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

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