Faith and Godliness


Thomas F. Torrance, "Faith and Godliness," in The Trinitarian Faith: The Evangelical Theology of the Ancient Catholic Church (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1988), 13-46; #1988-489b


Torrance, Thomas F. "Faith and Godliness." In The Trinitarian Faith: The Evangelical Theology of the Ancient Catholic Church, 13-46. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1988; #1988-489b

Publication life cycle / General notes

The first chapter, "Faith and Godliness," adapted from "The Open Texture of 'Faith' and 'Godliness' in the Church's Confession," Festschrift for George D. Dragas, presented in 1985 (#1985-460). This chapter was not represented among the original lectures given in Princeton in 1981. 

Discussed in the Reading Group on August 12, 2021: Video.


From the Foreword: “In the first chapter an account is offered of the open-textured framework of faith and godliness which, together with the rule of truth inherited from the apostolic foundation of the Church, guided regular interpretation of the Holy Scriptures and fostered in its ministers and theologians a distinctive way of thinking and speaking about God in accordance with the nature of his revealing and saving acts in Jesus Christ. From the start the theology of the Church took the form, not of a set of abstract propositions, but of embodied truth in which the knowing and worshipping of God and the daily obedience of faith and life interpenetrated each other. The focus of attention is directed particularly to Irenaeus and Origen who in different ways left a decisive impact on the pre-Nicene Church. Irenaeus had made clear that it is only within the framework of the Faith entrusted to the Church and incorporated in the apostolic tradition as a rejuvenating deposit, that the Holy Scriptures may be faithfully interpreted and appropriated as the saving truth of the Gospel. Origen had laid great emphasis upon the need to think worthily and reverently of God, which required spiritual training in godliness in the ability to interpret the statements of the Old and New Testament Scriptures in the light of the truths to which they refer beyond themselves. That was the general matrix of faith and piety within which there took shape the theological intuition and godly judgment upon which the Nicene fathers relied in their epoch-making Confession of Faith.” (p. 6).


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“The passage that evidently governed the understanding of εὐσέβεια in the early Church was the Pauline correlation of the ‘great mystery of godliness’ with the incarnation. The apostle was writing to inform Timothy about ‘how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth. Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness (τὸ τῆς εὐσεβείας μυστήριον): who was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached among the gentiles, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.’ There on the one hand, godliness was defined as penetrating into the inner mystery of the faith, into the objective fact of the incarnate self-revelation of God, while, on the other hand, the Church was spoken of as supporting and upholding the truth of God. Expressed the other way round, the revealed truth of God is grounded in and built into human life and society as it is proclaimed and believed, known and taught by the Church in a way that promotes godliness. Thus the great mystery of godliness manifest in Jesus Christ and his saving grace became embodied in the Church as its godly counterpart, which corresponds to what St Paul elsewhere referred to as the great mystery concerning Christ and his Church, which is his Body.” (pp. 29-30).