B. B. Warfield is well known as one of America’s leading theologians, perhaps second only to Jonathan Edwards. But until now the character of his own Christian experience and his understanding of the Christian life have remained unexplored. Fred Zaspel unpacks these for us here, and what we find is that Warfield’s profound theological mind is matched only by his passionate heart for Christ. In this, the first volume in Crossway’s popular Theologians on the Christian Life series, we learn from the Princetonian giant what it is to live in light of the gospel.
I will reread, assign to my students, and give away Fred Zaspel’s book Warfield on the Christian Life, not because it is an excellent commentary on Warfield—though it is—and not because it is highly readable—though it is—but primarily because I am a better Christian for having read it. I was mentally and spiritually invigorated, and you will be as well.
We are already indebted to Fred Zaspel for his work on The Theology of B. B. Warfield — a book that has introduced a new generation to the voluminous writings of a Princeton scholar who was both New Testament interpreter and systematic theologian. Warfield’s style feels a tad impenetrable to many contemporary readers, but through Zaspel, Warfield, though dead, still speaks. But can any devotional and practical guidance come out of old Princeton? Zaspel’s latest contribution, B. B. Warfield on the Christian Life: Living in Light of the Gospel, does not simply answer with a resounding affirmative, but again faithfully unpacks Warfield and shows him to be a theologian of head and heart. Above all, Warfield is an integrated thinker, so he is ideally equipped to show how that which is central to the Bible, the Gospel of God, rightly shapes the Christian’s entire life. And Zaspel makes this accessible.
Sinclair B. Ferguson
If the only thing Dr Fred Zaspel accomplished in these pages was to point us to B.B. Warfield’s masterpiece sermons in his too-little-known Faith and Life, he would have done the church yeoman service. But he has done much, much more! In Warfield on the Christian Life we are given the privilege of sitting at the feet of a Christ-centered, Bible-saturated, Gospel-loving theologian of the first rank and learning how to say “To me to live is Christ.” A very welcome addition to what promises to be a valuable series.
Carl R. Trueman
B B Warfield looms large in the Protestant imagination as a theologian, one of the giants in the land. What is less well-known are the details and dynamics of his own approach to the Christian life. Fred Zaspel has already written a substantial volume on Warfield as theologian; now he opens up for us the world of Warfield’s practical Christianity. Once again, fans of the great Princetonian are in for a treat – and are deeply and delightfully in debt to Dr. Zaspel.
Thomas J. Nettles
Scripture and history show that spirituality rests wholly on a foundation of revealed truth, cordially received and loved. The best theologians have always been the most profound, and trustworthy, promoters of vital piety and transformation of life. We look to Augustine, Anselm, Calvin, Bunyan, and Edwards and a host of Puritan pastor-theologians as determinative of the truth of this observation. Now we must include B. B. Warfield in that imposing list of those that make clear the path, not only to live by the Spirit, but to walk by the Spirit. Fred Zaspel has condensed the marvelous insight contained in the Theology of B. B. Warfield and served it up as foundational to a robust practice of piety analyzed in this present work. Zaspel had laid out both the doctrinal and exegetical expertise of Warfield in showing how seriously he pursued true worship as the summum bonum of life. From divine revelation to the imitation of the Christ and the consummation of Christian hope, the Christian finds substantive truth on his side and is assured by that truth that God Himself is near, to protect, direct, and finally perfect all the sheep for whom Christ died.
Following the publication of Warfield on the Christian Life it will be impossibly difficult to continue to claim that Princeton Theology was ‘all head but no heart’, or that Warfield himself was little more than an Enlightenment rationalist.
B.B. Warfield was one of the great thinkers in the history of the church, and his writings are a goldmine of biblical truth. Unfortunately the sheer volume of his writings make them largely inaccessible to today’s busy reader. But now, Fred Zaspel has done us a great service by distilling into one volume the essence of Warfield’s writings on the Christian life. This book should prove to be a valuable asset to all Christians serious about growing in Christ.
Paul Kjoss Helseth
B. B. Warfield is among the greatest theologians America has ever produced, and Fred Zaspel is among his greatest living interpreters. Comprehensive, insightful, and remarkably compelling, Zaspel’s Warfield on the Christian Life is a masterful presentation of an understanding of the Christian life that values Christian experience while at the same time being “deeply and thoroughly theological.” While Zaspel’s Warfield is a theological giant who enjoys the well-earned reputation as “a theological army of one,” he is also “a theologian of the heart” who recognizes that believers “live unto Christ . . . not out of a vacuum but out of a mind and heart captivated and inflamed by an understanding of God’s . . . saving activity in Christ.” This book is an important sequel to Zaspel’s systematic summary of Warfield’s theology, for it explains how Warfield could insist that truth “fuels Christian living from beginning to end” without falling prey to a kind of Enlightenment rationalism. Enthusiastically recommended.
As Dr. Zaspel shows, the Princetonians—and Warfield in particular—were very far from arid scholastics. The Princeton theology was wedded to a Princeton piety that was warm, spiritual, and gospel-centered. Warfield’s spirituality in particular grew from a profound encounter with Christ that was both personal and theological. Thank you, Dr. Zaspel, for showing us Warfield the Christologian and man of God.
[Warfield on the Christian Life] is a very readable and a good introduction to major themes in Warfield’s writings. I hope it finds wide circulation. Each chapter is well-constructed as a piece in itself, but each one leads as well to the next and invites the reader to keep reading further. The discussion of Warfield’s understanding of the doctrine of sanctification and his critique of the perfectionist teachings of his day is well presented. I liked the discussion of Warfield on progressive sanctification, especially the way you present the need of the Christian to actively participate in working out their salvation—“We take the armor provided us in Christ, certainly, but we fight with it nonetheless” and the “do/done” theme in the Summary Reflections. I think this book will well serve as an introduction to the full sweep of Warfield’s theological understanding and encourage others to turn again directly to some of his writings. Thanks for this fine work.
For Warfield the Christian life is but the outworking of the gospel.” Thank you Fred Zaspel for bringing back to us the rich, contagious life and work of Benjamin Warfield. It satisfies the thirst this generation has for an authentic Christianity that flows from the deep well of a strong and informed theology.
Foreword by Michael A.G. Haykin
Theology, like clothing, has it fashions. And in the current climate of occidental Evangelicalism, authors like B.B. Warfield seem increasingly out of place: their interest in a rational defence and explication of the Faith hardly appeals to various postmodern authors and their brave new Evangelical world that consists of mostly questions and few answers. In fine, for far too many professing Evangelicals, Warfield is simply passé. Why then take the time to remember him? What on earth can such an outmoded thinker have to say to a new generation that has moved far beyond both his interests and his way of expressing them?
Well, first of all, though theology has it fashions, we are not slavishly bound to wear the new duds any more than we are wed solely to the apparel of a bygone day. Wholesale rejection of past theological viewpoints simply because they are old is just as narrow-minded a perspective as the refusal to consider anything that is new. Then, there are certain perennial issues in the history of the church, and Warfield, great theologian that he is, tackles them in a manner eminently worthy of serious consideration. The irrefragable power and infallibility of Scripture, for example, was just as much a concern of Augustine and John Calvin as it was of Warfield, and the latter’s mode of affirming such not as foreign to biblical categories as some think. In other words, due to the fact that Warfield was widely read in the history of the church—witness his still-valuable treatises on Tertullian and Augustine—his defence of biblical inerrancy cannot simply be explained by tagging his thought an expression of modernity. And the same is true of other areas of Warfield’s thinking.
Although his explication of inerrancy is a key reason for his being remembered, Warfield wrote about the entire range of theology, as this work by Fred Zaspel ably demonstrates. And because Warfield is indeed one of the great thinkers of the Christian church, his commentary on all matters Christian is great food for the soul of the contemporary believer seeking to live a life of faithfulness to Christ today. Finally, a book like the one you have in our hand is necessary because reading Warfield, along with other Christian authors from the past, helps break the spell that the modern world casts over us. To paraphrase a recent comment that appeared in a piece in The Washington Post about classical school education: If you’re not well-versed in the history of Christian thought, you simply cannot be self-critical.
So, take up and read this masterly overview of Warfield’s perspectives on the Christian faith: there are riches here that will delight, enthrall, and edify.
About the Author
Fred G. Zaspel is one of the pastors at Reformed Baptist Church in Franconia, PA, and is the executive editor here at Books At a Glance.
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Warfield on the Christian Life