B.B. Warfield’s wife required constant attention and care during her married life. On today’s episode of 5 Minutes in Church History, Dr. Stephen Nichols recounts the tragic love story of B.B. and his wife Annie.
The Tragic Love Story of B.B. and Annie Warfield
B.B. and Annie. This is the story of a marriage between Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield and Annie Pierce Kinkead. We know Warfield as the great stalwart of Princeton Theological Seminary—he is sometimes called the Lion of Princeton—who was a significant figure in the Fundamentalist–Modernist Controversy. He was a mentor to J. Gresham Machen and laid the groundwork for the work of Machen and others who fought the good fight within the Presbyterian Church and in other denominations in the twentieth century.
But I want to talk about Warfield’s marriage. Warfield was born in 1851 in Lexington, Ky. A year later, Annie Pierce Kinkead was born, also in Lexington. The Warfields were members of Second Presbyterian Church in Lexington while the Kinkeads were members of First Presbyterian Church. But even though they went to different churches, they apparently spent a lot of time together. Annie’s family was a family of lawyers and a family that had generals in the Revolutionary War. They were a well-established family and a well-heeled family. Her father even successfully defended Abraham Lincoln at one point. Warfield’s family was also well heeled. They were also a family of lawyers and had large cattle farms. In fact, Warfield’s father wrote a book on cattle breeding. That was the career that Warfield was headed toward before he decided to go into the ministry and theological scholarship.
Benjamin and Annie were married on August 3, 1876. Immediately after their wedding, they went to Europe and spent an entire year there while Warfield was studying at the University of Leipzig, Germany. While they were in Europe, they would take long walks in the mountains. On one of these walks, something happened. One of Warfield’s colleagues at Princeton, O.T. Allis, recounts the event:
In his distinguished and eminently successful career there was an element of tragedy. After graduating from the seminary at the age of twenty-five, he had married and he had taken his wife into Germany. A honeymoon in which he studied at Leipzig. On a walking trip in the Harz mountains they were overtaken by a terrific thunderstorm. It was such a shattering experience for Mrs. Warfield she never fully recovered from the shock to her nervous system and was more or less of an invalid during the rest of her life. I used to see them walking together and the gentleness of his manner was striking proof of the loving care with which he surrounded her. They had no children. During the years spent at Princeton he rarely, if ever, was absent for any length of time. Mrs. Warfield required his constant attention and care.
I have faint recollections of her walking up and down in front of the house in the early years of my Princeton life but even that diversion has long been denied her. I never spoke to her. Her trouble has been partly nervous, and she has seen hardly anyone except Dr. Warfield, but she remained, they say, until the end a very brilliant woman. Dr. Warfield used to read to her during certain definite hours every day. For many, many years he has never been away from her more than two hours at a time. It has been some ten years since he left Princeton. What the effect of her death upon him will be I do not know. I think, however, that he will feel dreadfully lost without her.
Mrs. Armstrong, a faculty member at Princeton, said after Annie’s death in 1915, “He has only two interests in his life—his work, and Mrs. Warfield, and now that she is gone there may be danger of his using himself up rather quickly.”
That is the love story, albeit the tragic love story, of B.B. and Annie.
(This podcast is by Ligonier Ministries. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)