Torrance: Christ's twofold mediation

This series explores T.F. Torrance in Plain English where Stephen D. Morrison presents nine key ideas in Thomas F. Torrance's Christ-centered, Trinitarian theology. For other posts in the series, click a number: 1234, 5, 789.  

Last time we explored Torrance's key idea that the doctrine of the Trinity holds the place of primacy in Christian theology. This time we'll look at another of his key ideas---the twofold mediation (agency) of Jesus Christ. As Morrison notes, Torrance teaches that "Jesus Christ is at once God for humanity and human being for God... [mediating] the things of God to humanity and the things of humanity to God" (p. 135). Torrance puts it this way:
Jesus Christ is Mediator in such a way that in his incarnate Person he embraces both sides of the mediating relationship. He is God of the nature of God, and man of the nature of man, in one and the same Person. (p. 136, quoting The Mediation of Christ, p. 56)
Christ fully God and fully human (note the faces' two sides)
(Christ Pantocrator icon, public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Torrance's emphasis on the twofold mediation of Christ is a unique aspect of his Christocentric Trinitarian theology. Morrison helpfully shows how this teaching is directly connected with Torrance's teaching concerning the hypostatic union, declaring that Jesus, being fully God and fully human, is "the point of contact between all humankind and God" (p. 136).

For Torrance, the Word of God is not some sort of abstract Word thrown down aimlessly to us from on high. No, the Word of God is a living person who, through the incarnation, "has truly reached us in the depths of our darkness." The good news is that the Living Word of God has "sought us out and found us" (p. 137). According to Torrance, this stunning gospel truth means that
the Word of God communicated to man includes within itself meeting between man and God as well as meeting between God and man, for in assuming the form of human speech the Word of God spoken to man becomes at the same time word of man in answer to God. (p. 137, quoting God and Rationality, pp. 137-138)
Note that Torrance teaches that the incarnation is not only about God speaking to humankind. It also includes "God as a human being acting on our behalf before the Father, receiving and responding to God's Word in our place" (p 138). The Incarnate Son of God mediates both from the side of God (as God) and the side of all humanity (as the human who represents and stands in for us all).

Returning to the implications of the hypostatic union (the union of God and humanity in the one person of Jesus Christ), Morrison emphasizes that Torrance views this union as
a dynamic relationship and not merely a static one. In Christ, it was not a neutral humanity that was united to God, but it was precisely our humanity that God assumed. As such, Jesus Christ is the true mediator for both God to humanity and as a human before God. This is a dynamic relationship between the divine and human natures of Christ, without confusion or separation. Jesus Christ as God reaches humanity, and Jesus Christ as a human hears and responds to God's Word in faithful obedience. This is not two movements of two persons but the one person of Jesus Christ, one movement in this twofold form. (pp. 138-139)
This understanding helps us grasp more fully the meaning and importance of the high priesthood of Jesus. Following Athanasius, Torrance teaches that Jesus not only ministers the things of God to man but the things of man to God. Contained in this teaching is the key idea of Christ's vicarious humanity, which we'll look at in the next post in this series.

Israel: the womb of the incarnation

As part of his teaching concerning Christ's twofold mediation, Torrance emphasizes the place of Israel. Morrison comments:
For Torrance, the history of Israel tells the process of God's painful, but necessary, molding of a people-group into the "womb" of the incarnation. Their culture and history was chosen so that God's Word might be made known to humanity, so that His Word might be received in human existence and truly reach us.... God elected the people of Israel to "actualize" the revelation of God in humanity.... 
The Word of God cannot come to us in a vacuum devoid of history and culture. If God's Word has truly reached us, then it must reach us as we are in our actual existence.... This is apparent in the history of Israel.... In their culture and history, God established a place where His self-revelation could be received. (pp. 140-141) 
Torrance teaches that to understand Jesus and his twofold mediation, it is essential to understand the history of the people of Israel. Morrison comments:
The Word of God purposefully assumed Jewish flesh, not just any flesh. This makes the history and culture of Israel the proper context for understanding Christ's life and ministry. Without Israel and its role in the incarnation, we would not have understood the Word of God when it came to us. Therefore, Israel remains the essential context for the Word of God. (p. 142)
According to Torrance, we are called not merely to understand Israel's experience with God, but to share actively in a journey of transformation similar to that of Israel. As Torrance notes, "we must go to school with Israel and share with it the painful transformation of its mind and soul" (p. 142, quoting The Mediation of Christ, p. 12). Of course, Jesus himself, in his vicarious humanity, is the full actualization of human knowledge of God. That knowing of God then becomes ours as we, by the Holy Spirit, share in Jesus' own knowledge of God. As Paul declares, "we have the mind of Christ" (1 Cor. 2:16). Our union with Christ and our subsequent sharing in Christ's knowledge of God is, as Morrison notes, a gift of grace that changes everything:
In union with [Christ], we rightly respond to the Word of God, and by grace we participate in God's knowledge of Godself. This displaces our religious attempts to respond to God in and of ourselves and forces us to rely wholly upon Jesus Christ as the one true mediator between God and humanity. We cannot respond to God's grace in our own strength but are justified through the faithfulness of the Son of God.... Grace does not negate our natural humanity, but perfects and completes it in the vicarious mind of Christ. (p. 143)
Let us conclude this post declaring this glorious truth in a prayer written by Torrance:
O God, we are dumbfounded before the magnitude of thy love. Thou thyself has not held thyself aloof from us. But has become one of us, joined thyself to us in our littleness and in our estrangement in order to gather us, broken, divided humanity together into one in Jesus, that we may share in the life and love which thou eternally art as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Mediate to us in a new way through this Jesus, communion with thee and communion with one another. And through him to thee, the Father and the Holy Spirit one God eternal, be our worship and thanksgiving. Amen. (Quoted from position 50:10 forward in Torrance's lecture on the mediation of Christ at http://commons.ptsem.edu/id/05215.)

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