Thomas F. Torrance on Preaching Christ Today

thomastorranceSeveral months ago I finished reading Thomas F. Torrance’s short book Preaching Christ Today. For anyone who’s never read Thomas Torrance, and perhaps feels too daunted by his academic strength, you should read this book. It is an excellent introduction to some of his most significant contributions to theology, and it highlights quite well why I love reading his work: T.F. Torrance is a scientific thinker because he is an evangelical thinker. He writes with this end in mind, to preach the gospel, to evangelize the world even in the discipline of modern science (which is often wrongly seen as an antithesis to theology). I have a lot of respect for what Torrance has done for theology, not only for the church but for my life personally. It was in Torrance that I first encountered an understanding of God that shattered all  my images of him, revealing himself to be a God of infinite grace and love. So without a doubt, this short book is an inspiring read as well. Just as Barth’s sermons to prisoners at Basel, Deliverance to the Captives, is a great starting point for his theology, so this book is great for Torrance. Today I wanted to put together several great quotes from the book that I enjoyed. (All quotes are from the 1994 Eerdmans edition.)


“This is the end to which my own life has been dedicated. What I have been trying to do is to show how the gospel can be taught and preached in ways that are faithful to the apostolic faith as it was brought to authoritative expression in the Nicene Creed, and at the same time may be taught and preached today in ways that can be expressed and appreciated within the scientific understanding of the created universe upon which God has impressed his Word and which under God was have been able to develop in modern times. Far from being hostile to one another, Christian theology and natural science are complementary to one another.” (Preface, vii)

“The real Jesus of history is the Christ who cannot be separated from his saving acts, for his person and his work are one, Christ clothed with his gospel of saving grace. The so-called Jesus of history shorn of theological truth is an abstraction invented by a pseudo-scientific method.” (P. 9)

“What overwhelms me is the sheer humanness of Jesus, Jesus as the baby at Bethlehem, Jesus sitting tired and thirsty at the well outside Samaria, Jesus exhausted by the crowds, Jesus recuperating his strength through sleep at the back of a ship of Galilee…for that precisely is God with us and one of us, God as ‘the wailing infant’ in Bethlehem, as Hilary wrote, God sharing our weakness and exhaustion, God sharing our hunger, thirst, tears, pain, and death… He does not override our humanity but completes, perfects, and establishes it.” (p. 13)

“In giving his own dear Son to die for us in atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world, God has revealed that he loves us more than he loves himself.” (p. 28)

“In him we believe that God himself has come into the midst of our human agony and our abominable wickedness and violence in order to take all our guilt and our just judgement on himself. That is for us the meaning of the cross. If I did not believe in the cross, I could not believe in God. The cross means that, while there is no explanation of evil, God himself has come into the midst of it in order to take it upon himself, to triumph over it and deliver us from it.” (p. 29)

“Faith in Christ involves a polar relation between the faith of Christ and our faith, in which our faith is laid hold of, enveloped, and upheld in his unswerving faithfulness.” (p. 31)

“In far too much preaching of Christ the ultimate responsibility is taken off the shoulders of the Lamb of God and put upon the shoulders of the poor sinner, and he knows well in his heart that he cannot cope with it.” (p. 35)

“During those years what imprinted itself upon my mind above all was the discovery of the deepest cry of the human heart: Is God really like Jesus? This came home to me very sharply one day on a battle field in Italy, when a fearfully wounded young lad, who was only nineteen and had but half an hour to live, said to me, ‘Padre, is God really like Jesus?’ I assured him as he lay upon the ground with his life ebbing away that God is indeed really like Jesus, and that there is no unknown God behind the back of Jesus for us to fear, to see the Lord Jesus is to see the very face of God.” (p. 55)

That last quote always gets to me! This is why I read theology and attempt what little I can to write it, because the world needs to know this simple truth. God really is like Jesus! And few theologians have shown this fact better than Thomas F. Torrance.

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