T.F. Torrance on Personal Onto-Relations

‘Here we have a distinctive element in Scottish and Reformed theology which dates back to Duns Scotus’ development of the concept of the person as it emerged from the Trinitarian teaching of Richard of St. Victor, and was passed on through Duns Scotus’ Commentaries on the Sentences of Peter Lombard to John Major in Paris and then to John Calvin and back, not least through the Syntagma Theologiae Christianae of Amandus Polanus, to Scotland. This was a theological mode of thinking which rejected the analytical, individualist notion of the person that was put forward by Boethius and Thomas Aquinas and was later reinforced and built into western social philosophy through the positivist individualism of John Locke and Auguste Comte who thought of persons as separated individuals connected through their external relations, rather like Newtonian particles. In the Reformed theological tradition the notion of person is held to be controlled b the person-constituting and person-intensifying activity of God in the Incarnation, such that the union becomes the ground for interpersonal relations in the Church. Relations between persons have ontological force and are part of what persons are as persons – they are real, person-constituting relations. That was the theology underlying Clerk Maxwell’s concept of union with Christ and of inter-personal relations in Christ, which it was not his nature to isolate in some compartmentalized way from his understanding of real, ontological relations in the physical universe.’ (T.F. Torrance, ‘Transformation and Convergance in the Frame of Knowledge’, p. 230)

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