Contingence, creation and redemption

This post concludes a series looking at key concepts in The Christian Frame of Mind by Thomas F. Torrance (TFT). To read other posts in the series, click a number: 123, 4.


[Revised: 10/4/2016]

Jesus Christ (fully God, fully human)
(public domain via Wikimedia Commons)
This series has examined a fundamental precept of TFT's theology---one derived from the Bible, affirmed by the Nicene faith of the early church Fathers, and confirmed in the natural sciences (quantum physics in particular). The precept is this: The order in the universe is contingent order, meaning that it has an intelligibility grounded in a source beyond itself. As scripture shows, and the early church taught, that Source is the Word (Logos) of God, who is both Creator and Sustainer of the universe.

The Creator become Redeemer

Scripture also reveals that to restore the order lost in the fall, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe became its Redeemer. The Word of God accomplished this re-ordering by adding our humanity to his divinity through the Incarnation and thus entering "the structured realities of our empirical existence in space and time" (p. 30).

Jesus, the eternal Word of God incarnate, did for us (and all the cosmos) what we could not do for ourselves. Amazing God, amazing grace---amazing and gloriously ordered universe!

An unfolding revelation

According to TFT, the unfolding of this stunning revelation concerning the history of the cosmos had the effect of "overthrowing Greek notions of the unreality of matter and the divine nature of the rational forms immanent in the world" thereby opening up "the way for the development of empirico-theoretical science as we now pursue it" (p. 31). Thus Jesus, the revelation of God to us in our flesh, showed us the way not only to more accurate theology, but also to more accurate science. That revelation has been unfolding in our awareness ever since, often through the efforts of Christians, who have conformed their thinking to the mind of Christ who is the Source of the order and intelligibility we observe in the universe. As TFT notes, "Such is the power of the human mind sympathetically attuned to the intrinsic rationality of the created universe (p. 39).

Key concepts: the Imago Dei ...

An understanding of the Incarnation of the Logos also opened to us a much deeper understanding of the nature of humanity as created in God's image (the imago Dei). The human person Jesus is himself "the Image and Reality of God." Through his incarnate person he is the "personalizing Person" by whom we, his brothers and sisters by grace, become "personalized persons who draw from him the true substance of their personal being both in relation to God and in relation to other humans" (p. 31).

... and Creatio ex nihilo

Thus we understand that the Incarnation was the great turning point in the history of humanity---indeed it was the re-Creation of humanity along with the rest of creation, thus helping us to understand the interrelation of Incarnation and CreationIndeed, this re-creation, which was accomplished through the Incarnation (and the rest of the "Christ event"), points us back in a most radical way to the original creation when God brought into being "all things, invisible as well as invisible, intangible as well as tangible, mental as well as physical, out of nothing." TFT then notes the earth-shattering impact of the biblical truth of creatio ex nihilo (creation out of nothing) on multiple realms of human knowledge:
All rational form immanent in nature, including the mind of man, was held to be created out of nothing, and therefore when regarded in itself to be transitory and evanescent and utterly dependent upon God for stability and continuity. On the other hand, the whole universe of created being was thought of as given an authentic reality and integrity of its own, and as endowed by God with a creaturely rational order grounded beyond itself in its own transcendent Rationality. This was the conception of the contingent nature of the creation, and its inherent rational order which was so impossible for dualist Greek or Roman thought to appreciate. Nevertheless it was this very doctrine that was radically to alter the logical structure of ancient culture, philosophy and science, and after many centuries of underground struggle with the classical paradigms of thought entrenched in the European mind to open the gates for the new world of our day. (pp. 31-32) 

God's mission in Christ: expressing his love, yielding his peace

TFT declares that God's own "Being is the ultimate ground of all contingent existence" and his "Love is the power of all contingent order" (p. 46). He then notes the outworking in Creation of these truths through the Incarnation:
Jesus Christ was not only the Incarnate Word or Logos of God through whom all things were made and given their rational order, but the direct embodiment of the eternal Love of God within the structured objectivities and intelligibilities of our spatio-temporal world. So far as the Christian doctrine of creation was concerned, this meant that the universe is to be understood as having been brought into existence through the free ungrudging act of God's immeasurable Love, and that it is to this very Love that we are to trace the ultimate power of order in the universe. (p. 32, emphasis added)
TFT thus understands God's mission to be an expression of his Love (his Being), accomplished in, through and by his incarnate Son. That mission was (and is) about the restoration (re-ordering) of order in our dis-ordered universe, a mission that is "vanquishing the dark forces of alienation, healing the tensions between visible and invisible, physical and spiritual realities, and reconciling all things to himself, thereby bringing peace to the entire creation" (p. 32). Hallelujah!

The way forward in theology, science and culture

TFT concludes his book noting that the way forward in developing and further integrating theology and science (with implications for all of culture) will be in the context of "contingence and redemption,"---a context that gives those who think with the mind of Christ an accurate grip on the true conception of humanity as we are in relation to the universe. Note these comment from TFT:
Christian theology must probe more deeply into the interconnection between the [contingent] order of creation and the order of redemption, in the hope of finding and developing the healing answers that are needed to cope with the problems before us... [viewing] all the life and activity of Jesus from his birth of the Virgin Mary to his resurrection from the dead, as the Incarnate Word and Love of God at work among us in order-bringing and order-renewing activity. The role of man reconciled to God in and through Jesus Christ, therefore must be viewed as one to be fulfilled, not only across the boundary of invisible and visible realities, but across the boundary of the order of redemption and the order of creation, where his destiny, under God, is to be a mediator of order. As I understand it, this is the task, more urgent and exciting than ever, in which theologians and scientists are called to engage today, and engage together, under the compelling claims of the Creator and Redeemer of the universe (p. 33). 
It is more and more apparent in the advance of our scientific knowledge to the limits of the contingent universe that some at least of the master-ideas with which we work have their source in the Judaeo-Christian doctrines of the One God and his creation of the universe, including space and time and all things visible and invisible, out of nothing, and of the contingent intelligibility and freedom of the creation as grounded in the unlimited freedom and transcendent rationality of God the Creator. The fact that these master-ideas (the unity of the universe, its contingent intelligibility, and its freedom or spontaneous order) daily assume significance in the basis of our scientific knowledge of the universe, means that modern scientific understanding of the universe is one in which Christian theology is increasingly at home. This is of enormous import for the inter-relations of theology and science, for theology today may be pursued only within the context of a world increasingly overarched by scientific exploration of the universe. However, it is also of enormous import for culture as a whole, because it is, I believe, through the bridge between science and theology that science itself can be included within a unified culture. (pp. 60-61)
 I end this series on TFT's book with a short prayer:
Come Holy Spirit, lead us all in thinking with the mind of the incarnate Word, the Logos of the universe, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Can people get out of hell?

Does everyone have the Holy Spirit?

Theology and Biblical Studies - What's the Difference?

The missional character of the church

The nature of our union with Christ

How big is hell?

Ministry: sharing in what Jesus is doing

Question on John 3:36

Torrance on the church and its mission

The link between theology and mission