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My last post I referenced Arjen’s post on the fallen humanity of Christ; well I am going to do so again. In lieu of the great comments provided by the last post, I thought I would continue to engage this topic a little further; at least by providing further explication of what T. F. Torrance thought about this issue (and why). In fact, this post is going to highlight one of the reasons why Torrance held that Christ did indeed assume a “fallen humanity” (whatever that is supposed to mean, pace the comments in the last thread); this touches on Arjen’s point (in his post), on Torrance’s aversion to the idea of ‘external relations’ (as we all know Torrance operated from his onto-relational mode of thought which, at its base, will disallow any kind of being-in-constitution that is not oriented by being-in-relation as constitutional to what it means to be a ‘person’). In this vein, let me quote from Elmer Colyer, as he develops Torrance’s thought, a bit, on these lines:

The Latin heresy: A “gospel” of external relations. Torrance sees a growing tendency in Latin theology from the fifth century to reject the idea that Christ assumed our sinful, alienated and fallen humanity, and to embrace the notion that Christ assumed a neutral or an original and perfect human nature from the Virgin Mary. This understanding of the incarnation, however, conflicts with the soteriological principle of the Nicene theologians that the unassumed is the unhealed, for in the Latin view the Son of God has not assumed our actual fallen humanity, but a perfect and sinless humanity different from our own.

Yet if in incarnation the Son of God did not assume our fallen and sinful human nature, Torrance argues that Christ’s atoning sacrifice can only be understood in terms of external (forensic, for example) relations between Christ and humanity’s sins. The incarnation thus becomes instrumental in relation to the atonement. It is the means of providing the sinless human being capable of living a life in perfect obedience to God’s law, and of taking our place on the cross and enduring the judgment and wrath of God which we deserve because of our sin. In Christ’s suffering and death there is an external judicial transaction in the transference of the penalty for sin and of the judgement and wrath of God from us to Jesus Christ who dies an agonizing death fulfilling the just and inexorable penalty against those who transgress God’s laws.

In this theory of the atonement we are freed from the penalty for sin, Torrance contends, but the actual root of our alienation and sin in the ontological depths of our corrupt and fallen humanity is left untouched by Christ’s atoning sacrifice. Christ’s death on the cross deals only with our actual sins, but not original sin. In conservative Protestant circles this can lead to a reductionist soteriology of forgiveness now and heaven in the hereafter. [Elmer M. Colyer, How To Read T. F. Torrance: Understanding His Trinitarian & Scientific Theology, 86-7]

Really, all this quote does is elaborate further what Arjen alluded to in his post on Torrance, and Torrance’s thinking on ‘external relations’ and how that impacts Torrance’s theory on the Logos’ assumption of a fallen humanity in the incarnation. It is obvious that for Torrance his concern is strictly theological-soteriological in orientation. In regards to Arjen’s modal logic interrogation of Torrance I think it probably better to go the route that Matt suggested in one of his comments on the last thread. That being human should not be a predicate of the 1st Adam, but that predication for being human finds its arche or antecedent in the imago Christi (or the image of Christ). In other words, to be human, for Torrance is shaped eschatologically in Christ. Thus, given the state of things (the ‘Fall’ and thus redemption), it was fitting (thanks, Darren 😉 )—given the eschatological shape of humanity in Christ—that Christ would enter into the ontological fabric of our lives to actualise the ultimate purpose for all humanity (cf. Col. 1.15-20).

PS. I think it is good to remember that Torrance follows the Scotist Thesis: i.e. that Christ was going to incarnate with or without the ‘Fall’ of humanity.

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Hello my name is Bobby Grow, and I author this blog, The Evangelical Calvinist. Feel free to peruse the posts, and comment at your leisure. I look forward to the exchange we might have here, and hope you are provoked to love Jesus even more as a result. Pax Christi!

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A Little Thomas Torrance

“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.” -T. F. Torrance, The Mediation of Christ, 94.

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