B.B. Warfield (1851-1921): Love theology for no other reason than this…



“It is sometimes said that some people love theology more than they love God. Do not let it be possible to say that of you. Love theology of course; but love theology for no other reason than this: Theology is the knowledge of God—and it is your meat and drink to know God, to know Him truly, and, as far as it is given to mortals, to know Him wholly.”

– B.B. Warfield (1851-1921), Selected Shorter Writings, 2:480

B.B. Warfield (1851-1921) on the earthly life of Christ


“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.”

– B.B. Warfield (1851-1921), The Savior of the World, p. 247-249

B.B. Warfield (1851-1921) on the mercy of a freely electing God


B.B. Warfield (1851-1921) was one of the distinguished members of the Princeton school of theology. Like other members of the Princeton school, Warfield fiercely defended what he believed to be classical Calvinism, a significant part of which was the doctrine of double election:

“The Biblical writers are as far as possible from obscuring the doctrine of election because of any seemingly unpleasant corollaries that flow from it. On the contrary, they expressly draw the corollaries which have often been so designated, and make them a part of their explicit teaching. Their doctrine of election, they are free to tell us, for example, does certainly involve a corresponding doctrine of preterition. The very term adopted in the New Testament to express it – εκλεγομαι [choose/select], which, as Meyer justly says (Eph. i. 4), ‘always has, and must of logical necessity have, a reference to others to whom the chosen would, without the εκλογη [election], still belong’ – embodies a declaration of the fact that in their election others are passed by and left without the gift of salvation; the whole presentation of the doctrine is such as either to imply or openly to assert, on its every emergence, the removal of the elect by the pure grace of God, not merely from a state of condemnation, but out of the company of the condemned – a company on whom the grace of God has no saving effect, and who are therefore left without hope in their sins; and the positive just reprobation of the impenitent for their sins is repeatedly explicitly taught in sharp contrast with the gratuitous salvation of the elect despite their sins. But, on the other hand, it is ever taught that, as the body out of which believers are chosen by God’s unsearchable grace is the mass of justly condemned sinners, so the destruction to which those that are passed by are left is the righteous recompense of their guilt. Thus the discrimination between men in the matter of eternal destiny is distinctly set forth as taking place in the interests of mercy and for the sake of salvation: from the fate which justly hangs over all, God is represented as in His infinite compassion rescuing those chosen to this end in His inscrutable counsels of mercy to the praise of the glory of His grace; while those that are left in their sins perish most deservedly, as the justice of God demands. And as the broader lines of God’s gracious dealings with the world lying in its iniquity are more and more fully drawn for us, we are enabled ultimately to perceive that the Father of spirits has not distributed His elective grace with niggard hand, but from the beginning has had in view the restoration to Himself of the whole world; and through whatever slow approaches (as men count slowness) He has made thereto – first in the segregation of the Jews for the keeping of the service of God alive in the midst of an evil world, and then in their rejection in order that the fulness of the Gentiles might be gathered in, and finally through them Israel in turn may all be saved – has ever been conducting the world in His loving wisdom and His wise love to its destined goal of salvation, – now and again, indeed, shutting up this or that element of it unto disobedience, but never merely in order that it might fall, but that in the end He might have mercy upon all. Thus the Biblical writers bid us raise our eyes, not only from the justly condemned lost, that we may with deeper feeling contemplate the marvels of the Divine love in the saving of sinners not better than they and with no greater claims on the Divine mercy; but from the relatively insignificant body of the lost, as but the prunings gathered beneath the branches of the olive-tree planted by the Lord’s own hand, to fix them on the thrifty stock itself and the crown of luxuriant leafage and ever more richly ripening fruit, as under the loving pruning and grafting of the great Husbandman it grows and flourishes and puts forth its boughs until it shall shade the whole earth. This, according to the Biblical writers, is the end of election; and this is nothing other than the salvation of the world. Though in the process of the ages the goal is not attained without prunings and fires of burning, – though all the wild-olive twigs are not throughout the centuries grafted in, – yet the goal of a saved world shall at the end be gloriously realized. Meanwhile, the hope of the world, the hope of the Church, and the hope of the individual alike, is cast solely on the mercy of a freely electing God, in whose hands are all things, and not least the care of the advance of His saving grace in the world. And it is undeniable that whenever, as the years have passed by, the currents of religious feeling have run deep, and the higher ascents of religious thinking have been scaled, it has ever been on the free might of Divine grace that Christians have been found to cast their hopes for the salvation alike of the world, the Church, and the individual; and whenever they have thus turned in trust to the pure grace of God, they have spontaneously given expression to their faith in terms of the Divine election.”

– B.B. Warfield (1851-1921), Biblical Doctrines, p. 64-66

B.B. Warfield (1851–1921): There can be no dichotomy between doctrine and devotion for students of theology



Pitting doctrine against devotion is a false dichotomy because God intends them to go together. They are not mutually exclusive; one without the other is incomplete. Here B.B. Warfield (1851–1921) makes this fact clear:

“The ministry is a ‘learned profession’; and the man without learning, no matter with what other gifts he may be endowed, is unfit for its duties. But learning, though indispensable, is not the most indispensable thing for a minister. ‘Apt to teach’—yes, the ministry must be ‘apt to teach’; and observe that what I say—or rather what Paul says—is ‘apt to teach.’ Not apt merely to exhort, to beseech, to appeal, to entreat; nor even merely, to testify, to bear witness; but to teach. And teaching implies knowledge: he who teaches must know. Paul, in other words, requires of you, as we are perhaps learning not very felicitously to phrase it, ‘instructional,’ not merely ‘inspirational,’ service. But aptness to teach alone does not make a minister; nor is it his primary qualification. It is only one of a long list of requirements which Paul lays down as necessary to meet in him who aspires to this high office. And all the rest concern, not his intellectual, but his spiritual fitness. A minister must be learned, on pain of being utterly incompetent for his work. But before and above being learned, a minister must be godly.

Nothing could be more fatal, however, than to set these two things over against one another. Recruiting officers do not dispute whether it is better for soldiers to have a right leg or a left leg: soldiers should have both legs. Sometimes we hear it said that ten minutes on your knees will give you a truer, deeper, more operative knowledge of God than ten hours over your books. ‘What!’ is the appropriate response, ‘than ten hours over your books, on your knees?’ Why should you turn from God when you turn to your books, or feel that you must turn from your books in order to turn to God? If learning and devotion are as antagonistic as that, then the intellectual life is in itself accursed, and there can be no question of a religious life for a student, even of theology. . . . Just because you are students of theology, it is understood that you are religious men—especially religious men, to whom the cultivation of your religious life is a matter of the profoundest concern—of such concern that you will wish above all things to be warned of the dangers that may assail your religious life, and be pointed to the means by which you may strengthen and enlarge it. In your case there can be no ‘either-or’ here—either a student or a man of God. You must be both.”

– B.B. Warfield (1851–1921), “The Religious Life of Theological Students”, in: Selected Shorter Writings, 2 vols., 1:411–412

B.B. Warfield (1851–1921) on living as justified sinners


“It is the conviction that there is nothing in us or done by us at any stage of our earthly development because of which we are acceptable to God. We must always be accepted for Christ’s sake or we cannot ever be accepted at all. This is not true of us only ‘when we believe,’ it is just as true after we have believed. It will continue to be true as long as we live. Our need of Christ does not cease with our believing nor does the nature of our relation to Him or to God through Him ever alter no matter what our 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. There is never anything that we are or have or do that can take His place or that takes a place along with Him. 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.’ ‘Miserable sinners’ saved by grace, to be sure. But ‘miserable sinners’ still deserving in ourselves nothing but everlasting wrath.


There is emphasized in this attitude the believer’s continued sinfulness in fact and in act and his continued sense of his sinfulness. And this carries with it recognition of the necessity of unbroken penitence throughout life. The Christian is conceived fundamentally, in other words, as a penitent sinner.

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.

Throughout the Protestant world, believers confess themselves to be, still as believers, wrath-deserving sinners, and that not merely with reference to their inborn sinful nature as yet incompletely eradicated but with reference also to their total life manifestation which their incompletely eradicated sinful nature flows into and vitiates.

It has not always been easy through the Protestant ages to maintain in its purity this high attitude of combined shame of self and confidence in the mercy of God in Christ.

Thus, through every moment of his life, the believer is absolutely dependent on the grace of Christ, and when life is over, he still has nothing to plead but Christ’s blood and righteousness.

The believer strives against sin all his life and is never without failings. And from his well-grounded fear of sinning arises a powerful ever-present motive to watchfulness and effort. He has nothing to depend on but Christ, and Christ is enough. But that does not relieve him from the duty of cleansing his life from sin but rather girds his loins for the struggle. The necessity for the continuance of the struggle means, of course, the continuance of sin to struggle against.”

– B.B. Warfield (1851–1921), Works, Vol. 7, p. 133ff

B.B. Warfield (1851–1921) on the necessity of the virgin birth of Christ



“No one can doubt that the Christianity of the New Testament is supernaturalistic through and through.  Whether we have regard to the person of Jesus or to the salvation he brought to men, the primary note of this Christianity certainly is supernaturalism.  He who walked the earth as its Lord, and whom the very winds and waves obeyed; who could not be holden of the grave, but burst the bonds of death and ascended into the heavens in the sight of man: he who now sits at the right hand of God and sheds down his gift of salvation through his Spirit upon the men of his choice – it were impossible that such a one should have entered the world undistinguished among common men.  His supernatural birth is given already, in a word, in his supernatural life and his supernatural work, and forms an indispensable element in the supernatural religion which he founded.

It would no doubt be difficult – or impossible, if you will – to believe that a natural Jesus had a supernatural origin; or, going at once to the root of the matter, that a natural “salvation” requires a supernatural Redeemer.  Much of the Christianity about us today is distinctively, and even polemically, to use von Hartmann’s term, “autosoteric”; and he who feels entirely competent to save himself finds a natural difficulty in believing that God must intervene to save him.  I fully agree with the adherents of this “autosoteric” Christianity, that from their point of view a supernatural birth for Jesus would be devoid of significance, and therefore incredible.  They should with similar frankness allow to me, I think, that to the Christianity of the New Testament, on the other hand, just because it stands as the opposite pole to their “autosoteric Christianity,” the supernatural birth of Jesus is a necessity.”

– B.B. Warfield (1851–1921), Works, Vol. III, p. 451-452

B.B. Warfield (1851–1921) on Christ’s title of Redeemer



“There is no one of the titles of Christ which is more precious to Christian hearts than “Redeemer.” There are others, it is true, which are more often on the lips of Christians. The acknowledgment of our submission to Christ as our Lord, the recognition of what we owe to Him as our Saviour, – these things, naturally, are most frequently expressed in the names we call Him by. “Redeemer,” however, is a title of more intimate revelation than either “Lord” or “Saviour.” It gives expression not merely to our sense that we have received salvation from Him, but also to our appreciation of what it cost Him to procure this salvation for us. It is the name specifically of the Christ of the cross. Whenever we pronounce it, the cross is placarded before our eyes and our hearts are filled with loving remembrance not only that Christ has given us salvation, but that He paid a mighty price for it.”

– B.B. Warfield (1851–1921), The Person and Work of Christ, p. 325