Warfield’s little book The Plan of Salvation is one of the few books that I have read three times. The first time was in 1988 when I was first becoming a Calvinist, and it was no doubt part of that bumpy but wonderful process. I read it again the next year. I read it a third time just a few years ago, and this leads to a needed retraction.
I interact with that book in several of my own. The first book is “Reformed” Is Not Enough, published over a decade ago, and the second is Against the Church, published late in 2013.
In RINE, my assessment of Warfield is fairly critical. “But I do want to argue that Warfield was being inconsistent here…” (pg. 86). And then a bit later I say this:
“According to Warfield’s definition, to have the covenant dispensed in ordinances and to have them be spiritually efficacious, is sacerdotalism. But this is the Westminster Confession, which he claims is anti-sacerdotalist. And so it is, but the inevitable conclusion is that there is something wrong with Warfield’s definition” (pg. 88).
When I first read this book by Warfield I really appreciated it. But a little over a decade later, when the Federal Vision controversy was heating up, I had picked up a more jaundiced view of him on this point from my circle of friends down at the pool hall. Before letting that jaundiced view show up in RINE, I ought to have gone back to review Warfield’s book more thoroughly than I did.
Then, a few years ago, when various events conspired to make me go “wait a minute,” I went back and read Warfield through again. My retraction is this. I don’t believe that Warfield was being inconsistent with the Westminster Confession on this question of sacerdotalism and his view of “immediate” grace. I don’t believe that I was being inconsistent with the Confession either, in either of my books, but I do believe that I was not being fair to Warfield in RINE.
And so what you see in Against the Church is my attempt to vindicate Warfield against his critics on this point — which is obvious enough if you read that section. What is not obvious, unless you have a better memory than I did, and what should have been obvious to me, was that in print I had been one of those critics. There should have been a footnote or something in Against the Church, issuing a retraction then.
And so here are two retractions. I do not believe my assessment of Warfield in RINE was accurate, and I also believe that this retraction ought to have occurred in Against the Church, not a year later in 2015. My apologies.