The "how" of salvation

This post continues our look at Dick Eugenio's book, Communion with the Triune God. This time we'll see how T.F. Torrance addresses the "how" of salvation. For the other posts in this series, click on a number: 124567891011.

Baptism of Christ by Francesco Albani
Wikimedia Commons: Public Domain
As Eugenio notes, Thomas F. (TF) Torrance's favored word for salvation is reconciliation. Rather than being about forensic justice, TF sees salvation as about the restoration of relationship--an end result that has it's genesis in God's own tri-personal being. As TF is fond of saying, God does what God is. In his view, to correctly understand salvation we must begin with God's being before considering his doing (including how God saves). This theological discipline helps us grasp a stunning truth---God saves, not in an external, mechanical way, but in an intimate, personal way that expresses his own relational being (being-in-relationship). As the apostle John put it with simplicity and power: "God is love" (1 John 4:8).

Fundamental to this trinitarian perspective on the nature of God (theology) and of salvation (soteriology) is Torrance's understanding of the central importance of the doctrine of the Incarnation. That doctrine states that the eternal Son of God, who is "one in being" ("homoousios") with the Father and the Spirit, became one with humanity. Through an astounding miracle, he added our humanity to his divinity--becoming fully human while remaining fully God. Jesus, our Savior, thus saves us as both human and as God. Note Eugenio's comment on this vitally important point:
The incarnation is in itself an act of salvation, an inauguration of a new humanity. From the virgin birth to the ascension, the salvific work of the Triune God was carried out by the incarnate Christ. Every aspect of Christ's life is salvific (Kindle loc 1527).
Eugenio then quotes Torrance on this point:
Redemption begins with the very advent of Jesus, so that his conceptions and birth of the Virgin Mary are to be regarded as essential constituents in the saving activity, and his humanity is seen to be not just a means to an end. Atoning reconciliation is to be understood as taking place within the incarnate constitution of the Mediator [Jesus Christ]. His person and his work are one. That is why the New Testament can say that Jesus is redemption, he is righteousness, he is eternal life. He himself in his incarnate person is our salvation (loc 1527).
The "how" of salvation is not a "what" but a "who." "The Word became flesh" in the person of Jesus in order to redeem us. Jesus saves us through an "ontological bond" forged between God and humanity that is intrinsic to himself. The incarnation is not about God doing something "to" humanity in an external sense, but about becoming human. This is why the doctrine of the incarnation was for Torrance so vital to his soteriology. All our problems are met and dealt with by Jesus in his own being as the unique God-man.

It is in this context that Torrance finds great soteriological significance in every aspect of Jesus' life and ministry. Take, for example, the virgin birth. Eugenio comments:
How is the virgin birth of Jesus Christ related to his vicarious redemptive activity. Torrance insists that the virgin birth cannot be separated from the whole mystery of Christ, particularly from teh new life of Christ in his resurrection. Like the resurrection of Jesus from the virgin tomb (Luke 23:53), the virgin birth points to a new kind of life in the Holy Spirit, the resurrection is also the work of the Spirit raising Jesus from the dead (1 Peter 3:18). The virgin birth and the recurrection, thereare, are the christological foundations of Jesus's demand for humanity to be "born of the Spirit" (John 3:5-6). Going back to the Pauline Adam-Christ typology, as Adam's life was through the breathing of the ruach, the two beginnings of Jesus humanity are wrought in the power of the Spirit. This is also the beginning of a new humanity in us... In the virgin birth, therefore, transpired the re-creation of humanity. The new Adam has at last appeared. The virgin birth represents a break in the sinful existence of humanity, because in the birth of Jesus Christ in our depraved existence, he resisted that which was universal to all humanity (i.e., sin), sanctifying the human nature that sin corrupted and uniting it again to the holiness of God (loc 1600).
In like manner, Torrance sees Jesus' baptism as...
...a vicarious baptism, in which he identifies with us as sinners, as pointing back to his birth by the Spirit to be the Savior of the world. Christ's baptism embraces his sacrificial life and death on our behalf in complete solidarity with us. When he was anointed by the Spirit, it was into our humanity that Jesus received the Spirit, so that we too may receive "the voice of forgiveness" and adoption, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.... In his baptism, he submitted to the righteous judgment of God against sin and becoming sinner with and for us, thereby undoing the sins of humanity (loc 1685).
Next time we'll look at how Torrance, following this line of reasoning, approaches the topic of the Cross of Christ.

Comments

  1. This read simply awesome!

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  2. Here is a relevant quote from J.B. Torrance: "[Christ] becomes the patient! He assumes that very humanity which is in need of redemption, and by being anointed by the Holy Spirit in our humanity, by a life of perfect obedience, by dying and rising again for us, our humanity is healed in him"
    ("Christ in Our Place" in "A Passion for Christ", p. 47).

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  3. For a helpful essay on the baptism of Christ, see the post at http://www.scholarpriests.org/blog/baptism-jesus/

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