February 25, 2015

Torrance on the church and its mission

This post continues our look at Communion with the Triune God in which Dick Eugenio examines Thomas F (TF) Torrance's trinitarian understanding of soteriology (the doctrine of salvation). Last time we looked at TF's understanding of the role of the Spirit. This time we'll look at his view of the Spirit's work related to the church and its mission.

TF frequently noted that the goal of salvation is to share in the life and love of the Trinity. The distinctive role of the Holy Spirit is to facilitate this sharing (koinonia, also meaning fellowship, communion and participation - see Communion with the Triune God, Kindle edition, location 4227). The Spirit does this work by coming into us, then opening us out to God, thus enabling us to commune with the triune God. TF elaborates:
As the Father, Son and Holy Spirit dwell in one another, so God is in us by the indwelling of the Spirit and by participation of the Spirit we are in God, and thus our being in the Father is not ours but is the Spirit's who is in us and dwells in us (loc 4227).
Caterbury Cathedral (1890-1900), Wikimedia Commons, public domain.


As is true of the Nicene Creed, TF's doctrine of the church (ecclesiology) belongs to and flows from his understanding of the Spirit. Indeed, the church is the fruit of the Spirit, not a mere human institution. According to TF, "the church is founded in Jesus Christ, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and is rooted in the Holy Trinity" (loc 4255). Eugenio comments:
[According to TF] the church...is the communion of the Holy Spirit where our union and communion with Jesus Christ is actualized in the actual structure of our human, personal, and social being. The relationship between Jesus Christ and his Body [the church], however, should not be understood only analogically or metaphorically. Rather, precisely because reconciliation is achieved by Jesus Christ through his own incarnate constitution as true God and true human in one person, the church is internally and ontologically related to Jesus Christ, made possible by Christ's incarnational and atoning union with us and our consequent union with him through the Holy Spirit (loc 428). 
The church, then, is "a community of people whose selves have been displaced by Christ, so that he is their true selves...'not I but Christ,' St. Paul said" (loc 4280). That the church is the Body of Christ has several implications. First it tells us that Jesus, himself, is the law of the church's life (and the Spirit mediates that life to the church). Second it tells us that the church (and its agenda) must never displace Jesus and his agenda. Third, the headship of Christ points to the essential catholicity (universality) of the church as the whole Body of Christ. Fourth, Jesus is and remains the model for how ministry and mission are to be accomplished by the church.


In step with TF's ecclesiology is his Trinitarian, Christ-centered missiology, which emphasizes the koinonia of the church, by the Spirit, in Christ. TF elaborates:
It is only through a vertical participation in Christ that the Church is horizontally a communion of love, a fellowship of reconciliation, a community of the redeemed. Both these belong together in the fullness of Christ. It is only as we share in Christ Himself, that we share in the life of the Church, but it is only as we share with all saints in their relation to Christ that we participate deeply in the love and knowledge of God. Participation is a conjoint participation, a participation-in-communion, but the communion is above all a communion-in-participation in Christ (loc 4319).
The church, by the indwelling Spirit, is thus a "communion-constituting community." Its membership, which already is experiencing the reconciliation of humanity with God in the person of Jesus, is called to participate with Jesus, by the Spirit, in making the good news of this reconciliation known to others--inviting and enabling them to become part of the community of faith. As TF noted, the Holy Spirit is...
...poured out immediately only upon the Church, and yet through the Church it was destined for all men, for the church is sent out on a mission to all nations...that they too might receive the promise of the Spirit and be incorporated into the One Body (loc 4359). 
As the church participates in this God-given mission to be the Spirit-filled and led "reconciling community," it participates in what Jesus is doing, by the Spirit, to restore alienated humanity to fellowship (communion) with the triune God. The church does its part in this mission through its ministries of proclamation and reconciliation, by which the church not only proclaims reconciliation, but lives it by being a community of reconciliation. In this way, the nature and mission of the church are inseparably linked. If the church fails to be active in mission, the Spirit is quenched. TF noted how this sad situation occurs when the church becomes more concerned with itself than with the lost sheep outside the community of faith.

In concluding his discussion of TF's view of the role of the Holy Spirit in salvation, Eugenio notes that "the Spirit, through the church, reaches out to the world in the ministry of reconciliation, embracing every race and tongue, and incorporating everyone into the family of God" (loc 4383).

And to that we add a short prayer: "Fall fresh on us, Holy Spirit of mission."

February 15, 2015

Torrance on the Holy Spirit

This post continues our look at Communion with the Triune God in which Dick Eugenio examines Thomas F (TF) Torrance's trinitarian understanding of soteriology (the doctrine of salvation). In previous posts we looked at TF's understanding of the role of Jesus and of the Father. Now we'll look at what TF says about the role of God the Holy Spirit.

Dove of the Holy Spirit
by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, ca. 1660
St. Peters Basilica, Rome
(Wikimedia Commons, public domain)
Though TF rarely addressed the Holy Spirit in a systematic (stand-alone) way, he often touched on the person and work of the Spirit while discussing that of the Father and the Son. This approach was consistent with his Trinitarian, Christocentric emphasis as illustrated in this statement from TF:
There is no separate activity of the Holy Spirit in revelation or salvation in addition to or independent of the activity of Christ, for what he does is to empower and actualize the words and works of Christ in our midst as the words and works of the Father (Communion with the Triune God, Kindle ed, loc 3697). 
One of the complexities faced by TF and by all who explore the nature and work of the Holy Spirit, is that the nature (ousisa - being) of the triune God (Father, Son and Spirit) is said to be "spirit" (John 4:24). For that reason, some authors minimize the Spirit's personhood, even relegating him to a non-personal "power of God." But not TF. Note another statement of his:
The fact that the Holy Spirit is both the hypostasis of the whole Being of God, and, considered absolutely in himself as God, is identical with Being, for God is Spirit, means that he is consubstantial bond of the Holy Trinity (loc 3750).
In this statement TF is using some of the key technical terms used in the formulations of patristic and creedal theology, most notably the Niceno–Constantinopolitan Creed, which establishes that the three persons (hypostases) of God are homoousios, meaning "of one being (ousia)." Thus there is the three-in-one God, the Trinity. Eugenio comments:
The early [church] fathers regarded the concept of homoousios [meaning "of one being"] as inspired by the Holy Spirit in determining and expressing the consubstantial relation of Jesus Christ to the Father, and of the Holy Spirit to the Father and the Son. Torrance asserts that it was Athanasius who "had little hesitation in applying the term homoousios to the Spirit as well as the Son." In this way, the person [hypostasis] of the Holy Spirit is established on the same ontological [pertaining to being] and soteriological [pertaining to salvation] grounds as the person of the Son (loc 3672). 
As Eugenio notes, TF, like Athanasius, rather than addressing the being of the Spirit, tended to focus on his doing, that is his role in salvation. Also, TF was careful to note that our knowledge of the Spirit, like our knowledge of the Father, "is controlled and grounded by [our] knowledge of the Son" (loc 3762). Torrance comments:
The Holy Spirit is not cognoscible [capable of being known] in himself. In the doctrine of the Spirit we are concerned with the ultimate Being [Ousia] of God before whom the very cherubim veil their faces, for there God the Spirit hides himself not only by the very mode of his Being as Spirit, but by his exaltedness, his greatness and majesty, that is, by this infinite holiness. Because he is infinitely greater than we can conceive, we can think and speak of him in his revelation to us only with awe and awareness of the weakness of our minds to apprehend him (loc 3776).
This difficulty in apprehending the Holy Spirit is compounded by his self-effacing nature, for the he tends to "hide" himself in order to point us to the Son who, in turn, points us to the Father. Thus, we do not see the Spirit "face to face" in his own hypostasis (person). Torrance concludes that "the identity of the Holy Spirit remains a mystery that needs to be honored" Loc 3791). In summing up TF's doctrine of the Spirit, Eugenio notes this:
The Holy Spirit is not an impersonal emanation, force, or energy of God but is "at once intensely personal reality." Moreover, the Spirit clarifies the nature of God as boy holy and spiritual: "The very designation of God's spiritual nature as holy and the third person as Holy Spirit emphasizes the otherness, the utterly transcendent glory and majesty of God....
The Holy Spirit is the "holy presence of God in and through whose communion we may know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father. Pentecost, or the universal outpouring of the Holy Spirit to the church for the world, thus, belongs to the salvific economy." In fact, Torrance argues that the last times "are fully inaugurated by the descent of the Spirit, for it is through the Creator Spirit that the saving work of Christ is actualized in the Church as redemption. Moreover, the eschatalogical Spirit is also the teleological Spirit, for it is the agency of the Holy Spirit, in relation to the work of Christ, to bring to completion the mediation of reconciliation (loc 3883-3895).
In considering the Holy Spirit's work in salvation, Eugenio notes how TF distinguishes between "objective union in Christ" and "subjective union in the Spirit." He makes this distinction in order to address the two related aspects of the one movement of salvation. First there is what Christ accomplished objectively for all humanity through his representative/substitutionary life, death, resurrection, ascension and his continuing mediatorial work in the world in and through the agency of the Holy Spirit. Then there is the subjective way in which individuals receive, by the Holy Spirit, the personal benefits of Christ's objective work. According to Torrance, "the work of the Spirit in God's people [is] actualizing subjectively in them what has been accomplished for them once and for all objectively in the Incarnation" (loc 3990). Eugenio then elaborates on this trinitarian perspective concerning the movement of salvation:
....Torrance borrows Basil's view of the Father as "the originating cause," the Son as "the molding cause," and the Spirit as "the perfecting cause" in the economy of salvation, with emphasis on the act of the Spirit in bringing "to completion the creative purpose of God for human persons in the Son." Torrance also borrows Barth's emphasis on the unity of God's act and being, and argues that "when we speak of the 'subjective' operation of the Holy Spirit in us, or of our being 'in the Spirit,' that is to be understood in an objective, ontological sense, as being in God" (loc 4004).  
....The Holy Spirit subjectively actualizes in us Christ's objective work for us... [now quoting TF] "The Spirit works as the power and operation of God, effectively applying Christ's victory over the powers of darkness to us, and so delivering us from bondage into freedom as the sons of God. In all these, the emphasis is on the fact that the fulfillment and realization of the work of the incarnate Son is effected by the coming and indwelling of the Holy Spirit.... We grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ as we surrender to the creative impact of the Holy Spirit upon us" (loc 4067). 
This work of the Father, Son and Spirit constitutes what Torrance refers to as a "three-fold movement of grace": From the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit, which then is answered in a three-fold responsive movement of faith: In the Spirit, through the Son to the Father. In these motions, the Holy Spirit has a vital, personal and continuing role, which Torrance defines as the work of "the personalizing Spirit who creates the earthly communion of the church, grounded in the interpersonal communion of the Triune God" (loc 4215).

Next time we'll look further at TF's view of this "personalizing" work of the Spirit, including his work to form the church (ecclesiology) and to send the church in mission (missiology).
For a helpful paper by Dr. Gary Deddo on TF's theology of the Spirit, click here.

February 13, 2015

Getting Real: a sermon for Transfiguration Sunday

In the traditional Christian worship calendar, February 15, 2015 is celebrated as Transfiguration SundayFollowing is a sermon written for that day. It addresses the stunning reality of Jesus and our life in him.

The Transfiguration of Jesus
(12th century icon from a monastery at Sinai, Egypt)
From Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

There come times when we peer through the fog of unreality into the stunning light of reality, and as a result, everything changes. So it was for Peter, James and John—three young disciples of Jesus:
Mark 9:2-9 
2  After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4 And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5 Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." 6 (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) 7 Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: "This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!" 8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. 9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
This passage sits in the midst of a section book-ended by miracles of healing blindness. The question is this: Do you see?

Seeing, but not seeing

Peter, James and John were walking with Jesus. They were not blind to his presence. Yet still they did not see him fully. A "fog" that obscured their vision. So Jesus asks them in Mark 8:27: “Who do people say I am?”  This question was really for them—“Guys, who do you see me to be?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ”—the promised Messiah, the deliverer (8:29b).

Peter saw Jesus to a point, yet not fully. Reality still eluded him. So Jesus tells them in 8:31-38 that he must suffer, be rejected and die; though in three days he would rise.

What was Peter’s response to this stunning revelation?  “No way Master!!” (8:32b).

Jesus’ reply? “Get behind me Satan! You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” (8:33).

But Jesus was not done with Peter and his friends.  He says to them:
Mark 9:1 
…"I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power."
The message is this: you think you see, but you don’t yet see the unseen reality of who I truly am.

And so Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a mountain and there Jesus is transfigured—the word is metamorphosed.  Jesus morphed—his clothes were shining with a stunning radiance. And Luke adds, “the appearance of his face was altered” (Luke 9:29).

Yet it was still Jesus—but now seen in the fullness of his glory—a glory that would be revealed in his resurrection from death. These three disciples were getting an advance glimpse of a now hidden reality—the true identity of this Jesus:  Man, yet, God. God in the flesh.

Jesus is the reality

And to help make clear this reality to these three young Jewish men, the scene changes and there standing with this glorified Jesus is Elijah and Moses—chatting away with Jesus.

God is messing with these men’s Jewish categories. They were accustomed to seeing reality through the lens of the Law and the Prophets—of Moses and Elijah—the great heroes of Judaism.

And Jesus is quite at home in this rather august company.

But Peter is beside himself, and doesn’t know what to say or to do. The best he can come up with is this: “Rabbi, it is good to be here.”  Huge understatement!!

But talk is cheap, so Peter quickly adds: “Let us put up three shelters”—the Greek is “skene” which means tents.  Peter thought the Feast of Tabernacles had arrived, and that meant erecting tents (booths) to celebrate God’s presence and provision in the wilderness with his people.

“Oh joy” thought Peter, “the Kingdom is here—let’s build a monument!”

Peter was seeing, but not seeing. Reality was right in front of him, but he didn’t get it. Yet.

So God ups the ante, and a cloud appears—perhaps a reminder of the cloud by day appearing to Israel, or the shekinah glory in the Holy of Holies. This is clearly a holy moment.

Out of the cloud comes a voice: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

And then the scene changes again;  and now Moses and Elijah are gone. Peter, John and James see only Jesus.

Talk about healing blindness--opening eyes to see reality!  
* This Jesus is the glorious One
* He is the one and true Son of the Father
* He is not one of several great ones
* He is THE great one—far greater than Moses and his Law
* Far greater than Elijah and his school of prophets

Jesus might have asked them—“Now who do you say I am?” Instead, he gives them a word of caution: “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen here,” and Matthew adds, “until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.”

And, of course, it would not be until they encountered the risen Jesus that they would see him again in the full radiance of his true identity as Son of God and Son of Man. 

And with that unfolding revelation, these young Jewish lads had all of their hopes, dreams, and expectations altered. When you truly see the reality of Jesus, everything changes.

Journey of reformation

If there is one thing that describes the journey of the church in reformation, it is the unfolding of the revelation of Jesus. The Spirit moves with power in the church to reveal Jesus more fully. The Spirit speaks to those who know something of this Jesus, but whose understanding is clouded. Perhaps they are enamored with other things - things like Moses and Elijah - the Law and Prophecy. 

The Spirit takes such distracted ones and holds out to them new categories, new hopes and a new - renewed vision. Those who have eyes to see, now see with greater clarity. They behold, perhaps for the first time, a reality formerly obscured to their vision and experience. 

Renewed vision of ministry

They come to see the stunning reality of Jesus as he truly is. And when this happens, everything changes. Including one's vision of Christian ministry:
2 Corinthians 4:4-6
4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. 6 For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
Our privilege is to see Jesus for who he is:
* Fully God—one with the Father and Spirit in the Trinity
* Fully Human—one with all humanity through the Incarnation

We see in Jesus—in his face; his person—the glory of God. For he is God—God in eternal union with all humanity through the permanent incarnation of the Son of God.

“Who do men say I am?” Jesus asked Peter, John and James. “Well,” answered Peter, “you are the Messiah.”  A correct answer—but short of the full truth. Later Peter would see Jesus for who he truly is when he was given the illumination of the Spirit, who opened his eyes to understand who he stood next to when he encountered the risen Jesus.

It was then that Peter would say, together with doubting Thomas and the other eye-witnesses, “My Lord and my God.” Fully God and fully man, now glorified. This is the reality of who Jesus truly is.

And now it is our calling—our shared ministry as the church—to be ministers of a new covenant of grace in Jesus. This is what Paul, who also saw the resurrected Jesus, shares with the church at Corinth. He says to them: “Proclaim Jesus - help others see what you have been shown - the ultimate reality of all things.”  To do so is often a challenge—there are many hardships. There is much darkness and deception clouding people’s minds.  So Paul gives words of encouragement:
2 Corinthians 4:16-17, 18 
16 …We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 
We have seen that glory in the face of Jesus. We can never turn away, despite the hardships.  

And then Paul concludes with the words I want to leave with you on the occasion of Transfiguration Sunday:
18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

May God give us eyes to see Jesus the eternal one - may we see him in all his glory. And with that revelation, may we be given a heart to share what we see with others. 


February 5, 2015

The love of the Father

This post continues our look at the book Communion with the Triune God in which Dick Eugenio examines Thomas F (TF) Torrance's trinitarian understanding of soteriology. In previous posts we looked at TF's understanding of Jesus' role in our salvation. Now we'll look at the Father's role.

It's sad, but true: God the Father often is viewed as an angry judge whose principal concern is legal justice. From that perspective, salvation is about being rescued from the Father's "just wrath" against sinners. This idea, or something akin to it, underlies many forms of the Christian doctrine of salvation (soteriology), particularly ones grounded in what is referred to as the penal-substutionary theory of the Atonement (see, for example, the cartoon on the Patheos blog).

This perspective on salvation "paints" on the face of God the Father an angry image which TF vehemently rejects. His view of the Father is grounded in what Jesus has revealed. That revelation was recorded in Holy Scripture and codified in the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity which declares that the Father, Son and Spirit, though three in Person, are one in being. this means that the Father, Son and Spirit are of the same heart, sharing the same values and perspectives concerning all matters, including sin and sinners. There is not an angry Father who is quite different than his loving Son.

For Torrance, this insight is a powerful, life-transforming reality, which he personally encountered in the midst of human suffering. Note this quote from First Things:
Torrance’s sense of mission, formed by his experience as the child of a missionary family in China, guided him throughout his career. As a chaplain during World War II, he came across a young soldier, scarcely twenty years old, who was mortally wounded. “Padre,” he asked Torrance, “Is God really like Jesus?” Torrance assured him, “He is the only God that there is, the God who has come to us in Jesus, shown his face to us, and poured out his love to us as our Savior.” As he prayed and commended him to the Lord, the young man passed away. 
A few years later, one of his parishioners in Aberdeen [Scotland], a dying, elderly lady asked him the same question: “Dr. Torrance, is God really like Jesus?” That this doubt arose from among believers within the Church itself troubled Torrance deeply. He wondered how the Church distorted its message and created obstacles for its members that kept them from joyous participation in communion with the living God that was theirs in Christ by the Spirit. 
The question of the dying soldier and woman suggested to Torrance that people believed there was a God “behind the back” of Jesus. But for Torrance, God has already established communion with men in Christ, and the Church is the community of witness to God’s reconciling activity in this creaturely world of space and time. The Church proclaims that through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit we have access to God the Father. This message, for Torrance, is the heart of the Gospel, the essence of the Church, and the sole foundation for all theological activity.
Michelangelo's depiction of God the Creator
 Sistine Chapel, Vatican City, Rome
(Wikimedia Commons: Public Domain)
As TF was fond of saying, "There is no God behind the back of Jesus,"--no dark, angry, justice-obsessed Father lurking in the shadows, who, in wrath, would pounce upon sinners were not the loving Jesus holding him back. No, the Father is just like Jesus--the friend of sinners no matter what their state. Jesus put it this way: "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father."

Jesus and the Father (with the Spirit) are of one being. Therefore, when you encounter Jesus, (and experience his unconditional love for sinners) you can be sure that you have experienced the being/heart of the Father as well. Indeed, "God [the Father] so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). That is gospel truth you can rely upon and rest in.

Dick Eugenio devotes a significant portion of his book to explaining Torrance's trinitarian perspective on the Father as one in being with his Son and Spirit in all matters pertaining to our salvation. Here are representative quotes:
Outside of Christ, or "behind the back of Christ," [quoting Torrance] there is no genuine knowledge of God. The incarnation of the Word in space and time, as God's final and decisive self-communication, not only sets aside all other ways of knowing him, but also creates the parameters within which such self-communication is to be understood, appropriated and interpreted (Communion with the Triune God, Kindle ed, loc 2765).
Christ's twofold movement of atoning propitiation in the incarnation and atonement is the Father's appointed way of drawing himself near to us and us near to him (loc 2829).
First [we know that], the Father is love because the being of the Triune God is a communion of love. Secondly, that the Father is love is portrayed in his eternal relation to the Son "the Father/Son, Son/Father relation belongs to the innermost being of God as God--in fact the flow of love from the Father to the Son and from the Son to the Father reveals that God is the ever-living and ever-loving God precisely as this dynamic communion of loving and being loved within himself" [quoting Torrance]. Finally, the Father as love is manifested in his creative and sustaining act and redemptive purposes. "By revealing himself in the Lord Jesus Christ as his dear Son," Torrance writes, "God reveals that Fatherhood belongs to his eternal Being, and in giving his Son to be the Savior of the world, he reveals that he loves us to the uttermost with an eternal fatherly Love" (loc 2880).
It is through the cross that we learn "the innermost nature of God the Father as holy compassionate love," which the resurrection also confirms (loc 2946). 
Eastern theologian Emilianos Timiadis writes: "God has love for us because he is love himself. We witness a trinitarian relationship based on the mutual love of each Person, where the difference is only apparent, necessary to communion. Each time we speak of the Trinity, we must think of nothing else but Love.... God is Love." This is important to Torrance, because of his insistence that human salvation is ontologically grounded in God's being.... [which is] essentially personal, dynamic, and relational (loc 2973).
The whole raison d'├¬tre of the universe lies in the fact that God does not will to exist alone, that he will not be without us, but has freely and purposely created the universe and bound it to himself as the sphere where he may ungrudgingly pour out his love, and where we may enjoy communion with him (loc 3001).
PS: For a related Jesus Creed blog post offering insights on this topic from NT Wright, click here.

January 26, 2015

Justification in Christ

This post continues our look at what Dick Eugenio (in Communion with the Triune God) says concerning Thomas F (TF) Torrance's view of the "how" of salvation. Last time we looked at participation in Christ. This time we'll look at justification in Christ.

According to Eugenio, TF was "adamant that justification should be expounded in the light of the vicarious person and work of Jesus Christ" (Communion with the Triune God, Kindle ed, loc 1987). For TF, justification is what Jesus Christ accomplished for us, emphasizing "Jesus Christ" above "for us" so as not to lose in our thinking the priority of who Jesus is and what he has done in an objective sense for all of humankind. In upholding that Christ-centered perspective, TF is critical of those who give priority to subjective/personal decision in justification, believing that doing so "promotes the human act, rather than the mediatorial and vicarious ministry of Jesus Christ" (loc 1987).

Does TF's Christ-centered approach to justification mean that he sees no role for personal faith? The answer is that TF does see an important role for our personal response of faith, but one that is subordinate to and included in Jesus' own faith (what Scripture refers to as "the faith of Christ").

In his sermons, TF often called people to personal faith in Jesus. But in doing so, he was careful to place personal faith in the context of Christ's own faith. Though to some this might sound like double-talk, it's not. In his vicarious humanity (serving as our substitute and representative), Jesus had faith in the Father, by the Spirit, on our behalf (and he still does!). This is vital to understand because, it's Jesus' faith in God, not our own, that ultimately justifies humanity.

Christ on the Cross
by Francisco de Zurbarán, 1627
(Wikimedia Commons: Public Domain)
On this important point TF quotes from Scottish minister James Fraser of Brae who stressed, "the correlation of our faith with the faith of God and the faith of Christ," because "human faith derives from, rests on, and is undergirded by divine faithfulness" (loc 1987). Thus TF views justification as entirely Christ's work on our behalf--a work God imputes to us by grace. By the grace of God we are enabled to participate in (personally experience and share in) the faith of Christ himself--the faith by which we are justified before God. The point is this:  "justification is accomplished in Christ by Christ for us" (loc 2012). Said another way: Jesus is responsible for our justification from start to finish. He even justifies our weak and flawed personal faith in him!

Thus, according to TF, it's wrong-headed to think of justification as some sort of a transaction that God accomplishes apart from himself. The truth is that justification, like all aspects of our salvation, is a function of the very being of God, in the person of his incarnate Son, Jesus Christ.

Said another way, quite simply, yet profoundly: Jesus is our justification! It is in Christ, by him and through him, that we are justified.

So where then does our personal faith come in, if at all? The answer is that we personally (some say "subjectively") experience that justification--we enjoy it personally--as we, by the Spirit sent from Jesus, put our trust in the One who, by his own faith, has justified us. "Justification happens in Christ and consequently in us" (loc 2028).

Eugenio concludes the section of his book that addresses TF's perspective on the "how" of salvation in the person and work of Christ with this important observation:
Torrance's understanding of salvation in Jesus Christ is grounded in the reality of the incarnation of the Son, who, as fully human, is also homoousios [of one being] with the Father. As the Son, his descent [via the incarnation] to created space and time is a salvific movement accomplished by the Triune God in drawing himself near to us in revelation and reconciliation. Likewise, his ascent [via the resurrection] as fully human to the throne of God in his ascension is a salvific movement accomplished from the side of humanity and on behalf of humanity. God's initiative in electing us to salvation is characterized by a double movement: God in Christ's humanward movement and human in Christ's Godward movement. Jesus Christ vicariously redeemed us not only from the side of humanity, but from the side of God (loc 2035).