Archive for T.F. Torrance

The Atonement: an introduction to an introduction

Posted in Theology with tags , , , , , on November 12, 2010 by stephengardner

During study for my end of year doctrine exam today, at Moore Theological College, I did some thinking about the atonement and thought I might blog some initial thoughts. I have (at this stage) seven introductory aspects of the atonement I want to explore – but I’m open to your suggestions too.

But, to kick off, as a kind of introduction, I thought I would post some helpful words from T.F. Torrance. Having argued that the atonement is, firstly, a profound mystery, he concludes that there is ‘no logical relation’ between the cross of Christ and our experience of forgiveness of sins.

There is of course a mighty continuity between the death of Christ on the cross and the forgiveness of our sins, but it is a continuity that God himself achieves and makes through his atoning act and the intervention of his own being. And therefore the cross provides a wisdom that ‘the Greeks’ or humankind in general know nothing of. Thus we cannot begin to understand the atonement by bringing to it principles of formal rational continuity or by adopting an abstract theoretic explanation. In seeking to unfold the meaning of the death of the Son of God, therefore, we must have recourse to putting together conjunctive statements based upon the inherent synthesis to be found in the person of the mediator and not in any logical or rational presuppositions which we bring to interpret what he has done for us. Here above all, then, in seeking to understand the death of Christ, we must follow Christ, and think only a posteriori, seeking throughout to be conformed in mind to Christ himself as the truth. That is the only way to understand and at the same time to reverence the infinite mystery and majesty of this atoning deed on the cross which by its very nature reaches out beyond all finite comprehension into eternity.                                                                                                                              ( T. F. Torrance, Atonement: The Person and Work of Christ. 2-3)

Taking on board Torrance’s encouragement to follow Christ as a first and foremost outcome of ‘studying’ the atonement, what would you included as a must have in introducing the idea of the atonement?

I’ve been memed…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on May 28, 2009 by stephengardner

Over at Hebel, Matt Moffitt has embarked on a great little exercise. Its called a meme apparently.

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Matt’s requirements are:
i.    To list a helpful book I’ve read from this category
ii.    Describe why I found it helpful
iii.    Tag five more friends to spread the meme love

1.    Theology
There are two books that have changed my life dramatically. The first of these is John Stott’s The Cross of Christ. Everyone knows it’s a classic, and almost every man, woman and child has read it. But, this book for me marked a turning point in my life. I had read it on and off for a period of 2-3 years as someone quite ready to give up the faith. Then one day I read it and could not put it down, I realised with a new clarity what Jesus had done. The words that changed me are still underlined in my book—I remember reading them for the first time so clearly:

“This is how the Apostles saw it. Herod and Pilate, Gentiles and Jews, they said, had together ‘conspired against Jesus (Acts 4.27). More important still, we ourselves are also guilty. If we were in their place, we would have done what they did. Indeed, we have done it. For whenever we turn away from Christ, we ‘are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace’ (Heb 6.6). We too sacrifice Jesus to our greed like Judas, to our envy like the priests, to our ambition like Pilate. ‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?’ the old Negro spiritual asks. And we must answer, ‘Yes, we were there.’ Not as spectators only but as participants, guilty participants, plotting, scheming, betraying, bargaining, and handing him over to be crucified. We may try to wash our hands of responsibility like Pilate. But our attempt will be as futile as his. For there is blood on our hands. Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us (leading us to faith and worship), we have to see it as something done by us (leading us to repentance).

(The Cross of Christ p.59)

I was brought to tears, stopped reading and prayed and my life was never the same again.

2.    Biblical Theology
As a young punk trying to work out how to make sense of the OT I met with an old minister to read According to Plan by Graeme Goldsworthy. Sure, Goldsworthy’s stuff is bread and butter in most of our churches, and books like climax of the covenant take Biblical Theology to the next level, but I’m so thankful to God for the bedrock laid by Goldsworthy. It’s a blessing to have his efforts so much a part of the theological landscape of the church circles I move in.

3.    God
I’m currently in a reading group that has just about finished The Trinitarian Faith by T. F. Torrance. I’ve found it profoundly helpful in grasping the beauty of the Nicene-Constantinople statements about God. It has opened my eyes to the richness of the creed, it has helped me grasp God’s being more clearly and it has helped me understand the Church’s involvement with the Triune God. Great book!
Yet, I’m hoping to soon finish The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God by R. P. C. Hanson. It promises to trump the Trinitarian Faith, but I feel like I cant claim its significance until I’ve finished it…bummer
4.    Jesus
Like Matt and Byron, there was no way this book was never going to make this list. This is the second book that has changed my life, Jesus and the Victory of God by N. T. Wright. Simply put it is a masterpiece! No book has helped my reading of Scripture more. No book have I referred back to more. No book have I recommended more. It is sweet sweet honey to my lips… It helped me understand the gospel stories and then in turn made me love and appreciate Jesus more! Read it! Read it! Read it!

5.    Old Testament
Again, like Matt, I cant go past Dumbrell’s The Faith of Israel. I have flicked back to it again and again to help understand the entire OT.

6.    New Testament
Resurrection of the Son of God, N.T. Wright. A massive, sweeping account of the New Testament understanding of the Resurrection explained within its Second Temple setting. Widely received and an instant classic on the topic. While I didn’t find it his most grabbing book, it did help me get the uniqueness of the Resurrection and how it truly is an amazing hope for a broken world.
7.    Ethics
Over summer I was greatly encouraged by reading No Rusty Swords, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It’s a funny book, part biography of Bonhoeffer, part a collection of his letters and lectures. Bonhoeffer is someone I deeply admire. The man’s life was such a struggle in understanding ethics so that any study of him is a helpful study in ethics.

8.    Church History
The Christological Controversy by Richard Norris. One of the first books I read at college last year. It truly helped me grow in my thankfulness for the heroes of the early church. It caused me to reflect on the depth of their task in coming to grips with the magnitude of the incarnation. A real highlight was reading Mileto of Sardis and his homily on the Passover
9.    Biography
Not a massive biography reader…But I have dipped in and out of John Stott’s biographies by Timothy Dudley Smith. My father put me onto Stott years ago and he has had a real influence on the both of us. I hope to grow old like him, he is a beautiful man…

10.    Evangelism
Promoting the Gospel, John Dickson. Someone told me not to read this because it was heretical…so that made me want to read it more! Totally glad I did, I think John is bang on and does a nice task of fitting evangelism into how we think about God
11.    Prayer
I need to read more on prayer. I like Matt’s idea of An Australian Prayer Book, because when I think about it, it really has taught me a lot about prayer. It has been particularly helpful in causing me to confess my sin to God. Other than this A Call to Spiritual Reformation is something else I’ve found helpful… but like Chris kept putting it away…maybe it was a tad boring!

So, now I have to choose five likely candidates to be memed…
I’d love to hear what books have shaped, Mark, Nick, Doug, Greg, Geoff

With all this meming my dreams to put up the posts I promised yesterday will be a little delayed…stay tuned

Why we don’t need new creeds

Posted in Church with tags , , , , on May 26, 2009 by stephengardner

I recently heard a Christian, in fulltime ministry, dismiss the need for ‘old creeds’ on the basis that today’s church should look to produce new creeds, defending the faith from modern errors. True, there are lots of errors out there today, but the comment shows a naivety of the richness, timelessness and dare I say it, authority of the Creed.

While it is a defence against the errors of Arianism, at its core, the Nicene Creed is a positive declaration about the being of God. It is a powerful proclamation that God is the Triune creator of all.
Get it wrong and you get Him wrong. It seems to me that while there are always an abundance of errors coming left, right and centre, few have challenged the Church like those that led to the formulation of the Creed. And not all challenge the very being of God.

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Of the contribution the Nicene Creed has made to our understanding of the doctrine of God, T. F. Torrance has this to say:

It was a turning-point of far-reaching significance, with conceptual irreversibility. When the conception of the oneness in being between the incarnate Son and the Father was formed and given explicit expression in the clause homoousios to patri, a giant step forward was taken in grasping the inner ontological coherence of the Gospel as it had been mediated through the apostolic Scriptures. Once that insight had been reached, the Church could not go back upon it, because the evangelical substance of the faith, with its distinctively Christian doctrine of God, had been secured in its mind and understanding in a permanent way. ‘The Word of God which came through the Ecumenical Synod at Nicaea abides forever.’

(Torrance, The Trinitarian Faith. T&T Clark 1991)

If we get our doctrine of God wrong everything falls apart, and what we have in the Nicene Creed is a thoroughly relevant, thoroughly positive declaration to the world about who God is in His being.
I think, that to throw out the Nicene Creed for more ‘relevant’ declarations shows a great deal of arrogance…What do you think?