Salvation--God became man

This is the second of 11 posts, for the other posts in this series, click on a number: 1, 34567891011.

Dick Eugenio, in Communion with the Triune God, the Trinitarian Soteriology of T.F. Torrancehighlight's Thomas F. (T.F.) Torrance's understanding that what God does for our salvation is grounded in and flows from who God is in the person of the incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ.

For Torrance, it's vital that our doctrine of salvation (soteriology) begin with the being of God in Christ before we address the doing (act) of God in Christ. This theological discipline is vital because a common mistake is to conclude that salvation is merely an instrumental action that Christ accomplished apart from his intrinsic being. In battling this dualism, which splits God's being from his doing, T.F. emphasized that "the identify of the Savior as God-man is essential in understanding his unique role in the whole drama of salvation" (Communion with the Triune God, Kindle edition, loc 1147).

In seeking to explain soteriology, Torrance emphasized the importance of grounding the doctrine of salvation in the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation. These core doctrines of the Christian faith tell us that the tri-personal God (Trinity), in the person of the eternal Son of God, became human (Incarnation). In Jesus, God became man.

Jesus Goes Up Alone Onto a Mountain to Pray
by James Tissot
Used with Permission: Brooklyn Museum
Wikimedia Commons
As we celebrate Christmas, let's remember that the Incarnation was not merely something God did, but who God became in the person of the God-man Jesus. The Incarnation is fundamental to God's being. The eternal Son of God did not merely "put on" our humanity, but he became human--he fully and permanently added our humanity to his divinity. The salvation that is ours, is not just what Jesus did for us but who he became with us. As Eugenio notes, Jesus is "both consubstantial with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood." The one Mediator between God and humankind (Jesus--see 1Tim. 2:5) is not merely "like" God--he is God. He is not merely "like" a human person, he is human: "The incarnation is to be understood as God really become man" (loc 1271). Torrance elaborates:
The incarnation was not the bringing into being of a created intermediary between God and man, but the incarnating of God in such a way that in Jesus Christ he is both God and man in the fullest and most proper sense. The incarnation is to be understood then, as a real becoming on the part of God, in which God comes as man and acts as man, all for our sake--from beginning to end God the Son acts among us in a human way (loc 1271).
Eugenio comments:
[Torrance's] affirmation that Jesus Christ is not just God in humanity, but God as human, implies a rejection of the idea that the humanity of Christ was merely instrumental in the hands of God. While maintaining this, Torrance also emphasizes the originality and newness of the incarnation: "In the incarnation of the Son something new has taken place in God. This, however, does not only refer to the virgin birth, or to the fact that God became human. Rather, the whole life of the incarnate Son is new to God, including being in creaturely space and time, experiencing human emotions and needs..." The rationale Torrance provides for his new becoming in the life of the eternal God has to do with his theology of vicarious redemption. Quoting Athanasius, "He was not man previously, but he became man for our sake." And precisely because God himself became human, he himself is the agent of reconciliation (loc 1285).... 
In so far as redemption requires both God's initiative and humanity's response, both are seen to have been accomplished by the one God-man, Jesus Christ (loc 1298).
We are indebted to Torrance for helping us recapture a fundamental truth of the Christian faith: Salvation is not merely what God does, but who God actually is in the person of the eternal Son of God who became man, our Lord Jesus Christ. As the Christmas hymn urges, "O, come let us adore him!"

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