlining falls within the 200 pages Zaspel lends to the unfolding of Wafields thoughts.
Our need of Christ does not cease with our believing; nor does that nature of our relation to Him or to God through Him ever alter, no matter what attainments in Christian graces or our achievements in Christian behavior may be, it is always on His blood and righteousness alone that we can rest...We are always unworthy, and all that we have or do of good is always of pure grace. Though blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ, we are still in ourselves just "miserable sinners" still, deserving in ourselves nothing but everlasting wrath.
Though I agree and have learned much from this text I knew there would come a place where I did not even remotely agree with Warfield. This portion came when the texts were turned to infant baptism and the cessation view of the Spirit. I would consider myself holding to more of a Baptist line of thought on these two areas. I believe that God is free and willing to work in these last days while employing dreams, prophecy and tongues. I do not think those things should have any priority whatsoever over scripture but I do believe they have their places. i am not one to limit what God can or cannot do in these last days and think I would be moving towards a grey area were I to accept the cessation view of the Holy Spirit.
Over all this text was a massive help to my understanding of scripture and a pure rendering of Presbyterian Orthodoxy. I am in infinite gratitude to Zaspel for compiling this work so that the body of God may be built up and the church established in truth. I commend this book for any who love history or who desire and long to grow deeper in their faith. Even if you don't wholly agree with the positions Warfields hold I still think this volume ought to be on every shelf of those a position of Church leadership or those who are seeking to move in that direction. This book has opened my mind to reading other Systematic Theologies. In the future I hope to work my way through several of them from varying denominations. Let me leave you with this sweeping statement of Warfield which moved me to praise and thanksgiving.
The perfection of Jesus defies such particularizing characterization. All the beauties of character which exhibit themselves singly in the world's saints and heroes, assemble in Him, each in its perfection and all in perfect balance and harmonious combination. if we ask what manner of man He was, we can only respond, No manner of man, but rather, by way of eminence, the man, the only perfect man that ever existed on earth, to whom gathered all the perfections proper for man, that they might find a fitting home in His heart and that they might play brightly about His person. If you would know what man is, in the height of his divine idea, look at Jesus Christ. (Amen and Amen I say)
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