B.B. Warfield on Predestination

Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield (1851-1921) was a professor of systematic theology at Princeton Seminary from 1887 to 1921. He is known for such works as The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, Perfectionism, Counterfeit Miracles, The Plan of Salvation, and The Person and Work of Christ.

The following pernicious piece on Predestination by B.B. Warfield was taken from the website Monergism.com. They list the following as their source:  Article “Predestination,” from A Dictionary of the Bible, ed. by James Hastings, v. 4, pp. 47-63. Pub. N. Y. 1909, by Charles Scribner’s Sons. 

Here’s B.B. Warfield:

“That the acts of free agents are included in this ‘productive foreknowledge,’ or rather in this all-inclusive plan of the life of the universe, created for the Old Testament writers apparently not the least embarrassment. This is not because they did not believe man to be free, – throughout the whole Old Testament there is never the least doubt expressed of the freedom or moral responsibility of man, – but because they did believe God to be free, whether in His works of creation or of providence, and could not believe He was hampered or limited in the attainment of His ends by the creatures of His own hands.”

Which Old Testament writer believed man to be free from the control of his Maker, Warfield? Isaiah? Moses? Who? Certainly throughout the whole Old Testament there is never the least doubt expressed concerning man’s moral responsibility, but nowhere is this presumed freedom of man expressed. God alone is free and is therefore responsible to no one. Man has absolutely no freedom relative to his Maker and is therefore responsible to his Maker. The irony is that if man were free, then he would be responsible to no one. Take a hard and careful look at the following passages:

“He turned their heart to hate His people, to deal craftily with His servants” (Psalm 105:25).

“As streams of waters, the king’s heart is in the hand of Jehovah; He turns it wherever He desires” (Proverbs 21:1).

 “Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger! And My fury is the staff in their hand. I will send him against an ungodly nation, and against the people of My wrath. I will command him to plunder, and to strip off spoil, and to trample them like the mud of the streets. Yet he does not purpose this, nor does his heart think so. For it is in his heart to destroy, and to cut off not a few nations. For he says, Are not my commanders all like kings? Is not Calno like Carchemish? Is Hamath not like Arpad? Is Samaria not like Damascus? As my hand has found the kingdoms of the idols (for their carved images excelled Jerusalem’s and Samaria’s); shall I not do to Jerusalem and her idols as I have done to Samaria and her idols? And it will be, when the Lord has broken off all His work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will visit on the fruit of the proud heart of the king of Assyria, and on the glory of his lofty eyes. For he says, I have worked by the strength of my hand and by my wisdom; for I am wise. And I take away the borders of peoples, and have robbed their treasures. And like a mighty one, I put down ones living in it. And my hand has found the riches of the people. Like a nest, I also have gathered all the earth, as forsaken eggs are gathered. And there was not one moving a wing, or opening a mouth, or one chirping. Shall the axe glorify itself over him chopping with it? Or shall the saw magnify itself over him moving it? As if a rod could wave those who lift it. As if a staff could raise what is not wood! So the Lord, Jehovah of Hosts shall send leanness among his fat ones. And under His glory will kindle a burning like the burning of fire” (Isaiah 10:5-16).

 “Wait and wonder! Blind yourselves, and be blind! They are drunk, but not with wine! They stagger, but not with fermented drink! For Jehovah has poured out on you the spirit of deep sleep, and has closed your eyes. He has covered the prophets and your heads, the seers” (Isaiah 29:9-10).

 “There was not a city that made peace with the sons of Israel except the Hivites, ones living in Gibeon. They took all in battle. For it was of Jehovah to harden their hearts, so that they should come against Israel in battle, so that they might be destroyed, so that they might have no favor, but that He might destroy them, as Jehovah commanded Moses” (Joshua 11:19-20).

 “And it happened, Jehovah raised an adversary to Solomon, Hadad the Edomite; he was of the seed of the king in Edom…And God raised up an adversary to him, Rezon the son of Eliadah, who fled from his lord Hadadezer the king of Zobah” (1 Kings 11:14, 23).

Okay. Let’s take Psalm 105:25, Warfield. God TURNED their heart to hate His people. Does that sound like a form of “free agency” to you? Do you believe the Psalmist thought those whose hearts were being TURNED by God were FREE from God's active control in any sense? Certainly for this God-inspired Old Testament Psalmist “there is never the least doubt expressed of the freedom” and authority of God to intrude into the sacred chamber of mans’ heart and TURN it to hate His people.

Warfield writes:

“How God governs the acts of free agents in the pursuance of His plan there is little in the Old Testament to inform us;"

Yeah, right! So little there to inform us...well, except for all those Old Testament passages I just cited (and that’s not even close to an exhaustive compiling, Warfield). But again, I could just refer you to Psalm 105:25 and the 10th chapter of Isaiah for starters.

Warfield continues from where he left off from the above quote:

“but that He governs them in even their most intimate thoughts and feelings and impulses is its unvarying assumption: He is not only the creator of the hearts of men in the first instance, and knows them altogether, but He fashions the hearts of all in all the changing circumstances of life (Ps. xxxiii. 15); forms the spirit of man within him in all its motions (Zech. xii. 1); keeps the hearts of men in His hands, turning them whithersoever He will (Prov. xxi. 1); so that it is even said that man knows what is in his own mind only as the Lord reveals it to him (Amos iv. 13)."

So what does Proverbs 21:1 teach, Warfield? The providential governing of a “free agent” perhaps? What would this supposed “free agent” be free from? Free from the control of the grains of sand at the bottom of the ocean floor? How about "free" from the cosmic dust on Mars or Neptune? Or perhaps “free” from something a bit more relevant, perhaps? Oh, why yes. Of course. You wish to be “free” from the control of your Maker. I perceive the rancor with which you roll, Dr. Warfield. It is your desire to glorify yourself over the One controlling you and to magnify yourself over the One TURNING you (Psalm 105:25; Isaiah 10:5-15).

Concluding with Warfield's uprising:

“The discussion of any antinomy that may be thought to arise from such a joint assertion of the absolute rule of God in the sphere of the spirit and the freedom of the creaturely will, falls obviously under the topic of Providential Government rather than under that of the Decree: it requires to be adverted to here only that we may clearly note the fact that the Old Testament teachers, as they did not hesitate to affirm the absolute sway of God over the thoughts and intents of the human heart, could feel no embarrassment in the inclusion of the acts of free agents within the all-embracing plan of God, the outworking of which His providential government supplies.” 

Warfield claims that those under God’s “absolute rule” and sway nevertheless are “free agents” who have a kind of creaturely freedom (i.e., “freedom of the creaturely will”). Interesting. Warfield appears to be making the intellectually honest claim that man is a “free agent” even though God has absolute sway over the thoughts and intents of his heart. As rare as they might well be, I’m wondering if even a relatively clear-thinking God-hating Arminian would buy the nonsense Warfield is attempting to sell. Anyway, the Biblical truth on the matter is that God is absolutely sovereign and man is NOT free from the ACTIVE CONTROL of his Maker.