What Am I Reading? Thomas F. Torrance

Thomas F. Torrance, Divine and Contingent Order (Oxford University Press, 1981). You can find a paperback reprint here

Reading T.F. Torrance’s work never fails to jar a few things loose in my head and to reconnect them in interesting ways. Though I read this book rather quickly (in less than 24 hours of total elapsed time), I cannot help but feel as though it has impacted me deeply. I only hope that the disruption and sense of wonder and excitement that I feel now will settle into forms of permanent intellectual development. Needless to say, I will read this book again – hopefully sooner than later.

In any case, I highly recommend this volume. It is Torrance at his best (and worst – some really long sentences!). The bulk of the material is devoted to an exploration of the theological foundations of contemporary empirical science, the logic of which Torrance rehearses multiple times. Included in these discussions is commentary on the state of science and theology (and their interaction) encompassing intellectual history from the ancient Greeks, through Medieval scholastic theology, Reformation theology, modern philosophy and especially philosophy of science, and recent philosophical and scientific developments. Indeed, Torrance’s seemingly effortless rehearsal of the scientific contributions of the greatest scientific minds of the last 200 years (including, of course, Gödel, Einstein, Maxwell, et al) puts much of what passes for intelligence, much less what passes for theological acumen, to shame. Finally, all of these strands are gathered up into a culminating discussion of evil, incarnation, atonement, and theological anthropology, which left me euphoric. What a great way to spend an evening.


There's a $6 copy of it at that quaint little bookstore (not Micawber, but the one closer to campus that's in a basement). Perhaps I should pick it up.
I believe this is the work that Hunsinger cites in a footnote in "How to Read KB" as an example of someone showing a possible Barthian interpretation of natural theology.
I recommend picking it up, but if I get there first you may have a bit of a disappointment in store. :-)

I am unfamiliar with the footnote in question (and a quick check of the indices in GH's HTRKB did not yield fruit), but I am familiar with GH's understanding of TFT thanks in large part to a class taught by GH devoted to TFT and Moltmann. In any case, casting it as a Barthian appropriation of natural theology is a decidedly polemic and sensational way of putting it. But, it is not necessarily that wide of the mark. For myself, I would tend to think that TFT brings out what Barth was trying to do with his position on natural theology (this is brought out by TFT by implication, not explicit interaction), namely, the - to use an Hunsingerian phrase - Aufhebung of 'natural theology.' That is, its radical negation and dynamic reconsitution on actualistic and 'grace'-driven terms.

Of course, I reserve my right to entirely reject this opinion at a later date. ;-)
Ben Myers said…
Great choice -- that's my second-favourite of all Torrance's books (second, of course, to The Christian Doctrine of God). The section on evil towards the end is one of the highlights for me.
I don't think that I would rank it up with CDoG, which is concerned much more materially with dogmatic issues - which is more my flavor. Have you read The Mediation of Christ? It is excellent, and oriented more directly to dogmatics.

The section on evil was quite profound and enlightening. It is always good to see what a theologian does with the soft underbelly of Reformed theology.
Shane said…
wow, i am going to have to read this book now. thanks for the heads up travis.

Anonymous said…
Well, is Torrance one of the first open theist? His cosmology and ontological relationships between Creator and creation sure look like he knew that God knows what might or might not be instead of what will or will not be. Not a trick question. I am an open theist and loved the book.

What do you think?

Ron Sirkel

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