The Incarnate Saviour


Thomas F. Torrance, "The Incarnate Saviour," in The Trinitarian Faith: The Evangelical Theology of the Ancient Catholic Church (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1988), 146-190; #1988-489f


Torrance, Thomas F. "The Incarnate Saviour." In The Trinitarian Faith: The Evangelical Theology of the Ancient Catholic Church, 146-190. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1988; #1988-489f

Publication life cycle / General notes

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

Discussed in the Reading Group: Video.


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).


The Incarnation (p. 149)
The Atonement (p. 154)

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“In the profound interaction between incarnation and atonement in Jesus, the blessed exchange it involved between the divine-human life of Jesus and mankind has the effect of finalising and sealing the ontological relations between every man and Jesus Christ. Thus ‘our resurrection’, as Athanasius once expressed it, ‘is stored up in the Cross.’ Through his penetration into the perverted structures of human existence he reversed the process of corruption and more than made good what had been destroyed, for he has now anchored human nature in his own crucified and risen being, freely giving it participation in the fullness of God’s grace and blessing embodied in him. Since he is the eternal Word of God by whom and through whom all things that are made are made, and in whom the whole universe of visible and invisible realities coheres and hangs together, and since in him divine and human natures are inseparably united, then the secret of every man, whether he believes or not, is bound up with Jesus for it is in him that human contingent existence has been grounded and secured.

It is precisely in Jesus, therefore, who was born of the Virgin Mary, crucified for us under Pontius Pilate and rose again in space and time, that we are to think of the whole human race, and indeed of the whole creation, as in a profound sense already redeemed, resurrected, and consecrated for the glory and worship of God. How could it be otherwise when he who became incarnate in him is the very one through whom all worlds, all ages, were made? At the same time this means, of course, that the stress upon the cross and resurrection which involves all creation, carries with it the fulfilment of salvation throughout all space and time, and thus reaches forward to the consummation of all things, in the return of Christ to make all things new, to judge the quick and the dead, and to manifest the new creation. And so, as the Creed insists, the kingdom of Jesus Christ shall have no end. The incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, are not a transient episode but a saving fact which has been perfected once and for all, and now endures for all eternity within the one divine-human being of the Mediator.” (pp. 182-183).