Truly children of God (our being and becoming)

This post continues a series re-capping insights from Alexandra Radcliff's book, The Claim of Humanity in Christ, Salvation and Sanctification in the Theology of T. F. and J. B. Torrance. For previous posts in this series, click a number: 12, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 91011

Last time, we saw how Torrance theology views sanctification as our participation, by the Spirit, in Christ's obedient response to the Father on our behalf. According to Radcliff, "rather than diminishing our response," this approach "truly establishes it" (p. 99). In this post, we'll continue on this theme of participation, looking at the ultimate goal of our salvation, which involves what the Holy Spirit is doing to "lift humanity up to God.... [drawing] us up as adopted sons of God to participate in Christ's relationship with the Father" (p. 112). TF Torrance put it this way:
By his very nature, the Holy Spirit not only proceeds from the Father but lifts [us] up to the Father: he is not only the Spirit sent by Christ but the Spirit of response to Christ, the Spirit in whom and by whom and with whom we worship and glorify the Father and the Son. (p. 114)
Jesus Christ Enthroned (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)


A Radcliff notes, the Torrances' participatory view of salvation is akin to the Eastern Orthodox doctrine of theosis (sometimes termed deification or divinization), which emphasizes that, in union with Christ and by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, we truly are (and are becoming) children of God in the fullest sense. That does not mean that we are becoming God (who alone is uncreated), but that, as humans, we are being fitted for glory when we will share, with, in and through the human person Jesus, and by the Holy Spirit, in the divine nature. In that sharing---that ultimate participation---we will not cease to be human. We will always be creatures (created beings), but as glorified humans, we will be like the glorified human person Jesus, who now resides in heaven. As TF notes, by our union with Jesus (who is fully human and fully God) we share in Jesus' glorified humanity and in his divinity. Though we remain human creatures, in Christ and by the Spirit, we will commune with God in the most profound, deep way.

Becoming who we truly are

This communion with God---this participation in the divine nature through the Spirit---is the present privilege of believers, though their present experience of that sharing is limited by their human weakness on this side of glory. However, following the resurrection (their glorification), though remaining human, they will be able to have unencumbered communion with God, as the apostle Paul notes in this verse:
We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! (1 Cor. 13:12, MSG) 
In glory we will thus become fully who we, in union with Christ, already are: children of God. On this side of glory, the Holy Spirit is at work making us more and more who we truly are in Christ. JB Torrance put it this way:
The Kingdom of God as God's will for man has been realized for us intensively in the humanity of Jesus, and what has been realized intensively for us in Christ must be worked out extensively in us in the world, by the Holy Spirit, through the mission of the Church. Through the preaching of the Gospel, we are called to become now in ourselves what we already are in Christ. (p. 117)

The essential ministry of the Spirit

We thus see in Torrance theology the essential and continuing ministry of the Holy Spirit in conforming us more and more to the likeness of Christ's perfect, glorified humanity, thus fitting us for the time when, as glorified humans ourselves, we will be fully what we are now---children of God. In this journey of becoming (transformation/sanctification) the Spirit leads us to participate, by the  Spirit, in Jesus' ongoing good works in fulfilling the Father's mission to the world. As we do, we share in Jesus' communion with the Father and in the outworking of his love for all humanity. As Jesus told his followers in John 15, he is the vine and we are the branches on which Jesus' fruit will be borne, so long as we remain attached to the vine (by abiding in Christ). [For a sermon from Cathy Deddo on what it means to abide in Christ, click here.]


As Radcliff notes, the Torrance view of salvation (including our being and becoming) is a "profoundly personal, relational, and participatory understanding... [one] that indicates a God whom humanity can not only know but experience intimately" (p. 119). Thanks be to God.

For previous posts on the topic of theosis, click here and here.