Monday, November 21, 2011

The Shattering Gospel

As a student of systematics (which still is somewhat surprising to me), I deal with neat and tidy categories. However, when we are dealing with a 1) living Being who 2) transcends our mental capacities and language categories, systems break down. God, who is infinitely free to be for His creation what He needs to be (the import, as I understand it, of the famous "ehyeh asher ehyeh" in Exodus 3) and who is Love (as I John makes clear what already had been established and confirmed through all the pages of Scripture -- even justice, judgment, and wrath are expressions of love when the beloved has been seduced, defiled, and abused), tends more often than not to break our neat and tidy categories.

As "recreational" reading, I picked up TF Torrance's Space, Time, and Incarnation (note: I added the Oxford Comma to the title, even though it isn't in the Oxford University Press original). Torrance, usually, is not an easy read: STI continues such difficulty. However, I've found that even when I vehemently disagree with him, that I will eventually see that his view is necessary to maintain a proper systematic outlook (ex. I read, for my initial Systematics class at Trinity School for Ministry, a selection from his Incarnation that dealt with Athanasius' argument concerning whether properly God is first to be called 'Lord' or 'Father': Athanasius and Torrance said Father, I said Lord. Now I see that the relational-communion that God is means it is more proper to say He is Father first in Himself, Lord in relation to us, and therefore secondarily.) In STI, Torrance relates why the early Church rejected the notion that "space" was a receptacle: this would lead to a "two-storey" universe in which we are here, in this receptacle, and God is "out there" in His own "space" (which somehow comprehends the incomprehensible God?). So the Church rightly rejected such a dualistic idea, even if it was (as Torrance maintains) added back into Western Christianity via the influence of Augustinian thought. God could not be contained in such a "space," nor could a real Incarnation happen, as God cannot be limited in creational categories (this seems to me to be part and parcel of what happened in the Transfiguration).

Instead, God's realm and our realm overlaps and intersect in many ways, some of which I have talked about recently on this blog. The Eternal enters the temporal in the Incarnation -- prepared for by the whole history of Israel -- so that the temporal might enter the Eternal in the corporate prayer and worship of the Church, who is the Body of the One who fills both heaven and earth. Instead of a primary dualism between two "spaces," heaven and earth physically conceived, there is a primary unity effected by Christ -- heaven and earth, the realm of the divine and the realm of the created, are forever joined by the actions of the Christ in the temporal realm (his life and ministry) so that we can evermore participate in the life of communion that God was, is, and always will be.

I'm still working through all this -- it is quite heady. But I see a lot of profit possible in Torrance's work.

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