Wednesday, September 7, 2011

T.F. Torrance: The Vicarious Humanity of Jesus Christ, pt. 8

Conversion

The Gospel calls us to repent and believe, even to make a “personal decision” for Christ. That is something each of us must do for ourselves. No one can substitute in that “ultimate act of man in answer to God,” no one, that is, notes Torrance, “except Jesus.” If we fail to allow Jesus Christ to substitute for us at the point of conversion, argues Torrance, we make his substitutionary atonement “partial” and, thereby, empty it of saving significance (Torrance, 1992:84).
In regard to our need of conversion, Torrance likens our fallen humanity to the prodigal son, who ran away from his father into the “far country” (Lk 15:11ff). By making himself one with us in our fallen and estranged humanity as it was running away from the Father, Jesus Christ “reversed its direction and converted it back in obedience and faith and love to God the Father.” In the incarnation, Jesus assumed our sinful humanity, and laid hold of us, even in the depths of our fallen minds where we were alienated and estranged from God, and “altered them from within and from below in radical and complete metanoia, a repentant restructuring of our carnal mind,” converting it into a “spiritual” mind.  As Torrance notes, in our fallenness, we were unable to escape from our self-will and the sin ingrained in our minds, so that we were unable to repent. Yet, Jesus Christ laid hold of our fallen minds, turning them around through his “vicarious repentance,” when he bore God’s righteous judgements on our sinful minds and, as the firstborn of every creature, “resurrected our human nature in the integrity of his body, mind and soul from the grave” (Torrance, 1992:84, 85).
Comment: Against Apollinarianism, that is, the wrong belief that the human mind was NOT assumed in the incarnation, Torrance follows the Chalcedonian fathers in rightly asserting the assumption of the human mind in the incarnation. The eternal Son assumes the sinful human mind and converts it back to the Father in “radical and complete metanoia.”
In regard to this great transformation of the human mind in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, Torrance continues:
It is significant that the New Testament does not use the term regeneration (paliggenesia), as so often modern evangelical theology does, for what goes on in the human heart. It is used only of the great regeneration that took place in and through the Incarnation and of the final transformation of the world when Jesus Christ will come again to judge the quick and the dead and make all things new. That is to say, the Gospel speaks of regeneration as wholly bound up with Jesus Christ himself.
Thus, for Torrance, conversion, or the “new birth,” does not apply to what happens in the heart of the individual believer but, rather, to the regeneration (paliggenesia) that takes place in the incarnation and the final transformation that will occur when Christ returns.
Comment: “Conversion” is not an emotional experience or a radical change in heart as the repentant sinner tearfully trods the sawdust trail beneath the billowing dome of the revival tent; it is about what happens in the regeneration of the human mind in the incarnation. May I suggest that we think of conversion “christologically” rather than “anthropologically”?
In this regard, Torrance (1992:85, 86; cf. J. Torrance, 1996:75) describes a conversation he had when he was Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. When asked “if” he was “born again,” Torrance replied affirmatively. When asked “when” he had been born again, Torrance replied that he had been born again “when Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary and rose again from the virgin tomb, the first-born from the dead.” When asked to explain, Torrance replied: “[Jesus] took my corrupt humanity in his Incarnation, sanctified, cleansed and redeemed it, giving it new birth, in his death and resurrection.” That is, our “new birth,” “regeneration,” or “conversion” has taken place in Jesus Christ himself, so that when we speak of these terms, we are referring to “our sharing in the conversion or regeneration of our humanity brought about by Jesus in and through himself for our sake.” Torrance continues:
In a profound and proper sense, therefore, we must speak of Jesus Christ as constituting in himself the very substance of our conversion, so that we must think of him as taking our place even in our acts of repentance and personal decision, for without him all so-called repentance and conversion are empty.
Comment: Our conversion or “new birth,” is a sharing in the conversion of the human mind wrought in the healing assumption of Adamic flesh in the incarnation. Our new birth is a prior act of sheer grace, whereby, through no merit of our own, we are given to participate in the “conversion” of Jesus Christ.
Because Jesus Christ is its “substance,” conversion in a “truly evangelical sense” calls for a turning away from ourselves toward Christ. As Torrance (1992:86) argues, we must be converted from our “in-turned notions” of conversion to a doctrine of conversion grounded in, and sustained by, Jesus Christ himself.
In regard to the relationship between grace and human salvation, Torrance adheres to the Reformed tradition of election, with its stress upon the priority of God’s action in salvation over against that of human free will (Habets, 2008:350 n. 92). For Torrance, atoning reconciliation is a sheer act of grace on the part of God on behalf of all humanity. Because atoning reconciliation takes place in the hypostatic union of divine and human natures in the one person of Jesus Christ, Torrance is critical of those who base salvation upon a personal “decision” for Christ. He regards the Arminian assertion that the atoning reconciliation of Jesus Christ is available to sinners only “if” they repentant and believe as “unevangelical,”  for it throws believers back upon themselves for their salvation and has the effect of telling “poor sinners” that, in the last resort, they are responsible for their salvation (Torrance, 1992:93).
In contradistinction to the evangelical insistence on connecting conversion to the individual believer’s personal decision of faith, Torrance locates conversion in the incarnation, wherein Jesus Christ acts in our place, that is, vicariously, even in regard to the personal decision of faith and repentance. When Jesus received the baptism of repentance from John the Baptist, it was not because the sinless Son was in need of repentance. Rather, Jesus was baptised in the Jordan River as a sign of the conversion of human nature wrought in his cleansing, sanctifying assumption of fallen Adamic nature. Thus, as Athanasius, in his Contra Arius (Torrance, 1988a:190 n 152) asserted, when Jesus Christ, as man, was “washed” in the Jordan River, we were “washed.”
References
Habets, M. 2008. The Doctrine of Election in Evangelical Calvinism: T. F. Torrance as a Case Study. Irish Theological Quarterly, vol 73. pp. 334-354.

Torrance, J.B. 1996. Worship, Community, and the Triune God of Grace. Downers Grove, IL: IVP. 130 pp.

Torrance, T.F. 1988a. The Trinitarian Faith: The Evangelical Theology of the Ancient Catholic Church. London: T & T Clark. 345 pp.

Torrance, T.F. 1992. The Mediation of Christ (rev. ed.). Colorado Springs, CO: Helmers & Howard. 126 pp.

20 comments:

  1. AMEN! Thank you Martin, keep up the good work brother!

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  2. Martin,

    Thanks for this very helpful summary! How wonderful to know that, in Christ, I was converted to the Father 2,000 years ago. And how wonderful it is to personally participate in (and thus personally experience that conversion) in the present.

    Glory to Jesus!

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  3. Hi Martin,
    Thanks for this post and for the clear way in which you have explained Torrance' view regarding what took place at the incarnation in terms of our humanity. However, although Torrance' argument is intelligent and cleverly thought out, it doesn't appear to wholly scriptural. We are told that Jesus came "in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom 8:3) but not that he "assumed our sinful humanity" which is precisely what he did not do. Jesus came as the "second Adam" not a continuation of or even a participartion in the first (1 Cor 15:48-49). Rather Jesus is the "new man", the old man being crucified with him on the cross (Rom 6:6) as he took upon himself, in his perfect body the sin of the world.
    It seems that in misunderstanding the nature of the incarnation, Torrance (brilliant theologian that he is) sets for himslef a false premise from which much of the rest of his theology flows.
    Paul remaains my favourite theologian.
    Hope that helps.
    Regards,
    Richard.

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  4. Hi Richard,

    Thank you for taking the time to comment. Much appreciated.

    The view that Jesus assumed fallen Adamic flesh is not something new with Torrance. The great Fathers of the fourth century clearly articulated this doctrine (Basil the Great, Gregory Nyssa, Gegory Nazianzus, Athanasius, et al.). The idea that Jesus assumed a "sinless" humanity began with Pope Leo's letter to the Council of Chalcedon (4541 A.D.). Leo's thinking was no doubt influenced by the ever-recurring dualism of Greek philosophy which asserts a strict separation between spirit (pure)and matter (evil).

    Torrance's view is in keeping with the great orthodox tradition of the early church as well as certain strands of early (pre-Westminster) Scottish theology. Torrance is well aware of the view that Jesus assumed sinless human flesh, a view he regards as unbiblical and unorthodxox. He refers to this view as the "dualism between spirit and matter which informs Western Latin (and Protestant) theology.

    Particulary as an over-reaction to the Arian hersy, the Western church fianlly made Jesus so divine and so "less" human thta an altar rail had to be pput between the Holy Table and the great unwashed and porr sinners, unable to connect with a divine Christ far removed from our humanity, resorted to the veneration of the (all too) human saints. The Roman Catholic theologian Catherine Mowry LaCugna has written on this.

    I personally believe that Torrance's view is closer to the biblical description of Jesus than are those assertions (highly influeneced by Greek philosophy)of a Saviour born in pristine flesh untainted by human sin.

    I take great comfort in knowing that Jesus knows exactly what its like to wear my skin.

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  5. Hi Martin,
    Thank you for your kind and courteous reply to me rather hurried and badly thought out comment. Looking at the scripture that I quoted from Romans (8:3) where I emphasised the use of the word "likeness", I now, reading on from that, can see how this adoption of human flesh (in Paul's theology) was as he says "for sin..." and by means of that adoption, "condemned sin in the flesh" (maybe I should have quoted the whole passage.
    I am sure you will agree though that our view must be derived from scripture and not from "orthodox tradition" except where that "tradition" is clearly grounded in the Biblical accounts.
    I clearly need to understand more on this subject.
    However, you have been more than patient.
    Kind regards,
    Richard.

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    1. Hi Richard,

      When Torrance (and I, for that matter) speak of the "orthodox tradition" we are speaking of "the deposit of faith," that is, a body of knowledge that was passed down to the fathers from the apostles. As Torrance shows in the first chapter of his great book The Trinitarian Faith, a thorough exposition of the Nicene Creed, the 4th century fathers were struggling to articulate the historic BIBLICAL faith in the face of the heretical Arian challenge to orthodoxy. In other words, the fathers remained true to the apostolic (biblical) deposit of faith that had been handed dowen to them.

      Now let me introduce something from Torrance that many evangelicals will regard as scandalous. Torrance argues, rightly I believe, that one cannot prove a theological position SOLELY by an appeal to scripture. Torrance notes that both the defenders of the historic faith AND the heretical Arian challengers were appealing to scripture to support their arguments. Often, they were using the same texts to support very different ideas about Jesus and his relation to the Father. The same problem exists today in the never-ending and mutually flawed Calvinist-Arminian debate. Both parties appeal to scriture to support very different positions. Sometimes they even use the same texts to support competing arguments. As Torrance argues, we must think "through" the sruptures to the Reality that underlies them. That will often require the assistance of the great fathers of the church, on whose shoulders we stand.

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    2. Hi Martin,
      That is a 'bold' statement to make and one that causes me to pause and consider it. The immediate thought that comes to mind from the last sentence of your reply: "That will often require the assistance of the great fathers of the church, on whose shoulders we stand" which I think is a wonderful idea in itself but I can't help the feeling that these are also appealed to (just like scripture) to support the same conflicting arguments. I will think it through however.
      Regards,
      Richard.

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    3. Hi Marin,
      I can accept what you have said, after giving it careful thought, in the sense that I am all for looking for "assistance" from the "great fathers of the church" so long as they are assisting me in seeing and understanding what the scripture says (which I believe is precisely what you are getting at).
      Regards
      Richard.

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  6. Hi Martin,
    Some things still trouble me with Torrance' theology of the atonement and I hope you won't mind my raising them with you.
    One problem I see with Torrance' likening our fallen humanity to the prodigal son (to quote you above) "...who ran away from his father into the “far country” (Lk 15:11ff). By making himself one with us in our fallen and estranged humanity as it was running away from the Father, Jesus Christ “reversed its direction and converted it back in obedience and faith and love to God the Father.” is that this makes no distinction between believers and unbelievers (except that believers believe and unbelievers don't yet believe though some may never believe) and you may say Amen to that and agree that this is precisely what Torrance is getting at. However, if this is true (even for those who may never believe or accept the truth of the gospel) then Jesus' prayer for his disciples (John 17:9) makes little sense. He clearly makes a distinction between those who belong to the Father ("they are thine) and those who do not. Jesus reinforces this distinction by stating quite strongly "I pray not for the world". In John 1:12 we are also told that it is "those who believe" (or will believe) who are given power to "become children of God." Clearly not all will believe and so not all will become "children of God" in the sense that John is referring to (e.g. we are all "children of God" by creation but this obviously can't be what John means here).
    Can you elaborate on how Torrance would answer this question and what scriptural references he would point to to support his view?
    Also, from the above quotation, if Jesus "makes himself "one with us in our fallen and estranged humanity as it was running away from the Father" does this mean that Jesus begins his human life in a condition of being alienated from God (the Father)? This viewpoint doesn't appear to have any scriptural support - is there any?
    Thanks for allowing me to engage with you in this way.
    Regards,
    Richard.

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    1. Let me start with the last question since it is the esiest for me. Jesus never existed, even for a moment, not even at the cross, in a state of alienation from the Father. They were and remain in singleness of purpose and harmony of will. "I and the Father are one." "The Son can do nothing of himself but only what he sees the Father doing." "I have come only to do the will of the Father." (At age 12 in the Temple) "Don't you know I have to be about my Father's business.

      In John 17, I see Jesus praying for the twelve minus Judas. Does that mean that he never prays for the rest of us? Who did he pray for the day before?

      Regarding "belivers" becoming children of God: We must distinguish between the objective and subjective aspects of reality. All human beings are children of God. This is an objective reality. Not all know it however. Most people who have lived on this plantet may not have experienced the subjective reality of being a child of God. Yet Torrance makes clear that the salvific work of Jesus Christ is not limited by human unbelief. ALL are reconciled to the Father (2Cor 5:17) whether they know it or not, whether they believe it or not. Those who do not believe are still living in darkness. For many, the lights may not come on until they stare into the eyes of Jesus Christ one moment after death.

      Go to the website of Grace Communion International and request their booklet "The God revealed in Jesus Christ: A Brief Introduction to Trinitarian Theology." They get into the scriptures much more than I do. The booklet is free. Why not try it?

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    2. Hi Martin,
      Thank you again for replying. I have been most impressed by your patience and effort which I hardly think I deserve given that my post are anonymous (the only reason for this being that the web is such a public place and I don't want to wrestle with throughts in public) - I accept your point about prayer and also belief and felt that 2 Cor 5 was quite revealing when read in the light of what you have stated.
      I will request and read the booklet you have pointed me to as I do genuinely want to understand.
      Regards,
      Richard.

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  7. Hi Martin,
    Sorry to interract again so soon but I really am trying to get to the scriptural basis (if it exists) for what Torrance is saying.
    The following inconsistency presents itself from the quotation (above) from Torrance.
    You quote Torrance as saying: "It is significant that the New Testament does not use the term regeneration (paliggenesia), as so often modern evangelical theology does, for what goes on in the human heart. It is used only of the great regeneration that took place in and through the Incarnation and of the final transformation of the world when Jesus Christ will come again to judge the quick and the dead and make all things new." However, Titus 3:5-6 uses the term regeneration in precisely the way the Torrance asserts the New Testament doesn't "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration [paliggenesia], and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour..." Paul is clearly referring to the renewing of the believer's mind by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. How would Torrance reconcile this?
    Of course Torrance goes onto say (in the above quotation) "That is to say, the Gospel speaks of regeneration as wholly bound up with Jesus Christ himself" which is true and something every evangelical would agree with but, since Christ is the one who sends the Spirit and since it is HIS spirit that is sent, this would be true regardless of whether you shared the Torrancian view of the incarnation or the generally accepted view.
    Can you comment?

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  8. Hi Martin,
    I realise that the above question is difficult to answer given that Torrance is clearly wrong in his statement on the use of the 'regeneration' and although I acccept that Torrance is a significant and well informed theologian from whom we have all learned much (including myself) I can't help the feeling that an error such as the one he makes springs from a failure to see the New Testament revelation (the written scriptural record) as the ulitmate authority for us) and leeds the the unfortunate errors made is some statements quoted or referred to above (e.g. your statement that "all are reconciled to the Father" quoting 2 Cor 5:17 which doesn't say that at all but refers to "those who are in Christ..." - clearly meaning 'not all' - how does Paul make this meaning clear? In the very next chapter where he exhorts believers (those who are 'in Christ' to use his own phrase): "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers." How does he distinquish between them? Paul continues: "For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?" But Torrance would say "Yes some are in darkness because of unbelief but they are still in Christ nonetheless" - however Paul says: "What harmony is there between Christ (believers who are 'in Christ' and and Belial (i.e. those outside of Christ)? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we (believers) are the temple of the living God" (6:14-16).
    These statements by Paul are so clear and defined that it is hard to see how anyone could make the case that both believers and non believers are 'in Christ'. I don't suggest for one moment that many who are now 'apart from Christ' will one day submit to him but that is wholly different thing.
    Although you have helped me to broaden my view concerning the nature of the incarnation, I still feel that Torrance is fundementally wrong to say that "The eternal Son assumes the sinful human mind.." (quoted above) as although human nature is 'fallen' and Christ would have assumed that 'fallen flesh' it was not 'sinful flesh' as our nature is only sinful in that sin which dwells within us holds us captive (Rom 7) but Jesus was never held captive by sin but resisted its temptation on every front. Jesus would never have said of himself as Paul said of himself: "..I am carnal, sold under sin.." (v14).
    It seems to me that when we undervalue the importance of the written word, we lead ourselves into very 'uncertain waters' (theologically speaking).
    Please comment.

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  9. Of course (above) I mean to say: "I don't suggest for one moment that many who are now 'apart from Christ' will NOT one day submit to him..."
    Regards,
    Richard.

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  10. Hi Martin,
    You stated (above) in answer to an earlier question of mine: "Regarding 'belivers' becoming children of God: We must distinguish between the objective and subjective aspects of reality. All human beings are children of God. This is an objective reality." [I agree that all are children of God in the sense that God is our creator and originator - rather like Abraham being in effect "father of the faithful" (Gal 3:7) - but this aspect of 'fatherhood' isn't what we were referring to - it is the Sonship that derives from our being 'in Christ' who is the Eternal Son of the Father.]
    You continue: "Not all know it however. Most people who have lived on this plantet may not have experienced the subjective reality of being a child of God. Yet Torrance makes clear that the salvific work of Jesus Christ is not limited by human unbelief. ALL are reconciled to the Father (2Cor 5:17) whether they know it or not, whether they believe it or not. Those who do not believe are still living in darkness. For many, the lights may not come on until they stare into the eyes of Jesus Christ one moment after death."
    However, my question would be "when were we reconciiled to the Father? Before Jesus died or when Jesus died? - In what sense were all men 'children of God' before the atonement took place? In what sense after? (i.e. is there a difference?). John 1:12 makes this distinction: "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name."
    Please comment.
    Regards,
    Richard.

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  11. Hi Martin,
    Just to let you know that I downloaded and read with great interest the booklet you referred me to from the GCI website.
    I found it very interesting though biased in favour of the Torrancian view and therefore didn't include all the scriptual references I would have expected for a 'balanced' appraisal of the subject. Some of the quesions posed at the end of the booklet were a little 'stage' also and not fully answered (i.e. some raised more questions that were not addressed).
    It was very informative though as you promised it would be and provided a really good overview of the Torrancian view - so thanks.
    Regards,
    Richard.

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  12. Hi Richard,

    I appreciate your willingness to consider different viewpoints. If my writings have led you to believe that Torrance “undervalues” scripture, then I apologize, for that is not the case. Torrance holds a high view of scripture. His “critical realist”epistemology is based on his faith in the reliability of the scriptural witness to Jesus Christ. Scripture provides the data from which Torrance builds his doctrine of mediation. Nevertheless, for Torrance, the “ultimate authority” is not scripture; it is Jesus Christ himself.

    In regard to who is “in Christ,” I believe, and I think Torrance would agree, that every human being who has ever lived is “in Christ.” When did this occur? When the Eternal Word of God took on fallen Adamic flesh in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. In regard to the nature of the flesh Christ assumed in the incarnation, Torrance (Trinitarian Faith) provides an impressive list of quotes from the church fathers to demonstrate that they clearly believed Christ assumed sinful flesh. Kapic offers the following: “While Torrance asserts that the doctrine of the assumption of a fallen nature was prominent in the first five centuries of the early Church, there are divergent historical assessments in regard to the Church fathers’ understanding of the nature of the flesh assumed in the incarnation. The preponderance of evidence, however, appears to favour Torrance’s position” (Kapic, 2001:156-160). Thus, one cannot emphatically declare that Torrance is wrong in this matter, even if you disagree with him.

    Regarding believers and non-believers: Torrance asserts that all are in Christ, “whether they believe it or not.” However, Torrance also asserts an “urgency” to the preaching of the gospel, for there is the danger that the non-believer will refuse his “acceptance” in Jesus. This refusal can begin today. Those who refuse Christ will find themselves in hell. Thus belief is of utmost importance to Torrance. In fact, as a preacher and missionary, he calls people to “repent and believe the gospel.”

    I am still learning about Torrance. There is much I don’t understand yet. I hope I can bring greater clarity to this discussion as time goes on.

    Meanwhile, check out The Evangelical Calvinist (link to right) for much more on Torrance.

    Martin

    Kapic, K.M. 2001. The Son’s Assumption of a Human Nature: A Call for Clarity. International Journal of Systematic Theology, 3(2):154-166

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  13. Hi Martin,
    Sincere thanks once again for taking the time and thoughtfulness to reply to my comments which is genuinely appreciated. As I have stated before, I believe Torrance to be a significant theologian who has earned my greatest respect but I do believe he has erred in relation to some aspects of his presentation of the incarnation (unless I simply don’t fully understand what he is saying and I am more than willing to learn if that is the case). I do appreciate that Torrance “holds a high view of scripture” as you point out and stand corrected in that regard. What I meant to say, in my earlier comment, but said very badly, was that unless scripture is held to be the final authority for teaching and doctrine for the church, then we are leaving ourselves open to many potentially misleading ideas and concepts. When you say that, “for Torrance, the ‘ultimate authority is not scripture; it is Jesus Christ himself”, of course, I would be a fool to disagree that Jesus is the final authority. However, the statement is meaningless in relation to an appeal by the believer for confirmation that a given teaching is truly of God. I can appeal to scripture (which I hold to be the word of God and therefore the word of Jesus) but I can’t to appeal to Jesus in person and it is precisely on account of the authority of scripture, which includes the New Testament revelation of Jesus Christ, that I don’t have to. So to say that Jesus is the final authority, in respect to matters of doctrine and teaching, is the same as to say that scripture is the final authority. You can’t have the one without the other.
    It is for this reason that I believe Torrance errs in his suggestion that, as you put it “every human being who has ever lived is ‘in Christ’.” This is only true in the sense that, as Paul states: “all things are of him and through him and to him” (Rom 11:36). In this sense, all things are ‘in Christ’ whether material or spiritual and includes all that is in existence or that has existed or will exist. This is not the sense, however, in which the New Testament speaks of believers being “in Christ” as this phrase, when used of believers, refers to our new ‘life in the spirit’ which life is in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:2).
    Torrance is therefore wrong to assert that all humans are ‘in Christ’ whether believers or unbelievers as this use of the phrase is misleading and lacks scriptural support.
    (continued below)

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  14. (continued from above)
    You quote Kapic in relation to Torrance’ view of “the the nature of the flesh Christ assumed in the incarnation” but Kapic, unlike Torrance, uses language that is much more consistent with the word of scripture and to which I can wholeheartedly agree. Whereas both Torrance and Kapic speak of Jesus having assumed human nature, which both would rightly describe as ‘fallen flesh’, Torrance goes too far in using the additional phrase ‘sinful flesh’ as this presents a totally distorted view of the incarnation. Kapic on the other hand states quite clearly [article: “Are We There Yet? An Exploration of Romans 8”] and in line with the scriptural witness, that Paul uses “the flesh” to represent living under the power of sinful passions and death, with nothing good being found in one’s sinful nature (Rom. 7:5, 14, 18).” Kapic argues that “the flesh” in this context is associated with human rebellion and enmity toward God. In other words, our flesh is sinful because, being weakened through the fall, it is powerless to resist the sin that is indwelling. It is our inability to resist sin in the flesh that results in our flesh being under the power of sin (i.e. sinful). However, Kapic goes on to show (in the same article) how, “Jesus remained...free from the power of indwelling sin, and thus he is the embodiment of life in the Spirit as opposed to life in the flesh.” By living in the spirit, Jesus was able to overcome the weakness of the flesh and resist sin (even sin from within). The suggestion that Jesus’ flesh was sinful, like yours and mine, is to suggest that, like you and me, he lost the internal battle over sin, being powerless to resist. This is where I must depart from Torrance unfortunate use of the phrase ‘sinful flesh’ when speaking of the incarnation. I have no difficulty with the thought of ‘fallen flesh’ which simply means weakened through the fall and therefore with ‘fallen flesh’ (neither of which carry the idea of sinfulness in themselves), though sin indwells our flesh as it did his).
    Regarding believers and non-believers, you say that Torrance asserts that all are ‘in Christ’, “whether they believe it or not.” However, again Kapic, speaking of this same distinction (same article as above), more accurately reflects the scriptural witness when he states that: “the Christian is distinguished from the rest of humanity...by the indwelling of God’s Spirit: ‘You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you’ (8:9). Why is that so important? because, in Paul’s mind, this Spirit is our link to the life of God.”
    I think you can agree that even theologians as distinguished as Torrance (and I agree there aren’t many) need to be careful how they employ phrases and terms as they seek to expound the mystery of Christ.
    Kind regards,
    Richard.

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  15. Hi Martin,
    With reference to the above recent comments and just to clarify - I understand that Torrance does not believe Jesus to have ever sinned and that in relation to the atonement is saying essentially the same thing as Kapic, however the language used (i.e. "sinful flesh" sinful mind") is misleading and I believe creates problems which are reflected elswhere in his theology especially the mistaken notion that there is no difference between believers and unbeliever (that is apart from their present state of belief / unbelief) and leads to the false statement at the opening of your main article: "If we fail to allow Jesus Christ to substitute for us at the point of conversion, argues Torrance, we make his substitutionary atonement “partial” and, thereby, empty it of saving significance."
    Only if Jesus had a "sinful mind" himself (which he clearly didn't) would the statement make any sense as he would have needed to be converted himself (which he didn't as it is his mind believers are called now to have (Phil 2:5).
    Hope that helps.
    Regards,
    Richard.

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A.S. Radcliff: The Claim of Humanity in Christ (in the Torrance tradition), Post 15

Reference Radcliff, A.S. 2016. The Claim of Humanity in Christ: Salvation and Sanctification in the Theology of T.F. and J.B. Torrance . ...