Tag Archives | B. B. Warfield

Warfield, Vos, and Van Til: Is God One Person?

Shield of the TrinityOrthodox trinitarianism typically refers to God in terms of three persons or subsistences (personas, subsistentia, or ὑποστάσιες) and one essence or substance (essentiasubstantia, or οὐσία). But is there a sense in which God is one person? To put it another way, is God’s oneness personal?

Here’s how three Princeton theologians addressed this topic.

B. B. Warfield (1851–1921)

The elements in the doctrine of God which above all others needed emphasis in Old Testament times were naturally His unity and His personality. The great thing to be taught the ancient people of God was that the God of all the earth is one person. Over against the varying idolatries about them, this was the truth of truths for which Israel was primarily to stand; and not until this great truth was ineffaceably stamped upon their souls could the personal distinctions in the Triune-God be safely made known to them.

Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, “The Spirit of God in the Old Testament,” chapter 3 of Biblical Doctrines, vol. 2 of The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield (New York: Oxford University Press, 1932), 127 (emphasis added).

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Warfield on Eternal Subordination in the Trinity

Those who reject the notion of hierarchy in the imminent Trinity often point to B. B. Warfield as a supporter of their position. In his article in ISBE on the Trinity,1 Warfield discusses at length his reservations about reading what we see in the economic Trinity back into the immanent Trinity.

19. The Implications of “Son” and “Spirit”

. . . To the fact of the Trinity—to the fact, that is, that in the unity of the Godhead there subsist three Persons, each of whom has his particular part in the working out of salvation—the New Testament testimony is clear, consistent, pervasive and conclusive. There is included in this testimony constant and decisive witness to the complete and undiminished Deity of each of these Persons; no language is too exalted to apply to each of them in turn in the effort to give expression to the writer’s sense of His Deity: the name that is given to each is fully understood to be “the name that is above every name.” When we attempt to press the inquiry behind the broad fact, however, with a view to ascertaining exactly how the New Testament writers conceive the three Persons to be related, the one to the other, we meet with great difficulties. Nothing could seem more natural, for example, than to assume that the mutual relations of the Persons of the Trinity are revealed in the designations, “the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” which are given them by Our Lord in the solemn formula of Mt. 28:19. Our confidence in this assumption is somewhat shaken, however, when we observe, as we have just observed, that these designations are not carefully preserved in their allusions to the Trinity by the writers of the New Testament at large, but are characteristic only of Our Lord’s allusions and those of John, whose modes of speech in general very closely resemble those of Our Lord. Our confidence is still further shaken when we observe that the implications with respect to the mutual relations of the Trinitarian Persons, which are ordinarily derived from these designations, do not so certainly lie in them as is commonly supposed.

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  1. Trinity,” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, edited by James Orr (Chicago: The Howard-Severance Company, 1915), 5:3,012–22.

What Is the Most Convincing Proof of the Deity of Christ?

My immediate response would probably be God’s special revelation in His authoritative and inerrant Word.

Here’s what B. B. Warfield had to say in “The Deity of Christ”:

The Scriptures give us evidence enough, then, that Christ is God. But the Scriptures are far from giving us all the evidence we have. There is, for example, the revolution which Christ has wrought in the world. If, indeed, it were asked what the most convincing proof of the deity of Christ is, perhaps the best answer would be, just Christianity. The new life He has brought into the world; the new creation which He has produced by His life and work in the world; here are at least His most palpable credentials.

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