Book Review: The Religious Life of Theological Students – By B.B. Warfield

Warfield Religious Life of Theological Students.pngLetter TThe Religious Life of Theological Students was originally given as an address by B.B. Warfield at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1911, in which Warfield talks about the great task set before seminary students.

Warfield begins his talk with a defense of seminary learning as a whole, pointing out that “Say what you will, do what you will, the ministry is a ‘learned profession’; and the man without learning, no matter with what other gifts he may be endowed, is unfit for its duties” and that in turn “Paul, in other words, requires of you, as we are perhaps learning not very felicitously to phrase it, ‘instructional,’ not merely ‘inspirational,’ service.”

However, the chief point of Warfield’s talk is not merely that the student – as future minister – must be studious. Rather, “A minister must be learned, on pain of being utterly incompetent for his work. But before and above being learned, a minister must be godly.”

The advice given by Warfield in order to achieve this is to be an active member of your church, and more pointedly to “… make all your theological studies ‘religious exercises.’ This is the great rule for a rich and wholesome religious life in a theological student.” Thus, the goal is – as with any vocation – to do it to the Lord.

On the whole, this is a wonderful little read, and quite inspirational for one engaged in such study.

Memorable Quotes:

– “‘Vocation’ – it is the call of God, addressed to every man, whoever he may be, to lay upon him a particular work, no matter what. And the calls, and therefore also the called, stand on a complete equality with one another… Here is the divine right of every workman, no one of whom needs to be ashamed, if only he is an honest and good workman.”-4

– “… if you do not find Christ in the conference room it is because you do not take him there with you…”-10

– “… to do all this you must keep the fires of religious life burning brightly in your heart; in the inmost core of your being, you must be men of God… One hint I may give you, particularly adapted to you as students for the ministry: Keep always before your mind the greatness of your calling, that is to say, these two things: the immensity of the task before you, the infinitude of the resources at your disposal.”-12

– “I am sure that if you once get a true glimpse of what the ministry of the cross is, for which you are preparing, and of what you, as men preparing for this ministry, should be, you will pray, Lord, who is sufficient for these things, your heart will cry; and your whole soul will be wrung with the petition: Lord, make me sufficient for these things.”-15

Specific Criticisms

The only criticism that might be put forth is to question Warfield’s assertion that one who is not ‘learned’ – if by this he means ‘seminary trained’ – is unfit for ministry. If he merely means that they should be studied in Bible and the things of it, then I don’t suppose anybody could disagree.



A member of the Society of Christian Philosophers and the American Chesterton Society. Ordained PCA. MDiv.

May or may not be a Time Lord.


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