A Brief Book Notice from Books At a Glance
by Fred G. Zaspel
This is the third post in my brief series on “authors who have influenced me.” I have not taken them in any particular order, but first was George Eldon Ladd. Next was D.A. Carson. In this post, I highlight the work of Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield of Old Princeton Seminary. Warfield was the focus of my doctoral studies (see here and here), and I think I have read everything he published, as well as much that he never published. I enjoyed every moment of the reading, and the profit was immense. I cannot recommend his works highly enough, especially for pastors and professors. Warfield was the Old Princeton ideal of massively informed scholarship and fervent devotion to Christ, and you’ll be stimulated and challenged by both.
Warfield did not write many books. Most of his voluminous works were in theological journals and other periodicals of the day. But I’ll begin with his books.
Warfield’s Faith and Life consists of messages he delivered in Miller Chapel at Princeton. They are models of exegetical precision and theological exposition, warm and rich. If you’re not familiar with Warfield, this is probably the best place to start. His The Saviour of the World and The Power of God unto Salvation feature his fuller-length sermons. For preaching and/or teaching on the passages and topics he covers in the sermons you’ll be glad you have read all three of these books. Both the content and the model of his presentation you’ll find enormously helpful. His The Emotional Life of our Lord is a one-of-a-kind must-have classic, and Crossway has recently republished it in small book form.
Warfield’s The Plan of Salvation is a brief masterpiece which every student of theology ought to read. Here his penetrating theological mind is on full display. I wish I could assign this to every theological student. His Counterfeit Miracles has led the cessationist cause for more than a century. His Religious Life of Theological Students is some of the most important reading on the subject – everyone who has read this has been glad for it. And his The Lord of Glory wonderfully traces the doctrine of the deity of Christ throughout the New Testament in a unique and fascinating way. Must reading especially for preaching and teaching through the Gospels. Solid Ground Publishers has assembled Warfield’s writings on The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit. All these essays are helpful, but his “The Leading of the Spirit” alone is more than worth the price of admission.
I’m not sure how best to organize my approach to his other writings. In the heyday of the old liberalism, Warfield eagerly took the polemic role and confidently went after unbelief in all its expressions. So his writings are “scattered” – I’ve tried to bring them together in my The Theology of B.B. Warfield: A Systematic Summary. Perhaps the best place to begin is the two-volume Selected Shorter Writings. It’s no longer in print, but you can sometimes find them used on Amazon (see here). His ten-volume Works are likewise out of print, but you can find them on Amazon also (see here and here). These volumes are gold. Years ago P&R drew from these and published several volumes of Warfield’s works. All these went out of print, but at least some are slated to come back. So far two volumes are available – The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, and The Person and Work of Christ. The former features the most prominent of Warfield’s voluminous writings related to the doctrines of revelation and inspiration, still must reading for anyone studying the doctrine at any length. A third volume from P&R is on the way, his Biblical and Theological Studies. It will be a while in coming, but the older edition is available used (see here), as well as P&R’s Warfield selections on Perfectionism (see here), Calvin & Augustine (see here), and The Westminster Assembly and Its Work (see here). Perfectionist and “higher life” type teachings have so pervaded evangelical theological thought that Warfield’s insightful essays are perhaps more needed today than ever.
It has often been recommended that students and pastors find a truly great theologian from the past and read him from beginning to end. I’m grateful that I could read Warfield. I am much better for it. I cannot recommend him highly enough.
Buy the books
THE THEOLOGY OF B. B. WARFIELD: A SYSTEMATIC SUMMARY, by Fred G. Zaspel