Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A.S. Radcliff: The Claim of Humanity in Christ (in the Torrance tradition), Post 16

Radcliff, A.S. 2016. The Claim of Humanity in Christ: Salvation and Sanctification in the Theology of T.F. and J.B. Torrance. (Princeton Theological Monograph Series 222), Eugene, OR: Pickwick. 208 pp.
Ontological over External
Torrance rejects traditional western-Latin theories of the atonement because they describe Christ’s work of atonement in merely “external” terms. In “external” views of atonement, Jesus’ assumption of our humanity is merely “instrumental,” that is, a means to an end: e.g., Jesus satisfies God’s honor, bears our punishment or sets us an example. In short, in external views of atonement, Jesus does something. In external views, there is no ontological change in our humanity, that is, our “being” is not transformed. Rather, there is only a juridical change, that is, a change in legal status, wherein the righteousness of Christ is “imputed,” not imparted, to the believer. Therefore, external views of the atonement foster a poor view of humanity, where our primary ontological reality remains “man as sinner,” for there is no transformation of our humanity in the incarnation-atonement.
On the other hand, when we regard the incarnation-atonement as an ontological event, wherein our humanity is transformed as the Eternal Word assumes our fallen flesh, cleanses us from the stain of original sin and heals our disease and corruption, then we may regard humanity in a positive light. No longer do we stand before God as “man the sinner.” Rather, as we participate by the Spirit in the vicarious humanity of Jesus Christ, we stand before God as “man the saint.” Because Jesus is our justification, because Jesus is our sanctification, through our participation in his vicarious humanity by the ministry of the Spirit, we are not simply “declared” right; we are made right, as the adopted and deeply loved children of God.
According to Radcliff, “For the Torrances, the eschatological reserve [“time lag” between first and second coming] created by Jesus’s ascension means that sinfulness is a continuing presence as we await the full manifestation of our sanctification at the Parousia.” Nevertheless, while hidden, our holiness is a “definitive reality,” so that we do not have to depend upon our own efforts in an ongoing process of becoming holy. As the apostle Paul writes, “We are predestined to be holy and blameless in Jesus” (Eph 1:4). The ontological transformation of our humanity in the vicarious humanity of Jesus means that humanity is truly holy in the sight of God and, as Radcliff notes, we need to affirm that reality. In contrast to the “worm theology” shouted from the sterner pulpits of preachers obsessed with total depravity, I much prefer Radcliff’s assertion that it most honors God for us to accept the ontological reality of our new nature and clothe ourselves in the righteousness of Christ. Yea, Alexandra!
Comment: Radcliff acknowledges writers who prefer a greater emphasis on the subjective aspect of the outworking of sanctification. Her response is one that she makes often in her book: Without the concept of participation in the vicarious humanity of Jesus, insistence on a greater role for the subjective aspect of sanctification carries with it “the risk of throwing us back upon our own endeavors.” Like the Torrances, she resists any scheme of sanctification (or, justification) that takes the burden from the shoulders of Jesus and lays it upon our own shoulders. In the Torrance tradition, justification and sanctification are radically Christocentric.
In contrast to the resurgent Puritanism of J.I. Packer and others, the definitive reality of our holiness accomplished for all in the vicarious humanity of Jesus means that we need not engage in a muscular, life-long struggle with sin. We are already seated in heavenly places “in Jesus” (Eph 2:6). In the eschatological reserve between the ascension and the parousia of Jesus Christ, notes Radcliff, we continue to live in a world of continuing sin and evil. Yet, we need not be defined by it.
Comment: Radcliff’s argument offers many positive implications for pastoral counseling. The need is to help counselees see themselves not in terms of the damaged self-image that results from living in a world of continuing sin and evil but to see themselves in the light of the “definitive holiness” that is already ours in Jesus. In short, we would all do well to see ourselves as God sees us: his holy and blameless children, seated around the Father’s table, cleansed, healed and made new in the vicarious humanity of our elder brother Jesus.
The “eschatological reserve” (or, “time lag”) between the ascension and the parousia means that there is a tension between the hidden and the manifest. The Kingdom of God is present but veiled. (As N.T. Wright might say, now we see “signs” of the Kingdom but the fullness is yet to come.) For T.F. Torrance, the eschatological tension is more between the “hidden and the manifest, the veiled and the unveiled, than between dates in calendar time.” What lies ahead in the future is the unveiling of a reality that is present here and now.
As Radcliff argues, T.F. Torrance’s understanding of the eschatological reserve has several implications for sanctification. First, “the outworking of sanctification is not an external process of becoming progressively more holy, which throws us back upon our own efforts.” We do not become more holy through the progression of time, for we are already holy and blameless in the sight of God. The progression of time serves to unveil the holiness that is already our in Jesus. As Radcliff notes, “The eschatological tension is not between humanity being partially holy and partially unholy, but between the hidden reality of our holiness and its full manifestation.” In short, there is nothing we can do to make ourselves more holy. The definitive reality of our holiness is already fully accomplished for us in the vicarious humanity of Jesus Christ. The outworking of sanctification is the process wherein that reality is unveiled.
Second, the process of unveiling the definitive reality of our holiness means that we do not have to rely on our own efforts to achieve it. (Breathe a big sigh of relief if you wish!) Holiness is not a potentiality that we must realize through our own moral efforts; it is an ontological reality that we can look forward to being revealed. As T.F. Torrance notes, “The final parousia of Christ will be more the apocalypse or unveiling of the perfected reality of what Christ has done than the consummating of what till then is an incomplete reality.”
Third, although the unveiling of our sanctification does not depend upon our own efforts, our subjective activity is not denied but put in its proper place. Critics notwithstanding, the Torrance tradition of theology does not diminish the importance of subjective activity or response (although it is overshadowed by their emphasis on Jesus’ objective response). As Radcliff argues, the only subjective human response that is diminished is “that which is enslaved by a contractual conception of our relationship with God.” The objective reality of our sanctification in the vicarious humanity of Jesus means that we are liberated from the onerous (impossible) task of subjectively achieving our own sanctification. As Radcliff notes, “We are set free from the burden of trying to accomplish our own sanctification and enabled to participate by the Spirit in Christ’s holiness” (p. 145). Thus, we can rest in what Jesus has done while actively living holy lives.
Radcliff compares “sanctification as ‘participation’” with the muscular effort of Puritanism, where holiness is achieved by planning, prayer and hard work. For the Puritan, work is our lot; rest comes later in eternal glory. To be sure, there is much to be admired in the “Protestant work ethic,” for it is the sine qua non of capitalism and the material blessings that flow from it. But it is burdensome, discouraging, and exhausting when applied to sanctification, so that holiness must be achieved under our own steam (with the assistance of the Spirit). Against the burdensome Puritan quest for holiness, Radcliff describes “participation” in the holiness of Jesus as “radically freeing,” because it is rooted in what Jesus has already objectively done for all.
Fourth, and finally, the eschatological reserve means that our sanctification will not be fully manifest until the parousia. Sinfulness is a continuing presence, even in the lives of the saints, as evidenced by the apostle Paul’s many admonishments to the churches he planted. As the church lives in the eschatological reserve between the ascension and the parousia, “[i]t is still characterized by sin and evil and partakes of the decay and corruption of the world of which it is a part,” writes T.F. Torrance, “so that it is not yet what it shall be, and not yet wholly in itself what it already is in Christ.” Concerning the ongoing presence of sin, T.F. Torrance writes: “This Tom Torrance you see is full of corruption, but the real Tom Torrance is hid with Christ in God and will only be revealed when Jesus Christ comes again.” In this regard, Tom Smail writes: “[B]ut we are to look at him, to behold the Man [Jesus] that he is, and therefore the men that we shall be in him.”
Our humanity is already transformed in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. That reality, however, will not be fully unveiled until the parousia. Given who we are in Christ, perhaps we can have more patience with other believers whose theology is not exactly like ours. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, if we could see those heathen Baptists today as they will be in glory, we would bow down and worship!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

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

Radcliff, A.S. 2016. The Claim of Humanity in Christ: Salvation and Sanctification in the Theology of T.F. and J.B. Torrance. (Princeton Theological Monograph Series 222), Eugene, OR: Pickwick. 208 pp.
In the second half of her book Radcliff begins to explore the “liberating implications” of soteriology in the Torrance tradition, particularly in regard to sanctification, where “humanity is not only set free from the burden of attempting to achieve salvation, but also from the burden of attempting to achieve sanctification.”
In evangelicalism, Christians often appear to live as though saved by grace but sanctified by works. In other words, Jesus has done his part (justification), now we must do ours (sanctification). “All this I did for thee; now what wilt thou do for Me?” For Radcliff, a burden is created when sanctification is separated from its ground in justification and made a subsequent step in the so-called “order of salvation” (ordo salutis) of Protestant and evangelical theology. In contrast, she notes that “[t]he Torrances affirm the liberating reality that sanctification is rooted definitively with justification in the vicarious humanity of Christ” (p. 124). In the Torrance tradition, sanctification is a joyful, liberating “participation” by the Spirit in all that Jesus has done for us. Radcliff contrasts this liberating view of sanctification with the burdensome view of an introspective legalism (self-examination for fruits of repentance) in conservative evangelicalism and a resurgent Puritanism.
In Reformed theology, according to Radcliff, where the atonement is strongly associated with justification, sanctification is detached from its ground in justification and made a “second work.” In the Westminster theology of the English Puritans, according to T.F. Torrance, the focus is on man’s actions, man’s obedience, man’s duty to God and neighbor and man’s religion. This bifurcation of justification and sanctification resulted in a form of preaching that directed believers’ attention away from Jesus toward their own efforts at achieving sanctification.
In some Pentecostal-holiness traditions, sanctification is detached from justification by a “second blessing,” where the truly blessed receive a state of “entire sanctification.” (Said the bun-topped old lady, “Why, I ain’t sinned in purt’ near thirty year!”). As Tom Smail argues, this bifurcation divides Christian life into salvation as a gift to the sinner and the fullness of the Spirit as a reward to the saint, while maligning the central gospel principle that salvation is from beginning to end “all of grace.”
In the Torrance tradition, sanctification, like justification, is fully realized in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, as lived out through the whole course of his obedient life. The Spirit’s descent upon Jesus at his baptism was for our sanctification, while Jesus life of perfect obedience to the Father was for our sanctification. As J.B. Torrance writes: “The Son of God takes our humanity, sanctifies it by his vicarious life in the Spirit (John 17:17-18), carries it to the grave to be crucified and buried in him, and in his resurrection and ascension carries it into the holy presence of God.” As Radcliff notes, this “once-for-all rooting of sanctification with justification in the vicarious humanity of Christ” is crucial; otherwise, we are thrown back upon ourselves to achieve sanctification.
For T.F. Torrance, when sanctification is rooted in justification, there is no need for believers to try to achieve it on their own steam. Radcliff offers a great quote from T.F. Torrance (Theology in Reconstruction, pp. 161-2):
Justification by grace alone remains the sole ground of the Christian life; we never advance beyond it, as if justification were only the beginning of a new self-righteousness, the beginning of a life of sanctification which is what we do in response to justification. Of course we are summoned to live out day by day what we already are in Christ through his self-consecration or sanctification, but sanctification is not what we do in addition to what God has done in justification.
The “outworking” of sanctification comes through participating by the Holy Spirit in Christ. The Spirit turns us out of ourselves to share in the sanctification realized for all in the incarnation. Apart from participation as koinonia, or “communion” with the Triune God of grace, we are turned back upon ourselves to apply to our lives the sanctification that is already accomplished for us in Jesus. Radcliff quotes J.I. Packer, who describes sanctification in terms of mortifying the flesh, self-humbling, self-examination and “avoiding situations that stoke sins boiler.” Packer believes that we can achieve all this by fixing our eyes on Jesus. As Radcliff rightly argues, however, this appears to make Jesus an example that we strive to emulate rather than the incarnate ground of our sanctification in which we participate by the Spirit. Perhaps we can succinctly describe the difference as “emulation” versus “participation.” According to Radcliff, Packer’s approach is typical of conservative evangelism.
As Radcliff notes,—and this is where more thinking is needed, because she is really on to something—sanctification is not an autonomous effort assisted by the Spirit. In her words, “Although we are called to live out our sanctification, the Holy Spirit does not aid us in the external, logico-causal application of Christ’s definitive sanctification.” This would be to detach sanctification from the vicarious humanity of Jesus, so that the reality of our sanctification is merely a potential that we must actualize through our own efforts. In the Torrance tradition, note Radcliff, [S]anctification is a reality in which we participate, rather than a potentiality to be actualized.” She quotes Deddo: “What is complete and actual in Christ is truly and really ours even if it does not yet appear to be so. Our lives are hidden in Christ (Col 3:3) … The Christian life is living out and manifesting the present reality of our union with Christ.”
Radcliff concludes the chapter by asserting:
The Holy Spirit does not enable the autonomous believer to work out his own sanctification; the Holy Spirit enables the believer to participate in Christ’s definitive sanctification. This liberates humanity from the burden of depending upon our own endeavors for the outworking of sanctification in our lives (p. 140).

Thursday, August 10, 2017

A.S. Radcliff: The Claim of Humanity in Christ (in the Torrance tradition), Post 14

Radcliff, A.S. 2016. The Claim of Humanity in Christ: Salvation and Sanctification in the Theology of T.F. and J.B. Torrance. (Princeton Theological Monograph Series 222), Eugene, OR: Pickwick. 208 pp.
What is the place of “knowledge” of God in the radical Christology of the Torrance tradition?
Torrance describes our reception of salvation in terms of a subjective “realization” or “actualization” of what has been objectively accomplished for us in Jesus. In contrast to the tendency to make repentance a matter of confession and penance, Radcliff asserts that metanoia means “a change of mind.” In this regard, repentance is better understood as changing our minds about “Who God is,” so that we may live out of that reality. The Holy Spirit is the “Spirit of Truth.” Repentance is an opening of our minds, by the Holy Spirit, to the realization of Who God is as revealed in Jesus. For me, that has to be game-changer (that is, a “life-changer”).
Critics argue that the Torrance’s emphasis on repentance as a “realization” of something already accomplished denies the “necessity” of faith. I see this as a misunderstanding of the Torrance tradition (as well as Barth). Faith and repentance are important in the Torrance tradition—yes, even “necessary.” Yet, for Torrance, faith is not a condition for salvation, for salvation is already objectively accomplished for all in Jesus. Nevertheless, faith is necessary in order to live out of that reality. The gospel summons us to a response. Jesus tells us to “repent and believe the good news.” We must “know” the truth in order to be set free by the truth.
The Spirit is the “Spirit of Truth.” As Torrance argues, the Spirit’s job is to convict people about the truth of who Jesus is. This where preaching and evangelism come in. According to Torrance:
Those outside the Church are to be regarded in the sphere where this [objective] reconciliation has not yet been subjectively actualized but is nevertheless objectively accomplished for them in Jesus Christ.
In other words, there is no “in-group,” “out-group” dichotomy, for all are included in the reconciliation fully accomplished in Jesus. Those outside the Church, however, do not know yet that they are included. Does this mean, however, that the only difference between believers and “not-yet’ believers” is simply a matter of “knowledge.” Critics argue that the Torrance tradition makes faith merely “noetic” (head-stuff). They argue that, for Torrance, we receive salvation merely by “believing” it. This criticism is untenable, however, for the Spirit of Truth is also the Spirit of adoption. As Radcliff argues (p. 107), “The anhypostatic [God-humanward] movement of the Spirit revealing the truth of God to humanity is accompanied by the enhypostatic [human-Godward] movement of the Spirit raising humanity up to participate in God’s triune life.” In plain language, the Spirit both reveals the truth about Jesus to us, while lifting us up to participate in the Father-Son relationship.
Comment: In the Torrance tradition, revelation and reconciliation are dual aspects of a single, unitary reality. In terms of Christology, Jesus is both the revelation of God, and the reconciliation of God and humanity. In terms of Pneumatology, the Spirit both reveals the truth of God and enables us to us cry “Abba, Father.” Hence, revelation and reconciliation are inseparable in the Torrance tradition. (Radcliff doesn’t tell you all that. I threw it in for free. I know she won’t mind!)
My Chart


God-humanward movement
human-Godward movement
God-humanward movement
illumination, awakening
human-Godward movement

As Myk Habets rightly notes, “knowing” in the Torrance tradition is “participatory knowledge” in which one “indwells” the subject. As Hart argues, “knowing” is personal. It is the difference between “knowing God” and “knowing about” God. Thus, in the Torrance tradition, as Radcliff argues, salvation cannot be reduced to a merely noetic concept. “[T]he Torrance’s articulation of the enhypostatic [human-Godward] movement whereby humanity is drawn by the Spirit into God’s triune life is profoundly personal and relational.”
Here’s how I sum it up: “Knowing” is “noetic” and “relational.” The Spirit of Truth is the Spirit of adoption. The Spirit testifies about Jesus, while enabling us to cry “Abba, Father,” and, thus, participate in Jesus’ relationship with the Father.
One more thing. Given that knowledge is both noetic and relational, Radcliff notes that T.F. emphasized the noetic while J.B. emphasized the relational. In case you wanted to know.
Comment: Back in the late ‘80’s (I think), there was an ongoing debate about “Lordship salvation.” “Can I have Jesus as Savior but not as Lord?” “Can I make my personal decision of faith (in order to get “in”) and then go about my business, as if nothing has changed?” The answer is “No!” or, “Nein! as Barth might say. The God we seek to know is the Lord God, who will be known only on his own terms. As an inseparable part of his revelation, the Lord God draws us into relationship by his Spirit and thereby transforms us. To “know” God is to be changed.
Revelation and reconciliation are distinct (not separate) aspects of a single, unitary, movement of grace that is, at once, God-humanward and human-Godward. You don’t get one without the other. Jesus embodies both movements.
As Radcliff argues, God is known both intellectually and experientially. (These are not mutually exclusive means of participation.) The Reformed tradition, of which the Torrance’s are a part, however, places a premium on propositional truth. Radcliff notes that T.F. was skeptical of both mysticism and charismatic experience. He is critical of the charismatic-Pentecostal emphasis on experiences of the Spirit, for it seems to leave out Jesus and the Father. T.F. is spot on here, for much charismatic jumpin’ up and down preaching seems to leave Jesus out all together. To paraphrase Tom Smail, in lieu of a one-sided emphasis on the experiences of the Spirit, there must be a greater appreciation of “Abba, Father” and Jesus is Lord.”
Radcliff, however, appeals for a greater appreciation of the role of personal “experience” as an important aspect of participation. This is quite natural for her, since she comes from the charismatic-Pentecostal tradition. For Radcliff, charismatic experience can be regarded as a “direct consequence of being drawn by the Spirit into God’s triune life.” Her emphasis on charismatic experience, and later, sanctification is what makes this book unique.
Comment: Most of the Christians I have worked with over the last ten years come from the charismatic-Pentecostal tradition. That should not be surprising since my ministry is to the Global South, where this tradition is spreading like wildfire. Charismatic-Pentecostals tend to be skeptical of “intellectual” approaches to knowledge. I think Radcliff makes a good point, however, when she notes that their personal “experience” of the Holy Spirit tends to trump “intellectual knowledge.” I have been around many wild-eyed, tongues-speaking charismatics in recent years, and I can only admire their zeal and commitment, rarely seen in other traditions. But Radcliff gets it right, I think, by asserting a need for a greater appreciation of the experiences of the Spirit, while not making them as an end unto themselves. The experiences of the Spirit are means to participate in the Father-Son relation.
Thus, let’s remember that knowing God involves the mind, heart and will, for God is not an object to be examined in the detached intellectual manner of academia. God wants it all—mind, heart and will!
In the Torrance tradition, soteriology may perhaps be encapsulated in the term, theosis (or, theopoiesis). The classic statement of this doctrine is from Athanasius, who said “God became man that we might become God.” For Torrance, however, theosis is not ontological but relational. T.F. understands theosis as communion rather than a change in our being. As Radcliff notes, theosis is not deification but more properly participation, where, “humanity’s ultimate end is to be drawn by the Spirit to share in the Son’s intimate relationship with the Father.” (In that statement we find the meaning and purpose of our lives!)
T.F. is aware of what he calls the danger of “vertigo.” That is, theosis should not be construed in any way to mean that humanity becomes God. Although we are united to Christ, and thereby participate in the divine life of the Holy Trinity, the Creator-creature difference remains. We share in the life of God through the humanity that Jesus assumed in the incarnation, while remaining the humans we are created to be.
For more on faith and knowledge in the Torrance tradition, click here for three previous posts.

For more on theosis and the “”wonderful exchange’’ see my previous post here


The Holy Spirit is the “mediator of communion.” The Holy Spirit “mediates,” or “brings together,” things that are distinct, diverse or eve...