Torrance’s Incarnation 1.0: Preliminary Matters

The cover of Torrance's Incarnation

The task of christology (pp. 1-2)

Jesus Christ has given himself to us to be apprehended. Our task is to “yield the obedience of our mind” to (1) him. This self-revelation of God in Jesus Christ is is not a fact on par with other facts—his revelation is an “utterly distinctive and unique fact” (1). This knowledge is not something we can earn or achieve, but something we submit to. When we know Jesus as our Lord, we recognize that he has chosen us before we had any power to know him. Indeed, knowing Christ is evidence of the power of God working within us to enable us to apprehend him.

The starting point of christology (pp. 2-4)

When we try to understand Christ, we hit a mystery. This mystery is the “duality in unity” (3)—the truth that Jesus is God and man. The minute we try to explain away this mystery, with presuppositions that ignore certain facts to bolster pet theories, we have gone astray. We need to be faithful to this fact: Jesus is “God without reserve, man without reserve, the eternal truth in time, the Word of God made flesh” (3).

The nature of ‘scientific dogmatics’ (pp. 4-6)

Let’s define scientific dogmatics. Scientific knowledge is what we seek when we try to know something “in accordance with its own nature and activity” (4). Knowledge is bound to the object it’s knowing. Scientific dogmatics, then, is knowing God according to how he has chosen to be known.

Some Reflections

We cannot compare the fact of Christ with other facts, nor can we deduce the fact of Christ from our knowledge of other facts. (1)

This sentence led me to consider the whole field of apologetics. As a child of C. S. Lewis I used to love the idea of logically reasoning someone straight to Christ. As I continued in ministry, people like Lee Strobel with his The Case for Christ (and all the spin-off books) left me underwhelmed. The arguments sounded compelling but never seemed to deliver. The skeptic in me always played devil’s advocate—and won! (Now, I know there are more intellectual compelling arguments than Lee Strobel delivers—he’s just one of the most popular forms of the apologetic movement.)

We need to take seriously the truth that Christ is not a fact on par with other facts. The minute we try to work our way to him through human logic, we’ve reduced him. Jesus can only be apprehended through his self-revelation. No amount of reasoning can get you there.

In the very act of our knowing Christ he is the master, we are the mastered. (2)

This is important. Torrance’s Christology begins with a strong note of humility. We don’t impose our logic on the Christ—he masters us. This sentence would be a particularly apt disclaimer to print on the bottom of all MDiv certificates!

That is the starting point for a true christology … Christ in his wholeness as God and man. (3)

This is a bold statement. At first I was hesitant to accept it—why would a sophisticated theological mystery be the starting point for christology? It sounds more like the place where you finish! The more I wrestled with this, however, the more I came to recognize its truth. All the gospel writers present Jesus as this God-man. If we were to start with either side of that hyphenation, we would skew our christology.

Theological statements do not carry their truth in themselves, but are true only in so far as they direct us away from ourselves to the one truth of God. (258)

This sentence (from the endnotes to p. 6) is an important epistemological point. When we do scientific dogmatics we’re not trying to formulate systematic statements that are true in themselves—they only point to the truth. This is another way of emphasizing the fact that knowledge is bound to the object it’s knowing. God has chosen to reveal himself to us in his Son, Jesus Christ.

Anything we say is only true insofar as it points toward the Truth incarnate.

← Introduction
1.1: The Relation of Christ to History→

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One Response to Torrance’s Incarnation 1.0: Preliminary Matters

  1. Alaine McGill June 26, 2013 at 6:01 pm #

    Wow! I so often get this backwards! Thanks Steve~!


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