The One Book: B. B. Warfield’s Revelation and Inspiration

How much of Warfield’s writings will one have to read in order to gain an accurate understanding of him?

Revelation and Inspiration is a worthy place to start, because in it you will not only discover Warfield’s understanding of how God is providentially, and thereby supernaturally, bringing about what he eternally decreed, but also that this is unavoidably joined to and corresponds with the very character of his entire creation, in both its sinless and sinful conditions, and most specifically, how all this relates to humans in both those conditions.

 

It is not surprising that a book addressing the presence, nature, and function of the Old and New Testament should have a profound impact on us. Yet, much of what has been written about the Bible has been an attack on it. Wonderful are those books that helps us understand the power, authority and majesty of God’s holy Word. B. B. Warfield’s Revelation and Inspiration does the latter. But beware, it is meat. Indeed, it is several full course meals! Still, anyone who can read at least at the high school level and who is willing to put in the work will be able to profit greatly from this magisterial work.

Since there are a variety of opinions about Warfield among biblical and historical scholars, it is perhaps necessary to clarify some of the matters pertaining to those opinions, especially as they relate to Revelation and Inspiration.

First, like the other nine volumes in Warfield’s Collected WorksRevelation and Inspiration consists mostly of “stand-alone” essays. The ones in R & I were written from the early 1890’s to about 1915. They address attacks on the nature and authority of the Bible primarily by Protestant liberal scholars. Some knowledge of those attacks is necessary for a thoroughly accurate understanding of not only those essays, but also all of Warfield’s writing.

Second, some of the essays include arguments using the original biblical languages of Hebrew and Greek. While those portions will be a challenge to anyone not knowledgeable in those languages, the essays can still be read for great reward even if you lack this knowledge.

Thirdly, part of this reward is working at becoming a better reader as one recognizes that particular historical events and a particular command of the English language by a brilliant (not an exaggeration) scholar forces the reader to work at understanding what the author meant by what he wrote. Sadly, many of Warfield’s critics, even in the conservative Reformed world, have failed at the most basic level of reading. They have failed to work at understanding the historical situations of Warfield’s writings and have failed to understand him on his terms. If you think a failure in basic reading is beyond the capability of learned people, observe how many times Jesus confronted the religious leaders of God’s covenant people with this question: “Have you not read?”

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