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TF Torrance contrasts Reformation and Westminster Theology

To cap off this TF Torrance month here at DET (maybe it will become annual, who knows), I wanted to put up a few paragraphs from TF where he compares and contrasts the theology found in the older reformation catechisms with that found within the Westminster catechisms. Bobby will appreciate this; maybe he hasn't read it it yet. Who knows. In any case, here it is:

Thomas F. Torrance, “Introduction” in The School of Faith: The Catechisms of the Reformed Church (Trans/Ed., Thomas F. Torrance; London: James Clarke & Co. Limited, 1959): xvii-xix.“(i) By keeping more close to a biblical mode of expression and to the Apostles’ Creed the older Catechisms were more universal in their teaching, more in harmony with the theology of the whole Catholic Church from the beginning and less marked by the idiosyncrasies of their producers.

“(ii) The Westminster Catechisms are markedly less Christological both in content and in outlook than their predecessors. [xvii] Thus in proportion they giv…

So, You Want to Read T. F. Torrance?

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This month has turned into something of a TF Torrance month, here at DET. We have especially been considering Torrance’s relationshipwith Barth, in conjunction with some thoughts that Ben Myerscirculated on the topic. More recently, George Hunsinger has weighed in. All this is very fitting since this month marks the one-year anniversary of Torrance’s death.

In furtherance of all this, I thought it fitting to add to my “So, You Want to Read…” series (already included in the series: Barth and Calvin) with an entry on TF Torrance. So, you want to read TF Torrance?

I have never read T.F. Torrance before. Which of his books should I read first?

Torrance’s oeuvre is quite large, and this can be intimidating when starting out with him. For my money, the most accessible place to begin – as well as perhaps the most significant place in terms of Torrance’s theology – is with his Christology. Two options present themselves in this realm.
The Mediation of Christ - For those who want to begin w…

Continuing the Conversation on TF Torrance and Barth

After I wrote my response to Ben Myers (Why I Think…Ben Myers Isn’t Quite Right About TF Torrance) and before I posted it, I sent it to a few friends so that they could help me catch typos and suggest improvements. As will come to no surprise to regular readers of DET, one of those friends was David Congdon (Fire and Rose). David and I have had numerous conversations in the past about how Torrance and Barth relate, and I was greatly desirous of his input. My hopes were not disappointed.

In the interest of continuing the conversation about Torrance and Barth, I have decided (with David’s permission) to post a very slightly redacted form of our e-mail exchange here on DET, in the hopes that it may help to clarify things further. So, without further ado, I leave you to the correspondence:

DWC to WTM, December 7th



1. All of this is helpful and well-done. The ending section on being a "Barthian" is probably the best, with the section on mediation a close second.

2. The weakest…

Why I Think…Ben Myers Isn’t Quite Right About TF Torrance

Ben Myers has lately put together a (short-ish) video for the Theology & Praxis group, entitled Why I Think TF Torrance is Not a Barthian. As I mentioned in my notes on that video, I naturally have an opinion about what Ben said in that I have spent a good deal of time reading both Barth and Torrance. The good people of Theology & Praxis have been gracious enough to include my response in their series.

Responding to Myers on Torrance

I want to say at the outset that, while Ben and I are by no means entirely in agreement about either Barth or Torrance, there are significant quadrants of agreement. For instance, I think that Ben’s essay on “The Stratification of Knowledge in the Thought of T. F. Torrance” (SJT 61.1, 1-15) does a fine job of treating some important aspects of Torrance’s epistemology. Furthermore, Ben rightly notes early on in his video that the relationship between Barth and Torrance can be hard to parse because Torrance seems to like to give the impression that …

Reading Scripture with John Calvin: 1 Peter 5.12-14

1 Peter 5.12-14

[12] With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it. [13] She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark. [14] Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

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COMMENTARY: And so we come to the end of 1 Peter. There is very little to say here about concluding salutations and benedictions, and Calvin deals with it in a page and a half of what is mostly repeating and elaborating what Peter himself says.

There is one interesting point, however. A feminine nominative appears in verse 13, denoted simply as ‘she’ in the TNIV translation given above. When I first glanced at this passage, I thought nothing of it. Then, I noticed that Calvin discusses it for about half of this concluding section. Apparently, this had generally been under…

Ben Myers: Why I Think TF Torrance is Not a Barthian

Some of you may have seen the (short-ish) video that Ben Myers put together for the Theology & Praxis group, entitled Why I Think TF Torrance is Not a Barthian. As someone who reads both Torrance and Barth, I naturally have an opinion about what Ben has put together, and I intend to circulate – one way or another – a response to his video. Indeed, I am looking forward to sitting down with Ben sometime soon (he is currently in Princeton) to have a chat about these things. But, in the meantime, I wanted to provide a service for those of you who may not have time to watch the video and take careful notes. So, what follows are my notes on Ben’s presentation, offered here as a way of encouraging and furthering the conversation.


Ben is right that TF towers over English language Barth interpretation and was a very important and perhaps the primary conduit through which Barth was mediated to the English speaking world. [=As my own insertion, I want to point you to Alister McGrath’s T…

Reading Scripture with John Calvin: 1 Peter 5.8-11

1 Peter 5.8-11

[8] Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. [9] Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your fellow believers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. [10] And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. [11] To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

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COMMENTARY: There are a few interesting tidbits in this section. First, Calvin understands the admonition of verse 8 as intended to keep Christians from letting down their guard, or from indulging some of their lesser vices due to the apparent absence of spiritual trouble. Have the breathing space to face these temptations is certainly a welcome thing, but – as Calvin says – “we too often turn peace into sloth” (150).

Here is one of Calvi…

Gregory of Nyssa on Paul and Boxing

Gregory of Nyssa, On the Beatitudes: An English Version with Commentary and Supporting Studies, Proceedings of the Eighth International Colloquium on Gregory of Nyssa, Paderborn, 14-18 September 1998 (Edited by Hubertus R. Drobner and Albert Viciano; Boston: Brill, 2000), 2.3; 35-6.It seems to me that not everything that is done gently should be considered equally virtuous, if only softness and slowness are indicated by the word. The gentle is not better in races than the speedy, nor in boxing does the slow-moving win the garland against his opponent. If we run for the prize of our upward calling, Paul advises us to increase our speed, saying, ‘Run so as to win’ (1 Cor 9,24). He himself by constantly greater effort would grasp what lay ahead, purposely forgetting what lay behind (cf. Phil 3,14). As a boxer he was quick, for he could spot his opponent’s move, and, firm in his stance, with hands as weapons, he did not fling the armour in his hands about at something empty and insubs…

Reading Scripture with John Calvin: 1 Peter 5.5-7

1 Peter 5.5-7

[5] In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourself to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.” [6] Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. [7] Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

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COMMENTARY: The three pages of Calvin’s commentary on these verses are quite fascinating, at least to me, and I will here try to lift up the threat that I see running through it and trying to identify why it intrigues me as best I can.

Calvin begins by commenting on the exhortation that the ‘younger’ are to obey the ‘elder,’ and he argues that this exhortation is made with reference to physical age. Those who have accumulated fewer years are to submit to those who have accumulated more. There is certainly a common-sense plausibility to this reading, but I wonder if it might …

Thomas Lynch for All Saints' Day

I seldom do this at DET, and by 'this' I mean throw up a post that is basically a link. But, rules are made to be broken, or so they say. Thomas Lynch - whom I know from his book, "The Undertaking," although he was written other things - is an undertaker, writer, and poet from my native Michigan. We also share Irish descent. In any case, he has written an op-ed for the New York Times to commemorate All Saints' Day, and I highly recommend it to you. Here is a taste:The dead get buried but we seldom see a grave. Or they are burned, but few folks ever see the fire. Photographs of coffins returned from wars are forbidden, and news coverage of soldiers’ burials is discouraged. Where sex was once private and funerals were public, now sex is everywhere and the dead go to their graves often as not without witness or ritual.

Types of Theology

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I have been thinking lately about how to classify different types of theology. This is what I have come up with thus far. Don’t be shy in terms of leaving feedback as I would love to hear whether or not this sort of typology rings true.

What I am interested in here is only secondarily connected to the sorts of theological positions taken by those doing theology in any of the modes that I will explicate. The modes themselves are what interest me. It seems to me that one can fall anywhere on the continuum between orthodoxy and heterodoxy while working within any of these modes. Of course, some modes may make it easier than others to lean toward one or the other pole on this continuum, but that is beside the point.

Also, I don’t think that any theologian is working exclusively within any single one of these modes. Every theologian operates in combinations of these modes, with certain of them being primary and others secondary. Furthermore, the various modes within which a cert…

My Most Recent Publication

W. Travis McMaken, "Review of Simon Chan's Liturgical Theology: The Church as Worshiping Community," Evangelical Review of Theology (32.4): 375-7.

Augustine in Contemporary Trinitarian Theology - Take 3

In an encyclopedia entry entitled “The Trinity in Modern Theology,”[1] Colin Gunton lays what he considers to be the problems of Western trinitarian theology at Augustine’s feet.As per Gunton’s estimation, Augustine “weakened the impact” (940) of the Cappadocians, who ingeniously developed a new way of thinking of God’s being – being-as-communion (939).The first charge which Gunton levels against Augustine is that he reintroduces a neo-Platonic dualism that undermines this Cappadocian breakthrough (940), but the criticisms that most interests us is that Augustine blunted the social ramifications of conceiving of being-as-communion (based on the Cappadocian understanding of God’s being as being-as-communion) by “seeking…analogies for the being of God in the individual human mind – what is sometimes known as the ‘psychological analogy.’”In Gunton’s mind, this makes the doctrine of the trinity “chiefly devotional” as opposed to ecclesial and social (941).            Gunton does not seem …