B.B. Warfield: Evolution, Science, and Scripture: Selected Writings

Summary (from the back cover)

“Are naturalistic evolution and creation irreconcilable ideologies?... Princeton theologian B. B. Warfield believed that synthesizing his commitment to the scientific validity of evolution and to the inerrancy of the Bible was an attainable theological task.” (from the back cover) The editors feel that Warfield is an example of “civil Christian scholarship and shrewd scientific discernment,” which they feel is a good alternative to the “fervent, but also intellectually barren standoffs of recent years.”


  • The Divine and Human in the Bible, 1894
  • Review of Robert Watts, The Reign of Causality, 1888
  • Review of James McCosh, The Religious Aspects of Evolution, 1888
  • Charles Darwin’s Religious Life, 1888
  • Review of W.H. Dallinger, The Creator and What We May Know of the Method of Creation, 1888
  • Evolution or Development, 1888
  • Darwin’s Arguments against Christianity and against Religion, 1889
  • Review of Dawson, Modern Ideas of Evolution: As Related to Revelation and Science, 1891
  • Review of Warring, Genesis 1 and Modern Science, 1892
  • Review of Shaler, The Interpretation of Nature, 1893
  • Review of Calderwood, Evolution and Man’s Place in Nature, 1893
  • Review of James Iverach, Christianity and Evolution, 1895
  • Review of George Clark Hutton, “The Ascent of Man:” Its Note of Theology, 1895
  • The Present-Day Conception of Evolution, 1895
  • Review of Randolph S. Foster, Creation: God in Time and Space, 1896
  • Review of Andrew Dickson White, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, 1898
  • Review of A.A. W. Hubrecht, The Descent of the Primates: Lectures Delivered on the Occasion of the Sesquicentennial Celebration of Princeton University, 1898
  • Review of William Elder, Ideas from Nature: Talks with Students, 1899
  • Review of Otto Pfleiderer, Evolution and Theology, 1901
  • Review of Herman Bavinck, Creation or Development, 1901
  • Creation, Evolution, and Mediate Creation, 1901
  • The Manner and Time of Man’s Origin, 1903
  • Review of James Orr, God’s Image in Man and Its Defacement in the Light of Modern Denials, 1906
  • Review of Vernon L. Kellogg, Darwinism today: A Discussion of Present-Day Scientific Criticism of the Darwinian Selection Theories, together with a Brief Account of the Principal and Other Proposed Auxiliary and Alternative Theories of Species-Forming, 1908
  • Review of George Paulin, No Struggle for Existence: No Natural Selection. A Critical Examination of the Fundamental Principles of the Darwinian Theory, 1908
  • Review of Rudolf Otto, Naturalism and Religion, 1909
  • Excerpt from a review of James Hastings, ed., Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, vol. 1, A-Art, 1909
  • On the Antiquity and Unity of the Human Race, 1911
  • Excerpts from Review of H. Wheeler Robinson, The Christian Doctrine of Man, 1914
  • Calvin’s Doctrine of the Creation, 1915
  • Review of J.N. Shearman, The Natural Theology of Evolution, 1916
  • Review of H. Visscher, On Eternal Peace Between Science and Religion, 1921

Warfield is the author of each article and review.

The Divine and Human in the Bible, 1894

During Warfield’s time, there was a debate raging about the relationship between divine and human elements in the Bible.

Two key questions:

  • How are the divine and human related in the act of inspiration?
  • How are the divine and human related in scripture itself?

Warfield’s answers:

  1. Don’t exaggerate one element (human or divine) at the expense of the other.
  2. Don’t attempt to divide the Bible into human and divine parts.
  3. Conceive of the relationship as “concursus.” Concursus is the “acting together by two forces or causes in the creation of one entity or event.” (51)

“The Biblical basis of concursus is found in the constant scriptural representation of the divine and human coauthorship of the biblical commandments and enunciations of truth, as well as in the constant scriptural ascription of the bible passages to both the divine and the human authors, and in the constant scriptural recognition of Scripture as both divine and human in character.

The fundamental principle of this conception is that the whole of Scripture is the product of divine activities which enter it, not by superseding the activities of the human authors, but by working confluently with them, so that the Scriptures are the joint production of a writing which is not divine here and human there, but at once divine and human in every part, every word, and every particular.” (57)

These two statements are true:

  • “Every word in the Bible…has been conceived in a human mind and written by a human hand.” (57)
  • “Every word in the Bible…has been written under the direct and immediate guidance of the Holy Spirit.” (57)

Review of Robert Watts, The Reign of Causality: A Vindication of the Scientific Principle of Telic Causal Efficiency, 1888

Editor’s note: “Warfield’s review is noteworthy for its approval of Watts’ defense of design in nature, since even while he cautiously approved various evolutionary schemes, Warfield always held firmly (as had his mentor Charles Hodge) to God’s direction of all natural processes.” (63)

Warfield charges that the “questioning impulse” is stifled when immediate and proximate causes for various phenomena are described and researchers are satisfied. “Materialistic and agnostic thinkers… avoid reaching theistic conclusions only by resting satisfied with causes which the constitution of the human mind assures us are insufficient to account for the phenomena under investigation.” (64) Describing how gravity works doesn’t explain how it came to be. Describing the forces that lead to crystal building doesn’t explain how the crystal takes its perfect shape.

Review of James McCosh, The Religious Aspect of Evolution, 1888

McCosh saw evolution as “a proved fact, yet not as a sufficient account of the phenomena of the organic world, but only as opening to us the method through which the true force or cause works.” (67) Warfield agreed that if true, evolution would simply describe the method and not the cause, but he disagreed that the theory of evolution was a “proved fact.”

Charles Darwin’s Religious Life: A Sketch in Spiritual Biography, 1888

Charles Darwin’s son wrote a biography of his father called Life and Letters. In it, Warfield sees the opportunity to trace the spiritual development of Darwin. “We have lacked any complete record of the experiences of an essentially noble soul about which the shades of doubt are slowly gathering. That is what Mr. Darwin’s life gives us.” (71)

Darwin seemed to be a good, just, and loveable person as a youth and college student. There was a “religious coloring thrown over all his early years” (72) but his belief in and interest in religion gradually faded.

His father, who was a nominal member of the Church of England, proposed that young Charles become a clergyman. Darwin at the time didn’t believe every word of the Bible and considered it, but when asked if he was “inwardly moved to by the Holy Spirit,” Darwin could not answer in the affirmative. He turned to other pursuits.

By the time he set sail on the Beagle, Darwin had decided to pursue a career as a naturalist. He was still into quoting the Bible and referred to it as an authority on moral issues. But his belief in Christianity was starting to erode.

When he returned from his voyage, Darwin dove into studying the data he had collected on his trip. He was so absorbed that he lost interest in art, poetry, music, and religion.

Darwin kept a journal which later became the basis for Origin of Species. In 1834, it had a page on creation, by 1837, this page was removed. Eventually, his gradual acceptance of evolution expelled his belief in creation as described in Genesis. He understood Genesis to teach the special creation by God of individual species. Once he rejected this, the authority of Genesis, and by extension, the whole Bible was undermined. This let him to reject Christianity altogether.

By 1849 Darwin no longer believed in Christianity. Additional criticisms of the Bible and Christianity supported his view:

  • the difficulty of proving miracles
  • the credulity of the age in which Jesus lived
  • the discrepancies in the gospel accounts
  • the unhistorical character of the Gospels.

Darwin eventually became irreverent in his use of the name of God, although he did retain a belief in God, the soul, and an afterlife. But he didn’t see God’s hand in the process of evolution. “I think (the evidence shows) us that all vertebrata have descended from one parent; how that parent appeared we know not.” [Life and Letters, 2:210-211 (written Oct. 11, 1859)] (83)

By 1871, Darwin had gone further. He felt that natural processes could explain the imagination of the human mind. With this assertion, there was no need for a soul. Without the need for a soul, Darwin eventually rejected the notion of an afterlife.

Darwin accepted God as the “first cause” of life, but attributed the evolution and appearance of new species to the “second cause” of natural selection. Whenever he could find a natural explanation for some phenomena, he tended to exclude the possibility of God’s involvement.

Warfield is frustrated by Darwin’s tendency to think in extremes: either God was the first cause behind every step of evolution or he was entirely absent.

Darwin was, in his own words, “muddled” in his thinking related to God. He rejected the teleological argument (design found in nature implies the existence of a designer) but conceded his inward conviction that the universe was not the result of chance. Along with this, he wondered if his inward convictions were trustworthy, since they were the product of his mind. Would he trust the “convictions” of a chimpanzee? If not, why should he trust his own convictions?

Warfield wonders why this doubt about human convictions wouldn’t make Darwin doubt his own theory of man’s origin.

Darwin was skeptical that feelings of “sublimity” associated with works of music or natural wonders were evidence of God. He thought that our causal judgment (the drive we have to look to a first cause to explain becoming) was behind our conviction that God exists. In his private correspondence, he repeatedly admitted “the immense difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capacity of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity” (102). But Darwin suspected these “inward convictions” and didn’t put them in the same category as his “reasoned opinions.” Overall, toward the end of his live, he showed a “desire to eliminate proofs of God’s activity.” (104)

Darwin’s responses to the argument for design:

  1. The world seems deliberately “tuned” to humans.
    Response: But what about the tremendous human suffering that exists? Seeing happiness alongside suffering is more consistent with natural selection.
  2. People often have a deep inward conviction that God exists.
    Response: “Inward convictions” do not equal “reasoned opinions.”
  3. The universe must have a first cause.
    Response: My evolved brain can’t be trusted to think objectively about this.

Darwin spoke in terms of duty and moral obligation, and was willing to contribute to Christian ministries that alleviated human suffering and spread the gospel. But he died an agnostic, failing to see that terms like “duty” were inconstant with his worldview, which interpreted our moral conscience as a complex response to various evolutionary pressures.

Warfield closes with a generous eulogy of Darwin, marking him as a great man who made a great name for himself, but lamenting his gradual drift from God. Darwin’s child-like faith was the zenith of his spirituality. By comparison, another Charles of the era, Charles Hodge, saw his child like faith flourish into a strong walk with God and end with the anticipation of the next life. 

Review of W.H. Dallinger, The Creator and What We May Know of the Method of Creation, 1888

Warfield agrees with Dallinger’s refutation of “mechanical evolution” but doesn’t like his deistic description of God from the outset designing things so that some “pre-ordered potentialities” gave rise beings with conscious thought. He felt God was more involved.

Evolution or Development, 1888

In this article, Warfield is more skeptical of evolution than he was later in life.

There are thee ways that evolution can be seen:

  1. As a total philosophy of life (which Warfield rejected). This leads to atheism because it purports to account for the origin of the universe and the present state of affairs.
  2. As a demonstrated fact explaining how species come into existence (which Warfield questioned). It offers a description of what is as a second cause and implies a first cause.
  3. As a hypothesis with varying potential for explaining the different natural phenomena (which Warfield was commending in this lecture)

Two important questions:

  1. If the evolutionary hypothesis is allowed to be accordant to fact, will it sufficiently in itself account for the origin of being and the differentiation of forms?
  2. Is evolution as yet shown to be accordant to fact?

Evolution is not yet proven:

  • We can’t directly observe evolution. But we can establish the likelihood that a theory like this is true. This is done as the theory grows in its ability to explain the complexity of a situation.
  • Eventually, evolution could be supported well enough to command our assent. If it’s true, it should be able to predict new facts as well.
  • But we must remember that theories that provide “solutions” are not always the ultimate answer. There may be competing theories that explain all the facts, but that doesn’t mean they are all true.
  • Warfield wasn’t persuaded that evolution accounted for all the facts. Even if it could explain the development of some species, that doesn’t mean it adequately explains the development of all species.

Many in Warfield’s time thought evolution was probable and would eventually be proven. But Warfield cautioned…

  1. While the geologic record reveals a gradual progression in complexity, much of what is known about it is “irreconcilable with the theory of development by descent.” (122)
  2. Stages in embryonic development simply show the progression of a single organism and prove nothing about common descent.
  3. Current theories (in Warfield’s day) about the age of the earth do not allow enough time for evolutionary processes to occur.
  4. There are limits to the amount of change possible within an organism.

Apparently some had argued that the soul evolves as well. To them, Warfield says, “An immaterial soul cannot be made through the instrumentality of simply material forces and materials. To make a soul there is required a new creation of a new order of material and force.” (128)

Has human morality evolved from that of our brutish ancestors?

Warfield points out that the Bible assumes a state of initial moral perfection. This degenerates as Genesis unfolds. “Evolutionists are constrained to reverse the whole biblical teaching (on morality). What the Bible represents as a descent from morality, they necessarily represent as an ascent into morality.” (128)

Are evolution and Christianity compatible?

Warfield concludes that “the frank supernaturalism of Christianity cannot comport with a thoroughgoing system of evolutionary philosophy, which insists on accounting for everything by the action of forces inherent in matter. Christianity has no difficulty in acknowledging the reality and activity of second causes or in submitting to their rule a vast sphere of being; but it cannot attribute to them—even under the direction of God—all the effects that come to pass, all the products that have come into being…. The most that any thoroughgoing system of evolution can allow in the way of the supernatural is the indirect supernatural of a leading and guiding intelligence, but Christianity demands and must demand also the direct supernatural interference and immediate production by which something new is introduced which the existing matter and forces are incompetent to produce.” (125)

Pure evolution (see italics above) has no room for an immortal soul.

“There is no necessary antagonism of Christianity to evolution, provided that we do not hold to too extreme a form of evolution. To adopt any form that does not permit God freely to work apart from law and that does not allow miraculous intervention (in the giving of the soul, in creating Eve, etc.) will entail a great reconstruction of Christian doctrine, and a very great lowering of the detailed authority of the Bible. But if we condition the theory by allowing the constant oversight of God in the whole process, and his occasional supernatural interference for the production of new beginnings by an actual output of creative force, producing something new, i.e. something not included (potentially) in preceding conditions, we may hold to the modified theory of evolution and be Christians in the ordinary orthodox sense.” (130-131)

Darwin’s Arguments against Christianity and against Religion, 1889

Warfield didn’t think that Darwin’s loss of faith was a necessary result of his belief in evolution.

Most humans (including Darwin) have the innate sense that this amazingly complex world was designed. But Darwin doubted this conviction, pointing out that our minds are descended from brute beasts. Warfield wonders, if that’s the case, why doesn’t Darwin mistrust his own thoughts about a complex matter like evolution?

Why are scientific thinkers leaving religion?

  1. Is science being held captive to Satan?
  2. Are scientific endeavors spiritually empty by nature?
  3. Do “infallible” claims insult the intelligence of thoughtful men?
  4. Is advancing knowledge inevitably in conflict with Christianity?

Darwin provides a useful case-study in the drift of the scientific mind from faith in Christ to agnosticism.

Darwin’s thought development can be broken into two parts:

  1. His abandonment of Christianity.
  2. The erosion of his belief in a personal God.

1. His abandonment of Christianity.

  • Darwin saw an irreconcilable conflict between these to assertions:
    1. “Species originated by a process of evolution (that) was slow, long continued, and purely natural development.” (134)
    2. “Genesis teaches that God created each species by a separate, sudden, and immediate fiat.” (134)
  • He saw Genesis as an integral part of the Bible. If Genesis can be shown to be untrue, then Christianity is untrue.
  • Darwin also argued that…
    1. Advances in knowledge show miracles to be more and more unlikely.
    2. Ancient people were gullible and believed in many false things.
    3. The Gospels contradict each other.
    4. Large groups of people have been deceived into following many false religions, therefore “it is not necessary to assume the miraculous origin of Christianity in order to account for its rapid spread.” (137)
  • Nothing short of a miracle would have convinced him that Christianity was true. Darwin wasn’t willing to weigh historical evidence for the resurrection.

2. The erosion of his belief in a personal God.

In Darwin’s time, 4 reasons were often given to support the existence of a personal God:

  1. Paley’s argument from design in nature.
    Darwin’s response: This fails upon the discovery of natural selection.
  2. The general beneficient arrangement of the world.
    Darwin’s response: The existence of so much suffering in the world is an argument against an intelligent first cause.
  3. The deep inward conviction and feelings that men have that such a God exists.
    Darwin’s response: Other experiences, like listening to great music, create a similar sense of awe and wonder.
  4. “The impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capacity of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity.” (137)
    Darwin’s response: “Can the mind of man, which has, as I fully believe, been developed from a mind as low as that possessed by the lowest animals, be trusted when it draws such grand conclusions?” (139)

Warfield concludes that “Mr. Darwin’s rejection of Christianity and loss of faith in a personal God were simply the result of his enthusiastic adoption of a special theory of the origin or organic differentiation, and of ruthless subjection of all his thought to its terms.” (141)

>> It sounds like Darwin’s overly rigid reading of Genesis described in 1. B. led him down the wrong path.

Review of John William Dawson, Modern Ideas of Evolution as Related to Revelation and Science, 1891

Dawson didn’t feel that the Bible commended a particular mode of creation and that it did not exclude evolution to a certain point. He felt the evolutionists overstated the certainty of their theory and that the geologic record was not clearly supported by paleontology. Warfield liked Dawson’s book.

Review of Charles B. Warring, Genesis 1 and Modern Science, 1892

Warfield approves of Warring’s understanding that the Bible is not meant to teach science. God couldn’t explain the true nuts and bolts of creation to an ancient audience or a modern one. Science reveals the true meaning of the descriptions in Genesis 1 like history reveals the true meaning of predictive prophecy. Warring says the days of creation come at the end of long eras of creation… an unusual view that Warfield doesn’t take the time to refute. Warring also tries to align scientific understanding of geologic periods in his own day with the ages marked out by the days in Genesis. Warfield wasn’t persuaded.

Review of Nathaniel Southgate Shaler, The Interpretation of Nature, 1893

To Shaler, the present estate of man is “the result of the physical and organic influences to which he has been subjected during all his course from the lowest life to the present time,” and religions are “the products of human history.’” (147) Warfield sees this as a naturalistic, evolutionary view of life.

Review of Henry Calderwood, Evolution and Man’s Place in Nature, 1893

Calderwood tries to demonstrate that human intellectual and spiritual life, instead of stemming from natural evolution, actually provides evidence of a creator. He says, “Of Nature, as interpreted by Science, there is no key other than is found in recognition of an Immanent and Intelligent Cause that, in the midst of all and concerned with all, belongs to the history of Being. This is the first Cause—the eternal personality—related to the spiritual life of rational souls as He can be related to no other type of existence within the wide sphere of creation.” (150)

Review of James Iverach, Christianity and Evolution, 1895

Iverach believed that evolution took place under God’s guidance and according to his purpose and plan. Warfield agrees, but qualifies “‘Evolution’ can in no case be accepted as the formula of all that is; we must in any case rise above it to the higher formula of ‘God’—who is more than evolution, who indeed works in evolution, but also out of it.” (152)

Review of George Clark Hutton, “The Ascent of Man:” Its Note of Theology, 1895

Hutton resists the effort by others to subordinate all reality to science. Scripture and Christianity are supernatural and authoritative in nature and content. Hutton rejects the idea that Christianity must be based in nature if it is to be received by science. “God means what he says in Nature, and it is sure, if we can find it out; but it is not surer when we have found it out than what He says in the words with the Holy Ghost teacheth.” (154)

The Present-Day Conception of Evolution, 1895

“Warfield’s main thesis is that evolution is a working hypothesis or conjecture that remains to be proved. He allows for the possibility that a limited version of evolution may have explanatory power, while he criticizes those who would universalize this theory beyond its demonstrated scope.” (157)

Some Christians during Warfield’s time claimed that the evolutionists were hopelessly contradictory and couldn’t agree on the details of their theory. Warfield corrects this misconception and claims that “evolutionists appear to be entirely and even increasingly at one in their fundamental conception of the doctrine.” (158)

He cites several areas of agreement: they see evolution as a doctrine self creation (vs. something being created by the intervention of an outside force). They also believe the “creative” forces are entirely resident in the thing that is evolving and in the environment in which the thing evolves. Most see the universe as a self-contained system in which natural forces are present to give rise to life. Many see the theory of evolution as able to account for everything that is. In Warfield’s mind, this kind of evolution is tantamount to atheism or pantheism.

Most evolutionist can’t explain from whence original primordial matter came. Some claim matter is eternal, but these kinds of claims are a priori assumptions, not scientific discoveries.

Others said that the “divine” is the plane from which everything originally sprang and the divine is the goal that everything is headed toward.” (LeConte, 162) But this is really akin to pantheism, and not far from simple materialism. God is the “All whose changing manifestation the world is.” This perspective leaves no room for a Christian God.

At minimum, Warfield argues, “we need a power outside and beyond the evolving stuff to make the stuff, to give its forces to it, and to set it going—a (prime mover) in this sense.” (162) Therefore, theism has no quarrel with second causes.

Three positions which may be taken with regard to evolution:

  1. The doctrine of evolution supplies a complete account of the origin and present state of the universe. This is essentially atheism.
  2. The doctrine of evolution is “a discovery by science of the process through which this ordered world in which we live has, as a matter of fact, come into existence… in this form, evolution is not conceived as the ultimate account of any thing; it is made a second cause and implies a first cause working by and through it.” (164) This view presupposes theism.
  3. The doctrine of evolution is “a more or less probable, or more or less improbable, conjecture of scientific workers as to the method of creation.

Warfield takes the latter view and asserts that evolution is not yet proven true. Therefore, Christians don’t need to be over anxious to reconcile the creation account in Genesis with the findings of science.

It’s hard to prove something like the evolutionary hypothesis with certainty. “Proof” is based on…

  1. Explanatory power.
  2. The elegance or “cleanness” of the explanation.
  3. The ability to deduce new facts previously unknown.

To be proven, a theory must “perfectly fit the lock.” You can pick a lock with a hairpin, but that doesn’t mean the hairpin is the key designed to open the door. No theory which cannot explain ALL the facts can be the true theory. In this sense, evolution has not been shown to account for all the facts.

Even if evolution can account for the genealogy of one species, it doesn’t necessarily account for all species. Warfield is resistant to appealing to the law of uniformity of nature to broaden conclusions drawn from limited observations.

Warfield concludes: evolution is still a “conjecture of scientific workers as to the method and course of creation.”

Review of Randolph S. Foster, Creation: God in Time and Space, 1896

Warfield argues for the priority of the Word of God over scientific facts. Scripture is divine revelation; nature is the arena of God’s creative activity.

“All statements will find their test in facts, but it does not thence follow that revelation will find its test in science. Science is not fact, but human reading of fact; and any human reading of fact may well bow humbly before the reading given by God.” (174)

Review of Andrew Dickson White, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, 1898

White depicts the history of science as largely a struggle between human rationality and traditional faith. Warfield sees theology (the study of God) as one of the sciences. Saying they necessary conflict is like saying science and botany conflict.

McCosh comments that the book brings forward “an agglomeration (very indiscriminate and uncritical) of facts to show that religious men have opposed science, and been defeated.” (180) Warfield thinks White’s approach is “thoroughly one-sided and fatally misleading.” (180) He also points out many factual errors in the book.

Warfield complains that while White claims to be a Christian man, he limits the sphere of religion and argues that it should not disturb or influence science.

While admitting that some religious men have been slow to follow the advance of science, Warfield denies that science and religion are necessarily in conflict. He sees theology as one of the sciences. When White excludes theology from the sciences, he reveals a presupposition that has more to do with his philosophy and world view than his commitment to science.

Review of A.A. W. Hubrecht, The Descent of the Primates: Lectures Delivered on the Occasion of the Sesquicentennial Celebration of Princeton University, 1898

“Warfield points out that the results of Hubrecht’s work lead more to the conclusion of separate, parallel development amongst primates than the phylogenetic tree with a single common origin preferred by Darwinians.” (183) He argues that the evidence of his day does not support an evolutionary tree. “The genealogical tree will soon begin to look amazingly like a plantation of canes…” (186)

“The time has already fully come when the adherents of evolution should do something to make it clear to the lay mind that a full accumulation of facts to prove their case can never come—or else abate a little of the confidence of their primary assumption.” (187)

Review of William Elder, Ideas from Nature: Talks with Students, 1899

“Warfield finds fault with (Elder’s) dependence on process for the development of created matter… (He) argues strongly for a vigorous conception of God that allows for his continuing supernatural role in the world, whether in the governance of forces that he has put into motion or in direct (“miraculous”) intervention that creates something new.” (188) This kind of intervention is needed to explain events like the incarnation of Christ and the creation of souls.

“Religion and science are separate lines of mental activity, but they are not parallels whose only requirement of each other is that they be kept forever apart. They are ordinates springing from a common origin in the divine. All truth is one and harmonious…” (189)

Elder’s insistence that miracles are wrought by God via energy already existent in the universe is unnecessarily restrictive.

“The quarrel of the Christian with evolution turns on the precise point that, not content with providing a schema for the method of creation, evolution substitutes itself for the fact of creation.” (189)

“The Christian man need not hesitate to allow that to an external observer the origin and development of the universe might seem to proceed without break of continuity; but he is bound to insist that there have been operative in it not merely the divinely led forces inherent in it from the beginning, but here and there the divine energy itself acting immediately and producing something which was not even potentially included in its precedent conditions, and which is therefore new…” (190)

Review of Otto Pfleiderer, Evolution and Theology, 1901

Warfield felt that “modern (liberal) theologians first assume that there is nothing in existence which is not entirely the product of the precedent conditions existent in the world complex, and thence draw out an antisupernaturalist theology.” (193)

Review of Herman Bavinck, Creation or Development, 1901

Warfield sees the 20th century scientific method as an atheism excluding the possibility of a Creator in its assumptions, methodology, and conclusions.” (195) Bavinck had similar views to Warfield.

Creation, Evolution, and Mediate Creation, 1901

Warfield defines 3 methods of divine interaction with the world:

  • Evolution: a way for God to control certain material development.
  • Creation: the divine origination of something out of nothing.
  • Mediate creation: the divine origination of something new out of a preexisting something that does NOT possess the intrinsic force to produce the new object.

Limitations of evolution:

  • It cannot take the place of creation.
  • It cannot account for miracles and the incarnation of Christ. 
  • It cannot explain the origin of human self-consciousness and individual souls.

Evolution is OK if it is understood as “a suggested account of the method of divine providence.”

Creation vs. Evolution

“That God alone is the first and the last, who changes not; that all that exists is the work of his hands and depends on his power for both its existence and its continuance in existence—this is the unvarying teaching of the whole Bible.” (198)

But some evolutionists insist that everything that is must be explained by the conditions and forces inherent in what existed before. “This excludes on principle the appearance of any condition, event, action, or possibility which is not explicable out of the factors of the preceding conditions…” (199) An eternal God is replaced instead with an eternal series of cause and effect events.

Other evolutionists admit the possibility of a God, but only one who governs through natural processes or secondary causes. They say all that exists is the result of second causes. “God, if there be a God, produces nothing directly and immediately.”

Evolution is like unrolling a ball of twine. When you unroll a ball of twine into a long string, the state changes (ball > string) but no new material is produced. Creation is origination. It implies previous non-existence and thus excludes evolution. In this sense, evolution and creation are contrary processes.

“The attraction of evolution for its adherents often seems indeed to reside just in its assumed capacity to explain the origin of things without the assumption of creation.” (201) Many evolutionists have an anti-supernatural bias.

Without creation, evolution can only offer an infinite regression of causes and effects. But Warfield points out that the very fact that there a present, a current stage in the process evolution, implies that there was a beginning. “And the question presses, in the beginning—what? We cannot hang a chain upon nothing…” (202)

“Only when creation is complete does evolution begin.” (202)

Mediate Creation

Theistic evolution (a.k.a. “creative evolution” or “providence”) argues that “creation… supplies the original material; evolution accounts for all of its subsequent modifications.” Warfield objects that this removes the possibility that God might create something new as the process unfolds.

“Creation is that act by which God, for the manifestation of the glory of his power, wisdom, and goodness, has produced the world and all that is in it… in part out of nothing, and in part out of preexisting material, but not material capable of producing this effect.” (204 – first part of quote cites Wollebius)

Mediate creation “is a mode of action midway between creation pure and simple and providence pure and simple—a mixed mode of action.” (209)

>> I agree that if we’re going to use the term “creative” (which implies volition to bring and idea into reality) then it means producing something above what the powers intrinsic in preexisting material are capable of producing. But why can’t God permit some parts of his creation to develop on their own as he observes through laws and properties inherent within them and within the environment they occupy? Genesis 1 says “the Earth brought forth vegetation”… can’t we accept that some things are formed under God’s providence by the natural interaction of forces and laws intrinsic to the matter they came from? I think we can do this and still maintain that God can intervene with special acts of creation, either ex nihilo or by changing preexisting material into something beyond what the material is capable of becoming on its own.

Zahm’s distinction between “absolute creation” and “derivative creation.”

Absolute creation = direct, immediate, supernatural creation of the primordial elements of the universe.

Derivative creation = development under the laws of nature imposed by God on the elements in the beginning… evolution under “divine administration.”

Evolution postulates/assumes creation.

Warfield’s Objection

Zahm’s “derivative creation is no creation at all, but just providential guidance.” (205)  If Zahm agrees that Adam’s physical body, evolved from lower animals, was the product of derivative creation and if he agrees that each human birth is accompanied by an act of absolution creation resulting in an immortal spirit then he agrees with mediate creation. But he shouldn’t assert that everything that has come to be after God’s initial creation is a product of secondary causes.

Mediate creation asserts that “God’s providential activity—evolution, if you choose to call it such—does not comprise itself the totality of God’s activities since the primal act of creation.” (208) Sometimes “products of the divine power are inserted into the course of providence by an immediate operation of God, and emerge as something new, for the production of which the second causes operative in the case are inadequate.”(208)

Mediate creation is a mixed product of creation and providence working together. (209)

A Christian stance regarding evolution

  1. He should deny that evolution can take the place of creation. Evolution can’t solve the problem of origins.
  2. He should deny that “evolution can take the place of mediate creation as an account of the origination of new things in the course of the divine government of the world.” (209) e.g. Jesus coming into the world. e.g. the entrance into nature of self-conscious, immortal beings.
  3. He should not quarrel with evolution when confined to its own sphere as a suggested account of the method of divine providence.

The Manner and Time of Man’s Origin, 1903

Two issues are addressed in this paper: the manner of human creation and the time of that creation.

Warfield doesn’t think that questions about the age of the earth or the duration of human existence are significant for theology. He was ahead of his conservative contemporaries in accommodating modest forms of evolution in his Calvinism.

Warfield believes that “evolution that denies all divine actions of any sort is much more a philosophical claim than a direct product of science.” (211)

“The scriptures teach that man owes his being to a creative act of God. This is… the constant presupposition of every portion of scripture.” (212) The awareness that we owe our being to God is “one of the most intimate convictions of our consciousness.” (212) But many evolutionists say we have come into being solely through the interaction of forces on preexisting material. This is a new form of the old conflict between naturalism and supernaturalism, and there can’t be any reconciliation between these views.

Warfield wonders why the conflict is always pushed to such extremes. He asks:

  1. “Why should the evolutionist insist that the ascent to man must have been accomplished by the blind action of natural forces to the exclusion of all oversight and direction of a higher power?” This is a non-scientific claim that can’t be proven. (213)
  2. “Why should the Biblicist assert that the creation of man by the divine fiat must have been immediate in such a sense as to exclude all process, all interaction of natural forces?” (213) “Surely no individual since Adam has been fashioned by the mere fiat of God to the complete exclusion of the interaction of natural forces of reproduction.” (214) Genesis 2:7 says that man was formed out of pre-existent material. “It does not appear that the emphasis of the biblical assertion that man owes his existence to the creative act of God need therefore to exclude the recognition of the interaction of other forces in the process of his formation.” (214)

Man is more than something that was intrinsic in his pre-existent material. “The scriptures clearly represent man as something specially new.” (215) The creation account is clear on two points:

  1. The creation of man is the culmination and climax of the whole creative work.
  2. The creation of man involves “a very special immediacy of the divine action and result(s) in a specifically new product.” (215)

Contrast the language re. the creation of everything else and the creation of man:

Everything else Man
Let there be Let us make
Let the waters, or the earth, bring forth Let us make
After its kind After the kind of God

“In man’s case a double act and a double result are signalized. He was formed, indeed, from the dust of the ground, but he was not so left; rather, God also breathed into his nostrils a breath of life…” “This requires the assumption of a direct intervention of power from on high productive of something that is specially new.” (215)

Warfield doesn’t rule out the interaction of an evolutionary process in the production of man. “Speculators” likewise have no reason to rule out the possibility of intervention from an outside force.

>> This section (pages 213-216) is the most important part of the book. Read it fully to capture Warfield’s view of man’s relationship to the rest of creation. He allows for evolutionary forces to play a part in the production of man, but insists that man is more than what is potential in matter.

Is man a recent creation or an old one?

In Warfield’s day, there were debates about how much time the evolutionary process would require to produce a human. There were also disputes about the age of the earth.

The Bible doesn’t force the reader into a particular age of the Earth.

From Abraham to today, we can make good time estimates. But pre-Abraham, it becomes very difficult. The genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11 weren’t constructed to calculate time. They don’t contain a complete record of all the generations and are probably compressed.

The genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 are not “mere genealogies.”

For each generation, the age of the father at the birth of the son is provided. This gives the reader the impression that one nearly add the years to calculate how long man has been around. Doing so allows only 6-7000 years for the duration of human life up to our day. Hebrew genealogies often provide interesting bits of information like this, but that shouldn’t lead us to seek more out of them than simple genealogies.

The comments in Genesis 5 and 11 illustrate the original vigor and longevity of early man. It was making this impression, not supplying the material needed for a chronological calculation, that the author was focused on.

>> I’m not convinced by Warfield’s point here. I need to look more closely into the language of each of these texts. Even if a calculation wasn’t intended, the language may allow one to be made.

“It does not appear extreme to say… that for all that appears from these genealogies, the period from the creation of Adam to Abraham may have been nearer two hundred thousand years than two thousand years.” (222)

No scientific data to justify a long estimate of the age of the world.

Warfield points out that the scientists of his day were all over the map with their estimates of the age of the earth and when to date the first appearance of man. The biologists and physicists, in particular, have put forth contradictory time estimates. “Theology as such has no concern in this conflict and may stand calmly by and enjoy the fuss and fury of the battle.” (227)

Warfield challenges scientists to be honest about the fact that their data is insufficient to establish a firm date for the origin of man.

The real opponent is a veiled atheism

Time alone, regardless of how much is available, cannot produce results if there an adequate cause is not present. Warfield uses the analogy of stirring a mass type with a stick hoping to produce Dante’s inferno. You could stir forever and not get the desired result. He suggests that the hope of chance to produce results is what drives many scientists to propose a very old age for the earth. “What is needed is not time, but cause.” (229)

Review of James Orr, God’s Image in Man and Its Defacement in the Light of Modern Denials, 1906

Orr presents the kind of “biblical and yet culturally comprehensive Calvinism that Princeton theologians also defended.” (230)

Warfield’s view:

  • Creation = origination.
  • Evolution = modification based on the potential of preexisting material.
  • The appearance of something entirely new (e.g. an integrated human body and soul) requires divine creation.
  • Providentially superintended evolution may be responsible for the emergence of the human body.
  • “Unless the thing produced is above what the powers intrinsic in the evolving stuff are capable of producing (under whatever divine guidance), the product is not a product of creation but of providence. And providence can never do the work of creation.” (234)

Warfield objects to Orr’s assertion that “there is not a word in Scripture to suggest that animals… came under the law of death for man’s sin.” (236)

Review of Vernon L. Kellogg, Darwinism today: A Discussion of Present-Day Scientific Criticism of the Darwinian Selection Theories, together with a Brief Account of the Principal and Other Proposed Auxiliary and Alternative Theories of Species-Forming, 1908

Kellogg was “critical of strictly selectionist Darwinism and warmed to various non-Darwinian evolutionary mechanisms.” (237)

Warfield saw the propagation of non-selectionist theories as evidence that evolutionary theory was in disarray.

Warfield notes Kellogg’s observations that scientists of the day were not convinced that natural selection was the only force behind species creation. They were looking for other possible causes and had many theories. Kellogg “allows to natural selection a most important function in species forming, but denies it the omnipotence with the Neo-Darwinians are prone to ascribe to it. (239)

See p. 240 for a great, simple summary of natural selection. Warfield feels that natural selection is consistent as a logical construction and therefore plausible. But there are difficulties:

  • What reason is there to believe that the struggle for existence in animate nature is severe enough to eliminate in each generation all but the fittest to survive?
  • Are the differences that emerge severe enough to effect likelihood of survival?
  • Does the selection of small differences lead to a modification in type?
  • Is there enough time for succeeding generations to significantly vary from their ancestral type or for the wide variety of life that we observe to emerge?
  • >> In Warfield’s day the age of the earth was not established by scientists.

Because of these difficulties, theories other than natural selection have been proposed to explain the emergence of new forms of life (see footnote 2 on p. 243 for examples).

Warfield concludes that Darwin’s theory is “seriously discredited in the biological world” (244) and that many of the alternative explanations of transformation and descent are highly speculative. He does feel the logical case for natural selection is sound. But a theory has to be based in observed reality to be established as a true explanation of common descent. In his mind, Darwin’s theory of natural selection did not yet meet that criteria.

Warfield notes that any explanation that involves something outside physical, chemical and mechanical forces is rejected out of hand. This reflects many scientists naturalistic bias. They are anti-teleological.

Instead of science seeking whatever truth it may find, as science should operate, it is often colored by a desire to validate a naturalistic worldview. Nothing in observation rules out the possibility of design.

Review of George Paulin, No Struggle for Existence: No Natural Selection. A Critical Examination of the Fundamental Principles of the Darwinian Theory, 1908

Warfield generally agrees with Paulin’s critique of Darwinism. He cites the lack of “intermediate stages” in the fossil record as a strike against Darwin’s theory.

Malthus’ Essay on the Principle of Population states that because population grows exponentially and resources grow linearly, animal populations, including human ones, will eventually outgrow resources. Competition for limited resources ensues. In conditions like this, the fittest will live and the unfit will die. With Paulin, Warfield rejects the idea that animal life is always characterized by a desperate struggle to survive. He argues instead that nature exists in a state of balance and that most offspring are just average, and not the fittest of the fit.

Review of Rudolf Otto, Naturalism and Religion, 1909

Otto critiques naturalism and argues that religion has a rightful place from a philosophical point of view.

Otto follows Emanuel Kant in his philosophy of religion. Warfield disagrees with Otto’s theological leanings, but agrees that a theory of descent does not necessarily rule out teleology. He thinks that organisms have programmed within them the next step of advancement. There is nothing inherent in the mechanism that has brought about diversity of life that is contradictory with intent, purpose, and design.

Excerpt from a review of James Hastings, ed., Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, vol. 1, A-Art, 1909

Warfield thinks that abiogeneis (the spontaneous formation of life) and adaptation (the modifying of life to suit its environment) are in conflict. If an environment spontaneously brings a life form into existence, it would, by definition, be perfectly suited to its environment. So why would it change? There is no way to be sure life would change and move towards higher and higher life forms.

On the Antiquity and Unity of the Human Race, 1911

Man owes his being to a creative act of God.

The most important question is related to the method by which God created man. Evolution cannot be a substitute for creation. At best it can only supply a theory of the method of divine providence.

Two related questions have to do with the antiquity of man and the unity of the human race.

The Bible doesn’t tie us to a specific age for man. Dates based on biblical genealogies are unreliable. Bishop Ussher’s calculation of the date of the earth’s creation (4004 B.C.) is off.

Scientists in Warfield’s day did not have enough solid data to make a good estimate of the time that human race has existed on earth. Most scientists were saying man had been around for 10-20,000 years.

Estimates of the age of the earth varied widely at the beginning of the 20th century. Evolutionists preferred older dates because their theory requires long periods of time for gradual changes to occur.

Even if large drafts of time are allotted for the development of life on earth, time alone is not a sufficient cause to explain the biodiversity that exists today. J.W. Dawson points out, “we know of no way in which, with any conceivable amount of time, the first living and organized beings could be spontaneously produced from dead matter.” (275)

Based on some inaccurate science of his day, Warfield felt the best estimate for the age of the earth ranged between 20-30 million years. Some felt man may be of post-glacial origin, which Warfield thought could date man as recently as 5-6000 years ago or as late as 16-20000 years ago.

Even if longer amounts of time are granted, many scientists have doubts about the sufficiency of natural selection and its resulting gradual changes. Some see the need for leaps in advancement. Once leaps are allowed, then the length of time required for evolution is radically altered.

The Bible teaches the unity of the human race. Many biblical doctrines depend on this assumption. During Warfield’s day, a few people were challenging the unity of humanity for various reasons (like racial pride, justifying slavery, etc.), but Warfield believes the question of all humanity coming from a common ancestor is settled.

Scientific evidence that man is one species: the shared capacity for language, the presence of a moral and rational nature, shared traditions, etc.

Biblical evidence that man is one species:

  • The Bible calls Eve “the mother of all living.” (Genesis 3:20)
  • All men are spoken of as “sons of Adam.” (Deut. 32:8; 1 Sam. 26:19; 1 Kings 8:39; Ps. 11:4; 145:12)
  • All humanity is destroyed in the flood. We are all descendants of Noah. (Gen. 9:19 + the table of nations in Gen. 10)
  • Man has a common nature, resulting in the common condition of sinfulness and requiring a common redemption.
  • God tells Israel there is nothing intrinsic to them that separates them from other nations.
  • The universal scope of God’s concern for humanity is an assertion of our unity.
  • Human life originated with a single pair (Matt. 19:4).
  • God has made from one man every nation of men and offers them a common salvation. (Acts 17:26-27)
  • Paul assumes that sin affected the entire race. (Rom. 3:23-24; 5:12-14; 1 Cor. 15:21-22)
  • That the redemption God offers works for all implies that all share the same nature.
  • We all bear the image of God. (Gen. 5:1; 9:6; 1 Cor. 11:7; Heb. 2:5-8)

Excerpts from Review of H. Wheeler Robinson, The Christian Doctrine of Man, 1914

Robinson tries to provide a Christian anthropology that is consistent with a modern scientific view of man.

“All personality (is) the partial manifestation of the preexistent son of God.” (290)

On how evolution can account for the incarnation, Robinson appeals to “the presence of personality in and amid the workings of natural law in the case of every man.” (290)

“The coming of Christ ‘introduced a new species into the world—a Devine man transcending past humanity, as humanity transcended past the rest of the animal creation, and communicating His vital energy by a spiritual process to subsequent generations of men.’” (290)

To Warfield, this is akin to saying that “the divinity which was ‘brought out’ in Jesus (is) already latent in all personality, in all living beings, in the nonliving existences which lie back of all.” (290-291) “This is similar to Manicheanism and Gnosticism, with their extraction of the spiritual and the divine from entanglement with matter; it brings into clear view the pantheistic background of the evolutionary philosophy… but is not recognizable as Christian.” (291)

Robinson was also weak on the hope of a physical resurrection for believers. There’s no promise of eternal survival offered to the unfit.

“On an evolutionary basis, immortality must mean the persistence of the evolving stuff in every higher manifestation, and cannot mean the persistence of the unripe individual itself.” (292)

“Where no authoritative revelation of God is allowed, no express eschatology is attainable.” (292)

Science has revealed the astonishing orderliness of the world. This orderliness can be inferred from the Bible’s assertion that all the events of nature, and of history as well, are under the direct control of God.

“If evolution itself is called on to give an account of these things, we must posit life as latent in the nonliving, personality as latent in the impersonal, deity as latent in the undivine.” (289)

According to Warfield there were three cosmic moments when creation, as the impartation of something new to the physical world, was required: life out of non-life, personality out of living matter, and the God-man Jesus Christ out of the stream of humanity.

Calvin’s Doctrine of the Creation, 1915

In this essay, Warfield abandons his threefold distinction between providentially supervised evolution, mediate creation, and creation ex nihilo. Calvin maintained only creation ex nihilo (which he reserved for creating the first world-stuff and the human soul) and a fully providential view of development (which applies to everything else, including the human body).

Why did Warfield abandon his threefold distinction? “Perhaps he became convinced that the very high view of providence that he saw in Calvin was enough to protect the reality of miracles…” (294)

Warfield felt that despite Calvin not having exposure to the concept of evolution, he taught a doctrine of evolution. In this essay, “a backward-looking recovery of Calvin’s theology joins a forward-looking proposal for understanding evolution in a Christian manner.” (294)

“Concursus” explains how development out of the original world-stuff could be BOTH constantly guided by God and a result of secondary causes.

God’s decree is executed in creation and providence. Calvin’s discussion is focused on the nature of created universe rather than the method God used to create it. What Calvin undertakes is “to make man aware of his own nature as a creature of God, and to place him as a creature of God in his environment, the most important elements of which he conceives to be the rest of the intelligent creation (angels).” (295)

Calvin asserted that “all substantial existence outside of God owes its being to God, that it was created by God out of nothing, and that it came from God’s hand very good.” (297)

Whatever comes from God’s hands, Calvin asserts, it must be good. “Wherever evil has appeared, then, whether in man or devil, it is not… [from nature] but [from corrupted nature]; not from creation but from depravity.”

Calvin takes the 6 days of Genesis as literal days, and dates the creation of the world to something less than 6000 years in the past. He also assumes that Moses’ account is not exhaustive and leaves out many details (e.g. the creation of angels).

Calvin doesn’t call the created universe infinite. This attribute is reserved for God alone.

Calvin’s universe is anthropocentric. “God himself,” Calvin declares “has demonstrated by the very order of creation that he made all things for the sake of man.” (300)

He also says God was sufficient in himself without the creation. He made the universe because it pleased him to do so.

Warfield asserts that there is no space outside of that which we call space, and that there is no time outside of the dimensions of the material world. He takes this as an unassailable fact. Calvin exhorted people to be content to seek within “the ample circumference of heaven and earth” (302) material for meditating on the glory of God. “Space and time, therefore, were to him qualities of finite being, and have come into existence and will pass out of existence with finite being.” (302)

Why couldn’t God just create everything all at once? Why 6 days? God perfected the world by process for our sake. God created the heavens and the earth in the beginning, but formation involves gradual modeling of the creation into form. Calvin didn’t think of this deistically, as if God left the world to work out its own destiny by the laws impressed upon it at creation. Instead in his providence, God holds and governs all that he has made. In this sense, he is the creator of all things.

Calvin “was inclined to draw a sharp distinction in kind between the primal act of creation of the heavens and the earth out of nothing, and the subsequent acts of molding this created material into the forms it was destined to take; and to confine the term ‘creation,’ strictly conceived, to the former.” (302-303)

“God by the power of his Word and Spirit created out of nothing the heavens and the earth, thence produced every kind of animate and inanimate thing, distinguished by a wonderful gradation the innumerable variety of things, endowed each kind with its own nature, assigned its offices, appointed its place and station to it, and, since all things are subject to corruption, provided, nevertheless, that each kind should be preserved safe to the last day…and then at last by forming man and distinguishing him with such noble beauty, and with so many and such high gifts, he exhibited in man the noblest specimen of his works.” (304)

So Calvin makes a distinction between…

  • Creation ex nihilo: immediate creation of something out of nothing.
  • Providential development: God superintends the formation of something out of pre-existent material.

This is different than the reformed distinction between a first or immediate creation and a second, mediate creation. They held that over days 2-6 there was a combination of truly creative acts (out of nothing) and production from existing material.

Genesis 1:21 uses the term “create” to designate the production of the sea and air animals which had been brought forth at the command of God in vs. 20. But Calvin won’t accept that “created” could refer to creating something out of pre-existent material. Here’s how he reconciles the problem: “God… is said to have ‘created’ the sea monsters and other fishes because the beginnings of their ‘creation’ is not to be reckoned from the moment in which they received their form, but they are comprehended in the universal matter which was made out of nothing. So that with respect to their kind, form only was then added to them; ‘creation’ is nevertheless a term used truly with respect to the whole and the parts.” (306)

Calvin disallows the applicability of the term “creation” to the production of creatures. The works of the days subsequent to the first were not strictly speaking “creations.” “All that can be justly called… creation… (the indigested mass) was wrought by God on the first day…out of nothing…”

After the initial creation of the heavens and earth, everything else was purely works of providence… “but (Calvin) would scarcely say there was no immediacy in the divine action in the productions of the five days of creation, or indeed in the working of miracles.” (307) He saw second causes as “instruments into which God infuses as much of efficiency as he wishes…” (307)

e.g. The sun is a second cause needed for life… but it’s life-giving power is ultimately attributed to God.

All that has come into being since the creation (except the souls of men alone) “has arisen as a modification of this original world-stuff by means of the interaction of its intrinsic forces.” (308) But Calvin qualifies…

  • This did not happen apart from God.
  • God is the first cause.
  • Everything has taken place under the directly upholding and governing hand of God.

The account of these second causes is explained by the doctrine of concursus – ascribing “all that comes to pass to God’s purpose and directive government.” (309) “It is enough for him to say that God said, ‘Let the waters bring forth… let the earth bring forth,’ and they brought forth.” (309)

Calvin ascribed to natural processes “…the entire series of modifications by which the primal indigested mass called heaven and earth has passed into the form of the ordered world which we see, including the origination of all forms of life, vegetable and animal alike, inclusive doubtless of the body of man. And this… is a very pure evolutionary scheme.” (308-309)

Calvin put the production of the human soul in the category of ex nihilo, immediate creation. He rejected the notion that the soul was derived from the substance of God or that it was passed down from parent to child. The soul…

  • …is created
  • …vitalizes and governs the human frame
  • …is capable of perception, feelings, and understanding
  • …moves and acts

“Calvin doubtless had not theory whatever of evolution, but he teaches a doctrine of evolution.” (309) “(Calvin) teaches, as they teach, that by the instrumentality of second causes—or as a modern would put it, of intrinsic forces—the intrinsic world-stuff was modified into the varied forms which constitute the ordered world.” (309-310)

Summary of Calvin’s doctrine of creation. The physical universe…

  • …owes its existence absolutely to the divine power.
  • …was created out of nothing.
  • …was perfected through a process of formation which extended through six days.
  • …was made and adorned for the sake of man.
  • …is subject to man.
  • …reflects the perfections of its maker.
  • …is sustained and governed by God.

Calvin taught that without sin, the body would be immortal.

Review of J.N. Shearman, The Natural Theology of Evolution, 1916

Warfield saw Shearman as an evolutionary Paley (see above). Shearman had produced a book that “explained purpose, design, and teleology from organic, evolutionary ways of looking at the natural world.” (315)

Shearman argues that the presence of order implies mind and design, which in turn implies a designer or creator. “The evolutionist merely explains the steps and stages through which the product has been produced.” (316)

Evolutionary change is toward increasing complexity, not just change, and this also implies a designer.

>> Or it just implies that an addition in complexity, when it is adaptive, survives.

Warfield cites the eye, and other complex biological organs and processes as evidence of design. He uses the “stirring a stick in a box of printer’s type to produce a sonnet” analogy again.

He also points out that evolution assumes the process has an end… a result… a perfecting… a direction… and that implies the presence of a director.

Warfield feels that Darwin failed to establish natural selection as a probable cause for evolution. He questions Shearman’s conclusion that reasons supporting evolution have been “so strong and forcibly put that the doctrine of evolution is now universally received.” (319)

“The laws of nature are in reality the mass of unreduced facts which remain when as much as possible has been explained. They are not the triumphs o the scientist but his problems; they measure not our knowledge but our ignorance.” (320) Evolution, then, is not a triumph but one of science’s toughest problems.

Review of H. Visscher, On Eternal Peace Between Science and Religion, 1921

This review was written in the last year of Warfield’s life. In it, he summarizes many of his core convictions, including the nation that “theology is as truly a science is physical science.” (321)

Science can be as subjective is theology. The scientists are not always the voice of science. “(True) science… is a builder in the kingdom of God… no less truly than religion itself, science is a son of God.” (326)

Theology is not just emotions and faith. It has fact content. It makes claims that intersect with the claims of science. The resurrection was an event that occurred in space and time and could be verified by the five senses. Christianity is a historical religion whose facts are doctrines. If the facts are denied, Christianity is denied. “Any science which leaves no place for these facts as such is not neutral but antagonistic to Christianity, and between that science and this religion there must be not eternal peace but eternal war.” (327)

The mere fact that science is limited to the world of mechanical causation doesn’t rule out the possibility of supernatural realities. Peace between science and religion is possible. Both science and religion can provide revelation from God. Conflict will necessarily exist between both, but this conflict can lead to advances in both “sciences.”

Visscher assumes that science is the “pure product of the pure intellect of a pure humanity working purely.” (328) Warfield disputes whether that kind of science will ever be carried out by imperfect humans.


Biblicism: Looks to the Old and New Testaments for ultimate explanations of all things.

Matriculate (verb): to enroll in a college or university as a candidate for a degree.

Numinous: an experience of the divine that is common to all humans.

Ontology: the branch of metaphysics that studies the nature of existence or being as such.

Orthogenesis: Also called orthoselection. evolution of a species proceeding by continuous structural changes in a single lineage without presenting a branching pattern of descent.

Proximate (adjective): next; nearest; immediately before or after in order, place, occurrence, etc. OR close; very near.

Pelagianism: A heresy stemming from the fourth century that holds that humans have the goodness and ability to achieve salvation by their own efforts apart from divine grace.

Per saltum: “by leaps”

Teleology (noun): the study of the evidences of design or purpose in nature.

Telic (adjective): tending to a definite end.

Theism: Belief in an active, creating deity, but not necessarily revealed in scripture.

Troglodyte: A member of a fabulous or prehistoric race of people that lived in caves, dens, or holes. A person considered to be reclusive, reactionary, out of date, or brutish. An anthropoid ape, such as a gorilla or chimpanzee.