GRACE: The Ultimate Liberation Theology

B. B. Warfield

In its nature, grace is assistance, help from God;

imagesIMX2CT9Tand all divine aid may be included under the term, — including all that which may be called natural aid, as well as, those things which we see as spiritual, and Spiritual grace includes, no doubt, all external help that God gives man for working out his salvation, such as the law, the preaching of the gospel, the example of Christ, by which we may learn the right way; it includes also forgiveness of sins, by which we are freed from the guilt already incurred; but above all it includes that help which God gives by His Holy Spirit, working within, not without, by which man is enabled to choose and to do what he sees, by the teachings of the law, or by the gospel, or by the natural conscience, to be right.

Within this aid are included all those spiritual exercises which we call regeneration, justification and perseverance to the end…

1image… in a word, all the divine assistance by which, in being made Christians, we are made to differ from other men. Augustine is fond of representing this grace as in essence the writing of God’s law (or of God’s will) on our hearts, so that it appears hereafter as our own desire and wish; and even more prevalently as the shedding abroad of love in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, given to us in Christ Jesus; therefore, as a change of disposition, by which we come to love and freely choose, in co-operation with God’s aid, just the things which hitherto we have been unable to choose because in bondage to sin. Grace, thus, does not make void free will: it acts through free will, and acts upon it only by liberating it from its bondage to sin, i.e., by liberating the agent that uses the free will, so that he is no longer enslaved by his fleshly lusts, and is enabled to make use of his free will in choosing the good; and thus it is only by grace that free will is enabled to act in good part.But just because grace changes the disposition, and so enables man, hitherto enslaved to sin, for the first time to desire and use his free will for good, it lies in the very nature of the case that it is prevenient.

Also, as the very name imports, it is necessarily gratuitous;

break11since man is enslaved to sin until it is given, all the merits that he can have prior to it are bad merits, and deserve punishment, not gifts of favour. When, then, it is asked, on the ground of what, grace is given, it can only be answered, ‘on the ground of God’s infinite mercy and undeserved favour.’ There is nothing in man to merit it, and it first gives merit of good to man. All men alike deserve death, and all that comes to them in the way of blessing is necessarily of God’s free and unmerited favour. This is equally true of all grace.

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Taken from the “Augustine & The Pelagian Controversy,” by B. B. Warfield

Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage:  Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (November 5, 1851 – February 16, 1921) was professor of theology at Princeton Seminary from 1887 to 1921. Some conservative Presbyterians consider him to be the last of the great Princeton theologians before the split in 1929 that formed Westminster Theological Seminary and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Warfield was born near Lexington, Kentucky on November 5, 1851. His parents were William and Mary Cabell (Breckinridge) Warfield, originally from Virginia and quite wealthy. His maternal grandfather was the Presbyterian preacher Robert Jefferson Breckinridge (1800–1871), the son of John Breckinridge, a former United States Senator and Attorney General. Warfield’s uncle was John C. Breckinridge, the fourteenth Vice President of the United States, and a Confederate general in the American Civil War. His brother, Ethelbert Dudley Warfield was a Presbyterian minister and college president. A distant niece of his was Wallis Warfield Simpson, for whom Great Britain’s King Edward VIII abdicated his throne in order to marry her. Like many children born into a wealthy family, Warfield’s childhood education was private. Warfield entered Princeton University in 1868 and graduated in 1871 with high honors. Although Warfield studied mathematics and science in college, while traveling in Europe he decided to study theology, surprising even many of his closest friends. He entered Princeton Seminary in 1873, in order to train for ministry as a Presbyterian minister. He graduated in 1876.

For a short time in 1876 he preached in Presbyterian churches in Concord, Kentucky and Dayton, Ohio as a “supply pastor” — the latter church calling him to be their ordained minister (which he politely refused). In late 1876 Warfield and his new wife moved to Germany where he studied under Christoph Ernst Luthardt and Franz Delitzsch. Warfield was the assistant pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, Maryland for a short time. Then he became an instructor at Western Theological Seminary, which is now called Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He was ordained on April 26, 1879.

In 1881 Warfield wrote a joint article with A. A. Hodge on the inspiration of the Bible. It drew attention because of its scholarly and forceful defense of the inerrancy of the Bible. In many of his writings, Warfield attempted to demonstrate that the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy was simply orthodox Christian teaching, and not merely a concept invented in the nineteenth century. His passion was to refute the liberal element within Presbyterianism and within Christianity at large. Throughout his life, he continued to write books and articles, which are still widely read today.

In August 1876 Warfield married Annie Pierce Kinkead. Soon afterward they visited Germany. During their time there, Annie was struck by lightning and was permanently paralyzed. Benjamin continued to care for her until her death in 1915, managing to fit his work as a theologian with his role as caregiver. They had no children.

In 1887 Warfield was appointed to the Charles Hodge Chair at Princeton Theological Seminary, where he succeeded Hodge’s son A. A. Hodge. Warfield remained there until his death. As the last conservative successor to Hodge to live prior to the re-organization of Princeton Seminary, Warfield is often regarded by Protestant scholarship as the last of the Princeton theologians. He died in Princeton, New Jersey on February 16, 1921.

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