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Torrance: the homoousion is good news!

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This series explores T.F. Torrance in Plain English wherein author Stephen D. Morrison unpacks nine key ideas in the Christ-centered, Trinitarian theology of Thomas F. Torrance. For other posts in the series, click a number: 1, 2, 3.  

Updated 3/24/2019

Last time we looked at Torrance's key idea that natural theology is useful in understanding God, but only when viewed in the light of divine revelation concerning God's true nature. This post looks at the divine nature by exploring Torrance's key idea that the tri-personal God (the Holy Trinity) is revealed to us in Scripture as "one in being"---homoousion---a Greek word that combines  homós  ("same") with ousía ("being").Stephen Morrison comments on the meaning and importance of the homoousion in Torrance's scientific Trinitarian theology:
The being and acts of the Father and the Son are one and not divided (homoousion: "one in being"). This is a central doctrine in Torrance's …

Torrance: relating grace and nature

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This series explores T.F. Torrance in Plain English wherein author Stephen D. Morrison unpacks nine key ideas in Thomas F. Torrance's Christ-centered, Trinitarian theology. For other posts in the series, click a number: 1, 2, 4.  

Last time we looked at Torrance's key idea that God is known truly only when we know him in accordance with his nature (thus scientifically). This time we'll examine a corollary key idea, here summarized by Stephen Morrison:
Torrance agrees with Karl Barth's famous rejection of an independent natural theology, but goes beyond Barth by integrating (contextualizing) natural theology within divine revelation. This is understood best through the relationship of grace and nature: grace does not destroy nature, it perfects and fulfills nature. (p. 67) With this key understanding, Torrance overcame the false (and unfortunate) dualism that views revelation (faith) and science as hopelessly at odds. Indeed, one of Torrance's great achievements was …

Torrance: knowing God according to his nature

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This series explores T.F. Torrance in Plain English in which author Stephen D. Morrison unpacks nine key ideas in Thomas F. (T. F.) Torrance's Christ-centered, Trinitarian theology. For other posts in this series, click a number: 1, 34.  

Last time we looked at T.F.'s theological method, which yields what he calls a scientific theology. This post looks at a fundamental precept of that method: We know God truly only when we know him in accordance with his nature (thus scientifically).

For T. F., knowledge in any field of inquiry (be it a natural science or Christian theology) is true only to the extent that it accords with the actual nature of the reality it seeks to describe. Borrowing a phrase from Greek, T. F. calls such knowledge kata physin (κατα φυσιν)---knowledge that is according to nature. As Morrison notes, "Behind kata physin is the notion that every reality has its own intrinsic rationality to know it by" (p. 63). Accordingly, T. F.'s theological meth…

Torrance: a scientific theology

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This series explores T.F. Torrance in Plain English in which author Stephen D. Morrison unpacks nine key ideas in Thomas F. (T. F.) Torrance's Christ-centered, Trinitarian theology. For other posts in the series, click a number: 2, 34.  

This blog frequently explores the writings of Trinitarian theologian Thomas F. (T.F.) Torrance. Some complain that T.F. is hard to understand and I felt that way when I started reading him about 12 years ago. No question, Torrance is challenging to read---particularly at first. There are a couple of reasons: First, in most of his books he writes as a theologian to other theologians using technical theological terms. Second, T.F. explains ideas and concepts that run against the grain of everyday experience, asking us to look at reality (God in particular) in new (even radically new) ways.

Over the years in this blog, I've tried to put T.F.'s teachings into common language. I've also recommended books by authors who have sought to do l…

Inhabiting the Christian year: Pentecost & Ordinary Time

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With this post we conclude our series looking at the Western Christian year (liturgical calendar). For the other posts in the series, click a number: 12345, 6, 7, and click here for a related post on the shape of the church's liturgy.

So far in this series on inhabiting the Christian year, we've looked at Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week and Easter. Now we conclude the series looking at Pentecost and Ordinary Time.
Pentecost The ancient church chose to end the 50-day-long season of Easter with a Pentecost Sunday celebration. It was on Pentecost (50 days after the Resurrection) that the risen and ascended Lord poured out the Holy Spirit in order to form and empower the church for mission.

You will recall that at the Last Supper, Jesus promised his disciples that he would send them "another helper," the Holy Spirit (John 14:16, ESV). Following Jesus' resurrection, our Lord fulfilled that promise. As his disciples huddled in the upper room prayin…

What is the relationship between doctrine and theology?

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Now that I've retired from full-time employment with Grace Communion International, several readers have asked if I'll continue writing for and publishing The Surprising God blog. The answer is "yes"—I hope to keep this blog going, though there may be some changes going forward (stay tuned!).   - Ted Johnston  [updated 1/9/2019]
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As readers of this blog know, The Surprising God deals primarily with theology, though occasionally it looks at doctrine. This raises some questions: What is the difference between theology and doctrine? How are they related? This post offers brief answers for your consideration (and comment).
Doctrine (and dogma) As typically used in Christian circles, the word doctrine refers to a denomination’s (or church’s) primary teachings. Christian doctrine elaborates the dogma (core beliefs) set forth by the historic and orthodox church in its creeds (such as the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed). Though most churches embrac…

Inhabiting the Christian Year: Easter

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This is part 7 of a series of posts exploring the Western Christian year (liturgical calendar). For other posts in the series, click a number: 12345, 6, 8.

So far in this series, we've looked at AdventChristmas,EpiphanyLent and Holy Week. The first three constitute the cycle of light and Lent begins the cycle of life, which continues with Holy Week, Easter and Pentecost. In this post, we'll look at Easter---the celebration of our Lord's resurrection.


According to Bobby Gross in Living the Christian YearEaster is both a day (Easter Sunday, sometimes called Resurrection Sunday) and a season (sometimes called Eastertide) lasting 50 days:
Within a century of Jesus' rising, the church had established the extended Easter season. But why fifty days? First, because the enormity of the resurrection invited a lengthy celebration. Second, Easter lasted until Pentecost (Greek for "fiftieth"), the day when the Holy Spirit was poured out. Third, the period co…