Thursday, October 29, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
God is a Being difficult for us to grasp and apprehend, for he always recedes out of reach and draws away from those who pursue him. But the ineffable wonder of it is that he who is distant has come very near. 'I am a God who draws near, says the Lord.' Distant, that is, in respect of his essential being for how can the creature ever approach the Creator? 'But he is very near in respect of his power by which he embraces all things'. 'Will anyone do anything in secret', he says, '- without my seing him?'. Now God's power is always present in dynamic interaction with us in our meditation, service and instruction. Hence Moses, convinced that God could never be known by human wisdom, said, 'Shew me thy glory' and strove to enter into the darkness where God's voice was, that is, into the inaccessible and invisible conceptions as to his Being. For God is not in darkness or in place, but above and beyond both space and time and the properties of created things. Therefore he is never found located in some region, either as containing or contained, by way of limitation or by way of division. 'For what house will ye build me? says the Lord.' On the contrary, he has not even built himself one, for he cannot be contained. Even if the heaven is said to be his throne, not even thus is he contained, but he rests delighted in his creation. (339-40)
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
But the miracle is that even now in spite of sin and imperfection and the limitations of a fallen humanity, in spite of the earthen vessel which mediates to us the Word of Life, we are given to hear the living Voice of the Lord Himself, and to see the Light Eternal.
The basic error that lurks in the scholastic idea of verbal inspiration is that it amounts to an incarnation of the Holy Spirit. It is only strictly christological theology which can obviate that heresy, but Dr. Warfield's theory of inspiration neglects the christological basis of the doctrine of Scripture, and fails therefore to take the measure of both the mystery of revelation and the depth of sin in the human mind.What do we make of Torrance's treatment of Warfield's doctrine of Scripture?
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
For the investigation and true knowlege of the Scriptures there is needed a good life and a pure soul, and that virtue which is according to Christ, in order that the mind, guiding its path by it, may be able to attain what it yearns for, to comprehend it, and as far as it is compatible with the nature of men to learn about the Word of God. For apart from a pure mind and an imitation of the life lived by the saints, no one would be able to understand their statements...He who wishes to comprehend the mind of the divines must first purify and cleanse his soul by his way of living, and approach the saints themselves by emulating their actions, so that through assimilation with them in a common mode of life, they may understand what has been revealed to them from God. (Athanasius, De Incarnatione, 57, quoted in T. F. Torrance, Divine Meaning, 244.)
Thursday, October 15, 2009
The reality with which philosophy or science is concerned is passive, whereas the reality that gives rise to theology is active and dynamic. This means that in faith we have to do with a self-operating wisdom mediated to us through the Word. Faith is the strength and power of the truth , or a grace from God. Hence in interpreting the truth we have to do with a truth that interprets itself. The primary reason for this difference is that God himself is the truth of theological knowledge, God in his Word and Son revealing himself and saving us, God who is known only by his own power. (135)
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
One point of note is Torrance's interest in distinguishing typological interpretation of Old Testament passages as fulfilled in the history of Jesus Christ, a practice Torrance cautiously affirms, and allegorical interpretation of passages from the Old and New Testaments depicting ostensibly historical events as finding their real meaning in timeless esoteric truths, a practice Torrance vehemently denounces as rooted in Platonic dualism between the sensible and intelligible, aka the boogie monster.
The practical difference seems to be that allegory can get you anywhere, while typology always points you to Christ; allegory has the potential to break up the Truth of the gospel into truths, or even to break reality into, yes Torrance, a dualism between the sensible and intelligible, while typology holds together all of scripture in the one truth of Jesus Christ. Torrance puts it this way:
This typological way of interpreting the Old Testament seems to be finding renewed popularity. I myself find it helpful and edifying. Torrance seems to as well, but he also sees how easily it slid into allegorical readings that enabled the Gnostics. This necessitated a stronger framework within which to interpret scripture that would not be so prone to fanciful perversions.
Typology of this kind, which must not be confused with allegory, was an important part of early Church exegesis, for it was a reflection of the deep connections between the Christian Gospel and the ancient past, and an important tool in its battle against gnostic and Marcionite attempts to cut it away from its historical sources and its ground in the fulfillment in space and time of God's creative and redemptive acts. Patristic typology had its roots in Palestinian Judaism. It had its significance within the inseparable relation of word and event and the dramatic images that it involved, and it arose through the use of cultic patterns to point ahead to the enactment and fulfilment in decisive events within the history of the covenant people of God. It was the fulfilment of the ancient promises and figures in the birth and life and death of Jesus Christ that brought it into prominence in early Christianity, for with that fulfilment it was possible to interpret the history of Israel as the pre-history of the Incarnation, and to see how the patterns of Israel's life, manifested in the great events of its history and reflected in the cult, partially realised in the ordeal of suffering, and interpreted by the prophets, all converged in the fact of Christ. Such interpretation of the Old Testament which set forth an account of the acts of God in the old and new economies of Israel and the Incarnation as the fulfilment of the one saving purpose became essential from the start of the Church's life, for it not only assimilated the Old Testament revelation with the New Testament revelation but preserved the unity of the doctrine of God.
Friday, October 2, 2009
...we are speaking of the Jesus Christ attested in Scripture. The One of whom we have said that He lives in the sense described, is not then the creation of free speculation based on direct experience. He is the One to whom the history of Israel moves from the very first as to its goal, and from whom the history of His community springs. He is the One whose own history is the end of the one and the beginning of the other. He is the One who is visible, who makes Himself visible, in the documents of this whole historical nexus. He, this One, lives in the figure and role, in the being, speech, action, passion and death, in the work, which are all ascribed to Him in these documents, in the features which constitute the picture of His existence as delineated and represented in these documents. The fact that this One lives, and what it means that He lives, are not things invented or maintained of ourselves. If we say them responsibly, our own responsibility is only secondary. We really draw on the biblical attestation of His existence. For in this attestation He Himself lives, certainly as its origin and theme, but even as such only the mirror of the picture which is offered. It is He who lives, not the picture. But He Himself lives only in the form which He has in the picture. For it is not a picture arbitrarily invented and constructed by others. It is the picture which He Himself has created and impressed upon His witnesses. When we say that Jesus Christ lives, we repeat the basic, decisive, controlling and determinative statement of the biblical witness, namely, that He, very son of God and Son of Man , the Mediator between God and man, the One who lives the life of grace, the Lord and Servant, the Fulfiller of the divine act of reconciliation, that He, the One, has risen from the dead, and in so doing shown Himself to be who He is. He lives as and because He is risen, having thus shown that He lives this life. If there is any Christian and theological axiom, it is that Jesus Christ is risen, that He is truly risen. But this is an axiom which no one can invent. It can only be repeated on the basis of the fact that in the enlightening power of the Holy Spirit it has been previously declared to us as the central statement of the biblical witness (CD IV.3.1 p. 44).
Thursday, October 1, 2009
(If you'd prefer to avoid my attempt to squeese Torrance's reading of this history into one paragraph, go ahead and skip this paragraph and go straight to Torrance's conclusions about how the Gnostic Marcion's interpretations of scripture have had a lasting effect on Christian hermeneutics.) The narrative he traces looks (briefly) like this: early mythology presents the gods, the ultimate beings, existing under the limitations of time and space -> Plato rejects myth by seperating the timeless world of the mind and spirit from the temporal world of matter -> Stoicism tries to bring these worlds back together by seeing the rationality of the material world as a window into the eternal so that timeless truths of cosmology and ethics can be discerned even in the older myths through the use of a new hermeneutic, allegory, in which a literal reading of the myths is set aside in favor of a moral or philosophical one -> allegorical interpretation finds its way into Jewish interpretation of the Old Testament through Philo who sees certain texts depicting God acting within human history as needing to be interpreted in a non-literal (ie. allegorical) way in order to preserve God's transcendence over the creaturely realm -> early Gnosticism widens the gap between God and humanity even further by cutting God off even from the rational activities of humanity, seeing the only path to God as transcending this world altogether through some kind of non-rational intuitive grasp of eternal truth -> this leaves Gnostic hermeneutics of scripture in utter ruins, seeing the final referent of all statements of truth as being totally cut off from the statement itself, limited as it is by its context in time and space, and therefore any text can be interpreted in almost any way -> the Gnostic Marcion, though denounced as a heretic, leaves a lasting negative impact on Christian interpretation of the Bible in the following two ways (and here we need to slow down a bit):
1. Marcion draws a sharp antithesis between creation and redemption, removing redemption totally from time and space to some other world. The effects of this are a Jesus seen as alien to our humanity and an interpretation of biblical texts that speak of salvation and redemption in terms of human history as actually pointing to some otherworldly paradise. Is this perversion still exerting influence on our Christian thinking and spirituality? I think so. Whenever a Christian defines salvation as going to Heaven when you die, this perversion and reduction of the gospel, whether owing to Marcion or not, seems to be at play. They are cutting what God can do, has done and is doing off from the life He has actually given to us and in which He speak to us.
2. Marcion draws a sharp antithesis between the Old Testament and New Testament, Law and Gospel, Israel and Church. This is certainly still crippling our understanding of scripture. This not only taints our ability to see God's justice and mercy as essentially unified, but also, Torrance stresses, it taints our ability to see Jesus as he truly is. Us Gentile Christians have an enormous difficulty seeing Jesus in his Jewishness. We tend to see it as incidental, like Jesus might just as likely (maybe more likely) have been born to a Saxon virgin as a Jewish one. Do we see the same God at work in the Old and New Testaments? Do we see the work begun by God with Abraham and completed in Christ as the same work? If so, can we legitimately think of Christ in a completely Gentile (dualistic) way? Comments are welcome.