Introduction to T.F. Torrance's theology (part 1): overview
For Torrance, Christian theology had to be rooted in faith. Moreover, it had to take place within the community of the church, the body of Christ. For Torrance, the church was the scientific community which provided the individual theologian with context, and with intelligent cross-examination of what he or she wrote... Torrance saw himself a theologian of the universal church, not of one branch of it. Nevertheless, one of his abiding concerns was his Scottish Reformed heritage. (p. 5)
Torrance saw all the actions of God as inter-connected. And he understood all of them to cohere, ultimately, within the person of the Mediator himself. It is in Jesus Christ that incarnation and atonement, being and act, coincide and inter-relate. (p. 7)
T.F.'s emphasis on the importance of Jesus' entire life in accomplishing the atonement of humanity with God causes Ritchie to ask these questions:
Did Torrance pour too much significance into the person of Christ in his incarnation at Bethlehem? Did he leave any need for an atoning death on Calvary? Was everything achieved simply by God becoming man in Christ Had Torrance traded Calvary for Bethlehem? Had he, in effect, replaced the Cross with the Birth? Did his exalted view of Christmas and the nature of the incarnation render Easter unnecessary? (p. 8)
Although in Christin theology there is a persuasive logic for centering everything in the person of Christ, nevertheless, when we drill deep into the nature of the incarnation, what we discover is that the incarnation itself is centered in, and is dependent upon, the cross and the resurrection. This means that when we ask the question, "what is it that makes the incarnation what it is?," we discover that it is the decisive event of cross and resurrection which actualizes and makes possible the event of incarnation itself.... Whereas normally we understand incarnation as preceding atonement both chronologically and ontologically, the thesis of this book is that Calvary is the presupposition of Bethlehem. Of course, it is also true that Bethlehem is the presupposition of Calvary.... However, ultimately it is the cross which provides the undergirding reality and foundational logic for both. The Son of God was able to be born at Bethlehem because sin was borne at Calvary. (pp. 8-9)
In unpacking this statement, Ritchie goes on to explore how this understanding might serve to resolve some of the tensions that exist between T.F.'s Scottish Reformed Theology and Westminster Reformed Theology. We will learn more about this as the series progresses.