The ‘Eternal Indicative’, Christian Grace: Torrance is Jammin’

I wasn’t sure I really wanted to post this; not because it isn’t stupendous, but because it is rather lengthy, and I am tired. But for you my dear readers I will sacrifice some sleep, and expose you to something that ought to make your day, or life (the reality of what is being communicated). I won’t provide any of my own commentary on this one, it speaks well enough for itself. I will say though, at the outset, that what is communicated here pretty much contradicts most conceptions of Grace that I have ever come across. Most conceptions of grace that I have come across (from a Christian perspective) speak of it as a thing and quality; something that God gives us that we don’t deserve. I suppose to an extent that part is true (i.e. the part about it being a reality we don’t deserve), but it is much more; and the round perspective of Grace, of course understands its actuality grounded personally in Jesus Christ and God’s action for us in Him by the creative and generative power of the Holy Spirit. At the end of the day—if you haven’t figured this out yet—it is either all Jesus, or it ain’t Christianity simpliciter. Here we go; Torrance lays it down here, he is flowing big time (which is why this is a little long, at least for me to transcribe … but it is worth it!).

[T]o sum up: Grace in the New Testament is the basic and the most characteristic element of the Christian Gospel. It is the breaking into the world of the ineffable love of God in a deed of absolutely decisive significance which cuts across the whole of human life and sets it on a new basis. That is actualized in the person of Jesus Christ, with which grace is inseparably associated, and supremely exhibited on the Cross by which the believer is once and for all put in the right with God. This intervention of God in the world and its sin, out of sheer love, and His personal presence to men through Jesus Christ are held together in the one thought of grace. As such grace is the all-comprehensive and constant presupposition of faith, which, while giving rise to an intensely personal life in the Spirit, necessarily assumes a charismatic and eschatological character. Under the gracious impingement of Christ through the Spirit there is a glad spontaneity about the New Testament believer. He is not really concerned to ask questions about ethical practice. He acts before questions can be asked. He is caught up in the overwhelming love of Christ, and is concerned only about doing His will. There is no anxious concern about the past. It is Christ that died! There is no anxious striving toward an ideal. It is Christ that rose again! In Him all the Christian’s hopes are centred. His life is hid with Christ in God. In Him a new order of things has come into being, by which the old is set aside. Everything therefore is seen in Christ, in the light of the end, toward which the whole creation groaneth and travaileth waiting for redemption. The great act of salvation has already taken place in Christ, and has become an eternal indicative. The other side of faith is grace, the immediate act of God in Christ, and because He is the persistent Subject of all Christian life and thought, faith stands  necessarily on the threshold of the new world, with the intense consciousness of the advent of Christ. The charismatic and the eschatological aspects of faith are really one. In Christ the Eternal God has entered into this present evil world which shall in due course pass away before the full unveiling of the glory of God. That is the reason for the double consciousness of faith in the New Testament. By the Cross the believer has been put in the right with God once for all—Christ is his righteousness. He is already in Christ what he will be—to that no striving will add one iota. But faith is conscious of the essential imminence of that day, because of the intense nearness of Christ, when it shall know even as it is known, when it shall be what it already is. And so what fills the forward view is not some ideal yet to be attained, but the Christian’s position already attained in Christ and about to be revealed. The pressure of this imminence may be so great upon the mind as to turn the thin veil of sense and time into apocalyptic imagery behind which faith sees the consummation of all things. Throughout all this the predominating thought is grace, the presence of the amazing love of God in Christ, which has unaccountably overtaken the believer and set him in a completely new world which is also the eternal Kingdom of God. [Thomas F. Torrance, The Doctrine of Grace in the Apostolic Fathers, 34-5.]

And you wonder why I read Torrance so much! Ha, I partake liberally of his writings, and the above is an example why! If this does not charge you, then you best be checking for a Christian pulse. I don’t really know what else to say, other than I have a kink in my back now from writing this out, but I think you are now blessed because of the cause of said kink (i.e. transcribing this). Why doesn’t this stuff get preached from pulpits all across the land? Oh yeah, pastors aren’t reading Torrance, and if they do they aren’t quoting him in large doses! I think I might just have to buy my own pulpit and start preaching or something; at least that’s what I feel like doing after contemplating the depths that Torrance has just helped plumb for us. If you are a pastor, I challenge you to quote some if not all of this in a future sermon; and quote it with the passion this deserves (pound the pulpit or stomp the floor a few times [if you don’t have a pulpit anymore] if you have too).

I am going to bed now; I think I will dream of grace (i.e. sweet Jesus)!

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4 comments

  1. Well, Bobby, this pastor preaches Christ, centered in the Trinitarian Incarnational theology of the Torrances. It would be an unusual Sunday for me not to quote Thomas Torrance along with a pertinent Scripture, or perhaps, I should say a Scripture as expounded by Torrance. If fact our entire denomination, Grace Communion International, teaches this theology. At our website, gci.org, we have video interviews with theologians whose names you would know: Hunsinger, Molnar, Colyer, Allen and David Torrance, Deddo, David Walker, Purves, Hart, Kruger, David Campbell and many more. Check it out. So, yes, I am one pastor who quotes Thomas Torrance, a lot!

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  2. Bill,

    That is great to hear! I know you GCI guys are the exception; so I wasn’t really thinking of you all when I wrote this ;-). I have taken advantage of those interviews that gci.org offers; this is a great service for the broader body of Christ. So thank you!

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  3. “There is no anxious concern about the past. It is Christ that died! There is no anxious striving toward an ideal. It is Christ that rose again!” and continuing:
    “In Him all the Christian’s hopes are centred. His life is hid with Christ in God. In Him a new order of things has come into being, by which the old is set aside. Everything therefore is seen in Christ, in the light of the end, toward which the whole creation groaneth and travaileth waiting for redemption.”
    That there would be great liturgy! There is poetic prose there that worships. That dog’ll hunt :O)

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