As we discussed in an earlier post, the humanity of Jesus is essential to revelation. Because he is fully human, the incarnate Word speaks to us within the limitations of human thought and speech, in a form amenable to our understanding. Yet, if his human words are to be “divine” revelation, Jesus must also be God.
The full deity of Jesus Christ is essential for the mediation of divine revelation. Not only must divine revelation come to us in a form amenable to human understanding, but also its reality as the revelation of God must be “grounded on the reality of God’s presence in it, the reality of God’s act of self-communication in and through it”; that is, it must be grounded on the “identity” between revelation and the Revealer. As the eternal Son who is “of one nature with the Father” (homoousios to Patri), Jesus Christ is the revelation he brings (cf. Jn 14:9). To mediate revelation to us, therefore, Jesus Christ must be both God and man: if Jesus Christ were not man, then God’s revelation would not be revelation to man; if Jesus Christ were not God, then his mediation of revelation would not be divine revelation, for only God can reveal God. Torrance (2008:188, 189) continues:
"To reveal God, the revealer must take the place of God, and only God can take his own place. This identity of Christ’s revelation with God’s self-revelation is the ground of our assurance and certainty that what we know and he whom we know in and through Jesus Christ, is none other than the Lord God himself, and that there is nothing in God essential to our knowledge of him which is hid from us. It is the guarantee that God as he is in himself has no reality other than that revealed to us in and through Jesus Christ."
Comment: Torrance’s statement can be summed up in his oft-used phrase: “There is no God behind the back of Jesus.” There is no other God than the God revealed in Jesus Christ.
In Christ, God reveals himself in an act that is identical with his person; that is, the Revealer and the revelation are the same. Jesus is the divine Son of the Father, and as such, he is the revelation he brings. Torrance (1986b:466) clearly articulates the identity of Revealer and revelation as follows:
"That the incarnate Son of God is one in being and agency with the Father means that Jesus Christ, God and man, is the objective content of divine Revelation. Jesus Christ is God revealed to us; he is the Word of God made flesh. God’s Revelation is hypostatically embodied in Christ, and cannot be detached from him as the Self-revelation of God, for that would be tantamount to disjoining what God is in his Self-revelation from what he is in his inner Being as God."
Comment: Jesus is the “objective content of divine revelation.” Revelation is a Person, not a book. The book bears witness to the divine revelation unveiled in the incarnate Son. Moreover, because revelation is a Person, it can never be reduced to, or contained in, “propositional truth.”
As the consubstantial Son of the Father, Jesus Christ is the objective content of revelation. The identity of Christ’s revelation with God’s self-revelation assures us that what we know in and through Jesus Christ is God ‘as God is’ in himself and that there is no reality other than the God revealed in Jesus (cf. Kelly, 2007:80). As Torrance (2008:189) argues, “Thus the full reality of Christ’s deity is essential to revelation, and faith, for the reality of revelation is grounded in the reality of the action and presence of God in Christ, on the identity of his revelation with God’s self-revelation.”
Nevertheless, not even in Jesus can we bridge the gap between God and man unless there is in him the hypostatic union and unless the human speech and acts of Jesus are predicates of the one divine person. Because the man Jesus is also God, however, his human speech and actions, as well as his human thought forms, are also divine revelation. Without the hypostatic union, we would not hear God in Jesus’ creaturely speech; yet, because Jesus Christ is both divine and human, in the creaturely speech of Jesus, we hear the language of God. “It is only in that union in which God’s language condescends to take on creaturely form, and human language is joined to God’s language, that there is real revelation” (Torrance, 2008:192, 193). As Torrance (1980:160) notes elsewhere:
"It is on the ground of the hypostatic union, the indissoluble union of God and man in the one Person of Christ, that the epistemic reference we make can have any substantiation in reality, for it is through that hypostatic union in Christ that such a reference is firmly anchored in the reality of God and of man."
Thus, all true knowledge of God comes through the Word of God incarnate in Jesus Christ, the divine Son who came to reveal the Father. “It is in this particular and unique human form forever joined to the Word or Son of God, that we are given to share in the mystery of God. In Jesus Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col 2:3), and in him alone, do we know God, and have communion with him” (Torrance, 2008:193).
Comment: All true knowledge of God comes through the Word incarnate in Jesus Christ. Yet, since Augustine, with his psychological analogy of the Trinity, the Western church has largely turned away from Jesus to develop its doctrine of God. See my earlier posts in this regard.
Colyer, E.M. 2001a. How to Read T.F. Torrance: Understanding His Trinitarian & Scientific Theology. Downers Grove, IL: IVP. 393 pp.
Kelly, D.F. 2007. The Realist Epistemology of Thomas F. Torrance. In G. Dawson, ed. An Introduction to Torrance Theology: Discovering the Incarnate Saviour. London: T & T Clark. Ch. 4.
Torrance, T.F. 1980. The Ground and Grammar of Theology: Consonance Between Theology and Science. (Preface to new edition by T.F. Torrance, 2001). Edinburgh: T & T Clark. 256 pp.
Torrance, T.F. 1986b. Karl Barth and the Latin Heresy. Scottish Journal of Theology, vol 39, pp. 461-482.
Torrance, T.F. 1988a. The Trinitarian Faith: The Evangelical Theology of the Ancient Catholic Church. London: T & T Clark. 345 pp.
Torrance, T.F. 2008. Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ (edited by R. Walker). Downers Grove: IVP. 371 pp.
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