Friday, January 8, 2010

Torrance on Time and the Resurrection

Given Andy Snyder's argument that the roughly 2000 years since the resurrection makes it irrelevant by its historical distance, I thought I'd share this great paragraph from T. F. Torrance on the subject from his new book, Atonement.
The kind of time we have in this passing world is the time of an existence that crumbles away into the dust, time that runs backward into nothingness. Hence the kind of historical happening we have in this world is happening that decays and to that extent is illusory, running away into the darkness and forgetfulness of the past. As happening within this kind of time, and as event within this kind of history, the resurrection, by being what it is, resists and overcomes corruption and decay, and is therefore a new kind of historical happening which instead of tumbling down into the grave and oblivion rises out of the death of what is past into continuing being and reality. This is temporal happening that runs not backwards but forwards, and overcomes all illusion and privation or loss of being. This is fully real historical happening, so real that it remains happening and does not slip away from us, but keeps pace with us and, as we tumble down in decay and lapse into death and the dust of past history, outruns us and even comes to meet us out of the future. That is how we are to think of the risen Jesus Christ. He is not dead but alive, more real than any of us. Hence he does not need to be made real for us, because he does not decay or become fixed in the past. He lives on in the present as real live continuous happening, encountering us here and now in the present and waiting for us in the future. (Atonement, 246, emphasis his).
This is the kind of thing I am just not able to get across to the non-believer: the totally radical newness of God's act in Jesus Christ which makes all of our attempts to measure the likelihood or evidence for God's existence totally irrelevant. Jesus is risen! He is alive here and now and active among us. This cannot be deduced from other realities because it is God's new creation, transcending all old realities and recreating them according to God's redemption in Jesus. "But why? How do you know?" Why do the blind insist on staying blind?


  1. I haven't really been reading the IHT dialogue because, frankly, I find your friend's approach really aloof . . . maddening. There is a lack of intellectual honesty (I did read some of the exchange) in his arguements; and what you share about "historical distance" reflects that same kind of intellectual dishonesty . . . did he really offer that as a serious arguement?

    Anyway, great quote from TFT, I'm getting there in "Atonement" myself.

    I'll be praying for your friend, Andy; that he would, like Nebachadnezzar in Daniel, come out of the pastures, quit eating grass, and start drinking the pure milk of the Word of God.

  2. Adam, Just found your blog-glad to see you like TFT. I will be browsing . . .


  3. I wanted to apologize, I think I came across a little stronger than I should've . . . I'm sorry Andy.

    It's just I think you guys are arguing apples and oranges. Andy is arguing against a purely theistic view of God; and Adam is arguing for a purely Christian/Trinitarian view of God. Andy's view of God reminds me of the OT, and the surrounding nations' view of Yahweh (i.e. the god of the valleys, or the mountains, or the plains). There is a 'natural notion of god', but He is simply not the God disclosed through Israel and then Jesus Christ. This is where I see Adam trying to press Andy. But until Andy starts on those terms he will be arguing against a phantam god; of course if he starts where the Christian starts, then of course he will have become a Christian, and this "debate" will be over. Either way, I think Andy (and all agnostics/atheists) is in a no "win" situation; and even if they were able to prove the god of atheism didn't exist (which I don't think they can even do that), they still haven't touched the God of the Bible, the God revealed in JEsus Christ.

  4. Derek, thanks for checking stuff out. I've had a look at your blog as well and look forward to doing some browsing of my own (I feel like I'm shopping for clothes).

    Bobby, quite perceptive. I suppose what you are saying cuts against me (at least in terms of the way I'm approaching the argument) as much as Andy. The history behind my impulse to drive the conversation with Andy forward despite the frustrating futility determined by our irreconcilable starting points is that Andy was at one time a confessing Christian, and not a shallow one at that. My attempts to push him to deal with the God of the Bible stem from a conviction that this God is not unknown to Andy because we have worshipped and served him together. If Andy were an agnostic with no Christianity or only nominal Christianity in his past, I suppose I would proceed differently. Either way, thanks for your input.

  5. Adam,

    I knew that Andy was a "former Christian," I did start to follow the interchange; but even so, his arguements (what I have read) are old and tired arguements that agnostics/atheists, skeptics/cynics have always made. Even though Andy "was a Christian," who is not to say that, even then (and maybe this was part of the problem for Andy), that He operated under these negative conceptions of God (i.e. classical theistic categories); and thus turned him, intellectually, from wanting to serve such a god. So what I would be saying, about Andy (not knowing him, but presuming a bit), is that the god he is fighting against now; is the same god (conceptually) he worshipped before (as a Christian). I wouldn't want to serve the god (in its atheist or Christian form) that Andy is fighting against either.

    As far as arguing against Andy's view, I would not have any problem with engaging him from within his own conceptual field. But making sure from the outset that the "object" under consideration is not the God of the Bible, but of the classical philosophers.

    This all almost seems to make the God of the Bible, the God revealed in Jesus "unfalsifiable," and I would say, exactly. To me that is the point of TFT's Scientific Realism, and the Giveness of what we are considering. I see you accurately representing TFT's approach, Adam; but I see a disconnect between that, and what Andy thinks he is doing.

    It's as if Andy thinks he is arguing against the God of Christianity; and He's not, he arguing against the god of the philosophers. And it's like you are arguing against the god of the Philosophers, by arguing for the God of Christianity. But, it just seems there should be one arguement at a time. First it seems that you should argue against the god of the Philosphers set by the terms and categories of that "science." And then second, argue for or against the God of Christianity based upon the terms and categories set by that "science." Of course this approach would require alot of logisitcs and clarification, more than might be possible in this format. Beyond that, Andy would have to agree that in fact, after all, he really hasn't been fighting against the God of Christianity to begin with . . . which I doubt he would agree to.


  6. Of course, to argue for and/or against the "god" of the philosophers would really be to arguing in terms of anthropology (methodologically); which is really only to situate this, in narrative terms, under the meta-narrative of scripture . . . those set out in Genesis 3. So I suppose this would be to make arguing for the god of the philosophers "relativized" to the point of trying to construe an arguement for or against a notion of god, in this way, as a non-starter ;-).

  7. It's great to see some wider participation, and the comments are well stated and interesting. I like this new turn of reminding ourselves (how often we must do this) that the Incarnation is a unique, unprecendented event. The common view is that God became man not only to redeem us but so that we have an Advocate who was like us in every way, yet without sin, and that is certainly, blessedly true. But we can't forget that it is also a completely mysterious incomprehensible event, so much so that we cannot even approach it unless God prompts us toward and the Spirit interprets our "groanings". To the outside observer, apprehending Christ seems to be an insurmountable task, impossible with the tools that Nature provides. And this is in fact the case--the Good News is that God is not waiting for us to figure it out, but has come to meet us, not halfway but all the way.
    Thus it seems to me that trying to argue God's existence, or the Incarnation with words is like looking for unicorns in your sock drawer with a metal detector--it's just the wrong set of tools. The right tool is a seeking heart.

  8. I am referring directly to the Torrance bk. quote: this is stupendous reappraisal of time in relation to God and the future coming to meet us. If true and my heart would like to believe it is not too good to be true, then the futility and pessimism I was falling into , in my earlier posting on Torrance's last book Atonement, was uncalled for. It just goes to show how sad and despondent we can be in our natural state, and how much we need the Good News, and our rescue.

  9. Hi Timothy,

    Thanks for the comments. I didn't really see a lot of futility and pessimism in your earlier post. Maybe I misunderstood. Either way, we certainly do need the Good News.

  10. On time and the resurrection quote, is it helpful to put it , like this:
    somehow, for God, time past reaches time present and time past is really time future in the life of God. I put it like this because in a world of noise and buses and tall buildings, the dimension of heaven can seem a long way away, but when time dimension is reconsidered , then, maybe, there is no deistic split and heaven is a lot closer to the everyday than we think. Rubbish, or not? Historical events never seemed very real to me, and here is Torrance saying, the Christ event, as in God's time, is the most fully real historical event. To those of us a bit bored by history as mostly uneventfulness or irrelevance, here is something altogether different.

  11. Beautiful, nobody says it like TFT. Although I feel if I keep reading around I wont need to read 'Atonement' as everyone is posting excerpts spoiling it for me :)!

    Just started reading around here Adam. Looks like a great blog.

  12. Hi Scott. Thanks for coming by. I've been over to Fides Quarens Intellectum and am enjoying it greatly.