Christological Note

Torrance makes some pretty interesting observations in his book ‘Incarnation: the Person and Work of Christ’, – he notes that when considering doctrines such as the atonement, reconciliation, election, that they cannot be thought of abstracted from the person and work of Christ. Torrance locates the crux of the incarnation in the hypostatic union – for him that is the key issue in christology. Atonement cannot be thought of as a doctrine apart from the HU, the union of two natures in one man – it is essential for reconciliation and revelation that the HU be made the central theme in christology for Torrance.

I haven’t delved into a massive dogmatics study – though for the interested parties, should there be any, there are christological posts here in there in the Bonhoeffer/Barth categories. I’ll probably post a bit more in this vein since I recently got a lovely book on the christology of the later fathers I’ll have to go back through Bonhoeffer’s christology lectures as well. N.T. Wright also has some interesting thoughts on christology, and what’s interesting about his approach is his thoroughly Jewish framework for the doctrine.

For my part, I love Torrances focus on the unity and holism of christology – something I imagine he picked up from Barth. The extreme christocentric approach is, in my very humble opinion, absolutely critical in theology/dogmatics. God’s self-revelation in Christ (which should be a household phrase for anyone remotely acquainted with Protestant dogmatics after Barth) is, and has to be the starting point for theological reflection.

Some of my own thoughts on Torrances approach:

He stresses the assumption of fallen humanity by Christ. That’s a really big point for him – however, this is not the universal opinion of the church. The Eastern orthodox church by and large (some Orthodox theologians have been influenced by Barth/Torrance) holds that Christ assumed mans natural nature- i.e. not fallen. There are compelling reasons to think that Torrance may have been wrong here, and it ends up basically being about theological anthropology. See Maximos the Confessor, et al. Does Jesus assume fallen human nature so as to heal and sanctify it? Well, is human nature fallen? Again, this is a disputed question – human nature is created good, and fell away from God. The Orthodox emphasis is that the fall results in disunion from God and not so much of an ontological change in the nature of man – if evil is privation, then the fall isn’t so much about what we are so much as what we are not, to paraphrase a good friend of mine. But there are compelling arguments to both sides. I flip flop between the two, myself.

Anyway, I’ll stop here and hopefully pick up on this theme again soon. In the meantime, discussion is as always more than welcome.


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