Torrance’s Incarnation 1.3: Procedure in christology

The cover of Torrance's Incarnation

a) Knowledge of Christ by revelation through the Spirit (pp. 28-29)

In Christology, we seek knowledge of Christ as he has disclosed himself—not simply as he is found on the “mere plane of profane history” (29). This is what Paul said when he speaks of Jesus “according to the Spirit” (Romans 1:4). A merely historical presentation of Jesus is a false presentation. Jesus is a “complex of historical fact and spiritual event” (29). In order to truely know the mystery of the kingdom, we must respond to Jesus after the spirit, not only after the flesh.

b) Knowledge of the historical Jesus according to the Spirit (pp. 30-31)

Mere historians are faced with a problem. Faced with a plethora of reports about Jesus, they must try to slot him into and understand him with historical categories. The resurrection, incomprehensible by any historical standard, is a good example of this problem. The historian can either ignore it as fiction or seek to discover the proper criteria by which to understand the event, which in turn will lead them to the criteria which the object demands—faith.

c) The relation of dogma to kērygma (pp. 31-32)

Dogma and kērygma are inextricably related. When we understand Jesus according to the Spirit, we’re concerned with the words and acts of the historical Jesus along with the authorized and authoritative preached Christ. When these two things are viewed in their interrelatedness, they’re called didagma. When didagma is “carefully and authoritatively articulated in the church” (32) it becomes dogma: The corporate authorized transmission of kērygma and didachē in obedience to Christ.

This is a good time to remember that our human language is inadequate to express divine truth. Still, the Word has communicated himself to us in a way we can understand—as true God and true man.

Some Reflections

A Jesus who is known only in a carnal manner, as by the mere historian, the reporter of historical events, can be of no interest to us. That Jesus, observed and reported according to ordinary historical criteria, was a rabbi, a carpenter, an exorcist who apparently failed in his mission and was executed for alleged blasphemy and treason. That is all that the mere historian can see, and that is not worth reporting. (29)

Coincidentally, I’m reading J. D. Crossan’s Who Killed Jesus? this week. Crossan’s methodology is precisely what Torrance would describe here as a search by “ordinary historical criteria.” I wouldn’t go as far as Torrance by saying that this Jesus “is not worth reporting” (29), though. I’ve learned much about Jesus through the scholarship of historians. I would concede that these historians never go far enough (due to their explicit methodology) and thereby misinterpret much of the theological significance of Jesus life.

While christology is concerned with the kērygma of Christ in the power of the Spirit, it is concerned with that only in its essential relation to the transmission of teaching or didachē from the historical Jesus. (31)

I like the way Torrance ties the life and teaching of Jesus to the authoritative witness of the apostles. There is no room in his theology for a wedge to be inserted between Jesus and Paul. The Word of God chose not only how he would teach and act, but also (according to the Spirit) how he would be interpreted and remembered. This is some high-level Sovereignty!

← 1.2: Jesus Christ and the New Testament Kērygma
1.4: The biblical witness to Jesus Christ →

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