B. B. Warfield’s Path To Inerrancy: An Attempt To Correct Some Serious Misunderstandings -- By: Paul Helm

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 72:1 (Spring 2010)
Article: B. B. Warfield’s Path To Inerrancy: An Attempt To Correct Some Serious Misunderstandings
Author: Paul Helm

B. B. Warfield’s Path To Inerrancy:
An Attempt To Correct Some Serious Misunderstandings

Paul Helm

Paul Helm is a Teaching Fellow at Regent College, Vancouver. He was Professor of the History and Philosophy of Religion, King’s College, London, from 1993 to 2000.

Upon the whole, I am inclined to think that the far greater part, if not all, of those difficulties which have hitherto amused philosophers, and blocked the way to knowledge, are entirely owing to ourselves. That we have first raised a dust, and then complain, we cannot see. (George Berkeley, 1688-1753, A Treatise Concerning Human Knowledge, Introduction *3)

B. B. Warfield’s name will forever be linked to the exposition and defense of biblical inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy. Inspiration, he says,

is that extraordinary, supernatural influence (or, passively, the result of it’,) exerted by the Holy Ghost on the writers of our Sacred Books, by which their words were rendered also the words of God, and therefore, perfectly infallible.1

He believed this to be the classic Christian view of Scripture. But around the man, and particularly around his defense of the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture (he seems to have used these terms interchangeably), there has grown up a number of serious misconceptions. These have to do with what inerrancy is, with the theological method that allegedly spawned it, with the doctrine of God that lies behind it, and with the place of inspired and inerrant Scripture in Warfield’s theological system. Unfortunately, despite various valiant efforts to set the record straight, these misconceptions are repeated and embellished until the real Warfield is lost from view and the “Warfield position” becomes a whipping boy.2 This article is a further attempt to make clear Warfield’s position, and particularly his method of arriving at it. In doing this, the immediate objects of attention are certain claims about Warfield made by Professor A. T B. McGowan in his book The Divine Spiration of Scripture3 though it is part of the

burden of this article that Dr. McGowan is one of many such critics of Warfield and of the entire Princeton tradition.4

The Divine Spiration of Scripture is a book of considerable scope and ambition. Dr. McGowan proposes changes to the theological locus of Scripture, offers suggestions about the terminology used to characterize Scripture theolo...

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