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                                           Crossway Interview Questions for Fred G. Zaspel 1. Provide a brief biography of Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield. Why is he important? Warfield was born in 1851 and died in 1921. He graduated from what is now Princeton University at age nineteen at the top of his class. He then attended and graduated from Princeton Seminary where he studied under the famous and aged Charles Hodge and his son Caspar Wistar Hodge, both of whom Warfield loved and admired deeply. After a few stints as stated supply pastor in various churches, Warfield began his teaching career as professor of New Testament at Western (now Pittsburgh) Seminary in Allegheny, PA, and then for more than thirty years famously occupied the prestigious chair of theology at his alma mater, “Old” Princeton Seminary, where his teaching and extensive writing established him as the high watermark of that institution, already long-recognized as a land of theological giants. There are many details about his life and family background that are of interest, but Warfield’s life is really a story of theology, a story told in the many thousands of pages that came from his pen. This is his legacy. 2. Warfield’s works touched on the full spectrum of theological topics. What is he best known for?  In the same sense that Augustine is known as the theologian of sin and grace, Anselm as the theologian of the doctrine of satisfaction, Luther as the theologian of justification, Warfield is known as the theologian of inspiration. He did not invent the doctrine, of course, but his brilliant and extensive exposition of it was landmark. Evangelical expositions of the doctrine since have added very little to what Warfield had to say a hundred years ago. And certainly no opponent of Warfield’s doctrine of inspiration - inerrancy can claim to have made his case until he has taken Warfield into account. It is a bit ironic, but I am certain that this doctrine is not what Warfield would have considered his “center,” and, contrary to popular opinion, this was not the subject of his most extensive writings. It was a fundamental issue, of course, and it was the issue of the day. And his contribution here was so massive and so historically significant that this is how he is remembered.  3. What was your purpose in writing this book?  I have long admired Warfield. His exegetical skills are first rate, and his theological exposition, as someone has said, is but exegesis of the superlative sort. And - something seldom adequately recognized about Warfield - his heart was as massive as his mind, and his passion for Christ pulses through his works. He truly was a gospel-centered Christian. And yet because his works were largely “occasional” in nature, and because they are so voluminous, few have been able to gain a holistic appreciation of him. He deserves a new hearing, and I was eager to bring him back from the dead, as it were. His work has been of greatest benefit and enrichment to me, and I want very much to give others a taste of the same.  4. How does Warfield’s emphasis on the “supernaturalism of Christianity” summarize his theology and career? The “enlightened” world of his day was decidedly naturalistic, even anti-supernaturalistic, and the Christian faith was being stripped of its pervasively supernatural character. For Warfield this got to the very heart of all the errors being introduced to the church. The character of Scripture, the role of God in creation and providence, the question of miracles, the incarnation, the Christian life itself - these all were at stake. If in order to satisfy the demands of the secular world we strip away the supernatural elements of the faith, we reduce Christianity to something other than what Jesus and the apostles founded, and we in the end lose the gospel itself. This was a hot button for Warfield. He would say to his students in class, “Gentlemen, I like the supernatural!” 5. How have you organized your book? Were the categories for your chapters the framework from which you conducted your research, or did the categories themselves rise from your time spent in the works of Warfield? Warfield never wrote a systematic theology, and many since have felt it was a work that he should have done! In the main, Warfield wrote “occasionally” to address questions and concerns of the moment. So this general format was our own idea from the outset. We decided that it would be helpful for Christian’s today if we could produce Warfield’s systematic theology for him, as it were, gathering from all his scattered and extensive writings, then organizing and condensing his thought accordingly.  6. Warfield is described as a polemic theologian in your book. In what ways was he polemic?  Warfield stood at a critical juncture in Christian history when the Christian faith was under attack on virtually every front. Warfield rose to meet those challenges, and he does so in a way that is almost without precedent. His learning was as broad as it was deep, and he was eager to answer the critics on any ground they chose - historical, exegetical, theological, form critical, Old Testament, New Testament, whatever. Many others in his day fought these same wars valiantly, but none with the breadth and depth of Warfield on such a wide variety of fronts.  7. You quote Francis Patton’s memorial address of Warfield: “Patton proceeded to speak of the continuing effort of the church to construct a perfect theology, and said ‘I venture the prediction that some of the choicest stones in that new building will be those which have been hewn and shaped in the Warfield quarry.’” What do you hold to be some of Warfield’s greatest contributions to theology? Well, certainly the doctrine of inspiration, as I have already said. This will no doubt continue to be his lasting and most outstanding contribution. His argument for the cessation of the miraculous gifts has been extraordinarily influential also. His insight in recognizing the pervasive supernaturalness of the Christian faith is something that would benefit every Christian. And certain aspects of his exposition of the doctrine of the Trinity, such as the gospel-centeredness of its revelation, are theologically insightful and devotionally enriching. But his own “center” and his own area of greatest attention was the person and work of Christ, and his writings particularly on the incarnation and the two natures of Christ provide a treasure of exegetical gold and theological depth. This is certainly an area where Warfield deserves a new hearing.  8. In your opinion, what theological arguments of Warfield’s have been most misunderstood today?  Many have completely misunderstood Warfield’s understanding of “right reason” in the context of apologetics. I point this out in my book, as well as some other areas of misunderstanding. But, to answer your question, I might have to say, surprisingly, that it is his doctrine of inspiration. This doctrine itself has fallen on hard times in some quarters of Evangelicalism, and I have often wondered if some theologians have ever read Warfield or, if they have, did they understand him? Remarkably, at least one theologian has attempted to use Warfield’s arguments to support a kind of qualified doctrine of errancy - something Warfield specifically repudiates with vigor. Very honestly, I have often got the sense that more theologians reference Warfield than read him. His position is known, but his extensive arguments do not seem to have received the notice they deserve.