Friday, January 14, 2011

Warfield not an Evolutionist After All!

In the latest issue of The Confessional Presbyterian, there is an article by Fred G. Zaspel entitled "B. B. Warfield on Creation and Evolution." Having read my share of theistic evolutionists, I was already aware that Warfield is used by them to justify their position. "I am a theistic evolutionist, just like Warfield was, so that makes it ok." That is how the reasoning usually runs. (NB: of course, to us confessional Presbyterians, it doesn't matter what any individual believes, we are held to the standard of our Confessional documents, and the Westminster Confession leaves no room for the possibility of evolution. But, I digress.)

Rev. Zaspel has done a good work by contributing fresh study to the position of Warfield in regard to evolution. He clearly demonstrates that, at best, Warfield was open to the possibility of evolution (though a highly modified version of evolution which could not be called "Darwinian"), and at times mockingly rejected the idea. It appears that Warfield in his undergraduate days probably held to evolution (Zaspel writes: "Warfield's own claim in 1916 is that he had rejected evolutionism by the early 1880s, and significantly, his remark seems to reflect his thinking still in 1916"), but at some point along the way abandoned the theory. "This is how Warfield argued consistently over the course of his career: he allowed the possibility of evolution, but he remained non-committal," writes Zaspel.

Zaspel concludes, "The prevailing understanding of Warfield as an evolutionist must be rejected."

You can order a copy of the latest Confessional Presbyterian Journal at if you are interested in reading the entire article, which I highly recommend.


  1. Yes it was! Thanks, Tim. I've corrected it now.

  2. Intersting. So the take-home lesson from this is that Warfield may not be cited as a proponent of an evolutionary view of the origin of things.

    (And it makes me feel a bit better about him.)

  3. Van, yes, that is correct. It makes me feel a bit better about him, too, though I still have major reservations about some of his other beliefs.