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The Lion of Princeton

The Theology of B.B. Warfield by Fred Zaspel is a monumental achievement in both its scope (a systematic summary of Warfield's thought)and its particular attention to Warfield's vast output in writing to the theological issues of his day. As Professor or Didactic and Polemical Theology at Princeton, Warfield was a stalwart of the Reformed faith.

The first section of the book builds the foundation of the history of Warfield's life and the history surrounding Princeton Seminary. Warfield's family was no stranger to the seminary, both Bejamin's grandfather and his grandfather's brother had attended the seminary (31-32). The goal of the seminary as Samuel Miller put it was a 'union of piety and learning (37). Throughout Warfield's life, his goal was the same, to lead a life of Christ-likeness while having a high regard to serious study which involved teaching and writing. Part of the center which holds the book together is Warfield's insistence that the bedrock of the Christian faith is the supernatural. Warfield states, "Now the age in which we live is anything but supernaturalistic: it is distinctly hostile to supernaturalism" (51). Warfield held the Scriptures and Christian doctrine as essentially in relationship to the supernatural work of God and that to believe otherwise was to give into the naturalistic assumptions of the culture.

Sections three through twelve provide the reader with a summary of the major doctrines in connection with Warfield's thought. The wonderful insights that Zaspel captures bring the context into clear view as he sees Warfield as a giant theologian in the midst of ever leaning unorthodox culture. In the chapter Bibliogy, in which Warfield did his most popular work, he notes that, "Some of the critics sought to get around the traditional doctrine of inspiration by explaining away such primary passages as 2 Timothy 3:16. Warfield regarded this as an ironic turn of events-appealing to Scripture as authoritative in order to disprove its inspiration! (134-135). Yet, Warfield went to great lengths to prove that the Scriptures were God's words given to us through men. Warfield was no stranger to exegesis, theological synthesis, and logical arugmentation. In the end, Warfield went back to stand upon the witness of the apostles and Jesus as providing a solid stance for divine authority. For Warfield, if you did not believe in the authority of Christ, there was no way the authority of the Scriptures could be binding.

The most illuminating chapter for me was the chapter looking at issues of anthropology in relationship to evolution. Many scholars such as Mark Noll and David Livingstone have wanted to paint Warfield as a full evolutionist. It is true that early in Warfield's career he did entertain the idea of evolution when Dr. McCosh came to Princeton. Yet, in his later career, Warfield does not seem to be so adamant about the veracity of evolutionary ideas. "The fact is that Warfield never overtly acknowledges evolution as true. The picture we have of him on this subject in continuously noncommital" (387). Nowhere does Warfield imbibe fully evolutionary thinking. He continually goes back to the creation accounts as providing the clearest expression of God's creative work. Through Zaspel's account of Warfield here, he takes a careful and studied approach. Zaspel is careful not to overstep the bounds of Warfield's thinking to put him into a certain camp (theologically or philosophically).

This work by Fred Zaspel on B.B. Warfield is a wonderful synthesis on the theology of the lion of Princeton. Overall, the depth of analysis, the narrative of Warfield's life, and the overall feeling of learning much more than I started are part and parcel of the books strength. Lastly, as you read this book, it will make you want to pick up Warfield and read him again, or read some of his work that you failed to miss. Zaspel has done the church and the academy a great service through this work.

Thanks to Crossway for the review copy.


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