Is Warfield’s Claim True That Calvin Is Better Than Westminster On Inspiration? -- By: Jeffrey A. Stivason

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 081:2 (Fall 2019)
Article: Is Warfield’s Claim True That Calvin Is Better Than Westminster On Inspiration?
Author: Jeffrey A. Stivason

Is Warfield’s Claim True That Calvin Is Better Than Westminster On Inspiration?

Jeffrey A. Stivason

Jeffrey A. Stivason is pastor of Grace Reformed Presbyterian Church in Gibsonia, PA, and professor-elect at Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA.

In 1894, Warfield published an article in which he compared the Westminster divines’ view on the mode of inspiration to that of the Reformers. According to Warfield, whereas the Reformers argued for a mode rooted in the theory of concursus the Protestant Scholastics argued for dictation. Is Warfield’s assessment true? Or was Warfield reading his own view of inspiration into the Reformers’ position? If so, why would he favorably cite an article written by Dunlop Moore, which argues that Calvin held to dictation as the mode of inspiration? On the other hand, the Westminster Confession of Faith embodied Warfield’s own cherished convictions regarding the Reformed faith. Why then would Warfield pit two battalions, both personally cherished, from the same army against one another? This article will seek to substantiate the claim that Warfield’s apparently inconsistent statements regarding the Reformers and the Protestant Scholastics can be and perhaps ought to be considered through the lens of Warfield’s understanding of progressive orthodoxy. Therefore, this article will explore Warfield’s own theological progress with regard to the mode of inspiration between the years 1880 and 1894. This point will provide us with the background for understanding Warfield’s 1894 statements contrasting the Reformers and Protestant Scholastics. Second, with Warfield’s own progress in hand, we will examine his understanding of the progressive and constructive nature of orthodoxy. Third, we will bring Warfield’s understanding to bear upon his 1894 statements in order to see them through that grid of comprehension.

It is not undue adulation to describe Benjamin B. Warfield as a true Renaissance man. The Princetonian’s interests are enough to tell the tale. For example, from the very beginning Warfield’s tastes were strongly scientific, and his short shift as livestock editor of the Farmer’s Home Journal in 1873 simply confirms the fact. Following his conversion and training for the ministry, he was initially appointed as stated supply to First Presbyterian Church of Dayton,

Ohio. He was then called to occupy the chair of New Testament at Western Theological Seminary before being whisked away to Princeton Theological Seminary to fill the vacancy in the department of systematic theology left in the wake of A. A. Hodge’s death, which was felt as much as observed. If that were not enough, Warfield also did the...

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