Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Torrance: Dualism and Natural Theology, pt 2

As well as rejecting the idea of a logical bridge between God and the world on epistemological grounds (see previous post), Torrance asserts that the medieval analogy of being (analogia entis) between the creation and the Creator is precluded by the Christian doctrine of creation ex nihilo. "The Christian doctrine of Creation asserts that God in his transcendent freedom made the universe out of nothing, and that in giving it a reality distinct from His own but dependent upon it He endowed the universe with an immanent rationality making it determinate and knowable" (Torrance, 1969b:59).

For Torrance, a fundamental aspect of the doctrine of creation ex nihilo is the "contingent" nature of the creation; that is, the universe is wholly dependent upon God for its origin, existence, and order. Because the existence of the universe is solely the product of the will of God, it is neither logically necessary nor self-sustaining. As created out of nothing, the universe is entirely dependent on God for its ongoing existence; it is not self-sufficient, yet it has its own created integrity and independence that must be respected (Torrance, 1981a:vii, viii). Thus, a contingent universe would not contain within itself a self-explanatory logic as to why it came into existence or why it should continue to exist (Achtemeier, 2001:276).

The creaturely (i.e., "created") integrity of the universe precludes the possibility of a direct movement of thought from knowledge of the creation to knowledge of the Creator (as in natural theology). As Torrance (1994:46) argues:

Since the universe has been given a reality of its own which, while contingent upon God, is utterly different from him, it cannot be known through a priori reasoning but may be known only out of itself, as it discloses its own nature to us in answer to experimental or physical interrogations.

The creation's lack of self-sufficiency means the universe will point toward some transcendent ground beyond itself, but any a priori thought or direct, deductive movement of thought from the effects of the created order to the nature or being of God is ruled out because the order of the universe is not a logically necessary emanation from the divine nature. Torrance characteristically makes this point by saying there is no logical bridge for moving between the created order and God (Torrance, 1980:53-56; Achtemeier, 2001:276).

In arguing that there is no "logical bridge" between the creation and its Creator, Torrance is refuting the supposed emanational continuity of the divine and materiality necessitated by the radical cosmological dualism of ancient Greek thought (see my post, "The Wedding Cake Cosmos: Augustine and NeoPlatonism," 2/09). As Torrance (1981a:21) notes, the universe has conferred upon it a created rationality derived from (not participating in) the uncreated rationality of God, yet transcendentally (not ontologically) grounded in it. Because the world is created by God out of nothing, rather than arising through some form of Neo-platonic emanationism, there is no intrinsic connection between God and creation. In other words, there is no causal connection between God and the world (as in Aquinas); rather, there is a contingent relationship between God and the world he creates ex nihilo in an act of sovereign freedom. Since God does not create the world out of himself, an independent natural theology is a form of "mythology," for it lacks a 'realist' foundation in any kind of intrinsic ontological and epistemological relation to God on which knowledge of God can be based (Colyer, 2001a:130, 196 n. 194).

Comment: Remember that in a scientific approach to theology, realties are known solely in accordance with the nature of that reality as it unfolds in the process of investigation. Thus, to know God through Jesus is a scientifically theological approach to knowledge of God, for Jesus is "of one nature with the Father" (homoousios to Patri). The creation, however, is not "of one nature with God"; rather, it is external to God. In plain speak, the creation is not made of "God-stuff," regardless of what the neopantheists of New Age thought may say. Thus, to inquire into knowledge of God based on the creation is a form of "mythology," derived from human thought, rather than "theology," derived from God's self-revelation in the incarnate Son.

The lack of an ontological connection between the Creator and the creation raises issues of methodology. In regard to scientific methodology, Torrance questions any natural theology that operates as an independent movement of thought based upon an "external" relationship between the Creator and the creation. Like any science, theology develops its epistemology and methodology not independent of, or antecedent to, its subject matter, but in conformity to the understanding of its subject matter gained in the process of investigation. A rigorous scientific theological method, therefore, will not allow a bifurcation between an a priori epistemological structure and empirical content. As Torrance rightly notes, when an independent natural theology is employed as a "preamble to faith" (praeambula fidei), that is, as an independent conceptual system detached from the material content of our actual knowledge of God, it opens the way for revealed theology to be interpreted within the framework of its presuppositions, so that God's triune self-revelation is "domesticated," "distorted," and "misinterpreted" by the antecedent conceptual system imposed upon it (Torrance, 1982:32, 33; 1984:281; 1988a:52; 1990:130, 154). This is precisely what occurred with the medieval habit of developing first a treatise on the one God (De Deo Uno) derived from natural theology followed by a relatively minor treatise on the Trinity (De Deo Trino) derived from revealed theology. In medieval Scholasticism, this led to the relegation of the doctrine of the Trinity to nothing more than an "appendix" to a more thoroughly developed doctrine of the one God, thereby splitting the fundamental concept of God and creating the "schizoid state of affairs" (i.e., epistemological dualism) characteristic of Western theism (Torrance, 1980:147, 148; 1996a:8-10; cf. Rahner, 1997:16-18). (For a review, see my post, "Tommy A. and the Western Split," 3/09.)

To support his criticism of the autonomous nature of natural theology and, hence, its consequent lack of validity in developing accurate knowledge of God, Torrance frequently points to Euclidian geometry as an example of a deductive science developed as an abstract conceptual system independently of the empirical realities it was purported to describe. In terms of Newtonian mechanics, Euclidian geometry was useful in advancing knowledge of bodies in motion; nevertheless, it was an idealized conceptual system developed independently of experience. Einstein questioned the validity of trying to force physics into the rigid framework of a conceptual system developed independently and antecedently to the science of physics and detached from actual experience. He showed that the idealized framework of Euclidian geometry did not conform to the actual character of nature as disclosed by modern physics (e.g., electromagnetic fields, the behaviour of light and radiation). Einstein argued that what had happened, and had to happen, was that geometry was transformed by actual knowledge of physical reality. Similarly, Torrance argues that rigorous scientific methodology in theology cannot allow itself to be controlled by an independent epistemology or antecedent conceptual system (as in an independent natural theology), but must be developed in light of God's self-revelation and self-communication in Jesus Christ (Torrance, 1970:129; 1984:281; 1985:39; 1990:130; Colyer, 2001a133, n. 26; 198, 199; cf. Tarnas, 1991:356). As Torrance (1990:130) argues:

What was at stake in both instances [i.e., Einstein's rejection of Euclidean geometry and Barth's rejection of natural theology] was the demand of faithful scientific method, in accordance with which we must allow all unwarranted presuppositions and every preconceived framework to be called in question by what is actually disclosed in the course of on-going inquiry, and the need to develop an epistemological structure that is indissolubly bound up with the essential substance or positive content of knowledge.

Comment: Torrance often refers to Einstein's repudiation of Euclidean geometry as an "idealized" conceptual system that did NOT fit the reality it was intended to describe. Euclidean geometry was used as a mathematical framework for the Newtonian-Deist view of the cosmos governed solely by the immutable laws of cause and effect. Einstein showed that the Euclidean framework did not fit the cosmos as it is. It was merely an "idealized" conceptual system developed prior to and apart from actual empirical investigation of the universe.

This is analogous to the problem of natural theology. It is an idealized, a priori conceptual system that does not fit the reality it intends to investigate. As the Bible and, especially the incarnation have shown us, God is not the immutable, impassible deity of classical theism developed by natural theology rooted in Aristotelian (pagan) metaphysics but is the self-emptying, self-abnegating, stooping God of the manger and the cross.

Hence, there is a "formidable scientific character" to the rejection of natural theology, for no genuinely scientific theology can allow itself to be controlled by a logical structure that is independent of the object of inquiry. The rejection of natural theology parallels the rejection of any "deistic disjunction" between God and the world of nature and history. In place of dualism, the ontic and noetic structures arising from our interaction with the self-revealing God are imposed upon us and grounded in the rationality of God himself (Torrance, 1970:129, 130). As Torrance (1988a:50) argues:

When we think and speak of God from the perspective of the Creator/creature relation . . . we can only think and speak of him in vague, general and negative terms [e.g., infinite, immutable, impassible], at the infinite distance of the creature from the Creator where we cannot know God as he is in himself or in accordance with his divine nature [as we do in Jesus], but only in his absolute separation from us, as the eternal, unconditioned and indescribable. In such an approach we can do no more than attempt to speak of God from his works which have come into being at his will through his Word, that is, from what is externally related to God, and which as such do not really tell us anything about who God is or what he is like in his own nature.

As stated previously, scientific theological inquiry must proceed in accordance with the nature of the object of inquiry. This is especially important in regard to the knowledge of God. Since there is no intrinsic "likeness" or ontological continuity between the being of God and the being of the created order, but only an "external" relationship, God cannot be known in a godly and accurate way through independent natural theology arising from the Creator-creation relationship (cf. Torrance, 1988a:52).

This is not to suggest, however, that Torrance finds no place for natural theology. Rather, natural theology finds it proper place in the overlap between theological and natural science, both of which operate within the same rational structures of space and time and have in common the inherent rationality of the universe (Molnar, 1997:291). The problem Torrance sees in natural theology is its independent character, wherein it seeks to develop an autonomous rational structure grounded in the natural world alone apart from God's concrete self-disclosure as mediated by the incarnate Son. In other words, the understanding of God generated by natural theology is an abstraction that falls far short of the trinitarian God revealed in Jesus Christ, one that misses the mark of God's triune reality as revealed on the ground of our knowledge of God through Jesus Christ (Torrance, 1970:128; 1980:90, 91; Colyer, 2001a:131).

Torrance (1980:91) does not deny the need for a proper rational structure in knowledge of God, such as that natural theology attempts to achieve. Yet he insists that the rational structure be bound up with the actual content of the knowledge of God, or else it becomes a "distorting abstraction." Thus:

[Natural theology must] be included within revealed theology, where we have to do with actual knowledge of God as it is grounded in the intelligible relations in God himself, for it is there under the compulsion of God's self-disclosure in Being and Act that the rational structure appropriate to him arises in our understanding of him. But in the nature of the case it is not a rational structure that can be abstracted from the actual knowledge of God with which it is integrated, and made to stand on its own as an independent or autonomous system of thought, for then it would be meaningless, like something that is complete in itself but without any ontological reference beyond itself: it becomes merely a game to be enjoyed like chess.

The rational structure that natural theology seeks to erect can be developed within the understanding of faith as we inquire into the objective reality of God's self-disclosure. As Torrance (1990:148) argues:

[W]ith the rejection of an independently thought-out epistemology [as in natural theology], on the ground that method and subject-matter are inherently connected, natural theology can no longer be pursued in its old abstractive form, as a prior conceptual system on its own, but must be brought within the body of positive theology and be pursued in indissoluble unity with it.

Natural theology must be included in, and subsumed under, revealed theology, for the reality of God's self-revelation includes the truth of divine creation. Thus, "while knowledge of God is grounded in his own intelligible revelation to us, it requires for its actualization an appropriate rational structure in our cognizing of it, but that rational structure does not arise within us unless we allow our minds to fall under the compulsion of God's being who he really is in the act of his self-revelation and grace, and as such cannot be derived from an analysis of our autonomous subjectivity" (Torrance, 1970:128, 129; cf. Molnar, 1997:293).

In its attempt to build an epistemological Tower of Babel between earth and heaven, natural theology falls short in the following specific ways: it ignores the Patristic assertion that only through God can God be known; it is undermined by the epistemological significance of sola gratia and the contingent nature of creation; it runs counter to the methodology of scientific theology, wherein realities are investigated according to their natures, and it wrongly subverts the realist principle of scientific theology wherein epistemology follows ontology.


Colyer, E.M. 2001a. How to Read T.F. Torrance: Understanding His Trinitarian & Scientific Theology. Downers Grove, IL: IVP. 393pp.

Molnar, P.D. 1997. God's Self-Communication in Christ: A Comparison of Thomas F. Torrance and Karl Rahner. Scottish Journal of Theology, 50, pp. 288-320.

Rahner, K. 1997. The Trinity: Introduction, Index, and Glossary by Catherine Mowry LaCugna. New York, NY: Crossroads. 122pp.

Tarnas, R. 1991. The Passion of the Western Mind. New York, NY: Ballantine. 544pp.

Torrance, T.F. 1969b. Space, Time and Incarnation. London: OUP. 92pp.

Torrance, T.F. 1970. The Problem of Natural Theology in the Thought of Karl Barth. Religious Studies, vol 6, pp. 121-135.

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. 256pp.

Torrance, T.F. 1981a. Divine and Contingent Order. (Preface to new edition, 1998). Edinburgh: T & T Clark. 162pp.

Torrance, T.F. 1982. Reality and Evangelical Theology: The Realism of Christian Revelation. (Forward by K.A. Richardson, 1999). Downers Grove, IL: IVP. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster. 174pp.

Torrance, T. F. 1984. Transformation & Convergence in the Frame of Knowledge: Explorations in the Interrelations of Scientific and Theological Enterprise. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. 353pp.

Torrance, T.F. 1985. Reality and Scientific Theology. (New Forward by T.F. Torrance, 2001). Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers. 220pp.

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

Torrance, T. F. 1990. Karl Barth: Biblical & Evangelical Theologian. Edin: T & T CLark. 256pp.

Torrance, T.F. 1994. Preaching Christ Today: The Gospel and Scientific Thinking. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. 71pp.

Torrance, T.F. 1996a. The Christian Doctrine of God, One Being Three Persons. London: T & T Clark. 260pp.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Torrance: Dualism and Natural Theology, pt. 1

In a recent post, we considered the "epistemological" significance of the Nicene homoousion, that is, the Nicene creedal assertion that Jesus Christ is "of one nature with the Father" (homoousios to Patri). We were trying to understand the significance of the incarnation for the knowledge of God. To gain a greater appreciation of the incarnation as the means to an accurate knowledge of God, we need to look at what happens when we do not start with Jesus in our theology. We have done quite a bit of that in this blog.

Today we need to consider in detail the dualism that is created in the doctrine of God when we start our speech about God, not with Jesus, but with "natural theology" based on human reason and the creation as means to the knowledge of God.

We gain a greater appreciation of the epistemological significance of the homoousion by an exploration of Torrance's rejection of natural theology as an independent means to the knowledge of God. Torrance closely follows his teacher, Karl Bath, in his rejection of natural theology and the dualism in the knowledge of God that results from it (Torrance, 1970:121-135; 1980:75-109; 1982:31-34; 1984:287-301; 1990:136-159).

In addition, an exploration of Torrance's rejection of natural theology will both illuminate the understanding of his repudiation of the dualisms embedded in Western theological thought and facilitate an understanding of his scientific approach to knowledge of God with its fundamental axiom that knowledge in any field of inquiry must be developed according to the nature (kata physin) of the reality under study.

Natural theology is the attempt to "prove" God's existence or to develop an understanding of God's essential attributes on the basis of an independent movement of thought from the created order to God the Creator, considered apart from revealed theology (Colyer, 2001a:194).

Comment: At this point, it might be helpful to review my posts dealing with natural theology, particularly "How to Make a Western Omelet God" (4/09).

As Torrance (1985:38) notes, natural theology attempts to gain knowledge of God apart altogether from any interaction between God and the world, proceeding by way of abstraction from sense experience and inferential and deductive reasoning from observed (empirical) facts. In short, natural theology operates on the assumption that knowledge of God may be developed by a process of logical deduction from sensory experience and empirical observation; that is to say, a cause (Creator) may be known by its effects (creation) (Colyer, 2001a:195, 196). Torrance (1970:125) rightly offers this caustic criticism of natural theology:

Natural theology as such arises out of man's natural existence and is part of the whole movement in which he develops his own autonomy and seeks an explanation for himself within the universe. . . . That is to say, the claim to a natural knowledge of God . . . cannot be separated out from a whole movement of man in which he seeks to justify himself over against the grace of God, and which can only develop into a natural theology that is antithetical to knowledge of God as he really is in his acts of revelation and grace.

Analogy of being: A Logical Bridge

Arising from a perceived dualism or deistic disjunction between God and the world, natural theology seeks to close the "gap" between God and creation, and provide rational support for faith, through a "logical bridge" from the world to God which operates on the basis of a logical connection between concepts and experience. The idea of a logical bridge between concepts and observed facts (experience), or an "inherent isomorphism" (Colyer) between God and humanity, provides the epistemological foundation for natural theology.

Comment: Make sure you get that point. The "epistemological foundation" (the basis on which speech about God is grounded) of natural theology begins with the assumption that there is a logical connection (bridge) between what we see happening around us (experience) and the concepts we derive from experience (for example, we see objects in motion; therefore, there must a "first cause" for that motion). As we will see below, there are problems in that assumption. But for now, the important thing to note is that Jesus Christ, the definitive self-revelation of God, is left out of the picture.

By establishing a logical bridge between ideas and being in order to reach out inferentially to God, natural theology attempts to develop a rational approach to knowledge of God and, thereby, bridge the "gap" between faith and reason. Torrance notes that a great deal of modern apologetics, both liberal and fundamentalist, is based on the assumption of a logical bridge between the Creator and the creation (Torrance, 1982:32; 1985:38; 1994:44; Colyer, 2001a:134, 195, 196; McGrath, 2001:216).

During the medieval era, Thomas Aquinas sought to span a perceived "gap" between God and the cosmos via the "Five Ways," a series of logical "proofs" which were claimed to demonstrate natural knowledge of God (Aquinas, 1989:12ff; cf. Torrance, 1980:80; 1981a:86, 87). Aquinas asserted that there is an "analogy of being" (analogia entis) between God and the world; that is, there is a logical bridge or inherent isomorphism between God and creation, wherein the world mirrors God in the same way a work of art tells us something about the artist. Aquinas asserted that analogical speech about God is possible, not because God is similar to creatures, but because creatures are similar to God; that is, every effect in some way reflects its cause. Thus, we can speak of God in analogical terms because there is an "analogy of being" which is prior to our own discovery of it. This "fundamental likeness" (similitudo) between God and the world is a consequence of a relationship of 'causal' dependence between the Creator and the creation from which all things derive their existence. Because God is both the first cause and the designer of the world, what we observe in the world points us toward the Creator (Aquinas, 1989:11, 12; Gonzales, 1987:271; McGrath, 2001: 208, 245).

Comment: On the surface there is nothing wrong with Aquinas' approach; yet, it led to drastic consequences for the Western Latin doctrine of God. Aquinas split the doctrine of God into two parts, formally creating a dualism or bifurcation in the Western doctrine of God. First, he developed a doctrine on the One God (De Deo Uno) on the basis of human reason and natural theology. Here we get the infinite, immutable, impassible, omnipotent omniGod. This doctrine of God, developed apart from God's self-revelation in Jesus, became the dominant doctrine of God in the West. Second, after a thorough development of the "attributes" of the One God, Aquinas developed a relatively minor treatise on the Trinity (De Deo Trino) based on revealed theology (Scripture). In subsequent Western Latin theology, the doctrine of the Trinity was hardly considered at all, for Aquinas had relegated the Trinity to a minor "appendix" to the more thoroughly developed doctrine of the One God. In short, Aquinas bequeathed the Western church two competing versions of God. For a review, see my post, "Tommy A. and the Western Split" (3/09).

In contrast to Aquinas' attempt to span the perceived gap between God and creation via a logical bridge, Torrance follows Barth in rejecting the medieval idea of analogia entis, though perhaps not as vehemently as the latter, who described the doctrine as "the invention of the Antichrist" (Barth, 1975:viii).

There are both epistemological and methodological reasons for Torrance's rejection of natural theology as an independent means of arriving at knowledge of God by means of the creation. In terms of epistemology, Torrance rejects natural theology on the ground of the doctrines of justification by grace (sola gratia) and creation ex nihilo. In terms of methodology, Torrance rejects natural theology because it is only 'externally' related to its object of inquiry and violates the fundamental axiom of scientific theology that realities must be investigated in accordance with their natures.

In today's post we will consider Torrance's rejection of natural theology on the epistemological ground of justification by faith (sola gratia). This post will be followed in a week or so by another post on Torrance and natural Theology.

Epistemological Relevance of Sola Gratia

In his rejection of the medieval analogia entis, Torrance notes that the idea of a logical bridge between God and the world undermines the uniqueness and exclusiveness of the divine self-revelation in Jesus Christ, thus epistemologically undercutting the hallmark Reformation principle, sola gratia (Torrance, 1970:126; 1990:143-145; cf. Seng, 1992:362-365). The analogia entis leads to an interpretation of the Gospel in terms of "an independent conceptual system reached before and apart from the actual knowledge of God given to us through his incarnate self-revelation in Jesus Christ" (Torrance, 1990:169). Because it is exclusively through Jesus Christ, the incarnate self-revelation of God, that true and accurate knowledge of God is mediated, the epistemological implications of "justification by faith" force upon us "a relentless questioning of all our presuppositions, prejudgments and a priori authorities, philosophical or ecclesiastical," so that we are finally thrown back wholly upon the nature and activity of God himself for the verification of our concepts and statements about him. Apart from Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life (Jn 14:6), there is no way to the Father; thus, we cannot rely on our own innate capacities of reason to achieve the cognitive union with God which true knowledge of him requires (Torrance, 1970:126, 128). In terms of its epistemological significance, sola gratia means that we are unable to attain accurate knowledge of God through our own natural powers. As Torrance argues elsewhere, "[N]o work of ours . . . can establish a bridge between our understanding and the Truth of God. Knowledge of God is in accordance with his nature, that is, in accordance with grace, and therefore takes its rise from God's action in revealing himself and reconciling us to himself in Jesus Christ." We cannot forge a relationship between our own statements about God and God himself in his own truth. We can only "allow" revelation to "happen to us" as we obediently and gratefully submit to the revealing and reconciling actions of God (Torrance, 1996b:26; cf. Seng, 1992:363).

Comment: Torrance is arguing that we cannot "figure out" God on our own. Left to ourselves, we come up with everything from a golden calf to the omniGod defined in terms of pagan philosophy. If we are to know God as God is, not as we think God ought to be (dignum deo), then God must reveal himself to us. God's self-revelation in Jesus Christ is an act of sheer grace (sola gratia).

If we are really to know God as God is, we must be redeemed from our mental alienation and reconciled in our minds (cf. Rom 12:2), so that they may be adapted by grace to God's divine self-disclosure (Torrance, 1970:126; 1990:143, 144). Torrance continues:

The fact that God himself had to become man in order to break a way through our estrangement and darkness, and work out a way of bringing us back to himself through the saving life and death and resurrection of Christ, not only precludes us from entertaining other possibilities of a way from man to God but actually invalidates them all. . . . [A]ll natural theology perishes at the point where the knowledge of the one and only God is gained in the face of Jesus Christ and by the renewing of human beings in the Holy Spirit.

Comment: In short, God's self-revelation in Jesus "trumps" natural theology.

God has sovereignly and unconditionally given himself to us in Jesus Christ, who himself is the Truth. This Truth can only be only be known by pure grace (sola gratia), for God not only mercifully provides us Truth but also the conditions by which we may perceive it. In graciously revealing the Truth to us, God calls into question all forms of natural theology which attempt to bridge the gulf between God and man from the side of man by claiming knowledge of God apart from God (Torrance, 1996b:125; cf. Seng, 1992:362). Thus, we must acknowledge the unconditional priority of the Truth revealed in Jesus Christ as well as the "irreversibility" of the relation he establishes with us. Torrance refers to this priority and irreversibility as the "logic of grace," meaning that our "theological rationality" must be bound by the "incarnational rationality" which is in Christ before it is in us. In other words, we must think "economically" following the actual, irreversible movement of the "Word became flesh" (i.e., we could never say that "the flesh became Word."). Thus, we may say that we "know" God provided we mean it is by grace alone that we are enabled to know him (Torrance, 1969:206ff; Seng, 1992:363, 363 n 68).

As justification by grace through faith in Jesus sets aside all our works of righteousness, the "epistemological relevance" of justification by grace sets aside natural knowledge of God, for we know him only by his gracious self-revelation as mediated in Christ and not through the efforts of human reason. Just as there is no "co-redeemer" in Christ's saving work, there is no "co-revealer" in the mediation of revelation. Justification by faith rules out all forms of Pelagianism, whether ethical or epistemological (Seng, 1992:364; cf. Torrance, 1990:57; 1996b:163).

Furthermore, justification by faith rejects the claim that the criterion of truth is found in the "knower" [as in Kant]; rather, it insists that the truth of a statement is to be found only in the reality to which it refers and may be verified only by the grace of that reality. Sola gratia, therefore, calls into question "all our preconceptions or vaunted authorities" and forces us to "transfer the centre of authority from man or the Church to the objectivity of the Truth itself." That is why justification by faith remains "the most powerful statement of objectivity in theology," for it throws us back on the reality of what God has done for us in Christ and will never allow us to rest on our own efforts (Torrance, 1971:67, 68: cf. Seng, 1992:365).

If God is the content of his revelation (as indicated by the Nicene homoousion), our knowledge of God does not arise through human attempts to philosophically construct a logical bridge between creation and the Creator. It is not by our created light that we see God but only in and by God's light do we see God; that is, only by God can God be known. Knowledge of God does not arise in a "Socratic" manner whereby man "recollects" the truth latent in the human soul or by an "Ariadne's thread" of immanent continuity between the divine and the material. All human knowing that takes the path from man to God instead of following the incarnational revelation of God to man is finally anthropology, that is, man speaking of himself in a loud voice or an eminent extension of man's being to infinity or a mythological projection from the depths of man's creative spirituality and zealous piety. Genuine theology (theologia) refuses to start with man in an attempt to construct a mythological path to God. Rather, it follows the actual way of the incarnation of the Word of God to man. It does not possess truth in itself but finds its truth in Jesus Christ (Seng, 1992:351, 352, 354; cf. Torrance, 1971:181ff).


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Barth, K. 1975. Church Dogmatics (vol 1.1) (edited by G.W. Bromiley & T.F. Torrance; translated by G.W. Bromiley). Edinburgh: T & T Clark. 503pp.

Colyer, E.M. 2001a. How to Read T.F. Torrance: Understanding His Trinitarian & Scientific Theology. Downers Grove, IL: IVP. 393pp.

McGrath, A.E. 2001. Christian Theology: An Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. 616pp.

Seng, K.P. 1992. The Epistemological Significance of Homoousion in the Theology of Thomas F. Torrance. Scottish Journal of Theology, vol 45, pp. 341-366.

Torrance, T.F. 1969a. Theological Science. Oxford: OUP. 368pp.

Torrance, T.F. 1970. The Problem of Natural Theology in the Thought of Karl Barth. Religious Studies, vol 6, pp. 121-135.

Torrance, T.F. 1971. God and Rationality. London: OUP. 216pp.

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. 256pp.

Torrance, T.F. 1982. Reality and Evangelical Theology: The Realism of Christian Revelation. (Forward by K.A. Richardson, 1999). Downers Grove, IL: IVP. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster. 174pp.

Torrance, T. F. 1984. Transformation & Convergence in the Frame of Knowledge: Explorations in the Interrelations of Scientific and Theological Enterprise. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. 353pp.

Torrance, T.F. 1985. Reality and Scientific Theology. (New Forward by T.F. Torrance, 2001). Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers. 220pp.

Torrance, T. F. Karl Barth: Biblical & Evangelical Theologian. Edin: T & T CLark. 256pp.

Torrance, T.F. 1994. Preaching Christ Today: The Gospel and Scientific Thinking. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. 71pp.

Torrance, T.F. 1996b. (orig. ed. 1965). Theology in Reconstruction. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers. 288pp.

Grace and Response: A Matter of Order

Many years ago, when I was a young man in Bible college, one of my theology professors said to the class, “When I wake up in the morning, ...