Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone
Posted: Friday, May 14, 2010 8:00 am
The Messenger, May 13, 2010
B.B. Warfield – Pugilist for truth
By JOHN K. JONES
Special to The Messenger
The year was 1870. Princeton College students gathered around the two combatants. One, a young man named Warfield, had drawn a cartoon depicting the other in what was called “an exceedingly uncomplimentary picture.” The cartoon had been circulated among the other students during a particularly boring lecture. The second student saw the sketch of himself, and he was livid. After class, the fight was on. The amateur fight earned Warfield the nickname “The Pugilist.”
Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield lived from 1851 to 1921. After a conversion to Christianity that few know anything about, his life direction changed. He was ordained in 1879. He taught at Western Theological Seminary from 1878 until he went to Princeton Theological Seminary in 1887. There he served in the unique role of Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology. In addition to teaching, Warfield familiarized himself with current writings and challenged those who departed from the confession and faith of the seminary. His fighting spirit had found a calling to wholeheartedly embrace.
Warfield followed A.A. Hodge and maintained the conservative position of that great theologian. He authored many books, including “Biblical and Theological Studies,” “The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible,” “The Person and Work of Christ” and “Perfectionism.” Some conservative Christians consider him to be the last of the great Princeton Theologians.
Warfield’s primary emphasis was the authority of the Bible, a view relentlessly attacked in his time. He taught that the Bible was the ultimate authority for Christian belief and behavior and that it was sufficient in and of itself for that purpose. He contended for the truth of inerrancy, meaning that the Bible is true in all that it says, in theology and history. Due to his skillful writing style and pointed rhetoric, Warfield’s pen was regarded as a “sword” by one contemporary. A pen was a refined and effective weapon in Warfield’s hands.
Warfield’s theology was really just an expression of his confession: The Westminster Confession of Faith. To Warfield, the confession was not the ultimate authority, but it was a summary and expression of what the Bible teaches. But make no mistake about it: This confession was worth fighting for, and “The Pugilist” was the man for the job.
Editor’s note: John K. Jones attends Grace Community Church in Union City (www.graceunioncity.com) with his family.