T.F. Torrance on the Church as the Creature of the Word
None of the Gospels ever give us the slightest hint about what Jesus looked like. They tell us nothing at all about His appearance, but they do speak about His voice, and they tell us of the amazement of the multitudes who wondered at the gracious words that fell from His lips…When Jesus rose again from the dead, even Mary Magdalene did not recognise Him until Jesus spoke to her by name, and then immediately she recognised Jesus by His voice. We recall also how the two disciples walking to Emmaus on Easter evening did not recognize Jesus when He joined their company, although the words He spoke to them made their hearts burn within them.This is another absolute gem from good old TFT. Against those who would argue that the church is founded upon the eucharist (Chris will give you more details), TF here argues that the church is a creature of the Word (and, interestingly, doing so by appealing to a passage often claimed in support of the importance of the eucharist to the origins of the church!). It is the risen and living Word of God, Jesus Christ, that calls the church forth from death to life. And, the church is called not only to life, but to a particular kind of life – namely, the life of mission. Furthermore, the church’s mission has a very particular character. It is not a mission to general humanitarian work, to community improvement, or to the combat of suffering – although it is also these things (notice, TF speaks of the church’s mission as inclusive of “the witness of its members,” which I take to refer to their living witness as opposed to their vocal witness). The primary mission of the church is the proclamation or explanation of Scripture to “every man and woman and child.” This runs counter to a picture of the church as a society or culture unto itself which, by the aesthetic power of its attractiveness, seduces unbelievers into its number (a picture one gets even in the chapter on the church as apostolic in Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America). Rather, it is a picture of a church that is engaged in crossing its own boundaries in a constant outward movement that runs parallel to and is impelled by the eternal outward movement of the triune God: the church’s mission is “to carry the Bible to all nations.”
That is just how it is today. We cannot see Jesus, for He has withdrawn Himself from our sight; and we will not see Him face to face until He comes again—but we can hear His voice speaking to us in the midst of the Church on earth. That is the perpetual miracle of the Bible, for it is the inspired instrument through which the voice of Christ is still to be heard. Jesus Christ was the Word of God made flesh, the still small voice of God embodied in our humanity, and it is that same Word, and that same voice, that is given to the Church in the Bible. It is by that voice that the Church in all ages is called into being, and upon that Word of God that the Church is founded. The Church is, in fact, the community of the Voice of God, for it is the business of the Church to open the Bible and let the voice of Christ speaking in and through it to be heard all over the world. It is the mission of the Church to carry the Bible to all nations, and to plant it in every home in the land, and by preaching and teaching, and the witness of its members, to make the Word of God audible, so that the living Voice of Jesus Christ the Saviour of men may be heard by every man and woman and child.
In any case, I offer this simply as another example of how Torrance’s theology remains very lively and fresh even today.