God of God, Light of Light


Thomas F. Torrance, "God of God, Light of Light," in The Trinitarian Faith: The Evangelical Theology of the Ancient Catholic Church (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1988), 110-145; #1988-489e


Torrance, Thomas F. "God of God, Light of Light." In The Trinitarian Faith: The Evangelical Theology of the Ancient Catholic Church, 110-145. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1988; #1988-489e

Publication life cycle / General notes

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


From the Foreword: “The fourth and fifth chapters are devoted to Christology and Soteriology. If the Father-Son relationship occupies a place of primacy and centrality in the Christian understanding of God and the world, and of the Gospel itself, everything depends on precisely how we understand the relation of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, to the Father. Is Jesus Christ ‘of’ God in the same way that the universe is ‘of’ God, as created by him and unceasingly dependent on him for its existence and continued being? Did the Son of God himself come into being through an act of the will of God or was he eternally in the being of God as Son of the Father, of the same being and nature as God, and therefore not like a creature which is of a different being and nature from God? The Nicene and Constantinopolitan fathers realised that if they allowed the dualist ways of thought in the prevailing culture to cut the bond of being between Christ and God the Father, then the whole substance and heart of the Christian Gospel would be lost. If what Christ does, for example, in forgiving our sins, is not what God does, then it is not finally valid. If God himself has not come to be one with us in the incarnation, then the love of God finally falls short of coming all the way to be one with us, and is not ultimately love. If it was not God himself incarnate who suffered for us on the cross in making atonement, then the sacrifice of Christ has no ultimate and final validity, and we are still in our sins. If Jesus Christ and God are not of one and the same being, then we really do not know God, for he is some hidden inscrutable Deity behind the back of Jesus, of whom we can only be terrified – and then the final judgment of the world will be a judgment apart from and without respect to Jesus Christ and his forgiving love and atoning sacrifice. Cut the bond in being between Jesus Christ and God, and the Gospel message becomes an empty mockery. But if Jesus Christ is of one and the same being with God, then all that Jesus said and did on our behalf, has staggering significance for us and the whole creation. But in this case it is essential to realise that Jesus Christ the Son of God is also man, of one and the same being and nature as we are. If he is not really man, then the great bridge which God has thrown across the gulf between himself and us, has no foundation on our side of that gulf. Jesus Christ, to be Mediator in the proper sense, must be wholly and fully man as well as God. Hence the Creed stresses the stark reality and actuality of his humanity: it was for our sakes that God became man, for us and for our salvation, so that it is from a soteriological perspective that we must seek to understand the human agency and life of Jesus Christ. He came to take our place, in all our human, earthly life and activity, in order that we may have his place as God’s beloved children, in all our human and earthly life and activity, sharing with Jesus in the communion of God’s own life and love as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” (pp. 7-8).


(1) The hermeneutical significance of the homoousion (p. 125)
(2) The evangelical significance of the homoousion (p. 132)

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“In the Nicene formulation of the homoousion something absolutely fundamental took place in the mind of the early Church. It was a decisive step in deeper understanding of the Gospel, taken in the continuity of the apostolic tradition, upon which the Church, in obedience to God’s saving revelation in Jesus Christ, could not go back. It was an irreversible event in the history of Christian theology. The significance of what happened may be indicated by reference to what we do with a jig-saw puzzle. We assemble the scattered pieces together, fitting them appropriately to each other until the pattern they conjointly make comes to view. If we then break it all up and throw the pieces back into disorder, we may have little difficulty in fitting them all together again, but it will be impossible for us to do that without recalling the picture we reached the first time. Something irreversible would have taken place in our mind and memory, which could not but influence all subsequent attempts to recover the coherent pattern made by the different pieces.

An ineraseable event of that kind happened in the mind and memory of the Church at the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. It was a turning-point of far-reaching significance, with conceptual irreversibility. When the conception of the oneness in being between the incarnate Son and the Father was formed and given explicit expression in the clause ὁμοούσιος τῷ Πατρί, a giant step forward was taken in grasping the inner ontological coherence of the Gospel as it had been mediated through the apostolic Scriptures. Once that insight had been reached, the Church could not go back upon it, because the evangelical substance of the faith, with its distinctively Christian doctrine of God, had been secured in its mind and understanding in a permanent way.” (pp. 144-145).