T.F. Torrance on the Unity of the Divine and Human in Christ

”The hyper-Calvinist, however, argues in this that, that in Christ’s life and especially his death on the cross, the deity of Christ was in repose. He suffered only in his humanity. On the cross, Christ merited forgiveness for all mankind. It was sufficient to cover the sins of all, for it was of infinite worth, but it held efficaciously only for those whom the Father had given him. We shall examine later the difference between ‘sufficient’ and ‘efficacious’, but here we must look at the relation posed here between Christ in his human nature on the cross and God in heaven. If Christ acted only in his human nature on the cross and God remained utterly apart and utterly transcendent, except that he agreed in will with Christ whom he sent to die, then all that Christ does is not necessarily what God does or accepts. In that case the sacrifice of Christ may be accepted as satisfaction only for the number of the elect that God has previously chosen or determined. But if God himself came among us in Christ his beloved Son and assumed upon himself our whole burden of guilt and judgement, then such an arbitrary view would be impossible. And we must hold the view that it is indeed God *himself* who bears our sins, God become man and taking man’s place, standing with humanity under the divine judgement, God the judge becoming himself the man judged and bearing his own judgement upon the sin of humanity, so that we cannot divorce the action of Christ on the cross from the action of God. The concept of a limited atonement divides Christ’s divinity from his humanity and thus rests upon a basic Nestorian error.’ (T.F. Torrance, ‘Atonement: The Person and Work of Christ’, p. 184-185)

Advertisements

Thoughts On the Bible As Story

– The first thing to note when thinking of the Bible as story is that, by modern standards, it bears little to no resemblance to a story. Caution is in order, since it is very easy to simply relegate Scripture to the status of ‘story’ and thereby make it that much easier to be held at arms length.

– For example, there is little focus on the emotional/psychological states of the characters – the texts tend to focus on the external actions of the characters and the consequences of said actions. There isn’t a linear plot – while there are indeed large trajectories present in Scripture, these don’t really take the form of dramatic plots (exceptions do exist, of course), they don’t really take the form of a story with a centralized plot.

– In fact, a good deal of Scripture isn’t really narrative in any sense – one would be hard-pressed to fit Leviticus or Paul’s epistles into the category of narrative. Other parts are more easily seen as story – Esther, Ruth and a good deal of the Old Testament definitely fit into some kind of story category.

– It may actually be a bit more productive to think in terms of ‘trajectory’ rather than ‘story’, considering that Scripture has its telos in Christ, a fact which is seen by reading the Bible backwards, as it were.

– This seems to make a good deal of sense to me, since there are multiple trajectories which can be traced in the Scriptures. The Messianic themes, for example, seem better explained as trajectories, paths towards an end, than as stories.

– This raises the issue of the role of canon, which isn’t something I’m really informed enough about to comment on other than I see it being fairly significant.

Musical Notes

A few songs/artists I’ve been enjoying:

Subheim – Away, from their album ‘Approach’

Excellent dark ambient/electronica.

sync24 – ‘1N50MN14’, from their album ‘Comfortable Void’

More dark electronica with ambient.

Twin Forks, ‘Scraping Up the Pieces’, from their self-titled album.

Stompy folk with a great rhythm.

Les Fragments De La Nuit – Devenons Demain II, from their album ‘Musique du Crépuscule’

Atmospheric, dark string/piano.

Stanley Jaki on Kant and the Ontological Argument

‘Kant’s criticism of it [the ontological argument] shows him both a poorly informed and a poorly reasoning philosopher. If not from Scotus ( a paradigm of obscurantism in Kant’s time), at least from Leibniz he might easily have learned that the weakness of the ontological argument , in which he saw the basis of the cosmological, is not in its major premise – if God (perfect being) is possible, he exists – but in its minor – but God is possible. The latter can be securely asserted only if the existence of God has already been established a posteriori. Kant’s two objections to the ontological argument show him a poor reasoner. They are based on his failure to perceive the conceptual difference between infinite and finite being. Concerning the latter, be it Kant’s hundred thalers or the perfect island of Gaunilo (Anslem’s first critic), the existence of a thing is wholly extrinsic to the concept of it, but not in the case of an infinite, that is, infinitely perfect being.

The poor reasoner in Kant is once more revealed by his objection to the cosmological argument on the ground that it rests on the ontological. He overlooked the fact that the existence of a necessary being has been proved from the existence of things not necessary by the time the argument turns to the infinite perfection of that necessary being.’ (Stanley Jaki, ‘The Road of Science and the Ways to God’, p. 121)

Tolkien and Grief

The sense of grief that pervades Tolkien’s writing is probably its greatest quality. There are a couple different facets to this, though. One is a genuine sense of sorrow. Much of Tolkien’s writing deals with themes of exile, loss and death, and these situations evoke genuine grief. Love is lost, life is lost, and home is lost. These things stain the land – the land itself is, in a sense, grieved.

Another facet, one that Lewis wrote on frequently, is longing – for Tolkien, the longing for Eden. Even though the world is a place of sorrow and grief, love and beauty still lurk. Then land which aches with the grief of war, exile and death also longs for the restoration of Eden and even the surpassing of Eden, when, to paraphrase the prophecy of Turin, all the wrongs, all the griefs, all the hurts of mankind are redressed and avenged and set right in one great victory.

Short Ramble on Meta-Ethics

I’m not really confident in the application of analytic philosophy to the realm of ethics/moral philosophy. Consider non-cognitivism, which states that moral utterances have no truth-value. The opposite of this would be cognitivism, which states that moral utterances do in fact have truth-values (basically).

Both of these hinge on a common assumption in contemporary philosophy – that for something to be true it must be a proposition. If something isn’t a proposition, it has no truth value – moral utterances do not assert propositions, ergo, no truth-value and hence no moral knowledge can be had. This all hinges on various developments in philosophy in the 20th century (Frege, Russell, etc), so there’s a lot going on in the background here. Most of the time knowledge tends to be thought of in the ‘knowing-that’ sense.

So in a nutshell, moral knowledge can’t be had, because moral utterances can’t be true, because moral utterances don’t assert propositions, and you can’t know something that isn’t true.

It seems a bit odd to restrict knowledge to such a tight scheme, though. I mean, it seems that we know lots of things that aren’t strictly propositional – intuition of course can be very wrong about things though. But a more concrete example could be Polanyi’s tacit knowledge – non-propositional, non-codify-able, knowledge. ‘We know more than we can tell.’ Sure, this isn’t ‘known’ in the same sense as a proposition with a truth-value, but I can’t really see that too much follows from that (unless such knowledge is thought to be the only kind that matters, I guess). Interestingly enough, Polanyi investigates formal propositional logic and concludes that the tacit element is present even there. If that’s true, then maybe strict logic can’t completely meet the standards set by non-cognitivism. If we can only know something which is true, and the only things that can be true (have a truth-value) are propositions, and if there is a tacit (non-formal, non-codify-able) element in propositions, then it seems that there’s a bit of an awkward problem.

But that was a bit far afield – my basic point is that, granting that ethical ideas don’t assert propositions, based on the above considerations it doesn’t seem to follow that moral knowledge can’t be had. Maybe I’m on to something here, maybe not.