Thomas Torrance on Incarnational Cosmology and the Intellegibility of the Contingent Universe in Relation

“We come now to the other aspect of the Christian doctrine of God that is of significance for our theme, the faithfulness of God. This is the idea that in all its creaturely fragility and temporality the universe is harnassed to the invariance and constancy of God’s wisdom and love. Here once again the early Christian Church took its view of the whole economy of the space-time universe from its understanding of Jesus Christ as the bodying forth within space and time of the eternal purpose of God’s love. That is to say, it was the incarnation of God himself in Jesus Christ which constituted the dynamic centre from which the whole pattern and history of created reality is to be discerned, for all lines converge meaningfully at that point where are are transfixed, as it were, by a transcendent axis, much as the spokes of a cartwheel are made to bear upon a centre through which is thrust the axle that gives the wheel its significance. The discovery of the ultimate meaning and design of the universe in the incarnation had the effect of transforming the Hebrew idea of the covenanted mercies of God, and the Hellenic idea of the predetermination of all things in accordance with changeless necessities, and of bringing them together in such a way as to give rise to a thoroughly dynamic view of the cosmos in which orderliness and temporality, regularity and novelty, constancy and change were married together. The doctrine of creation out of nothing had shocked the Greek mind, as we have seen, for it appeared to throw the universe into unstable, irrational flux, but that was to fail to see the anchoring of the time-continuum of created reality in the unswerving faithfulness and love of the Creator such as he had revealed himself to be in Jesus Christ. However, the concept of a temporal origin to the universe from such a God had the effect of both establishing the concept of the history of the physical universe as an open-ended movement which constantly takes mankind by surprise, and yet of showing that history falls within the overarching constraints of God’s grace as its operation in our spatio-temporal existence is revealed in Jesus. That is to say, here we have advanced a concept of the divine providence without the closed predetermination of Aristotelian final causes or the changeless natural law of the Stoics, and the concept of the creative interaction of God with the temporal order of the universe which gives rise to a new understanding of order as both real and contingent. Far from being understood in the Platonic as a transient image of eternity, and far from being confounded with the measurement of velocity as with the Newtonians in a later age, time is filled with real content, for it is the created counterpart to the ever-new creative purposes of God himself, so that it continues to manifest from moment to moment in a dynamic present new patterns of events which could not have been anticipated from what has already happened in the past or have been predicted through any logico-deductive reasoning from abstract ideas. It is this astonishing combination of unpredictability and lawfulness, not only in the history of man but in the history of all created reality in its relation to the constancy and freedom of the grace of the Creator, that lies behind the Christian conception of the cosmos as an open-ordered universe. In its correlation with the unlimited freedom and inexhaustibility of the Creator the universe is characterized neither by uncertainty nor by necessity. Far from being closed or predetermined, the universe constitutes an open-textured system in which novel forms of order constantly emerge and yet blend with what has already taken place in invariant consistency and rationality.”

– Thomas F. Torrance, Divine And Contingent Order (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981), 68-9.

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