Warfield & Inspiration: Scripture’s Testimony

“It is obvious that the primary source of evidence for inspiration, in this exact sense, is the declaration of Scripture itself"

For Warfield, the Christian must start with the understanding that God has revealed Himself. If God has revealed Himself, particularly in His Word, then we are beholden to that Word. Thus, Warfield rejected the notion that we could bring our modernist thinking to dictate terms to what Scripture can and cannot be. In fact, one of the hallmarks of Warfield’s articulation of the doctrine of Scripture is to ask the question: What does Scripture say about itself.

 

Benjamin Breckinridge (B.B.) Warfield was a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary from 1887 to 1921. He was one of the great professors of “Old Princeton” who tackled a number of Biblical and theological issues related to the rise of modernism and liberalism. One of the issues that he regularly wrote on and defended was the inspiration and inerrancy of God’s Word.

For Warfield, the Christian must start with the understanding that God has revealed Himself. If God has revealed Himself, particularly in His Word, then we are beholden to that Word. Thus, Warfield rejected the notion that we could bring our modernist thinking to dictate terms to what Scripture can and cannot be. In fact, one of the hallmarks of Warfield’s articulation of the doctrine of Scripture is to ask the question: What does Scripture say about itself.

For example, he writes, “It is obvious that the primary source of evidence for inspiration, in this exact sense, is the declaration of Scripture itself” (Selected Shorter Writings, vol.2, p.632). Warfield affirms the trustworthiness of Scripture and is not adverse to using “Christian evidences” to display their trustworthiness. But the argument basic to any confessional church doctrine: we have to define and articulate that doctrine the way God Himself does. For Warfield it is not about marshaling a few proof texts but rather bringing the whole force of Scripture to bear when it says things like “God spoke” or “the Scriptures say” (IAB, 118-9). Warfield argues that one cannot take text after text in artificial isolation in order to rationalize it away. He colorfully illustrates what it is like to deny this abundant witness and rationalize it away:

“The effort to explain away the Bible’s witness to its plenary inspiration reminds one of a man standing safely in his laboratory and elaborately expounding—possibly by the aid of diagrams and mathematical formulae—how every stone in an avalanche has a defined pathway that may easily be dodged by one of some presence of mind. We may fancy such an elaborate trifler’s triumph as he would analyze the avalanche into its constituent stones, and demonstrate of stone after stone that its pathway is definite, limited and may be easily avoided. But avalanches, unfortunately, do not come upon us, stone by stone, one at a time, courteously leaving us opportunity to withdraw from the pathway of each in turn: but all at once, in a roaring mass of destruction.” (IAB, 119-20)

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