Today in Church History: B.B. Warfield, Princeton Theological Seminary
On November 5, 1851, Benjamin Breckenridge Warfield was born outside Lexington, Kentucky.
The son of a prosperous horse and cattle breeder, Warfield developed interests in science before studying at Princeton College and Princeton Seminary. A brief pastorate in Baltimore preceded his appointment at Western Seminary in Pittsburgh. After teaching New Testament there for nine years, he was offered a chair in theology at Princeton Seminary in 1887, succeeding A. A. Hodge.
During his 34-year tenure at Princeton, where he taught over 2700 students, Warfield was a prolific writer and long-time editor of the Presbyterian Review, the Presbyterian and Reformed Review, and the Princeton Theological Review. In those pages he took on mysticism, naturalism, Pentecostalism, perfectionism, and rationalism, as these movements threatened the Presbyterian church. He vigorously defended the verbal inspiration of Scripture against his antagonist, Charles A. Briggs of Union Seminary in New York. Calvinistic orthodoxy lay at the heart of all of his work. "Calvinism is just religion in its purity," he wrote. "We have only therefore to conceive of religion in its purity, and that is Calvinism."
The last of the great Princeton Theologians died on February 16, 1921. Warfield's passing was a great blow to the seminary and church, as a younger colleague, J. Gresham Machen, described in letters to his mother:
Princeton will seem to be a very insipid place without him. He was really a great man. There is no one living in the Church capable of occupying one quarter of his place. To me, he was an incalculable help and support in a hundred different ways.
Dr. Warfield's funeral took place yesterday afternoon at the First Church of Princeton . . . It seemed that the old Princeton " a great institution " died when Dr. Warfield was carried out.