An Excerpt: From Inscrutability To Concursus -- By: Jeffrey A. Stivason

Journal: Reformed Presbyterian Theological Journal
Volume: RPTJ 003:2 (Spring 2017)
Article: An Excerpt: From Inscrutability To Concursus
Author: Jeffrey A. Stivason

An Excerpt:
From Inscrutability To Concursus

Jeffrey A. Stivason

Pastor of Grace Reformed Presbyterian
Church (RPCNA) in Gibsonia, PA


Benjamin B. Warfield has always been a favorite theologian of mine. As a seminary student, I heard the likes of R. C. Sproul and Sinclair Ferguson offer their own admiration for this great man. At the time, none of my peers seemed to know much about him personally. Perhaps the only story I heard was that of his husbandly devotion to his beloved and invalid wife, Annie. However, the writings of Warfield were most impressive to me. Here was a brilliant man with a balance of wit and wisdom. At one moment, he could pierce the heart of the argument with theological acumen while in the next explain that the arguers had retrieved their logic from the wastebasket of the past and wrapped it in the swaddling clothes of rationalism before offering it to the church as a “new idea.” Warfield had the gift of challenging theological nonsense. We need that today.

So, when Dr. Lane G. Tipton suggested that I do a little digging in order to discover the identity of that “certain school of writers” Warfield mentions who appealed to the divine-human personality to explain the Bible as a divine-human book I was hooked.1However, that initial question led me to think not only about the analogy that Warfield used to describe the Divine-human relationship in the authorship of the Bible but the mode of inspiration itself. And what I have uncovered from the primary sources is a picture of a theologian doing theology at an extremely high level.

Archibald Alexander Hodge had invited young Warfield into a theological controversy with Union Theological Seminary and particularly Charles Briggs. Both Hodge and Warfield described the American theological landscape at that time with regard to inspiration as underdeveloped and in need of improvement. Warfield would invest nearly the remainder of his life in this work. Consequently, Warfield’s doctrine of Scripture might rightly be called a doctrine under theological construction.

However, before the eyebrows begin to rise, let me explain what I mean. When Warfield was twenty-nine years old, Western Theological Seminary called him to the chair of New Testament Literature and Exegesis. During his inaugural address, he said of the Westminster Standards, “I sign these standards not as a necessary form which must be submitted to, but gladly and willingly as the expression of a personal and cherished conviction.”2In other words, for Warfield, the confessional standards of the Westminster Assembly supplied both a theologically or...

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