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Introduction to T.F. Torrance's theology (part 1)

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This post begins a series exploring T.F. Torrance in Recollection and Reappraisal   by Bruce Ritchie. Published in 2021 (Wipf & Stock), Ritchie's book is a welcome addition to a body of literature that not only presents Thomas Forsyth (T.F.) Torrance's incarnational Trinitarian theology, but critiques it, making suggestions for clarification and improvement. Both comprehensive and accessible, the book serves as an excellent introduction to T.F.'s theology. It also gives a fascinating, personalized account of Ritchie's journey of theological discovery during his years studying under T.F. at New College, University of Edinburgh in Scotland. As noted by Robert T. Walker in the book's foreword, Ritchie "is one of the last generations to have studied under T.F. Torrance at New college" and "one of Torrance's ablest students" (p. ix). As reflected in the title, the book has two parts: first, Ritchie's recollection  of what he learned from T

Whose Parade Do We March In? (a Palm Sunday meditation)

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The four Gospels emphasize the sacred period spanning Holy Week plus Easter Sunday. Through the momentous events of those eight days, God's plan to save us in and through Jesus came to a great, climactic crescendo. In the liturgy of the church, Holy Week concludes the season of Lent during which we prepare for Easter by inclining our hearts, minds and bodies to receive anew all that Jesus is, and all that he has done for us through his suffering, death by crucifixion, and burial. Then on Easter Sunday (and the seven weeks that follow) we celebrate Jesus' glorious resurrection.   Image from Art Resource via Huffington Post Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday--a day more consequential than often recognized. Observing what Jesus did that day tells us a great deal concerning who Jesus is, what he values, how he operates, and the nature of the kingdom of God that he came to inaugurate. Palm Sunday thus challenges us to think deeply about these matters. In the  liturgy of the palms fo

Christian ethics (part 5): race relations

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This post concludes a series exploring  Fully Human in Christ: The Incarnation as the End of Christian Ethics  by Todd Speidell. For other posts in the series, click a number:  1 ,  2 ,  3 , 4 .   Last time , we noted that the Christian ethic taught by Thomas F. Torrance (TFT) involves joining Jesus in his ongoing life of service to others. Rather than a political or sociological concept, this ethic is about personally sharing in Christ's active love for people as individual, beloved persons. As Todd Speidell notes, this sharing begins at home with our biological and church families, and from there extends to nearby neighbors and friends, then to distant neighbors (for in Christ, all humans are neighbors who we are commanded by Christ to love). Source: North Carolina Council of Churches Concerning race relations This localized, personal focus (which TFT refers to as a "filial" focus and approach) is applicable to the ethical challenges we face today, including that of  ra

Christian ethics (part 4): participatory and communal

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This post continues a series exploring  Fully Human in Christ: The Incarnation as the End of Christian Ethics  by Todd Speidell. For other posts in the series, click a number:  1 ,  2 , 3 , 5 .   Last time , we noted that the Christian ethic of Thomas F Torrance (TFT) is relational/filial rather than moralistic/legal. It is an ethic exemplified and so defined by Christ's life and love -- an ethic which we as God's children participate in together by the Spirit. Lost and Found  by Greg Olsen (used with artist's permission) This time we'll note that for TFT this participatory, communal Christian ethic shows forth in a life of serving others -- the service both exemplified and commanded by Christ. TFT comments: The content of the commandment and the content of the service in obedience to it derive from the self-giving of God himself in Jesus Christ the Lord. He gives what he commands and commands what he gives. He commands a service of love, and he gives the love that empo

Christian ethics (part 3): filial

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This post continues a series exploring  Fully Human in Christ: The Incarnation as the End of Christian Ethics  by Todd Speidell. For other posts in the series, click a number:  1 ,  2 , 4 ,  5 .   Last time , we noted how Thomas F. Torrance (TFT) grounds his ethics on the foundation of Christ--both who he is, and what he has done, is doing and will yet do to bring about the ultimate goal of ethics, which is to fully realize what already is accomplished in Christ--reconciliation between God and humans, between humans, and between humans and all of creation. A fully Christian ethic is thus not about doing what merely seems morally good, but to participate, by the Spirit, in what Jesus is doing to heal and so transform the world.  The Way of Joy  by Greg Olsen (used with artist's permission) In order to live out TFT's Christ-centered, participatory ethic, the question we need to ask is not, "What would Jesus do?" but "What is Jesus now doing, and how may I participa

On a trinitarian approach to liturgy

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(Note: this post draws from The Trinitarian DNA of Christian Worship, an essay by John D. Witvliet.) If the corporate worship of the church was grounded fully in and shaped by the doctrine of the Trinity, what would it look like? This post addresses that question, beginning with this definition of Christian worship from Thomas F. (T. F.) Torrance: In our worship the Holy Spirit comes forth from God, uniting us to the response and obedience and faith and prayer of Jesus, and returns to God, raising us up in Jesus to participate in the worship of heaven and in the eternal communion of the Holy Trinity. For T.F., it's important to understand that Christian worship has  two directional movements:  1) God's coming to the church, and 2) the church's response to God. Both movements involve the action of each member of the Trinity: Father, Son and Spirit. The agents that enable God's coming to us and our response back to God are not less than divine persons, whose work can be t

Christian ethics (part 2): our new life in Christ

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This post continues a series exploring the book Fully Human in Christ: The Incarnation as the End of Christian Ethics  by Todd Speidell. For other posts in the series, click a number: 1 , 3 , 4 ,  5 .   Last time , as we began this series, we noted how the ethic set forth by Thomas F. Torrance (TFT) is fundamentally theological , but to say that is not to say that his ethic is "otherworldly"--disconnected from the world in which we live with its ethical challenges. TFT's theological ethic is not passive for it's about our active participation, through the Spirit, in what Jesus is now doing in our world. But note that this participation is in union with Jesus--he (and not someone or something else) is at the center and in the lead. At a time in our culture when there is renewed interest and emphasis on ethics (social ethics, in particular), it's important that we examine our approach to ethics and ask, is it truly Christian? Todd Speidell   A filial ethic of reconc

Christian ethics (part 1): Christ-centered

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This post begins a series exploring the book Fully Human in Christ: The Incarnation as the End of Christian Ethics  by Todd Speidell. For other posts in the series, click a number: 2 , 3 , 4 ,  5 .      Some assert that Thomas F. Torrance failed in his writings to offer a well-developed Christian ethic (particularly a social ethic). Todd Speidell disagrees, giving us in Fully Human in Christ a helpful, carefully researched compendium of TFT's writings on the topic of Christian-theological ethics. The subtitle of Speidell's book ( The Incarnation as the End of Christian Ethics ) refers not to the termination of ethics in Christ, but to the fulfillment or goal ( telos ) thereof. It also is Speidell's way of noting that Christ's vicarious humanity brings to an end all vain attempts to do good or to be good apart from who Christ is and what Christ has done on our behalf and in our place. TFT teaches that Christian ethics is not about self-directed efforts to model our lives

What does it mean that "Christ is all and in all"?

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In Colossians 3:11 (NASB), Paul declares that "Christ is all and in all." The immediate context relates to the "new self" -- who we are in Christ, no matter our ethnicity or socio-economic standing. However, the larger context is the whole letter of Colossians (with parallels in Ephesians) where we find at least six ways in which Christ truly is all and in all. Mosaic of Christ Jesus (public domain via Wikimedia Commons) 1) CHRIST IS THE IMAGE OF THE INVISIBLE GOD, THE FULLNESS OF DEITY IN BODILY FORM In Colossians 1:15 (NASB) Paul tells us that God's Son (Christ) "is the image of the invisible God." He goes on to say in Col. 1:19 (NASB) that “it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in [Christ, God's Son].” He then adds this in Col. 2:9 (NASB): “For in [Christ] all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” Our only way of knowing God, who “dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see” (1 Tim. 6:16, NAS

Liturgical Theology

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Having entered the season of Advent, a new year in the Christian worship (liturgical) calendar has begun. For some Christians, the liturgical calendar is of only mild interest, for others it's of no interest at all. But when viewed theologically, the calendar takes on great meaning. That meaning is explored by Simon Chan in  Liturgical Theology, the Church as Worshiping Community . This post takes a look at the book, excerpting some key points. Chan's purpose in writing Liturgical Theology  is to make a reasoned plea to Christians (Evangelicals, in particular) to recapture in their worship (both weekly and annually) a focus on the central truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. His concern is that many churches tend in their worship to focus instead on peripheral issues. In doing so, they experience what Chan calls "theological vacuity" (p 11). And so Chan's desire is for worship renewal through recovering a clear focus on truth , not in the sense of abstract ideas