A Good Taste of T.F. Torrance on the Gospel

For those of you who have not read Thomas Torrance yet, I thought you might appreciate reading what he has to say about Jesus and the Triune God, and why so many of us are excited by his writings. Here is a quote from one of his books regarding Christianity:

"We believe that what God is toward us in Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, He is in Himself, antecedently and eternally in Himself; and that what He imparts to us through the Spirit who sheds the love of God into our hearts, He is in Himself, antecedently and eternally in Himself. It is thus that through Jesus Christ God has given Himself to us and through the Holy Spirit takes us up into communion with Himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the one God of all grace whom we know as the God of our salvation.

Think of the immense revolution this means for our understanding of God.

It means that God is not some remote, unknowable Deity, a prisoner in His aloofness or shut up in His solitariness, but on the contrary the God who is free to go outside of Himself, to share in the life of His creatures and enable them to share in His own eternal Life. It means that God is not limited by our feeble capacities or incapacities, but that in His grace and outgoing love He graciously condescends to enter into fellowship with us, to communicate Himself to us, in such a way as to be received and be known by us. But of course the doctrine of the Holy Trinity means that the more we know God in Himself in this way the more wonderful we know Him to be, a God who in His inexhaustible Nature infinitely transcends all our thoughts and words about Him, but who in spite of that reveals Himself tenderly and intimately to us through His only Son and in His one Spirit who are of the same divine Nature as God the Father." (The Christian Doctrine of God, 3-4)

Comments

  1. As one who experienced “freedom and liberation from the slavery of legalism” in 1998, and who has since been in touch with many committed Christians who no longer attend ‘church’, I can understand some of the present excitement.

    That quote seems to sum up so much of what this is all about – but how can we begin to share our understanding with those who have not been theologically trained? I have already commented on “The Shack”. Many committed Christians have walked away from the churches that they may have attended for many years. I believe that those of us who have been through these wilderness experiences have so much to offer those who are now going through similar experiences.

    Where is the balance between theology and a down to earth sharing of the Christian faith with those who are crying out for help?

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  2. The challenge to find a balance between theology and down to earth sharing of the faith is an important one. And right now many of us are excited about sharing the understanding of the Triune God that we receiving. But I must give a caution, which is that we will never find fulfillment of our desires to share the faith if we don’t heed the words of both John and Paul.

    You see, John points us strongly to Jesus as the only way to the Father and thus to the Triune God. Then Paul shows us that our involvement with this Jesus will not succeed when the law is added into the mix.

    But when the modern faith is looked at, the law is foundational to much of the faith’s teachings. The end result of all this is a weakened presence of Jesus in and a growing weariness of the populace with Christianity.

    Therefore, it strikes me that we have a problem, which will only go away when we sit down in what John and Paul are saying and make their reasoning the voice for our lives and excitement.

    Aloha!

    J. Richard Parker

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  3. In my opinion, Richard is hitting on the "Root" issue Pete!

    I don't think it is a matter of balance BECAUSE, theology faithful to, and that flows from Who Jesus is, is automatically and truly theology that is down to earth!! Jesus IS the Son of God as earthed man, so it is not a question of "How does this apply to our earthly lives?" It is a proclamation of "This IS what is going on in your earthly lives!" Then, with the help of Jesus, you begin understanding the barriers that are preventing you from seeing and experiencing this life the way it was designed to be experienced, and you also begin understanding where you have always been seeing it but not for what it was and is!

    It is very much like the parable of the Pearl of Great Price. The man who found it did not need to know how to apply it to his life. The desire of it was so great, he sold everything he had to get it! We were made for Jesus and His realationship with the Triune God, and we all have a "taste bud" for this greatest "food" ever!!

    As Richard is pointing out, the "it" is NOT really an "it" at all (a doctrine, law, theology, or even a pearl, per se) but the Person of Jesus Christ, who fills all in all! Without HIM, everything is meaningless. With and in Him, everything gets it true meaning and definition!

    In light of what Torrance is saying in the quote above, and what we are learning about Jesus - Go share with people the Jesus that has dwelled intimately with each of us our entire lives, and let them know that He has been sharing His relationship with the Father in the Spirit with them that entire time also! That IS the fundamental reason behind all of humanity's positive and negative experiences in life. This is the true help we are all crying out for! Then hold on to your seatbelt as some embrace it, and others don't, leaving all judgment up to Jesus Christ! Either way, it won't be boring!!! :-)

    Peace!

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  4. Perhaps we would benefit from a slight change in terminology? What we are discussing here is more than "theology." It is the answer to the questions "who is God?", "what does it mean to be human?" and "who is Jesus?" When we frame it in these terms I think its practical relevance is more evident.

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  5. Maybe I was wrong to use the expression 'balance between theology and down to earth sharing of the Christian faith'.

    I understand most of what Timothy said, but I'm not sure I would agree with everything - but that's not important. Members of congregations do need help in understanding who God is and who Jesus is. If I was asked for a single scripture that summed up my own understanding it would have to be Galatians 2.20.

    My concern is how do we communicate that especially to young people who just wouldn't begin to understand what Timothy is saying.

    That's why I have found such excitement in "The Shack". It seems to me to be an incredible foundation to build on - a down to earth story - that get's people away from the old stereotypes such as God as the grandfather in heaven who is liable to send people to hell.

    From my contacts with many who no longer attend church it is obvious that there is an awareness of the enormous difference between the Christian religion (churchianity) and the Christian faith - the difference between legalism and a relationship!

    I hope that clarifies the purpose of my original comment.

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  6. Hey Brother Pete!

    I have to disagree with you agreeably on your comment that states:

    "My concern is how do we communicate that especially to young people who just wouldn't begin to understand what Timothy is saying."

    I find that young people everywhere I go understand me quite encouragingly and enthusiastically when I say things like "Jesus has lived intimately with you your entire life, He has been sharing His relationship with the Father in the Spirit with you the entire time also! That IS the fundamental reason behind all of your positive and negative experiences in life.

    For example, the reason you have a cell phone is NOT, ultimately, because you found a good deal at Alltel, BUT, because you are hooked up to the Triune God Who is relational! You are only sharing in His relationship and love for your friends! SEE how close you are to God already?! See how close God is to you AND your friends?! The reason you hurt because of being rejected by your friends is because you ARE included and accepted in the God Who lives in you! You are so accepted and included in His life that it hurts when that Truth is being violated in your being, and it is supposed to hurt and not feel good!!"

    I just spoke to a "strange" person in the hospital (and severely infected with HIV), in just this way, and He got it, too! I told him that the reason he became a pimp at age 13 and indulged in drugs, alcohol, fornication and murder was because he was trying to find the Life that already lived in him! I explained that this was the reason for all of his pleasurable experiences too, and that the fundamental reason for all of this is Jesus, the Person Who is permanently united with him, and always would be! His problem has been his personal share in the blindness and darkness of the evil one, and the goodness of God being perverted!

    He got it too!! He got it so well, that he said to me "You are welcome to come and see me again, and at anytime of the day or night you wish! Call me! My number is --- ----!!!

    I have also used the scripture you wrote quite effectively too, when I have said "Gal 2:20 commands you to STOP worrying about whether you have enough faith or not!! Jesus has all of the faith you need AND he has sufficient faith for you!! Chill, and believe (share) in His believing for you!!" You should see the stunning relief that comes on their faces - sometimes!! :-)

    This Gospel is what is TRULY practical! The Jesus Who is with all of us and always will be! The other stuff I used to spew out was a lot of garbage (yet still only a perversion of the Good God who was seeking to say otherwise through me!! :-)

    Personally relating to people with this Good News is better than all the "deep" and "simple" reading we could encourage anyone to do! After all, God is Personal, and refuses to be Himself without us! Try it!! You'll find many, especially the non - religious - who will like and appreciate it!

    I hope this clarifies more of what I was trying to say too, and its INTENSELY PRACTICAL use!!

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  7. I hear ya old pete. It's a struggle sometimes to find words that communicate theological truth in simple language.

    For this I am thankful for Baxter Kruger. I love studying Tom Torrance, but if I speak to others using his theological vocabulary, I get some blank stares in return.

    We can take a page from Jesus' play book: Stories taken from everyday life speak! And from Paul's playbook: Metaphors from everyday life speak!

    What's important is that the stories and metaphors carry the truth of who Jesus *really* is and who we, in Jesus, *really* are.

    Getting real,
    Ted

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  8. I'm thankful to Michael Morrison who just turned me on to this blog. I'm looking forward to working through all this. Peace and love to you all in Jesus' name.

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