December 1997

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B. B. WARFIELD AND THE PRINCETON APOLOGETIC:"THE APPEAL TO "RIGHT REASON"

by Paul Kjoss Helseth

Princeton Seminary was founded in 1812 in order to defend biblical Christianity against the perceived crisis of "modern infidelity."[1] Its founders took their stand between the extremes of deism on the one hand and "mysticism" (or, "enthusiasm") on the other, and resolved "to fit clergymen to meet the cultural crisis, to roll back what they perceived as tides of irreligion sweeping the country, and to provide a learned defense of Christianity generally and the Bible specifically."[2] Throughout the nineteenth and into the twentieth centuries theologians from Princeton Seminary proved to be the most articulate defenders of Reformed orthodoxy in America. Their apologetical efforts have come under intense critical scrutiny, however, because critics allege that these efforts were based upon an accommodation of theology to the anthropological and epistemological assumptions of "the modern scientific revolution."[3] Scottish Common Sense Realism and Baconian inductivism rather than the anthropological and epistemological assumptions of the Reformed tradition were the driving forces behind the Princeton Theology, critics contend, despite the fact that these forces often were tempered by the Princetonians' personal piety. Critics conclude, therefore, that the theologians at Old Princeton Seminary were not the champions of Reformed orthodoxy that they claimed to be. They were, rather, the purveyors of a theology that was bastardized by an "alien philosophy."[4]

What, then, are we to make of this conclusion? Were the Princeton theologians in fact "nineteenth-century positivists who did not reject theology"?[5] Did they accommodate their theology, in other words, to anthropological and epistemological assumptions that are diametrically opposed to the anthropological and epistemological assumptions of the Reformed tradition? I have argued elsewhere that such a conclusion cannot be sustained because it misses the moral rather than the merely rational nature of the Princetonians' thought. When Old Princeton's "intellectualism" is interpreted within a context that rejects the faculty psychology and insists instead that the soul is a single unit that acts in all of its functions - its thinking, its feeling, and its willing - as a single substance, it becomes clear that the Princeton theologians were not cold, calculating rationalists whose confidence in the mind led them to ignore the import of the subjective and the centrality of experience in religious epistemology. They were, rather, Reformed scholars who consistently acknowledged that subjective and experiential concerns are of critical importance in any consideration of religious epistemology. Indeed, they recognized that the operation of the intellect involves the "whole soul" - mind, will and emotions - rather than the rational faculty alone, and as a consequence they insisted that the ability to reason "rightly" - i.e., the ability to see revealed truth for what it objectively is - presupposes the regenerating activity of the Holy Spirit on the whole soul of a moral agent. Old Princeton's "intellectualism," in short, sprang from an endorsement of the classical Reformed distinction between a merely speculative and a spiritual understanding of the gospel rather than from accommodation to the anthropological and epistemological assumptions of Enlightenment thought.[6]

The question arises, however, as to how the anthropological and epistemological assumptions of the Reformed tradition are related to the Princeton apologetic in general and the apologetic of Benjamin B. Warfield (1851-1921) in particular. Is not Warfield's insistence that the Christian religion has been placed in the world "to reason its way to its dominion"[7] a particularly egregious example of Old Princeton's "rather bald rationalism"?[8] Is not Warfield's apologetical appeal to "right reason," in other words, in fact evidence of an accommodation of theology to the anthropological and epistemological assumptions of an essentially humanistic philosophy?[9] This essay argues that it is not simply because the moral considerations that rule in the epistemological realm also rule in the realm of apologetics. Whereas Warfield certainly affirmed that the primary mission of the Christian apologist "is no less than to reason the world into acceptance of the `truth,'"[10] he nonetheless recognized that the "rightness" of the apprehension that leads to the advancement of the Kingdom is produced by the testimonium internum Spiritus Sancti. He acknowledged, therefore, that the labors of the apologist will be of little or no consequence in advancing the Kingdom without the sovereign workings of the Spirit of God, for he recognized that only the renewed soul has the moral capacity to see revealed truth for what it objectively is, namely glorious. That this is the case, and that a reorientation in how we think about "right reason" is long overdue, will be clear after an examination of the relationship between the objective and the subjective in Warfield's religious epistemology.

Knowledge of God and Religious Faith:
Conditioned by the "Ethical State" of the Soul

Warfield maintained that the correct context for understanding the relationship between the objective and the subjective in religious epistemology is that provided by Augustine's ontology of "theistic Intuitionalism" and Calvin's conception of the sensus deitatis. Whereas Augustine argued that "innate ideas" are "the immediate product in the soul of God the Illuminator, always present with the soul as its sole and indispensable Light, in which alone it perceives truth,"[11] Calvin insisted that the knowledge of God, as a fact of self-consciousness that is quickened by the manifestations of God in nature and providence, "is given in the very same act by which we know self. For when we know self, we must know it as it is: and that means we must know it as dependent, derived, imperfect, and responsible being."[12] Though Warfield conceded that there are some interesting differences between Augustine's and Calvin's ontologies of knowledge, he argued that their doctrines are essentially the same simply because both acknowledge that God is not only the God of all grace and the God of all truth, but "the Light of all knowledge" as well.[13] Both acknowledge, in other words, that

man's power of attaining truth depends . . . first of all upon the fact that God has made man like Himself, Whose intellect is the home of the intelligible world, the contents of which may, therefore, be reflected in the human soul; and then, secondly, that God, having so made man, has not left him, deistically, to himself, but continually reflects into his soul the contents of His own eternal and immutable mind - which are precisely those eternal and immutable truths which constitute the intelligible world. The soul is therefore in unbroken communion with God, and in the body of intelligible truths reflected into it from God, sees God. The nerve of this view, it will be observed, is the theistic conception of the constant dependence of the creature on God.[14]

While Warfield was adamant in his insistence that the knowledge of God that is reflected into the soul constitutes the foundational fact of human self-consciousness, he was equally unyielding in his contention that this knowledge is the spring of religious expression as well. The justification for this contention is to be found in his assertion that "Man is a unit, and the religious truth which impinges upon him must affect him in all of his activities, or in none."[15] On the basis of his contention that the soul is a single unit that acts in all of its functions as a single substance, Warfield argued that the knowledge of God that is reflected into the soul and quickened by the manifestations of God in nature and providence "can never be otiose and inert; but must produce an effect in human souls, in the way of thinking, feeling, willing."[16] It must produce, in other words, an effect that manifests itself first in the conceptual formulation of perceived truth (perception "ripening" into conception), and second in the religious reaction of the will (broadly understood to include emotions and volitions) to the conceptual content of this formulated perception (". . . as is the perception ripening into conception, so is the religion").[17]

But if it is the knowledge of God that is reflected into the soul that underlies the religious reaction of the will, the question then arises as to why there are so many forms of religious expression. The answer to this question is to be found in Warfield's warning against supposing that "the human mind is passive in the acquisition of knowledge, or that the acquisition of knowledge is unconditioned by the nature or state of the acquiring soul."[18] While Warfield maintained that the religious reaction of the will is determined by the conceptual formulation of perceived truth, he insisted that the conceptual formulation of perceived truth is itself conditioned by the moral or "ethical state" of the perceiving soul.[19] It is the "ethical state" of the perceiving soul, Warfield argued, that determines the religious reaction of the will, for it is the "ethical state" of the knowing soul that conditions the purity or clarity of perception and thereby the purity or clarity of the conception that underlies religious expression. Since knowledge is a function of the "whole man" rather than of the rational faculty alone, it follows that there is more than one form of religious expression simply because the knowledge that determines the religious reaction of the will is qualified and conditioned by the "whole voluntary nature" of the agent that knows.[20]

Having established that the "ethical state" of the soul conditions the perception as well as the conception of the mind, we must now consider how the conception of the mind is related to the religious reaction of the will. Why, we must ask, does "the nature of our [theological] conceptions so far from having nothing, [have] everything, to do with religion"?[21] The answer to this question is to be found in Warfield's contention that "Religion is not only the natural, but the necessary product of man's sense of dependence, which always abides as the innermost essence of the whole crowd of emotions which we speak of as religious, the lowest and also the highest."[22] While Warfield insisted that dependence upon God is the foundational fact of human self-consciousness, he also maintained that the vital manifestation of this consciousness in religion unveils the flowering of this sense of dependence in a manner that is determined by the moral agent's conceptual formulation of perceived truth.[23] In this statement, however, Warfield links religious expression with the sense of dependence in a manner that seems to bypass the determining role of conceptual truth. Religion, in other words, is in this instance not explicitly recognized as being the vital effect of the knowledge of God in the human soul, but rather it is regarded as the necessary product of the natural sense of dependence, i.e., of the innermost essence of the whole crowd of emotions that constitute the very core of human being. How, then, does Warfield reconcile what might appear to be a contradiction at this point? How, in other words, can Warfield maintain that religion is both the vital effect of the knowledge of God in the human soul and the necessary product of the natural sense of dependence without appearing to suggest that religious expression has its origin in more than one source (i.e., one rational/objective and one emotional/subjective source)? The answer to this question, as well as an understanding of the nature of the relationship between the conception of the mind and the religious reaction of the will, is to be found in a cursory analysis of the mental movement called faith.

In response to the notion that responsibility attaches to faith only when the act of faith springs from the "free volition" of an autonomous moral agent, Warfield argued that we are responsible for our faith simply because faith - from its lowest to its highest forms - is an act of the mind the subject of which is "the man in the entirety of his being as man."[24] While Warfield acknowledged that the mental movement called faith "fulfills itself," i.e., is specifically "formed," in that voluntary movement of the sensibility called trust, he insisted that the act of faith includes - indeed is based upon - "a mental recognition of what is before the mind, as objectively true and real, and therefore depends on the evidence that a thing is true and real and is determined by this evidence; it is the response of the mind to this evidence and cannot arise apart from it."[25] Since faith is a mental conviction which as such is "determined by evidence, not by volition," Warfield concluded that the act of faith is best defined as that "forced consent" in which "the movement of the sensibility in the form of trust is what is thrust forward to observation."[26]

It must be borne in mind, however, that though Warfield insisted that the fulfillment of faith in the movement of trust is determined or "forced" by what is rationally perceived, he never asserted that the consent of the mind is "the mechanical result of the adduction of the evidence."[27] "There may stand in the way of the proper and objectively inevitable effect of the evidence," he argued, "the subjective nature or condition to which the evidence is addressed."[28] But how can this be? If faith is indeed a "forced consent," then how can "the subjective nature or condition to which the evidence is addressed" block "the objectively inevitable effect of the evidence"? The answer to this question reveals the key to understanding how the religious reaction of the will is at one and the same time both the vital effect of the knowledge of God in the human soul and the necessary product of the natural sense of dependence. Warfield insisted that the objectively inevitable effect of the evidence can be thwarted by the subjective nature of the perceiving agent simply because "`Faith,' `belief' does not follow the evidence itself . . . but the judgment of the intellect on the evidence."[29] In Warfield's thought the "judgment of the intellect" refers not to an act of the rational faculty alone but rather to an act of the mind in which the "complex of emotions" that reflects the "ethical state" of the soul and forms the "concrete state of mind" of the perceiving agent plays the decisive or determining role.[30] What, then, does the "complex of emotions" that forms the "concrete state of mind" of the perceiving agent do? Why, in other words, is the "judgment of the intellect" the most prominent element in the movement of assent, the "central movement in all faith"?[31] It is the most prominent element in the "central movement in all faith," in short, because the "complex of emotions" that forms the "concrete state of mind" of the perceiving agent determines the "susceptibility" or "accessibility" of the mind to the objective force of the evidence in question as well as the reaction of the will to what is rationally perceived.[32] When the "judgment of the intellect" is defined in this fashion, or in that fashion which recognizes that the "judgment of the intellect" is that act of the "whole man" that "underlies" the agent's response to perceived truth,[33] it becomes clear that the conception of the mind is related to the religious reaction of the will simply because the "complex of emotions" that forms the "state of mind" of the perceiving agent also determines the activity of the will, broadly understood. This explains, among other things, why "The evidence to which we are accessible is irresistible if adequate, and irresistibly produces belief, faith."[34]

Saving Faith: The Certain Consequence of a "Right" Knowledge of God

The foregoing analysis has established that faith is both the vital effect of the knowledge of God in the human soul and the necessary product of the natural sense of dependence simply because it is the response of the "whole man" to the knowledge of God that is reflected into the soul and quickened by the manifestations of God in nature and providence. The question that we must now consider has to do with what makes the faith that informs the religious reaction of the will "saving" faith. If it is indeed true that "no man exists, or ever has existed or ever will exist, who has not `faith,'"[35] then what for Warfield sets the faith of the elect apart from the faith of those who are perishing? The forthcoming discussion attempts to answer this question by articulating the basic differences between the character of faith in moral agents that are unfallen, fallen, and renewed. It suggests, in short, that the regenerate form their consciousness of dependence in a manner that renders their salvation certain because they have the moral ability to see revealed truth for what it objectively is, namely glorious.

Following Augustine and Calvin, Warfield maintained that "it is knowledge, not nescience, which belongs to human nature as such."[36] He insisted, therefore, that had human nature not been disordered by the "abnormal" condition of original sin, all moral agents - "by the very necessity of [their] nature"[37] - not only would have known God in the purest and most intimate sense of the term, but they would have entrusted themselves to His care because their consciousness of dependence would have taken "the `form' of glad and loving trust."[38] The capacity for true knowledge and loving trust was lost, however, when Adam fell into sin and thereby plunged his posterity into a state of spiritual death. But why, we must ask, does the abnormal state of fallenness prohibit the fallen sinner from responding to the consciousness of dependence in a loving and therefore trusting fashion? The answer to this question has to do with the "noetic as well as thelematic and ethical effects" of the fall.[39] Warfield argued that fallen sinners are unable to form their consciousness of dependence in glad and loving trust because the knowledge of God that is reflected into their souls is "dulled," "deflected," and twisted by the power of sin.[40] Whereas "unfallen man" had a compelling knowledge of God because the image and truth of God were rightly reflected in his heart, the fallen sinner is incapable of such knowledge and love because the sinful heart "refracts and deflects the rays of truth reflected into it from the divine source, so rendering the right perception of the truth impossible."[41] As such, while "abnormal man" remains conscious of his dependence on God and thus believes in God in an intellectual or speculative sense, he can neither "delight" in this dependence nor can he trust in the God on whom he knows he is dependent simply because the image and truth of God are deflected by a corrupt nature "into an object of distrust, fear, and hate."[42]

Since, then, the fallen sinner's consciousness of dependence is formed by fear and hate rather than by loving trust, it follows - given the certain nature of the relationship between moral character and moral activity - that the fallen sinner is unable to respond to the consciousness of dependence in a loving and therefore trusting fashion because the sinner as such is morally unable to do so. Herein lies the heart of the depravity that constitutes the fallen condition. While the fallen sinner cannot escape the knowledge that he is and always will be totally dependent upon God, he is morally incapable of entrusting himself to God simply because "he loves sin too much"[43] and thus cannot use his will - which in the narrower sense is "ready, like a weathercock, to be turned whithersoever the breeze that blows from the heart (`will' in the broader sense) may direct"[44] - for believing. Fallen sinners, therefore, will not and cannot trust in God because the sinful heart lacks the moral ability to "explicate" its sense of dependence and obligation "on right lines."[45] It lacks the moral ability to form its consciousness of dependence in loving trust, in other words, because it cannot see revealed truth for what it objectively is, namely glorious.[46]

But does this "abnormal" and desperate state of fallenness preclude the possibility of fallen sinners ever attaining to a sound knowledge of God? And does it as such invalidate Warfield's contention that it is the natural destiny of human nature to have a true and therefore compelling knowledge of God? According to Warfield, it does not for the elect because God has supernaturally intervened to meet this desperate condition via a two-fold provision for the removal of the natural incapacities of fallen sinners.[47] To begin with, God has rescued fallen sinners from their "intellectual imbecility"[48] via the provision of a supernatural revelation that "supplements" and "completes" the truth manifest in general revelation.[49] Whereas God has published an adequate revelation of his truth in the natural constitution of the moral agent as well as in nature and providence, this general revelation "is insufficient that sinful man should know Him aright" because it is not reflected purely in minds that are blinded by sin.[50] Thus, as the remedy for this inability to know God aright God has given to fallen sinners a revelation adapted to their needs. It is this special revelation, the purpose of which is to "neutralize" the noetic effects of sin by providing a "mitigation for the symptom," which as such serves as the objective preparation for the "proper assimilation" of the knowledge of God manifest in general revelation.[51] "What special revelation is, therefore - and the Scriptures as its documentation - is very precisely represented by the figure of the spectacles. It is aid to the dulled vision of sinful man, to enable it to see God."[52]

While special revelation as such is "the condition of all right knowledge of higher things for sinful man,"[53] it is clear that this revelation alone - its objective adequacy notwithstanding - will not yield a true and compelling knowledge of God if the soul to which it is addressed is morally incapable of perceiving and receiving it. This is due to the fact that sinners who are at enmity with God need more than external aid to see God, they need "the power of sight."[54] They need, in other words, a remedy for their moral bondage to sin so that "the light of the Word itself can accredit itself to them as light."[55] Wherein, then, is this remedy to be found? Again following Augustine and Calvin, Warfield insisted that it is to be found generally in the second provision for the recovery of fallen sinners to their natural/normal condition, namely the provision of divine grace, and specifically in the central component of this provision, namely the testimonium internum Spiritus Sancti. Whereas the subjective corruption of the fallen sinner's moral nature precludes the possibility of a "hospitable reception" for the truth of God in the perceiving mind and heart,[56] Warfield insisted that the subjective testimony of the Spirit renders the perception and reception of the truth certain because the internal operation of the Spirit radically alters the moral condition and thereby the certain operation of the whole soul. This is due to the fact that the testimony of the Spirit changes the governing disposition or character of the soul by renewing and inclining the powers of the soul "in the love of God," i.e., in an affinity for the image and truth of God reflected into the soul, and in an affinity for the consciousness of dependence on God.[57] As such, the chosen recipients of this regenerating grace perceive and receive the truth of God simply because they have been enabled by grace to love rather than hate the things of God, i.e., to "feel, judge, and act differently from what [they] otherwise should."[58] As a consequence, "[they] recognize God where before [they] did not perceive Him; [they] trust and love Him where before [they] feared and hated Him; [and they] firmly embrace Him in His Word where before [they] turned indifferently away."[59]

Yet how, specifically, does the subjective testimony of the Holy Spirit render the perception and reception of the truth certain? Why, in other words, is the witness of the Spirit effectual? Warfield maintained that the internal operation of the Spirit accomplishes its ordained end precisely because it implants, or rather restores, "a spiritual sense in the soul by which God is recognized in His Word."[60] This restoration of susceptibility to spiritual truth then has two certain effects. First, it enables regenerated sinners to reason "rightly." Warfield argued that while this spiritual sense is not revelation in the strict sense of the term, it "is just God Himself in His intimate working in the human heart, opening it to the light of the truth, that by this illumination it may see things as they really are and so recognize God in the Scriptures with the same directness and surety as men recognize sweetness in what is sweet and brightness in what is bright."[61] In spite of the fact that the work of the Spirit "presupposes the objective revelation and only prepares the heart to respond to and embrace it," it nonetheless is the source of all our "right knowledge" of God because it is the means by which fallen sinners are enabled to "see" through the spectacles of Scripture, i.e., to "discern" the beauty and truthfulness of the Word.[62] It is herein, then, i.e., in the "conjoint divine action" of Word and Spirit, of objective and subjective, that the "keystone" of Warfield's doctrine of the knowledge of God is to be found.[63]

While the subjective testimony of the Spirit is the immediate means by which regenerated sinners are enabled to see and know things "as they really are," it is also the less direct though no less effectual means to the rise of saving faith in the regenerated soul. On the basis of his commitment to the unitary operation of the soul, Warfield insisted that a "right" knowledge of the Gospel will immediately and irresistibly manifest itself in an act of saving faith simply because the sense that immediately informs the perception of the mind is the same sense that ultimately determines the activity of the will, broadly understood. As such, saving faith is the certain manifestation of the ability to reason "rightly" because the knowledge of God that is communicated to the regenerated soul via the "conjoint divine action" of Word and Spirit is not a knowledge that occupies the intellect alone. It is, rather, a "vital and vitalizing knowledge of God" that "takes hold of the whole man in the roots of his activities and controls all the movements of his soul."[64] We must acknowledge, therefore, that the testimony of the Spirit renders both true knowledge and saving faith absolutely certain because it is the implanted sense of the divine that "forces" regenerated sinners to see and pursue that which they perceive (rightly) to be both true and trustworthy.[65]

Given Warfield's understanding of the relationship between the objective and the subjective in religious epistemology and in light of his clear endorsement of the notion that the soul is a single unit that acts in all of its functions as a single substance, we must conclude our analysis of Warfield's religious epistemology by making one final assertion. Warfield's repudiation of the modern era's relocation of the divine-human nexus was not based upon a rationalistic - and therefore heterodox - reliance upon external authority. His repudiation was based, rather, upon the desire to preserve two important elements of the Princeton tradition in an increasingly subjectivistic age: the objective basis of Christian faith and the enduring veracity of the distinction between a merely speculative and a spiritual understanding of the Gospel. First, Warfield rejected the modern era's relocation of the divine-human nexus because its overt subjectivism relegated the role of theology - i.e., the role of the conceptual formulation of perceived truth - to a place of secondary significance and thereby violated what for Warfield was the foundational axiom of Christian anthropology, namely the primacy of the intellect in faith. "Christianity is not a distinctive interpretation of a religious experience common to all men," Warfield argued, "much less is it an indeterminate and constantly changing interpretation of a religious experience common to men; it is a distinctive religious experience begotten in men by a distinctive body of facts known only to or rightly apprehended only by Christians."[66]

Second, although Warfield was unyielding in his defense of the primacy of the intellect in faith, he nonetheless recognized that there is more to a saving knowledge of the truth than the rational appropriation of objective evidence. Because he was convinced that the moral or "ethical state" of the knowing soul determines both the quality of perception and the quality of conception, Warfield maintained there is "a shallower and a deeper sense of the word `knowledge' - a purely intellectualistic sense, and a sense that involves the whole man and all his activities."[67] While he eagerly admitted that all moral agents are religious beings because all moral agents "know God" in at least an intellectual sense, he emphasized that only regenerated sinners know God in the deeper sense because it is only in the souls of the regenerate that there is a "perfect interaction" between the objective and the subjective factors that impinge upon religious epistemology and that underlie religious life and practice.[68] We must conclude, therefore, that all charges of rationalism are unfounded and without merit because Warfield recognized that the operation of the intellect involves the "whole man" rather than the rational faculty alone, and as a consequence he distinguished between a merely speculative and a spiritual understanding of the Gospel. While he acknowledged that "It may be possible to speculate on `the essence' of God without being moved by it," he clearly affirmed that "it is impossible to form any vital conception of God without some movement of intellect, feeling, and will towards Him; and any real knowledge of God is inseparable from movements of piety towards Him."[69]

The Appeal to "Right Reason": An Appeal to the "Stronger and Purer Thought" of the Christian Apologist

Given Warfield's endorsement of the classical Reformed distinction between a merely speculative and a spiritual understanding of the gospel, and in light of his insistence that true knowledge and saving faith presuppose the "perfect interaction" of the objective and subjective factors that impinge upon religious epistemology and underlie religious life and practice, the question that we must finally consider has to do with how we should approach Warfield's apologetical effort to "investigate, explicate, and establish" that knowledge of God "which Christianity professes to embody and seeks to make efficient in the world."[70] Must we conclude, along with the consensus of critical opinion, that Warfield was a rationalist whose approach to apologetics was built upon an almost "Pelagian confidence"[71] in the moral competence of even the unregenerate mind? Must we conclude, in other words, that Warfield's apologetic sprang from an accommodation of theology to anthropological and epistemological assumptions that are diametrically opposed to the anthropological and epistemological assumptions of the Reformed tradition? The remainder of this essay argues that we must not unless we want to seriously misrepresent Warfield's approach to apologetics. While Warfield consistently maintained that saving faith is a mental conviction which as such is grounded in the rational appropriation of objective truth rather than the ineffable religious experience of a fallen moral agent, he nonetheless recognized that the truth that is the ground of faith cannot produce saving faith apart from the testimonium internum Spiritus Sancti.[72] "It is beyond all question," Warfield argued, that "only the prepared heart . . . can fitly respond to the `reasons' [i.e., `evidences']; but how can even a prepared heart respond, when there are no `reasons' [i.e., `evidences'] to draw out its action?"[73] Since Warfield insisted that "Objective adequacy and subjective effect are not exactly correlated,"[74] we must conclude that he was not a rationalist who was hopelessly wed to the anthropological and epistemological assumptions of Enlightenment thought. He was, rather, a Reformed scholar who sought to retain a place for the objective in religious epistemology and to remain faithful to the foundational principle of Augustinian and Reformed piety - namely that "It is God and God alone who saves, and that in every element of the saving process"[75] - by grounding the gift of saving faith in the ability to reason "rightly."

Yet if saving faith is a mental conviction which as such is grounded in the spiritual perception of objective truth rather than the ineffable religious experience of a fallen moral agent, then how are we to understand the offensive mission of the Princeton apologetic? More specifically, how can we rescue Warfield from the charge of rationalism when he explicitly argues that the Christian religion "has been placed in the world to reason its way to the dominion of the world"?[76] I contend that a correct understanding of Warfield's approach to apologetics will elude interpreters as long as they fail to keep two important matters in mind. First, they will never correctly understand what Warfield was trying to accomplish through his evidentialist apologetic as long as they stubbornly insist that his appeal to "right reason" was an appeal "to the natural man's `right reason' to judge of the truth of Christianity."[77] This essay has established that the ability to reason "rightly" - i.e., the ability to see revealed truth for what it objectively is, namely glorious - presupposes the regenerating activity of the Holy Spirit on the "whole soul" of a moral agent. Warfield's appeal to "right reason," therefore, was not an appeal to the unbeliever's neutral reasoning to judge of the truth of Christianity, but rather an appeal to the regenerate reason of the Christian apologist. Since "right reason" is the offensive weapon of the Christian apologist rather that the "self-established intellectual tool" of the autonomous natural man,[78] it follows that the Christian religion will "reason its way to its dominion" not because Christians have "unbounded confidence in the apologetic power of the rational appeal to people of common sense,"[79] but rather because they recognize that "the Christian view of the world" is true and that they have no reason to fear the "contention of men."[80]

The Christian, by virtue of the palingenesis working in him, stands undoubtedly on an indefinitely higher plane of thought than that occupied by sinful man as such. And he must not decline, but use and press the advantage which God has thus given him. He must insist, and insist again, that his determinations, and not those of the unilluminated, must be built into the slowly rising fabric of human science.[81]

Second, a correct understanding of Warfield's apologetic will also elude interpreters if his endorsement of the distinction between a merely speculative and a spiritual understanding of the gospel is not allowed to qualify his contention that "rational argumentation does, entirely apart from that specific operation of the Holy Ghost which produces saving faith, ground a genuine exercise of faith."[82] While Warfield recognized that only regenerated sinners can exercise saving faith because only regenerated sinners have "that keen taste for the divine" that penetrates to the spiritual excellence of what is rationally perceived, he nonetheless insisted that "`faith in God' is natural to man" because all moral agents necessarily react to the knowledge of God that is reflected into their souls.[83] All moral agents react, in other words, to the grounds of faith that are present to their consciousness. Since the testimonium internum Spiritus Sancti is not necessary to produce faith but only to give to faith "that peculiar quality which makes it saving faith,"[84] it follows that through his apologetic Warfield was simply trying to "produce in the sinner that form of conviction we call faith, by the presentation of the evidence on which it rests."[85] While he acknowledged that the apologist cannot produce the "form" of faith that faith takes in the regenerated sinner, he nonetheless insisted that it is the task of the apologist to "urge `his stronger and purer thought' continuously, and in all its details, upon the attention of men," in order that a fides humana - i.e., an historical faith - might be established.[86] As Andrew Hoffecker has incisively noted, the underlying assumption of this approach to apologetics is of course that the Spirit - who blows where He wills - will enable the elect to see revealed truth for what it objectively is, thereby rendering their saving response to the truth certain.[87]

Having established that Warfield's approach to apologetics involves both an explicit appeal to the "better science"[88] of the Christian apologist as well as an implicit appeal to the sovereign workings of the Spirit of God, we must conclude that the Princeton apologetic is best characterized as that foundational enterprise that attempts to establish the objective foundations of Christian faith through the superior science of redeemed thought, and thereby to facilitate the fallen sinner's engagement in the most basic activity of human existence, namely reaction to the truth of God that is reflected into his/her soul. "If it is incumbent on the believer to be able to give a reason for the faith that is in him," Warfield argued, "it is impossible for him to be a believer without a reason for the faith that is in him; and it is the task of apologetics to bring this reason clearly out in his consciousness, and make its validity plain."[89]

Conclusion

In closing, when Warfield's apologetical response to the modern era's relocation of the divine-human nexus is interpreted within the context of his insistence that the act of saving faith is "a moral act and the gift of God" as well as an act with "cognizable ground in right reason,"[90] it becomes clear that he was not a rationalist who naively insisted that a saving knowledge of the truth can be attained merely through the rational appropriation of objective evidence.[91] He was, rather, a Reformed scholar who recognized that because the operation of the intellect involves the "whole soul" rather than the rational faculty alone, the "taste for the divine" that informs the ability to reason "rightly" and leads to the fulfillment of faith in the movement of trust "cannot be awakened in unbelievers by the natural action of the Scriptures or any rational arguments whatever, but requires for its production the work of the Spirit of God ab extra accidens."[92]

This is historically significant not only because it neutralizes the frankly irresponsible claim that Warfield and his colleagues at Old Princeton gave the back of their collective hand to the subjective and experiential components of religious epistemology,[93] but also because it calls into question how we should think about Warfield's approach to apologetics in relation to the ongoing debate within the Reformed camp over apologetical method. Given the fact that "right reason" is the offensive weapon of the Christian apologist rather than the "self-established intellectual tool" of the autonomous natural man, is it possible that there is more in common between the apologetical approaches of Warfield and Cornelius Van Til than partisans on both sides of the apologetical divide are willing to admit? I take up this question in the next issue of Premise by interacting with an article by the late Dr. Greg Bahnsen on the apologetical tradition of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Whereas Dr. Bahnsen argues that there is a "harmony of perspective" between the apologetical approaches of J. Gresham Machen and Cornelius Van Til because Machen "moved away from the old Princeton conception of apologetics in a presuppositional direction,"[94] I contend that if there is in fact a "harmony of perspective" between Machen and Van Til there is harmony only because Machen stood squarely in the tradition of Old Princeton. The plausibility of this claim, which I substantiate in my forthcoming essay, is suggested by the following quotation from Machen's personal correspondence with a Dutch Calvinist by the name of Gerrit Hospers. "You will not take it amiss," Machen writes,

that I still agree rather strongly with Dr. Warfield about the place of apologetics. It is quite true that the human reason because of the noetic effects of sin needs the Spirit of God in order to accept the truth of the reservation [sic] which God has given, but because the arguments for the truth of the Christian religion are insufficient to produce Christian conviction, it does not follow, I think, that they are unnecessary. On the contrary, it seems to me that they constitute one of the means which the Spirit of God uses in the production of Christian conviction and the conversion of the sinner.[95]

Endnotes

[1]Mark Noll, "The Founding of Princeton Seminary," Westminster Theological Journal 42 (Fall 1979): 85.
[2]Mark Noll, "The Princeton Theology," in The Princeton Theology, Reformed Theology in America, edited by David Wells, no. 1 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985; reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1989), 24.
[3]George Marsden, "The Collapse of American Evangelical Acedemia," in Faith and Rationality: Reason and Belief in God, edited by Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff (Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame, 1983), 241.
[4]This is the general theme of John Vander Stelt's Philosophy and Scripture: A Study in Old Princeton and Westminster Theology (Marlton, NJ: Mack Publishing Co., 1978).
[5]George Marsden, "Scotland and Philadelphia: Common Sense Philosophy from Jefferson to Westminster," Reformed Theological Journal (March 1979): 11.
[6]The Princeton theologians endorsed an understanding of Christian anthropology known as Realistic Dualism. According to the doctrine of Realistic Dualism, the soul is a single unit that necessarily acts as a single substance. It is comprised of two rather than three faculties: the understanding, which takes precedence in all rational activity, and the will, which is broadly defined to include the emotions and volitions. The will, moreover, is not a self-determining power, but rather a power that is determined by the motives of the acting agent. For an excellent analysis of the doctrine of free agency that flows from this anthropology, see Paul Ramsey's introductory essay to Jonathan Edwards, The Freedom of the Will (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1957), especially 38-40. For an excellent statement of the distinction between a merely speculative and a spiritual understanding of the gospel, see Jonathan Edwards, "Christian Knowledge," in Jonathan Edwards On Knowing Christ (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1990), 9-30. For an extensive analysis of the issues addressed in this paragraph, see my dissertation, "Moral Character and Moral Certainty: The Subjective State of the Soul and J. G. Machen's Critique of Theological Liberalism" (Ph.D. Marquette University, 1996), chapters one and two; and my article, "The `Intellectualism' of Old Princeton: A Question of Epistemological Context" Princeton Theological Review 4, 1 (February 1997): 42-49.
[7]B. B. Warfield, "Introduction to Francis R. Beattie's Apologetics," in Selected Shorter Writings of Benjamin B. Warfield, edited by John E. Meeter, 2 vols. (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1970 and 1973), II: 98-99.
[8]William Livingstone, "The Princeton Apologetic as Exemplified by the Work of Benjamin B. Warfield and J. Gresham Machen: A Study in American Theology, 1880-1930" (Ph.D. Yale University, 1948), 186.
[9]For this appeal, see Warfield, "Introduction to Francis R. Beattie's Apologetics," in Shorter Writings, II: 99-100, and B. B. Warfield, "A Review of De Zekerheid des Geloofs," Shorter Writings, II: 120-121.
[10]B. B. Warfield, "Christianity the Truth," Shorter Writings, II: 213.
[11]B. B. Warfield, "Augustine's Doctrine of Knowledge and Authority," Tertullian and Augustine, vol. IV, The Works of Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (New York: Oxford University Press, 1930; reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991), 143-144.
[12]B. B. Warfield, "Calvin's Doctrine of the Knowledge of God," Calvin and Calvinism, vol. V, The Works of Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (New York: Oxford University Press, 1931; reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991), 31. Cf. B. B. Warfield, "God and Human Religion and Morals," Shorter Writings, I: 41-45.
[13]Warfield, "Augustine's Doctrine of Knowledge and Authority," 143.
[14]Ibid., 145-146. On the differences between Augustine's and Calvin's ontologies of knowledge, see "Calvin's Doctrine of the Knowledge of God," 117.
[15]B. B. Warfield, "Authority, Intellect, Heart," Shorter Writings, II: 668. Anyone who doubts that Warfield endorsed the doctrine of Realistic Dualism should read this short yet extremely important essay.
[16]Warfield, "Augustine's Doctrine of Knowledge and Authority," 37.
[17]B. B. Warfield, review of Foundations: A Statement of Christian Belief in Terms of Modern Thought, by Seven Oxford Men, in Critical Reviews, vol. X, The Works of Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (New York: Oxford University Press, 1932; reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991), 325; cf. B. B. Warfield, "The Idea of Systematic Theology," Studies in Theology, vol. IX, The Works of Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (New York: Oxford University Press, 1932; reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991), 53-54; Warfield, "Calvin's Doctrine of the Knowledge of God," 37-38.
[18]Warfield, "Augustine's Doctrine of Knowledge and Authority," 149. On the soul acting as a single substance, cf. 150-151.
[19]Ibid., 149, note 37. Cf. Warfield, "Calvin's Doctrine of the Knowledge of God," 31-32, 38; B. B. Warfield, "Augustine and the Pelagian Controversy," Tertullian and Augustine, 295-296, 401-404.
[20]Warfield, "Augustine's Doctrine of Knowledge and Authority," 149, note 37; cf. Warfield, "Augustine's Doctrine of Knowledge and Authority," 149-150.
[21]B. B. Warfield, The Power of God Unto Salvation (Philadelphia: The Presbyterian Board of Publishing and Sabbath-School Work, 1903), 243-244.
[22]Warfield, "God and Human Religion and Morals," Shorter Writings, I: 42. Emphasis added.
[23]Cf. B. B. Warfield, "On Faith in its Psychological Aspects," Studies in Theology, 338.
[24]Ibid., 341.
[25]Ibid., 342, 315.
[26]Ibid., 317, 331.
[27]Ibid., 314, 336.
[28]Ibid.
[29]Ibid., 318.
[30]Ibid., 314, 331. For more on the "judgment of the intellect" and the "complex of emotions" that form the "concrete state of mind" of the perceiving agent, see Helseth, "Moral Character and Moral Certainty," 89, note 71.
[31]Warfield, "On Faith in its Psychological Aspects," 341. The movement of assent is the central movement in faith because it "must depend" on a prior movement of the intellect, and the movement of the sensibilities in the act of "trust" is the "product" of assent. Thus assent ties together the intellectual and the volitional aspects of faith. Cf. 341-342.
[32]Ibid., 336-337; cf. B. B. Warfield, review of The Christian Faith: A System of Dogmatics, by Theodore Haering, in Critical Reviews, 412.
[33]Warfield, "On Faith in its Psychological Aspects," 314.
[34]Ibid., 336.
[35]Ibid., 338.
[36]Warfield, "Augustine's Doctrine of Knowledge and Authority," 158.
[37]Warfield, "Calvin's Doctrine of the Knowledge of God," 36, 43.
[38]Warfield, "A Review of De Zekerheid Des Geloofs," Shorter Writings, II: 116; cf. Warfield, "On Faith in its Psychological Aspects," 338. On the relationship between "the disease of sin" and Warfield's contention that "Man as we know him is not normal man," see Warfield, "Augustine's Doctrine of Knowledge and Authority," 156, 158; Warfield, "Calvin's Doctrine of the Knowledge of God," 32, 70.
[39]Warfield, "Augustine's Doctrine of Knowledge and Authority," 158.
[40]Warfield, "Calvin's Doctrine of the Knowledge of God," 32. Cf. Warfield, "Augustine's Doctrine of Knowledge and Authority," 155-156.
[41]Ibid., 155. Emphasis added. On the failure of general revelation, see Warfield, "Calvin's Doctrine of the Knowledge of God," 39-45.
[42]Warfield, "On Faith in its Psychological Aspects," 338, 339; Warfield, "God and Human Religion and Morals," Shorter Writings, I: 42; cf. Warfield, "A Review of De Zekerheid des Geloofs," Shorter Writings, II: 116.
[43]B. B. Warfield, "Inability and the Demand of Faith," Shorter Writings, II: 725; cf. Warfield, "On Faith in its Psychological Aspects," 339.
[44]Warfield, "Augustine and the Pelagian Controversy," 403-404.
[45]Warfield, "God and Human Religion and Morals," Shorter Writings, I: 44.
[46]For an understanding of the relationship between the inability to see revealed truth for what it objectively is and the "infinite variety" of "religions and moralities" that are produced by "reprobate minds," cf. Ibid., I: 42, 44; and my brief discussion of Warfield's distinction between "man-made" (i.e., natural) and "God-made" (i.e., supernatural), "unrevealed" and "revealed" religion in "Moral Character and Moral Certainty," Appendix Two.
[47]Cf. Warfield, "Calvin's Doctrine of the Knowledge of God," 47; Warfield, "Augustine's Doctrine of Knowledge and Authority," 159.
[48]Ibid., 159-160.
[49]B. B. Warfield, "Christianity and Revelation," Shorter Writings, I: 27.
[50]Warfield, "Calvin's Doctrine of the Knowledge of God," 32; cf. Warfield, "Augustine's Doctrine of Knowledge and Authority," 222.
[51]Ibid., 159, 222.
[52]Warfield, "Calvin's Doctrine of the Knowledge of God," 69. Warfield suggested that general and special revelation together form an "organic whole" which includes all that God has done - in nature, history, and grace - to make himself known. Special revelation, therefore, must not be regarded as that which was given to supersede general revelation. It must be regarded, rather, as that which was graciously provided to meet the altered circumstances occasioned by the advent of sin. Cf. Warfield, "Christianity and Revelation," Shorter Writings, I: 28.
[53]Warfield, "Augustine's Doctrine of Knowledge and Authority," 161.
[54]Warfield, "Calvin's Doctrine of the Knowledge of God," 70.
[55]Ibid., 32.
[56]Warfield, "God and Human Religion and Morals," Shorter Writings, I: 43.
[57]Warfield, "On Faith in its Psychological Aspects," 339. On the relationship between regeneration and the "habits or dispositions" that govern the activity of the soul, cf. B. B. Warfield, "Regeneration," Shorter Writings, II: 323; B. B. Warfield, "New Testament Terms Descriptive of the Great Change," Shorter Writings, I: 267-277.
[58]Warfield, "Calvin's Doctrine of the Knowledge of God," 111.
[59]Ibid.
[60]Warfield, "Calvin's Doctrine of the Knowledge of God," 33.
[61]Ibid., 79, 32, 111-112. Emphasis added.
[62]Ibid., 32, 121, 70, 79.
[63]Ibid., 31, 113; cf. 83. For my take on how Warfield's understanding of the testimonium internum Spiritus Sancti is related to that of Calvin, see "Moral Character and Moral Certainty," Appendix One.
[64]Warfield, "Calvin's Doctrine of the Knowledge of God," 75.
[65]Cf. Warfield, "On Faith in its Psychological Aspects," 337-338. On the essential similarity between faith in "renewed man" and faith in "unfallen man," cf. 340.
[66]Warfield, review of Foundations, 325-326. Emphasis added.
[67]B. B. Warfield, "Theology a Science," Shorter Writings, II: 210.
[68]Warfield, "Authority, Intellect, Heart," Shorter Writings, II: 669. For more on how the objective and subjective are related in "sound religion" and "true religious thinking," and on how there is a symbiotic relationship between religion and theology because of the unitary operation of the soul, cf. 668-671; Warfield, "Theology a Science," Shorter Writings, II: 210; Andrew Hoffecker, "Benjamin B. Warfield," in The Princeton Theology, edited by David Wells, 67; Helseth, "Moral Character and Moral Certainty," Appendix Two.
[69]Warfield, "Calvin's Doctrine of the Knowledge of God," 37.
[70]B. B. Warfield, "Apologetics," Studies in Theology, 4, 3.
[71]Jack Rogers and Donald McKim, The Authority and Interpretation of the Bible (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979), 323.
[72]Warfield, "A Review of De Zekerheid Des Geloofs," Shorter Writings, II: 112, 114.
[73]Warfield, "Introduction to Francis R. Beattie's Apologetics," Shorter Writings, II: 98.
[74]Warfield, "On Faith in its Psychological Aspects," 318.
[75]B. B. Warfield, The Plan of Salvation (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publications, 1915), 59.
[76]Warfield, "A Review of De Zekerheid Des Geloofs," Shorter Writings, II: 120.
[77]Jack Rogers, "Van Til and Warfield on Scripture in the Westminster confession," in Jerusalem and Athens: Critical Discussions on the Philosophy and Apologetics of Cornelius Van Til, edited by E. R. Geehan (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1980), 154.
[78]Cornelius Van Til, "My Credo," in Jerusalem and Athens, 11.
[79]George Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth-Century Evangelicalism 1870-1925 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), 115.
[80]Warfield, "Introduction to Francis R. Beattie's Apologetics," Shorter Writings, 103, 100.
[81]Ibid., II: 103.
[82]Warfield, "A Review of De Zekerheid Des Geloofs," Shorter Writings, II: 115.
[83]Warfield, "Calvin's Doctrine of the Knowledge of God," 124, note 99; Warfield, "A Review of De Zekerheid Des Geloofs," Shorter Writings, II: 116, 115.
[84]Ibid., II: 115.
[85]Ibid., II: 116-117.
[86]Warfield, "Introduction to Francis R. Beattie's Apologetics," Shorter Writings, II: 103. On the relationship between apologetics and "historical faith," cf. Warfield, "Calvin's Doctrine of the Knowledge of God," 124-125, note 99; Andrew Hoffecker, Piety and the Princeton Theologians: Archibald Alexander, Charles Hodge, and Benjamin Warfield (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed; and Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981), 101-103, 108-109.
[87]Cf. Ibid., 109; Warfield, "Introduction to Francis R. Beattie's Apologetics," Shorter Writings, II: 99.
[88]Ibid., II: 103.
[89]Warfield, "Apologetics," 4.
[90]Ibid., 15.
[91] This is not to deny the possibility that some later apologists who misappropriated Warfield's method apart from his theology are free from criticisms of epistemological weakness.
[92]Warfield, "Calvin's Doctrine of the Knowledge of God," 124, note 99.
[93]For example, see Daniel B. Wallace, "Who's Afraid of the Holy Spirit?" Christianity Today (September 12, 1994): 38; Ernest R. Sandeen, "The Princeton Theology: One Source of Biblical Literalism in American Protestantism," Church History 31 (1962): 307-319.
[94]Greg Bahnsen, "Machen, Van Til, and the Apologetical Tradition of the OPC," in Pressing Toward the Mark: Essays Commemorating Fifty Years of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, edited by Charles Dennison and Richard Gamble (Philadelphia: The Committee for the Historian of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 1986), 263, 262-263.
[95]J. Gresham Machen to Rev. Gerrit H. Hospers, Ontario, New York, 27 December 1924, Machen Archives, Montgomery Memorial Library, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia. See also Machen to Hospers, 11 December 1924.

Paul Helseth, recently completed his PhD at Marquette University.

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