Torrance’s Incarnation 1.1: The Relation of Christ to History

The cover of Torrance's Incarnation

The inseparability of the historical from the theological in Christ (pp. 6-8)

Christ is presented to us in history. That said, historical method cannot faithfully apprehend Christ, who is God and man. Faith is the “kind of perception appropriate to perceiving a divine act in history” (7). If we try to study merely the historical Jesus, we are left with a distortion having attempted to break up what can never be broken. Our Christology must be scientific: faithful to the whole mystery of Christ. In Christ, God has invaded the world of humanity and, by doing so, has left historical marks.

a) It is the once and for all unity of God and man in Jesus Christ that preserves his humanity (pp. 8-9)

Because human nature and time itself are “assumed” (9) by God, they now have divine affirmation and are able to stand without being consumed. That is, humanity is not consumed by divinity and time is not consumed by eternity.

b) The unity of God and man in Christ is accomplished from the side of God (pp. 9-10)

Now that we see the mystery of the unity of God and man in Jesus, we recognize that we cannot join the two—this is only something that God can do. Therefore, it is impossible to reach God on our own. In the incarnation we see that only he is able to condescend to us.

c) It is impossible to move from the historical Jesus to God (p. 10)

Therefore, to work from a historical Jesus to a divine Christ is to try to move in fundamentally the wrong direction! We must view Jesus scientifically by allowing our method to be determined by the object: God and man in Jesus.

Some Reflections

Redemption that is not actualised in our history is no redemption for us at all. It doesn’t not touch us and would not be intelligible. (8)

This reminds me of the argument the author of Hebrews made: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15 ESV). Our God made redemption for us that we are able to see and understand (at least to a point). Our sinless high priest can sympathize.

[The incarnation] is an act of pure grace, the stupendous and absolutely free act of God almighty. (9)

If this idea doesn’t drop you to your knees in doxology, I don’t know what will. Only God can unite God and man, and he did it at great cost for no other reason than love for us. Praise the Lord!

No amount of exegetical alchemy can get away from the fact that if we start with only a historical picture of Jesus we will get nothing out of him except ordinary historical material, so that Jesus can mean nothing more to us than a mere figure of history alongside of others. (263-4)

This is quite a bold statement and makes me wonder at all of the 20th century’s quests for the historical Jesus. The popular media today are still picking up this angle today. Torrance’s argument shows the inadequacy of this method. You get what you search for, so your searching had better be in accordance with the nature of the subject (thus: scientific).

← 1.0: Preliminary Matters
1.2: Jesus Christ and the New Testament Kērygma →

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One Response to Torrance’s Incarnation 1.1: The Relation of Christ to History

  1. don paterson December 22, 2013 at 6:06 pm #

    Without incarnation wed be alone and afraid

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