A declarative theology

As we have seen, Torrance had strong convictions from the beginning: evangelical, ecclesial, and reformed in the Scottish tradition, and missionary. His convictions were, it seems, sharpened by the pervasive presence of the liberalism into which - as he thought - Scottish theology had sunk, even in the place where he studied and became professor, New College at the University of Edinburgh, personified there by John Baillie. In his resistance to these tendencies, Torrance's principal allies were H. R. Mackintosh (his earlier mentor who had introduced the study of Barth at Edinburgh in the 1930s) and his doktorvater Karl Barth, and later, as he dealt with the sciences, the example of Michael Polanyi was also very important.

Torrance's convictions are a constant presence through his work. His central and comprehensive insight was (in my words) that "the true object - God - gracefully objectifies all else." God is per se the central and comprehensive reality, which constitutes all other reality. Yet that does not mean that God is known from creation (the presumption of natural theology). God confers knowledge of God for those who are otherwise blind to God. Like Barth, Torrance insists that this occurs only through God's act, "an act in which His act and Person are identical, in which God's presence, personal presence, is present in His act, in which the act is the Person and the Person is the Act."3 This is an act which occurs as God becomes human in Jesus Christ, through whom human life, culture, and language are constituted as what they should be.

Accordingly, Torrance - like Barth - saw the homoousion as pivotal for knowledge of God: God's Word is God himself incarnate in Jesus in the world, there revealing and recreating human being. The Word of God in Jesus is not, as so many suppose, only symbolic of God. Nor does this mean that Jesus is less than fully human:

Jesus steps into the actual situation where we are summoned to have faith in God, to believe and trust in him, and he acts in our place and in our stead from within the depths of our unfaithfulness and provides us freely with a faithfulness in which we may share.4

This decisively defeats the dualism - between God and the world, and between God and revelation - with which Christian thought has often been infected.

The same emphasis on the homoousion leads Torrance to see that God's grace is personally and freely given in Christ to human beings for their salvation. The implications are profound: there is the closest possible relation between God, incarnation, atonement, and Spirit, and the freedom of God is in the Incarnation, where human beings are incorporated into Christ, and God acts in the place of all human beings for their redemption; the relation of giver, gift, and recipients is internal to each; this falsifies the (dualistic) divisions Torrance finds characteristic of so much Western theology.

What Torrance thus unearths is what he maintains is the inner logic of Christian faith. It is correlative with the account he offers of the history of this truth as distilled from the New Testament witness and grasped in seminal periods and figures such as the Eastern Fathers (especially Athanasius), Calvin, Mackintosh, and Barth.

The incarnation of the eternal Word of God made flesh in Jesus Christ . . . prescribes for us in Christian theology both its proper matter and form, so that whether in its activity as a whole or in the formulation of a doctrine in any part, it is the Christological pattern that will appear throughout the whole body of Christian dogmatics . . . While the Lord Jesus Christ constitutes the pivotal center of our knowledge of God, God's distinctive self-revelation as Holy Trinity, One Being, Three Persons, creates the overall framework within which all Christian theology is to be formulated.5

This "revolution in our knowledge of God" is what comprises the "classical theology" of the church, and enables it to be distinguished from aberrations throughout the history of human understanding.

In the extensive critical attention he accords to such sources throughout his writing,6 Torrance finds them united by their scientific theological engagement with the reality of God, that is by their success in investigating and conceptualizing God in a manner appropriate to God's own nature. From what God is toward us and for us in our history, they discern what/who God is antecedently, inherently, and internally. In other words, the "evangelical Trinity" - "the truth content of the Gospel as it is revealed to us through the incarnate or human economy . . . which Christ undertook toward us" corresponds to the theological Trinity, "the truth of the eternal Being and Activity of God" as God.7

Scientific theology and the sciences Theology as knowledge

In the context of the positivism which dominated the British academic scene during the 1940s and after, the question of whether theology is indeed a form of knowledge at all was of overwhelming importance. In Theological Science (1969), based on lectures given in the USA in 1959, Torrance gave a full response. It was both a very personal one and also a philosophical-theological one: "I find the presence and being of God bearing upon my experience and thought so powerfully that I cannot but be convinced of His overwhelming reality and rationality . . . Scientific theology is active engagement in that cognitive relation to God in obedience to the demands of his reality and self-giving."8 He finds the same to be true of natural scientific inquiry wherever undertaken: the intelligible provides the possibility of intelligent engagement with it.9 Both alike rest on the given, either the self-presentation of divine reality for theology, or the given of contingent reality for the natural sciences. In his view, therefore, theological science and natural science are a posteriori activities, conditioned by the reality grasped in each, and not based on a priori, surface impressions or conventional conceptions. These activities are to probe as deeply as possible into the constitutive factors of these realities, to discover what makes each what it is and how the two are related. This agenda shows itself in two "sides" of his work, a pursuit of the substance of evangelical theology and of modern science, and a search for the means by which each must be pursued.

Two things need to be noticed. First, Torrance is convinced that there can be no sharp distinction between what we have called "substance" and "means." The means to understanding must be in accordance with the substance of what is sought; epistemology must follow ontology, just as form and being are inseparable in what is known. Second, for Torrance, there is no ultimate distinction between theology and the natural sciences, even if each has its own distinguishable subject matter; the two are ultimately to be coordinated in a unified view: a truly Christian notion of reality supports the natural-scientific notion of reality, and the latter presumes (but does not attempt) the former. How?

1 Investigation of the intelligible reality of the triune God in his creation of the contingent and orderly universe, and in the depth of his relation to the universe in his Son, provides for the natural sciences the vertical and horizontal coordinates for the integration of the universe.10

2 The work of the natural sciences enables theology to understand the nature of scientific method, a method which in many respects is the same even if the demands of their respective subject matter make their work distinctive.

3 The natural sciences enlarge understanding of the structures of created reality, the spatiotemporal world with which God is so directly involved in his creative and redemptive work.

4 The more profound scientific inquiry into the universe becomes, the more it faces cosmological questions and is forced to adopt a fundamental attitude to the universe as a whole.11

These conclusions result from Torrance's concern to "evangelize the foundations . . . of scientific culture" in such a way "that dogmatics can take root in that kind of structure."12

History of theology and history of science

Torrance is convinced that an intelligent grasp of the reality with which theology and the natural sciences are concerned has been achieved in the decisive periods of theological and natural-scientific advance. He proceeds by reflecting critically upon the knowledge which has been achieved in the past and the means by which it has been achieved, in order to discriminate between achievements and distortions in the work of past centuries. Moreover, his reflection is guided by the positive position which he develops and employs; the two - positive position and historical reflection - are subtly interrelated: his positive position is established by reference to his historical work, while he judges what history is important, and interprets it, with criteria which employ his positive position.

The circularity thus apparent in his approach is not a naive one. It is directed to the discovery of the active truth of God present in history through human understanding past and present. The theories found in history are properly "transparent 'disclosure-models' through which . . . the truth in the creation as it has come from God . . . shine[s] through."13 Such theories need therefore to show their truth again, to be coordinated with other theories of later times, in which the truth also shines forth, in a unitary view of truth. The approach thus undertaken is in self-conscious opposition to most modern biblical and historical interpretation, which tends to suppose that theories are the product of autonomous human grasping for truth in a fashion which is relative to their culture.

Realism in theology and science: Conformity to the given

Torrance sees reality as disclosing itself to the various sciences, theological and natural, in such a way as to make human beings capable of understanding. Hence, the way forward is to start from the self-presentation of reality, as reality makes itself known to us, recognizing that theology and science are always a posteriori and realistic: their business is to think the reality which presents itself as known, and to find the deep order intrinsic to that.14 This is no easy achievement, and it must not be confused with substitutes. What is required is a trust in reality as it presents itself, joined to a continuing struggle to allow thought to be conformed to this reality and to find its inner relations.

It is possible to know such things because the nature of the reality prescribes the mode of rationality which is appropriate to it.15 God is the paramount case of this reality: both by having created us and also by his oneness with us through Christ in our created existence, he sustains our knowing of him. But this is also true of contingent reality, because it has been given its intelligibility by God. It is for this reason that the term "realist" must be used with some caution for Torrance. If realism means a necessary correspondence between reality and thought, such as medieval theology asserted by the "analogy of being," he is not a realist. But, in another and quite precise sense, he is. His realism suggests that there is an actual correspondence between reality and thought or language if the thinker is conformed to the mode of rationality afforded by reality. Scientific knowledge might therefore be described as proceeding within a "double activity," wherein reality actively gives itself - together with the appropriate mode of knowing it - and we actively respond by knowing it in this mode. Only under such circumstances is there a genuine correspondence (or transparence) between reality and thought or language.

Scientific intuition: Human response to the given

Just as intelligible reality meets us and confers a suitable mode of knowing it, so the human response required is openness to this gift. Knowledge does not arise a priori outside the relation to the reality being confronted, but through an insight which takes shape in our understanding under the imprint of the internal structure of that into which we inquire, and develops within the structural kinship that arises between our knowing and what we know as we indwell it and gain access to its meaning. Not an a priori conception or preconception, the foreknowledge with which scientific inquiry operates is an intuitive anticipation of a hitherto unknown pattern which arises compellingly in our minds under the intrinsic claim of the subject matter.16 It is at this point that Torrance finds Michael Polanyi's understanding of the logic of discovery helpful.17

Polanyi analyzed the "tacit power" of the human mind to discern Gestalten or patterns in experience through a heuristic leap from parts to a whole in which patterns of coherence are seen. What enables us to move from a jumble of discrete bits of experience to their fusion in an integrated whole is an intuitive leap in which "clues" are united in a single pattern. Polanyi likened it to looking at a pair of stereoscopic pictures; seeing the two slightly different pictures in a viewer produces a single three-dimensional picture. Like this, "foreknowledge" or "scientific intuition" forms disparate elements into an interrelated whole through a personal and informal integrative process of insight. Such insight persists in scientific work and -through its alternation with analytic and deductive procedures - produces a deepening awareness of the object.

Reality, realism, and belief

Where others may proceed with scientific knowledge in a more pragmatic fashion, sustained by the conviction that "it works," Torrance suggests that the basis of scientific activity, whether theological or natural, is actually belief.

There is a sense in which the structure of belief duplicates that of natural scientific activity; in the case of the latter, reality gives the modes by which we know it, where in the case of the former, the object of belief commands our belief, which is "a prescientific but fundamental act of acknowledgment of some significant aspect of the nature of things . . . without which scientific inquiry would not be possible."18 Such belief is integral to knowledge and its establishment, and is not to be contrasted with knowledge, as if belief requires rational demonstration. A belief is actually irrefutable and unprovable: any attempt to prove or disprove belief would have to invoke belief, but belief cannot be put into a form by which it could be proved or disproved. In other words, faith is integral to reason; faith is the very mode of rationality adopted by the reason as it seeks to understand, and as such, faith constitutes the most basic form of knowledge upon which all subsequent rational inquiry proceeds.19 And beliefs are proportional to the nature of the truth to which they are directed, ranging from God's truth, to the truth of natural things, to the truth of human knowledge. A mismatch of beliefs and truths begets idolatry, by which disproportionate importance is accorded to what is lesser.

Belief/faith may seem - as for Locke - a maximal act of human judgment or the ultimate resort of the desire to sustain the possibility of knowledge. For Torrance, it is more like an act of repose, "the resting of our mind upon objective reality . . . that which really is, the nature and truth of things."20 This is not "subjective" in the usual modern sense, but a personal recognition of what is objective. There are different kinds of objectivity, ranging from the objectivity of God, to the objectivity of natural things, to the objectivity of human beings, and appropriate beliefs sustain our dialogical relation to such objectivities. The objectivity of God's truth for humanity in Jesus Christ sustains scientific theological activity; and the objectivity of the truth of nature sustains natural science.

If beliefs differ in such a way, there may be no unity of the theological and natural sciences after all. Certainly, no such unity is available within the natural sciences, even if there may be some forms of unity available within them. However, ultimately, there is a theological basis for a unity of the theological and natural sciences: the different "levels" of truth and objectivity, divine and natural, are both differentiated and unified by God's self-giving action in creation and Jesus Christ. And the belief which responds to this is one which derives from God's action in the Holy Spirit.

Insofar as they are personal in their believing, human beings are also responding to an objectivity which constitutes their personhood. The God to whom their belief is ultimately directed is "a coinherence of.. . three divine Persons in the one identical being of God."21 And this not only unifies their believing, but also personalizes it and them. The personalization of their believing is not a pragmatic construct of theirs, but is derived from God's own nature as Trinity.

What then is to be made of differences in personal believing? Torrance's view of beliefs allows for the deep difference between people's beliefs or "fiduciary frame works." Since such frameworks are implicated in the lives of the believers, differences between them cannot be overcome by compulsion; they can only be changed by persuasion resulting in a radical conversion (metanoia) from old frameworks and reconciliation to the new. That is not simply a human persuasion from one set of human beliefs to another, however; properly it occurs under the claim of divine truth.

The "new objectivity" of science

Torrance is encouraged in his views by what he finds happening in modern science. Einsteinian physical science has, he says, rediscovered what we may call the "sovereign" character of reality, one which transcends all human concepts. The universe is now seen as intelligible but mysterious, with an infinite depth of comprehensibility which precludes any final notion of physical reality of the sort claimed by physicists at the turn of the century. The intelligibility found by the physical and natural sciences also stretches out beyond what we can comprehend. "There now opens up a dynamic, open-structured universe, in which the human spirit is liberated from its captivity in closed deterministic systems of cause and effect, and a correspondingly free and open-structured society is struggling to emerge."22 "Einstein's own theory of relativity means that the more profoundly we penetrate into the ultimate invariances in the space-time structures of the universe, we reach objectivity in our basic description of the universe only so far as relativity is conferred upon the domain of our immediate observations."23

Belief in an orderly universe and a contingent universe are the two main "ulti-mates" which are employed in the natural sciences. And with them, the natural sciences are concerned with the investigation both of the ordered and the contingent world, the structures which determine its order and the vectorial character of its change, including its ultimate origins and ultimate ends. It is no part of their purpose, however, to establish the source of contingent order, or the rational basis of these "ultimates." There are theoretical and empirical limits to the enterprise of science; and these are necessary for science to be what it is.

The source of order and contingency in God's creation

With such a transformation in the scientific understanding of reality, there comes to light "a hidden traffic between theological and scientific ideas of the most far-reaching significance for both theology and science . . . where [they] are found to have deep mutual relations."24 It is clear that there is a very close link between the new objectivity of the natural sciences, with the beliefs which sustain it, and the truth and objectivity of the Judeo-Christian tradition, its ultimate beliefs.

By contrast with the Greek philosophical tradition, the Judeo-Christian view combines many elements within one view to provide a more suitable basis for the new understanding we find in the natural sciences today:

1 The Old Testament view of the transcendent Lord God who freely created a world distinct from himself and constituted its order and the place of human beings as distinct from, but related to, him.

2 The recognition that the Lord is faithful in his creative act, and thus unceasingly operative in preserving and regulating his world.

3 The still more radical understanding of the world, both its matter and its form, "as equally created out of nothing and as inseparably unified in one pervasive contingent rational order in the universe".25

4 The Christian understanding of the Incarnation of the Son of God, as showing the full relation of God to the natural world, how the self-giving action of God differentiates and unifies divine and natural order, and how deep is God's relation to the actual spatiotemporal structure and dynamic of the existent universe.

5 The Incarnation as revealing the depth of the relation between the inner constitution of the trinitarian God and the inner constitution of the world, and how God continually sustains the order and contingency of the world.

All of this adds up to a "peculiar" interlocking of the independence of the world from God with its dependence upon him, an independence which gives the world its nature and movement (and requires the self-contained attempt of natural science to know it) and yet refers the nature of the world (and natural-scientific understanding) beyond itself to its freely intelligent and creative source (which requires scientific -theological understanding).26 This has the effect of directing each to its proper object: natural science to the contingent order of the universe, thereby to grasp its fundamental structure, and theological science to the source of the contingent order of the universe in the self-presentation of the triune God.


Torrance's work constitutes a powerfully integrated combination of theology, science, and history in response to current suppositions about the realities with which theology deals and its capacity for knowledge of them. He aims to distill and demonstrate central Christian beliefs, identifying what is their inner logic and showing how they correlate with the nature of scientific understanding. For all its brilliance, insight, and persuasiveness, his approach raises a number of important questions.

Torrance's approach draws heavily on a certain kind of physical science philosophically analyzed. Even if we set aside the question of whether he is not taking the implications of this physical science beyond what its practitioners would wish (and there are varieties of view today about how modern physical science yields knowledge), there is still the wider issue of whether physical science can be representative of all "the natural sciences." At the least, such an approach leaves undecided the question of the value of the biological and social sciences for the natural sciences and for theology; it also allows Torrance to sidestep difficult questions about the diversity of creation, which appear when one considers the implications of the biological sciences, or those which appear in the social sciences.

Perhaps because it is narrowly based both in physics and a theory of correspondence between reality and knowledge often found there, Torrance's position is the strongest version of realism, the realism both of scientific activity and of scientific belief, which is available in (and perhaps outside) theology today. If it has not made as wide an impact as one might expect, this may be due to questions about realism in Christian theology and in physics.

On the one hand, Christian theologians most inclined to realist views (those who adopt a conservative position) rarely give high priority to "creation" or "nature," or the need to incorporate them in an intellectual vision of faith. On the other hand, those theologians who are interested in a rational response to the scientific context prefer a "soft" version of science which accounts for scientific activity by reference to "paradigms" and for scientific development by social explanations. For different reasons, these two groups are unlikely to consider Torrance's severely realist approach as seriously as it deserves.

A further issue about Torrance's thought is raised by his constant emphasis on the need to distill the relations and dynamics of theological and scientific understanding. This raises three difficulties, two substantial and one presentational.

First, it leads him to focus on the outcomes of what are often complex historical, theological, or scientific processes, as distinct from the means by which they are reached, or on the univocal meaning of complex sources. For example, even for those who accept the normative position of (say) patristic doctrine, is it sufficient to concentrate on such "distillations" without greater attention to the polyvalence of the scriptures - and the dynamics of doctrine and history - in Christian theology?

Second, he often employs second-order conceptualizations for things which are deep and complex, whether historical, theological, or scientific, and also uses concepts as if they themselves are primary rather than pointers to what is deeper. For example, Torrance - like Barth - moves decisively beyond the limitations of overly logical systematizations of Calvin, and appropriates the possibilities of both Calvin and Barth for the intellectual vision of God demanded by Christian faith in a free scientific-theological response to God, but his own work still emphasizes close and well-defined logical connections. Perhaps this is an understandable result of his anxiety to move beyond the "soft" indefiniteness of liberalism, but it quickly produces the opposite extreme. His procedure raises an important question about the goal of theology: should it approximate to close logical statement or to the form of wisdom?

Third, although there is genuine struggle involved in the comprehensive scientific-theological-historical task which he attempts, and in communicating the results to diverse audiences, his accounts of positions - his own and others - and their relations are terse to the point of unintelligibility, even for those who appreciate succinctness and know the importance of theory in and beyond theology. There are many times when the ideas which he cites need more elucidation and support. But so vast is the terrain upon which he works, so anxious is he to interconnect ideas, and so intent on enabling others to see these relations, that he often lapses into such terseness.

It may also be that Torrance's difficulty in communicating his position is connected with the nature of the position he adopts, which verges on the private and publicly inexpressible. His concern is to make the actuality - in the sense of an occurrence of empirical-theoretical knowledge of and from reality - transparent to others. (The empirical-theoretical knowledge with which he is concerned is to suit the internal correspondences of reality, such as those of being and form. He thereby avoids the naïveté of those who disjoin the two; he is rightly alarmed by those who try to deduce theories from observation or experience, as when people deduce a doctrine of the Incarnation from observational data.) What actually occurs in knowledge is that reality actualizes itself in our empirical-theoretical understanding, and that is the way in which we participate in the self-knowing of God through and in the natural world. Furthermore, we are sustained in that actuality by belief that truth and objectivity meet us in that way. But the relation of knower and known, of empirical-theoretical knowledge and the being and form of the known, cannot be verified outside the fact that it actually occurs. In other words, it is known to occur by those to whom it occurs. And the best they can do for others is to speak in such a way that their words and ideas are transparencies through which others may see.

The means by which Torrance speaks is to call attention to structures of reality and belief, and their validation of the relation between knower and known, to show that the world is ordered this way. And that, in turn, is validated by another structural relationship, that which is made by God, as it is seen in his active deeds of self-giving in creation and Incarnation.

The problem which arises from this is a tendency to remain at the level of what we could call "factuality" (which is, to be sure, the factuality of a dynamic), remaining content with the fact that these relations occur. Torrance's great contribution lies in his extremely careful statement, supported by evidence drawn from Christian and natural-scientific views, of the fact that it occurs in theology and the natural sciences, and occurs in such a way as to have brought knowledge of the reality with which they are concerned. That, in the end, is what distinguishes his position from those much less certain that it occurs or occurs in such a way as to yield knowledge. Compare his position with (say) existentialists who at the most will admit that "something salvific" happened, but not in such a way as to provide knowledge; for them, there is no "factuality of relation" and no authorization of knowledge, only "something" and human "interpretations." Maintaining the occurrence of this "fact" enables a full appreciation of the positive achievements of the theology and natural science of the past and present, which the others are inclined to treat either negatively or much more tentatively. As was indicated much earlier, he finds depths and correspondences, both in traditional and modern material and between theology and the "hard" sciences, which other more skeptical people do not find.

Within the struggle to stay within the "fact" of knowledge (which, for Torrance, is a struggle to purify available knowledge by probing its inner structure), there are three other issues. One is the privileged position which it accords to those who live in the "fact," the meta-science by which they understand their position, the knowledge which they achieve, and their belief that this is "fact." Of course, the privilege which is theirs is not, in a sense, theirs at all. It is the product of the deep relation in which they participate; they and the statements by which they express the fruits of this relation are "transparencies." Nonetheless, in the history of theology or science, they are taken to provide true knowledge. But, even with all the safeguards which Torrance builds in to prevent intellectual pride, can they be taken so unquestion-ingly as the bearers of knowledge? There are times when it seems in Torrance's view that human beings are given such a high "intuitive intellectual judgment"27 as to be put in the place of angels. That is precisely the question which many would raise about such realism today.

Remaining within the factuality of knowledge provided by reality also makes for an exclusivist and occasionalist tendency in Torrance's theology, which he shares with the actualist ontology of Karl Barth. In most of his work, there is a very sharp distinction between those who respond properly to truth and those who do not, between when they do and when they do not. On the one hand, in the "fact" of proper response to truth, human beings achieve knowledge. On the other hand, outside the "fact" of proper response to truth are those who impose "self-willed," "distorting idealizations[s]"28 on reality. That seems to exclude all but that which conforms very strictly and unswervingly to the conditions of the reality which provides the rationality by which it is known.

In Torrance's later work, there is more recognition of the contingency of knowledge, though still within the "fact" of proper response to truth: "multidimensionality" is conferred upon us by the "range of intelligible structures which spread out before us," and we rise through the "levels of organized concepts."29 This welcome emphasis on the richness of reality and conceptualities opens the way for a more positive notion of ideas and practices which the earlier view seemed to eliminate. It is not less exclusivist; what is permissible is wider, but it must - and must always be -authorized by reality. This leaves the question of whether the many mundane devices which human beings use in their life and work, from sacraments to technology, are not still too much discounted; contingent structures though they are, they may constitute proper response to an ineffable reality.

There is one final issue which arises from Torrance's concentration on the "fact" of the relationship between truth and knowledge; it concentrates so much on the occurrence of empirico-theoretical knowledge that it produces a restricted view of history. It is admirable to defend and explain the position of space and time in relation to God, and therefore to recognize the contingency of human knowledge, whether theological or natural scientific. But while this justifies some of the categories which will be useful in considering history, it is not sufficient for the task of providing an historical account of theology. As we have seen, Torrance has produced fascinating accounts of the history of theology and natural science, evaluating the basic decisions taken by major figures in the past and present as correct responses to truth, but it remains a question whether his is a fully historical account. The truth of history is certainly more than the achievement of correct accounts of truth.

Achievement, Influence, Agenda

Torrance has been a major proponent of Christian dogmatics in a situation in which it has been deeply undermined by "accommodationist" patterns of thought, those embracing less cognitive approaches. His synthesis of historical, scientific, and systematic theology came at a time when theology was regarded as incapable of providing knowledge in any strong sense, and was seen - at most - through empirical-historical, literary, or cultural lenses. And it represented a very strong alternative, which was profoundly influential among those who sought something stronger than the prevailing "liberal" approaches, even if they did not follow the details of his argument. And it seems again to be gaining new influence, though in different ways.

Ten years ago, there was relatively little direct response to Torrance's work. Now, thankfully, the situation is different. Although one does not find his work being taught as such, it has attracted a number of careful studies. Most come from those who are predisposed to systematic theology and primarily consider his contribution to the content of theology; of these, most are descriptive and analytical, and do not challenge his ways and conclusions; only a few go further to probe and challenge his work. Almost no one has engaged with Torrance's major contribution, which was in a carefully integrated case for a scientific approach through which the substance and method of theology and the natural sciences are unified.

We await someone who can, as Torrance did with Barth, stand on Torrance's shoulders and provide the cognitive account of the bases of Christian theology which he attempted, which is responsive to the changing understanding both of the sciences and of theology.


1 David W. Torrance in The Promise of Trinitarian Theology, ed. E. M. Colyer (Oxford, 2001), p. 2.

2 Following Torrance's statement that it is "in its doctrine of God that the really fundamental character of any church tradition becomes revealed" (Incarnational Ministry, ed. C. D. Kettler and T. H. Speidell [Colorado Springs, 1990, p. 2]). There are, however, two books which present the core of Christian belief in systematic fashion: The Trinitarian Faith (Edinburgh, 1988) and The Christian Doctrine of God: One Being, Three Persons (Edinburgh, 1996).

3 Quoted in A. E. McGrath, T. F. Torrance: An Intellectual Biography (Edinburgh, 1999), p. 149.

4 The Mediation of Christ (Exeter, 1983), p. 69.

5 The Christian Doctrine of God, pp. 1-2.

6 His writings are studded with cameo portraits, but the most comprehensive studies are The Hermeneutics of John Calvin (Edinburgh, 1988) and Divine Meaning: Studies in Patristic Hermeneutics (Edinburgh, 1995), which were intended as parts of an uncompleted three-volume work on the history of hermeneutical thought.

7 The Christian Doctrine of God, p. 7.

8 Theological Science (Oxford, 1969), p. ix.

9 Reality and Scientific Theology (Edinburgh, 1985), p. xiii.

10 Divine and Contingent Order (Oxford, 1981), p. 24.

12 "A Pilgrimage in the School of Christ - An Interview with T. F. Torrance, by I. John Hesselink," Reformed Review, Autumn 1984, Vol. 38, No. 1, p. 59.

14 Theological Science, p. 186.

16 Transformation and Convergence in the Frame of Knowledge (Belfast, 1984), pp. 113ff.

17 As found particularly in Personal Knowledge, Science, Faith and Society, The Tacit Dimension, and Knowing and Being.

18 Transformation and Convergence in the Frame of Knowledge, p. 195.

21 The Trinitarian Faith, p. 199.

22 Reality and Scientific Theology, p. ix.

25 Divine and Contingent Order, p. 31.

26 These are matters to which Space, Time and Incarnation (1969) and Space, Time and Resurrection (1976) are devoted.

27 R. Hooker, Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity (London, 1977), p. 84.

28 "Divine and Contingent Order" in A. R. Peacocke (ed.), The Sciences and Theology in the Twentieth Century (Notre Dame, IN, 1981), p. 93.

29 Divine and Contingent Order, pp. 27ff.


Royal Priesthood (Edinburgh, 1955). Theology in Reconstruction (London, 1965). Theological Science (Oxford, 1969). Space, Time and Incarnation (Oxford, 1969). Space, Time and Resurrection (Edinburgh, 1969). Theology in Reconciliation (London, 1975). The Ground and Grammar of Theology (Belfast, 1980).

Christian Theology and Scientific Culture (New

York, 1980). Divine and Contingent Order (Oxford, 1981). Reality and Evangelical Theology (Philadelphia, PA, 1982).

Transformation and Convergence in the Frame of Knowledge (Belfast, 1984). Reality and Scientific Theology (Edinburgh, 1985).

The Trinitarian Faith (Edinburgh, 1988). The Christian Doctrine of God: One Being, Three Persons (Edinburgh, 1996).


Colyer, E. M., How to Read T. F. Torrance (Downers Grove, 2000).

-(ed.), The Promise of Trinitarian Theology

(Lanham, MD, 2001). Luoma, T., Incarnation and Physics: Natural Science in the Theology of Thomas F. Torrance

McGrath, A. E., T. F. Torrance: An Intellectual

Biography (Edinburgh, 1999). Morrison, J. D., Knowledge of the Self-Revealing God in the Thought of Thomas Forsyth Torrance (New York, 1997).

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