The first chapter of B.B. Warfield’s The Plan of Salvation examines the competing ideas for how men are saved. B.B. does this in the finest way possible – in a way that kept me captivated, almost as if he knew how to write to my attention despite a century or so separating us. Warfield employs the seldom used but ever effective ‘Bloodsport’ theological method, also known as the ‘Street Fighter II’ or ‘Mortal Kombat’ styles.
Warfield pits competing ideas up against one another eliminating the weaker argument until we’re left with a final champion idea, just like Jean-Claude Van Damme defeated Chong Li at the end of the Bloodsport Kumite tournament (even though he was blinded by a cheating Chong Li).
Having differentiated between Deism and Theism, and having tossed the former into the intellectual trash heap, Warfield begins to examine the characteristics of the theistic plan of salvation. He does this by pitting the Naturalistic view against the Supernaturalistic view asking the question: “Does man save himself or does God save him?”
Warfield identifies the Naturalstic view as being in bed with that old heresy, Pelagianism. Warfield’s money quote regarding Pelagianism and Naturalstic views of salvation:
“As the poor in earthly goods are always with us, so the poor in spiritual tings are also always with us.”
That Warfield is solidly against a man-only plan of salvation is no surprise. That he’s also against any view that mixes the actions of men with God is… also not surprising. So wherever a synergistic view of salvation as crept in through the Pelagian heresy (Roman Catholicism, Greek Orthodox, and many protestant circles — SBC, etc.) Warfield rightly points out that the idea of a super-naturalistic salvation by God alone is more of a lip service than a concrete reality, no matter what they might proclaim.
“These so-called intermediate views are obviously, in principle, naturalistic views, since (whatever part they permit God to play in the circumstantials of salvation) when they come to the crucial point of salvation itself they cast man back upon his native powers.
The apostle Paul proclaimed that he has nothing to boast in save God. “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…” Eph. 6:14. I recall a quote from Luther pondering a salvation achieved through works (by man) as well as through God by asking how much of his salvation was his own doing, so he could know how much he could boast in himself.
The Scriptures make it clear that salvation is through God alone apart from man entirely. Warfield’s exegesis of the Bible rightly allows him to dismiss the naturalistic view from the tournament in favor of the biblical super-naturalistic understanding.
“[the supernaturalist] assert that all the power that is exerted in saving the sould is from God, that whatever part man plays in the saving process is subsidiary, is itself the effect of the divine operation and that it is God and God alone who saves the soul.”
The tournament continues tomorrow with a look at the sacerdotal principle!