Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Curious Case of Benjamin Warfield

B.B. Warfield was a Presbyterian theologian who was part of the writing team of "The Fundamentals" back in the early 20th century. He was, in other words, a fundamentalist, best known these days as a staunch defender of biblical inerrancy. Yet according to David Livingstone (the geography professor at Queens) he was also an evolutionist. Here is a paragraph from one of Livingstone's essays on the subject:

'The prevalence of the evolutionary hypotheses', [Warfield] wrote, 'has removed all motive for denying a common origin to the human race, and rendered it natural to look upon the differences which exist among the various types of man as differentiations of a common stock.' Warfield's discussion, then, serves to illustrate not only his adoption of an evolutionary model for explaining aspects of human development, but also his uncompromising conviction that the whole doctrinal structure of the biblical account of redemption was rooted in the assumption that 'the race of man is one organic whole.' The evolutionary basis of Warfield's proposals, I would suggest, need to be remembered today when some evangelical anti-evolutionists urge that evolutionism has fostered a racist mentality. Thus Schaeffer's comment that evolutionary 'concepts opened the door for racism' is as dangerous a half-truth as E. H. Andrew's emotive note that the 'Nazi regime exploited evolutionary ideas to “justify” their mass murder of the Jews.’

And here is the conclusion:

...the considered and supportive testimony of Warfield to the theory of evolution can no longer be suppressed or subverted by those who want to wield a Warfieldian view of scripture in the cause of a 'creationist' crusade.

 What do you make of that?

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