The Almighty Creator


Thomas F. Torrance, "The Almighty Creator," in The Trinitarian Faith: The Evangelical Theology of the Ancient Catholic Church (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1988), 76-109; #1988-489d


Torrance, Thomas F. "The Almighty Creator." In The Trinitarian Faith: The Evangelical Theology of the Ancient Catholic Church, 76-109. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1988; #1988-489d

Publication life cycle / General notes

An audio recording of the original lecture is available (#1981-TFT-4b).

Discussed in the Reading Group on October 7, 2021 with Geordie Ziegler and Ken Roxburgh: Video.


From the Foreword: “The second and the third chapters are devoted to the doctrine of God and to our knowledge of him as Father and Creator. The basic clue to the understanding of the Nicene approach is taken from Athanasius: ‘It is more pious and more accurate to signify God from the Son and call him Father, than to name him from his works and call him Unoriginate’. To know God in any precise way we must know him in accordance with his nature, as he has revealed himself – that is, in Jesus Christ his incarnate Son in whom he has communicated not just something about himself but his very Self. Jesus Christ does not reveal the Father by being Father but by being Son of the Father, and it is through Christ in the one Spirit whom he mediates that we are given access to God as he really is in himself. In contrast with Judaism and its stress on the unnameability of God, the Christian Faith is concerned with God as he has named himself in Jesus Christ, and incarnated in him his own Word, so that in Christ we know God as he is in his own inner being, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is the arche (ἀρχή), the Origin or Principle, of all our knowledge of God, and of what he has done and continues to do in the universe, so that it is in terms of the relation of Jesus the incarnate Son to the Father, that we have to work out a Christian understanding of the creation. It is the Fatherhood of God, revealed in the Son, that determines how we are to understand God as Almighty Creator, and not the other way round. It was through thinking out the inner relation of the incarnation to the creation that early Christian theology so transformed the foundations of Greek philosophy, science and culture, that it laid the original basis on which the great enterprise of empirico-theoretical science now rests.” (pp. 6-7).


(1) God was not always Creator (p. 84)
(2) God does not will to exist for himself alone (p. 89)
(3) The universe was created by God out of nothing (p. 95)
   (a) The contingence of the creation (p. 98)
   (b) The intelligibility of the creation (p. 102)
   (c) The freedom of the creation (p. 105)

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“In its confession of belief in one God the Father Almighty, the Maker, the Nicene Council deliberately gave primacy to the concept of the Fatherhood of God, for knowledge of God as Creator is taken from knowledge of God as Father, and not the other way round. As we have seen, however, knowledge of the Father is derived from Jesus Christ his Son who is of the same being as the Father, for in him the Father has revealed himself to us as he is in his own essential nature. This is why Athanasius, in that key statement of his which we have allowed to guide us, insisted that ‘it would be more godly and true to signify God from the Son and call him Father, than to name him from his works and call him Unoriginate (ἀγένητον)’.1 It follows from this, however, that our understanding of God as Creator must likewise be taken from the Son, for it is through the Son and Word who is eternally in God and proper to his essential nature that God is the Creator and Maker of everything. ‘He who calls God Father, signifies him from the Son, being well aware that, since there is a Son, it is of necessity through the Son that all things that have come into being were created. When they call him Unoriginate, they name him only from his works, and do not know the Son any more than the Greeks. But he who calls him Father, names him from his Word and, knowing the Word, acknowledges him to be the Maker of all, and understands that through him all things have come into being.’2 Thus for Athanasius the concept of God as Creator is wholly governed by the coinherent relation between the Father and the Son and the inseparable activity in which they are engaged. Since the Father is never without the Son, any more than the Son is ever without the Father, all that the Father does is done in and through the Son and all that the Son does is identical with what the Father does.” (pp. 76-77).

“Thus the incarnation and creation together, the latter interpreted in the light of the former, have quite breath-taking implications for our understanding of the nature of God. They tell us that he is free to do what he had never done before, and free to be other than he was eternally: to be the Almighty Creator, and even to become incarnate as a creature within his creation, while remaining eternally the God that he is.” (p. 89).