TF Torrance’s Copy-and-Paste of Barth’s Doctrine of Christ Concentrated Election

I have had the following quote from Thomas Torrance up at the blog (in the sidebar) since at least 2009. It reads as follows: 

God loves you so utterly and completely that he has given himself for you in Jesus Christ his beloved Son, and has thereby pledged his very being as God for your salvation. In Jesus Christ God has actualised his unconditional love for you in your human nature in such a once for all way, that he cannot go back upon it without undoing the Incarnation and the Cross and thereby denying himself. Jesus Christ died for you precisely because you are sinful and utterly unworthy of him, and has thereby already made you his own before and apart from your ever believing in him. He has bound you to himself by his love in a way that he will never let you go, for even if you refuse him and damn yourself in hell his love will never cease. Therefore, repent and believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour.1 

It is rich with ‘Chalcedonian pattern,’ and the homoousial reality of the eternal Logos, the Son of the Father become human pro nobis. Karl Barth writes something very similar—and so my guess is that he inspired TFT’s above statement—in regard to the election of God in Christ for the world: 

§ 35

THE ELECTION OF THE INDIVIDUAL 

The man who is isolated over against God is as such rejected by God. But to be this man can only be by the godless man’s own choice. The witness of the community of God to every individual man consists in this: that this choice of the godless man is void; that he belongs eternally to Jesus Christ and therefore is not rejected, but elected by God in Jesus Christ; that the rejection which he deserves on account of his perverse choice is borne and cancelled by Jesus Christ; and that he is appointed to eternal life with God on the basis of the righteous, divine decision. The promise of his election determines that as a member of the community he himself shall be a bearer of its witness to the whole world. And the revelation of his rejection can only determine him to believe in Jesus Christ as the One by whom it has been borne and cancelled.2 

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.”  

These two statements from these two men, respectively, is what has drawn me to their theologies like none other. In the past I was awash, as many still are, in the false binaries on offer, in regard to the classical doctrines of election and reprobation. I always knew there was something wrong with them, but really had no alternatives to satisfy my deepest christological inclinations and disposition. That is until I came across both Barth and Torrance, and the way they took the Chalcedonian Christology, and brought it to its rightful conclusion. These theologians, the both (Barth as the forerunner, following his friend Pierre Maury), constructively and canonically tied up the loose, and negative ends that Chalcedon leftover. Barth and Torrance, respectively, go beyond the conciliar theology, but they don’t leave it behind. Instead, in my view, they achieve a pro-level focus on the esse of what Chalcedon (among the other important Christological councils around that time) theology had only left in inchoate form.  

The focus of a genuinely framed Christian theology is what we see in nuce in both of these statements. To know God, and to know ourselves before God (coram Deo) is to first know Christ by the Spirit. It is in this knowing that we come to have capacity and orientation to know the God who alone has freely chosen to reveal Himself to, for, and in us in the centraldogma of His life with us in, Jesus Christ. This is a unilateral move of God; ie His being in becoming in such a way that ‘He who knew no sin, became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.’ This becoming has never been contingent on us in abstraction from God for us. This being has become for us prior to us, but not without us; since, as Barth emphasizes: God freely determined to not be God without us, but with us Immanuel.  

This is the Evangel, the kerygmatic reality that is so precisely encapsulated by both Barth and TFT in the aforementioned statements. If pastors, theologians, and Christian witnesses in general could come to grasp the nut of these statements the Christian Church, and world, would be the better for it. As we observe in the above Barth and TFT reduce deep dimensional theology in a way that doesn’t leave us in the lurch of a reductionism. Instead, they both, respectively, present the Gospel reality—and its sum in the ‘election of God’—in a way that respects all of the creedal theology of the ecumenical past, while emphasizing the canonical and Scriptural reality that sees Jesus as the center of everything (cf. John 5:39). They think from the Protestant ‘Scripture Principle,’ but do so in ways that are church catholic and deeply Christologically conditioned.  

 

1 T. F. Torrance, The Mediation of Christ, 94.

2 Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II/2 §35 The Doctrine of God: Study Edition (London: T&T Clark, 2009), 111.

3 thoughts on “TF Torrance’s Copy-and-Paste of Barth’s Doctrine of Christ Concentrated Election

  1. An excellent and concise summary, Bobby… The glorious wealth of this mystery [now even among the Gentiles] which is Christ [for and] in [us], the hope of glory!

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