Saturday, January 23, 2010

Apostles and Inspiration

I'm working on a paper right now on the relationship between Christ and the New Testament in Torrance. For Torrance, the inspiration of the New Testament is not dealt with in terms of the Spirit's operation in and through the apostles in the particular acts of composing their distinctively inspired and authoritative documents, but in terms of the whole sweep of revelation and reconciliation accomplished in Christ as including the preparation, empowerment, and authorization of the apostles to mediate the ongoing presence of the risen Christ through power of the Holy Spirit. The preparation and empowerment included learning from Christ as disciples under a rabbi, encountering Christ in his crucified and resurrected form as the firstborn of the new creation they were given to share in, and their baptism in the Holy Spirit in which their understanding of Christ was bound to Christ's own understanding of himself. Thus for Torrance, "the apostolate, expressly formed and created by the human end of revelation, belongs to the once for all nature of the incarnation, and is caught up in its finality and authority" (Atonement, 329-330). Torrance's concept of "onto-relations", or relations that contribute to one's identity, seems at play here; a description of the historical Jesus Christ that does not include his relationship with the apostles, his calling of them and the struggle of teaching them, the drama of their being brought into more and more intimate union with him, would be so incomplete as to be false. Christ binds them into such intimate union with them that he can tell them "whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me." Torrance's doctrine of the inspiration of the New Testament derives from this relation between Christ and his apostles, those he sends in his name.

As I follow Torrance through this narration of inspiration, I become aware that the doctrine of Scripture I grew up with puts far less emphasis on this relation between Christ and his apostles and far more on the work of the Holy Spirit in the particular moments of inspiration. Have any of you wrestled with a similar tension? Let me pose it as a question: do you believe the New Testament books are more inspired by God than their authors were when they weren't writing those books? Do you believe that the apostle's (or other writer's of the New Testament) were given temporary infallibility when writing the New Testament documents but then lost it as soon as they stopped writing/dictating? Or are the New Testament documents the product of an ongoing ministry in which Christ was in control of his Gospel in the mouths and lives of the apostles through the ministry of the Holy Spirit? Do we worry that this latter view makes human bias and corruption too much of an obstacle for God to reveal himself through? If so, doesn't reacting with a "higher" view of Scripture (one free of the human influence of the apostles) actually mean a lower view of God's self-revealing power?

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?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Torrance on World Missions

Since T. F. Torrance was the son of missionaries, I've found it strange that I rarely see him comment on the subject of missions. However, I came across this great paragraph on that subject today.
The very life process of the church is the resurgence and expansion of the new creation in Christ, right in the midst of the critical situation brought about by the cross in the world. Here that life process runs parallel to the expansion or the 'catholicising' of the person of Christ from a historical to a cosmic significance which took place at the cross where the redeeming love of God in him was at last universalised and made free to the whole world. It was the death of Christ, so to speak, that emancipated his gospel for the whole world. The cross catholicised or universalised Christ, and so it necessarily universalises or catholicises the believer at the cross and who by the cross becomes joined to Christ and therefore joined to a new universal humanity. Thus the cross introduces into the Christian outlook, the notion of universal expansion or world mission, in which all barriers of race and language are broken down, and the Christian is constrained to proclaim reconciliation to all and to live it out, for it is by that same motion of universal reconciliation that he and she have themselves been redeemed in the cross. That is why the Christian faith is necessarily missionary, because the word of the cross lodged in its heart is the word of an infinitely expanding redemption that must reach out to the uttermost bounds of the universe, embracing every tongue and tribe and people. (Atonement, 200)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Grow on Walker on Torrance on Scripture (on Dancer on Prancer on Donner on Cupid)

Bobby Grow has a great quotation from Robert Walker on T. F. Torrance's doctrine of Scripture over at his Torrance blog, Behind the Back.