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Warfield, Benjamin Breckinridge


American Presbyterian theologian whose writings influenced both the fundamentalist and neo-orthodox movements in American theology; b. Lexington, Kentucky, Nov. 5, 1851; d. Princeton, New Jersey, Feb. 17, 1921. Warfield was the son of a wealthy planter and prepared for college under private tutors. He graduated from Princeton in 1871 and studied at Edinburgh, Scotland, and Heidelberg, Germany, until 1873. His early interests were chiefly scientific, and he was considerably influenced by the writings of C. R. darwin. Warfield entered Princeton Theological Seminary (1873), then dominated by the Old School tradition of Charles hodge; he graduated in 1876 and spent an additional year in studies at Leipzig, Germany. After a brief pastorate in Baltimore, Maryland, he was called to Western Theological Seminary, Allegheny, Pennsylvania, as professor of New Testament literature (1878). Nine years later he accepted the chair of systematic theology at Princeton Seminary and held that post until his death.

At Western, he published An Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the New Testament (1886). During his years at Princeton, he contributed numerous articles to the Princeton Theological Review and published The Gospel of the Incarnation (1893) and The Right of Systematic Theology (1897), both directed against the spreading Modernism in the Presbyterian Church. Warfield had a profound knowledge of patristics, ecclesiastical history, and Reformed theology, and he was abreast of critical scholarship in the study of the Scriptures. He understood the Bible as not merely a record of the events of salvation history, but the authoritative interpretation of them, and he held that Christianity is constituted by these understood in one specific manner

His theology was orthodox calvinism, taught in a conservative and even authoritarian manner in the light of Scripture and the westminster confession. In apologetics, he taught that faith is a conviction grounded on evidence, and he opposed any shadow of irrationalism. In Two Studies in the History of Doctrine (1897), he taught Calvinistic predestination, but moderated the orthodox view to allow for the salvation of infants by a special providence. Among his later publications, Counterfeit Miracles (1918) rejected all post-Apostolic miracles. A selection of Warfield's many articles and monographs was published in nine volumes (192932). A new edition of his collected writings was begun in 1952.

Bibliography: b. b. warfield, Biblical and Theological Studies, ed. s. craig (Philadelphia 1952), contains a brief biog.

[r. k. macmaster]

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