Torrance’s Incarnation 6.1: The Humanity and the Deity of Christ

The cover of Torrance's IncarnationIn chapter 6, Torrance turns his attention directly to the hypostatic union. When we try to describe this in theological terms, we can fall into two different traps—we can emphasize Jesus’ eternal being at the expense of the historical person, or vice versa.

When patristic theologians attempted to describe this union, they didn’t say enough. They rightly guarded the doctrine from error by claiming that Jesus was fully God and fully man, but they didn’t say how these natures are united.

In developing a doctrine of the hypostatic union, we must be careful not to divorce Christology from Soteriology. Christ’s person is essential to his work. You cannot rightly expound one without the other.

1) The humanity and the deity of Christ

We’ll start with the humanity of Jesus. The stakes are huge. If Jesus is not fully human, then God has not reached out to us in fullness. If Jesus is not fully human, then God has not revealed himself to us like we had supposed. If Jesus is not fully human, then we are not really reconciled to God since it took full human obedience and sacrifice to reconcile us.

Next we consider the deity of Christ. The stakes are just as high. If Jesus is not God, then we have no assurance that God has forgiven us of our sins. If Jesus is not God, then we don’t know precisely who or what Jesus revealed to us (“he is the revelation he brings” (188)). If Jesus is not God, then the cross is a horrible act of God against a mere human.

Some Reflections

If Christ is not man, then God has not reached us, but has stopped short of our humanity – then God does not love us to the uttermost, for his love has stopped short of coming all the way to where we are, and becoming one of us in order to save us. But Christ’s humanity means that God’s love is now flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone, really one of us and with us. (185)

When Adam first encountered Eve, he broke into poetry and cried, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23 ESV). When Torrance used this formula at the climax of his paragraph on God’s love, it made me realize the reality to which the marriage union points. Considering all the prophetic texts concerning God’s “marriage” relationship to his wayward “Israel,” this is very powerful biblical connection.

Only God against whom we sin can forgive sin, but the deity of Christ is the guarantee that the action of Christ in the whole course of his life is identical with the action of God toward us. It is not something of God that we have in Christ, but God himself, very God of very God. (187)

This is critical. When we look at Jesus we don’t see aspects of God or elements of God. We apprehend God. When Jesus teaches us, offers his life for us, forgives us of our sins, it is God himself acting on our behalf.

Everything depends upon the fact that the cross is lodged in the heart of the Father. (189)

“The cross is lodged in the heart of the Father.” What a powerful phrase. If Jesus isn’t God, then the crux of Christianity is some mad version of child abuse. If Jesus is God, then we can truly see what sacrificial love means.

← 5: The Mystery of Christ
6.2: The Hypostatic Union in Revelation and Reconciliation →

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