From Inscrutability To Concursus: Benjamin B. Warfield’s Theological Construction Of Inspiration’s Mode, From 1880 To 1915 -- By: Jeffrey A. Stivason

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 075:2 (Fall 2013)
Article: From Inscrutability To Concursus: Benjamin B. Warfield’s Theological Construction Of Inspiration’s Mode, From 1880 To 1915
Author: Jeffrey A. Stivason


From Inscrutability To Concursus:
Benjamin B. Warfield’s Theological Construction Of Inspiration’s Mode, From 1880 To 1915

Jeffrey A. Stivason

This study investigates the constructive theological development of the mode of the inspiration of Scripture in the theology of Benjamin B. Warfield between the years 1880 to 1915 and suggests how his theology has the potential to enrich our present understanding of Scripture as well as offer a defense of Scripture as the supernatural voice of God. The thesis is that Warfield constructively engaged the doctrine of the mode of inspiration in order to provide a defense of the Bible as God’s supernatural communication, whether the threat is a radical transcendence or an encroaching immanence. Locating Warfield’s historical context in his theological and philosophical interaction with nineteenth-century liberal theology, which affirmed the divine immanence of God and trended toward the exclusion of divine transcendence, this study explores the theological rationale for Warfield’s formulation of the doctrine of inspiration’s mode rooted firmly in both God’s immanence and transcendence.

The history of Reformed theology had considered the supernatural mode of Scripture’s inspiration to be inscrutable and, therefore, an inaccessible divine mystery. However, Warfield thought that if Scripture itself provided the raw materials for constructing a biblical expression of the mode of God’s supernatural communication to men, then Scripture’s resources ought to be exhaustively explored and employed.

Warfield’s doctrine of the mode of inspiration comes into sharp focus by contrasting him with two of his peers, Llewellyn J. Evans and W. G. T. Shedd. Whereas Evans’s view of inspiration settles our attention on the supernaturalness of the age, Warfield emphasizes the Spirit’s work on the writers. Whereas Shedd’s view settles our attention on the writers, Warfield emphasizes inspiration as above and beyond providential leading. Therefore, this study attempts to clarify the central concerns of Warfield’s understanding of inspiration’s mode.

The study concludes by noting Warfield’s continuing relevance in discussions concerning the nature of Scripture by comparing the nineteenth-century liberal theologian J. Paterson Smyth alongside current post-evangelical scholar Peter Enns. The concluding section, therefore, attempts to demonstrate that Warfield’s formulation is neither old liberal nor post-conservative, but his expression of the mode of Scripture’s inspiration is distinctly biblical in character.

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