George Dion Dragas, "T. F. Torrance: A Theologian for Our Times; An Eastern Orthodox Perspective," Keynote presentation, Thomas F. Torrance Theological Fellowship, Annual Meeting 2012.
Dragas, George Dion. "T. F. Torrance: A Theologian for Our Times; An Eastern Orthodox Perspective." Keynote presentation, Thomas F. Torrance Theological Fellowship, Annual Meeting 2012.
November, 16, 2012. Chicago, Illinois. Audio and video available with a transcript, for both the lecture and the discussion (see below). Compare with interview of Dragas by Matthew Baker in Participatio, #2013-MB-2.
Transcript prepared by Tim Zark:
T.F. Torrance a Theologian For Our Times: an Eastern Orthodox Assessment by Reverend Father Protopresbyter George Dion Dragas
President, Professor Christian D. Kettler of TFTTF. 2012 Annual Meeting of the T.F. Torrance Theological Fellowship.
Introducing the speaker Fr George Dragas; Christian D Kettler: It’s my pleasure to introduce to you Reverend Father Protopresbtyr George Dion Dragas. He’ll be speaking to us on the theme T. F. Torrance, a theologian for our times, an Eastern Orthodox assessment. It’s a great joy to have Father George here, certainly because it’s long awaited that we should have a representative from Eastern Orthodoxy speak to the Torrance Fellowship given his strong ties with Orthodoxy, and so it’s great to have Father George as representative —but he’s not just that, he’s a former student of Tom Torrance’s at New College in Edinburgh and I remember personally in informal discussions with Tom Torrance that whenever the issue would come to patristics or Athanasius, the name of George Dragas would come up. He mentioned this article or that article by George Dragas. So you can take a look at his essay on the homoousion in the volume entitled The Incarnation edited by T. F. Torrance, it’s a very fine essay by Father Dragas that I’ve used for many, many years.
C D K: And, just more recently I have known him by the miracles of technology, the Florovsky Institute at Princeton actually had a live feed, that — here me in the midst of the lonely prairies of Wichita Kansas, was actually able to listen in on this conference a year or so ago, in which Father George was a speaker, and it was nice to finally see your face if not meet you, and then to hear you speak on atonement in Torrance’s theology — and most of all to share, to hear some of stories about your encounters with Tom Torrance. I think we all recognise that there is this one generation of those that were actually able to study with Tom Torrance, at Edinburgh. And so you folks who were former students — formally with Torrance— have a unique gift to give us of those memories. For as all of us know he was quite an interesting character in person, as well as a lot of his great teaching would happen one on one — great to have words from a former student. So without further ado Father George — please inviting us — thank you very much for coming. (leaves podium; audience clapping).
Fr. George Dragas: (points at microphone) Not tall, so I’ll lower this down a little bit (lowers microphone) Yes, as I said earlier (holds up a piece of writing) I’m going to fulfil my promise from last year and try to put in an essay Torrance’s connection with Athanasius which is a very difficult one. If you look at the bibliography which is the most complete, in the biography written by Professor McGrath — I’m sure you’re familiar with this book which is a wonderful book on Torrance — you’ll find Athanasius in the beginning, the middle, the end, all over the place. In his books Athanasius crops up always as the basis and foundation for all kinds of connections, Athanasius and Calvin, Athanasius and Barth, Athanasius Calvin and Barth, and several other things. Em, I just want to say one more little thing about this and then I will come to my topic as it has been advertised and you heard —
G D: I went to Edinburgh in 66 I think. 1966 from Greece, basically to learn em, English. I was doing engineering, I was interested in becoming a monk. I was religiously interested because some of the members of my family were reformed evangelicals and I was baptised Orthodox and I went to both churches and I was familiar with the debates between the one side and the other side and I grew up in this way. So going to Edinburgh to learn English I chose to do English at New College — because I was interested — and there I was befriended by — just a little bit of biography so you know who I am — um, I was approached by the then Principal, Professor Porteous, Norman Porteous, you may some of you, I’m sure you must have met him, who was a tremendous person and became a mentor and a friend for life — because he called me to his room and said “you are Greek, what are you doing here?” (laughing) So it all started like this.
G D: And I said, “I may, I am thinking, I’m doing Engineering” — I have an uncle who is a businessman in Africa. I cannot learn English, so he gave me a little scholarship and I got another little scholarship from the Church of Scotland through the members of my family — so our friends— to do English for a few months — and he said, I said, "that I am thinking of becoming a monk or”(hesitates) —
— he said, “you should study theology here. This is the best school of theology,” he said — Porteous. “It is very good and you [will] never regret it.” (laughs)
G D: I said, “but I don’t know, I can’t speak”— I spoke a little French, a little English — we communicated. Anyhow to cut a long story short, he said, “I’ll give you a scholarship if you prove to me that you are truly Greek.” (audience laughs)
G D: He said “a Greek can do everything.” I said, “what is a true Greek?”
[Porteous] “A Greek is one who can do anything.”
GD: He was a very Philhelline — and Tom Torrance of course as well. He introduced me to Tom Torrance. He said — two years later he retired — and he said, “you’ll have another friend here, Tom Torrance.” I had already met Tom Torrance of course, because I, everybody round their corridors of New College, there wasn’t any students in New College who wouldn’t talk about T. F. T. (pointing) T. F. T.
G D: I still think of him as T. F. T. (smiles) —T. F. Torrance, and although I was learning English and so on, I went, I sneaked into the class, one day — second year — he was doing lectures on the incarnation which have been published now by Jamie Walker [actually Robert T. Walker] who became my fellow student actually — and Jock Stein was also my fellow student, many other people — wonderful people and friends, and we are still like a family. So I went into one of his lectures, I want[ed] to see the man who is T. F. T. and as soon as I went in the class I found an Orthodox archimandrite. You know what an archimandrite is? A celibate priest with his hat and everything on. I went to him and said “Father, your blessing!”
G D: In Greek he said, “are you Greek?” I said, “yes.” “What are you doing here?” “What are you doing here?” (audience laughs) He was from Jerusalem — and Tom Torrance apparently who had been in Jerusalem —if you read his biography — he was excited, he had made friends and he offered scholarships — so he said I was given a scholarship by T. F. T. (chuckling) so I’m here to study —he’s alive Metropolitan Cornelius of Petra now, a very wonderful person, friend since then.
G D: I said, “I’m new here, am I allowed to stay in the class?” he said, “stay with me” —that was the first time. So, um, as soon as he was there, I remember, he [Torrance] said — this is what I remember from this encounter, “if you wish to become a theologian, you must read three books,” the first book is Athanasius — right a way (laughs) De Incarnatione, On the Incarnation; the second book is Anselm of Canterbury Cur Deus Homo, Why did God become man? Three classics on the incarnation and the third was a contemporary one —that shows you immediately the dimensions of the Torrance theology right away, Kierkegaard Philosophical Fragments. So, I wrote down this (writes on palm of hand) and I went to the library — I was this kind of person, I would take things very seriously and went to the library — got the three books and I started looking — of course my English was easier to read but not to speak [it].
G D: So I dared to go and knock at his door and ask him a question —some other things I don’t remember what it was, the question — so, he looked at me, he was in his gown as he lectured, and he said, “what have we got here?” I said, “I’m a student, not in your second year, but I came to your lecture and I have” —in broken [English], he said, “Where are you from?”
G D: I said “Greece.”
“Oh! Greek. Good! come in,” he said. (Smiling; laughing in the audience)
G D: “So, are you going to study theology?” “Maybe,” I said. Then he said, “you should be like him.” He had a big icon of St Athanasius in his room — I don’t know if anybody had seen it? [reference, the audience] It is actually in one of his books, this, it is the book, on I think, it’s either the Trinitarian Faith, I think that’s where it is. A very wonderful actually [the icon], if you are an expert on icons, that’s a fantastic icon. It’s an original and I know the great iconographer in Greece, Rallis Kopsidis. Um, I looked at this and said, “this is St Athanasius?”
“Yes,” he said, “and now you become like him [laughs then pause] if you want to be a theologian” [laughter continues] — that was fair point. Next to him was a little picture of Calvin, so I said, “and who is this?” He said, “Calvin,” and I said, “Now what is the relation of the one to the other?” “They are both very good [laughing] theologians.” (smiling; more audience laughter)
G D: Now this was interesting that Athanasius was a big icon —well it was a gift given by a student of his who I met here in America. I had not met him for a long time. Eh, he was a theologian in Boston and his name was Angelos Philips. He spoke about him, Philippou or Philips or Philippopolis (*sp) — you know that in America all the Greeks change their names (laughs) — so he said that he was the best theologian he had met in recent years. Angelos Philips had written a thesis, a doctoral thesis, about two thousand pages — in Oxford — on Gregory of Nyssa’s doctrine of evil.
G D: Anything that Torrance mentioned to me, from then on I went to the library — I went to [the] wall to find the books that he always mentioned. And that was a great experience because I knew that whatever he was recommending was unbelievable — was excellent.
G D: Athanasius then —it was the first theologian that he pointed out to me, and then —I did, I started my doctorate with him on Saint Athanasius. I did Athanasius in Princeton with Florovsky —he sent me to Princeton, it’s a long story, some other time I’ll tell you more details, or if you ask me questions. And it happened that he [T. F. T.] was a visiting professor in 1970, in Princeton, when I graduated from Edinburgh — and English — and I came top of the class in three topics, so he showed me that in dogmatics the external examiner — you know the system in England you don’t have your professor marking your papers but an external examiner.
G D: It was Eric Mascall a great theologian from London and he wrote him a letter and said that this man George Dragas —who is he? — you should promote him to do a doctorate in dogmatics and he showed me the letter —in fact he gave me the letter, um, and he then said, “would you like to go to America there are three scholarships” and that’s how I came to America — never planned — it was all done by Divine Providence, or whatever. And he mentioned Yale, um Harvard and Princeton, and I said “I think I’ve heard Harvard, I don’t know the other places.”
And he said, “well choose one.”
G D: So I said, “Professor, if you were me, what would you choose?”
“Ah,” he said, “that’s a very good question. I would go to Princeton,” he said, (laughter) and I said, “why?”
“There’s Florosvsky there,” “Florovsky” —
G D: So I have arrived at the point of telling you that I’m very happy that last year and this year there are societies that have been created, one for Torrance and one for Florovsky. And I want to express my gratitude that this has happened and that I can be involved and pay something back to the memory of this amazing person who for me personally was my greatest teacher. I had three great teachers and the first one was an engineer, was an architect actually in the polytechnic in Greece, very well known person, personality, world-wide who restored the Acropolis and all the ancient places in Greece and left a tremendous legacy in architecture, neoclassical, neo-byzantine again he had, Dimitri (*Bequonis *?) the President of the Association of Architects throughout the world.
G D: Then it was Tom Torrance — Porteous of course was a great teacher. He [Porteous]sent me a Christmas card every year until his death and he died at the age of one hundred and four. And we communicated and I didn’t get one that year but then afterwards, a few months later I got a card from his son who was a mathematician and he said, “my late father”— I didn’t know what had happened and I didn’t get that card — “has passed away and he left me a list to notify his departure” [chuckling] to all these people and I was there so I got the card. Um, I had some wonderful professors there, and of course Tom Torrance was the one that excelled for me and became like a father to me and he still always around me. Um so I want to express my gratitude that you invited me, that you created this society or Institute [asks the audience], what’s the official name?
Fellowship [response from audience]
G D: Fellowship, wonderful. Um, and that is half of my joy, the other half is Florovsky and the two of them are my great mentors. There is a lot between Thomas Torrance and Florovsky, I have many letters because I corresponded with him I was involved with him in the International from the beginning, a founding member in the Reformed Orthodox International dialogue for eighteen years. It has not ended officially. We haven’t had a dialogue for the last three, four years — I don’t know because of changes in the World Alliance of Reformed churches, but we hope that, the Orthodox are certainly very keen on this — and it was all done —on another occasion if we have time I’ll tell you about my experiences with Tom Torrance, especially the great thing that was done, the agreement on the Holy Trinity and how it was done, because it was a text that was done originally drafted by him and myself. And, it was put to the plenary, it was discussed a little modified but it was really Tom Torrance and myself who did it and it’s a very eventful and interesting process when you have your Professor telling you what we should write and when you say “well, I might be your student but now I represent the Orthodox church.” So we have this approach and not this approach and how we ended up with this.
G D: It’s a very interesting and very important I think process of how the great man —and not only there but in other contexts too— was always and will always be — that’s what happens when you have a great teacher — he remains your teacher always. You may become a teacher, you may become important but he remains always more important than you, that’s the way we Greeks think of him and I always called him Professor Tom.
“No, I’m, Tom.”
G D: “No, you’re my Professor Tom.” (laughs; pause) and he still is.
G D: Um, why did I choose this subject? I want to do Athanasius very much but it is an overwhelming topic and a big topic — and I will. Why did I chose this topic? Because having looked at the bibliography — and I do follow up whatever is done on Torrance — I think I’m pretty informed, maybe not one hundred percent but ninety percent of everything that is done on Torrance. I think that what has been neglected and what to me is very important is what we find especially in this book Theology in Reconciliation [Holds up book]. If you read the preface, the forward, in this, this is quite extraordinary — yes christology is important, yes Trinity is important, yes the Holy Spirit pneumatology, ministry, all kinds of things — there isn’t any topic that Torrance didn’t deal with — but the one which is the most important is the Church, and his concern for the Church.
G D: The manifestation of the Church on earth, the visible manifestation which was the commandment that the Lord gave to his disciples and which was I think the, maybe the overarching — yes we may say Athanasius but why did he choose Athanasius? There is a lot in his bibliography which refers to the Church so Torrance for me created an ecclesiology for, which is critical for the Reformed tradition, the Roman Catholic, the Catholic or Roman Catholic as we say, tradition and the Orthodox tradition. His friendship with the Orthodox was precisely because of the ecclesiological overarching theme that applies to Orthodox theology — all theology is Church theology.
G D: It isn’t just an individual thinking reflecting, pondering um interpreting but it is the church that receives and manifests in history, um — yes to manifest the church in history. In other words, the extension if you like of the incarnation, of the miracle of the Incarnation, which is the mission of the Church because without the mission of the Church, in humanity — in history — then we cannot fully understand the Incarnation.
G D: Christ is for us — and not only for us, for the whole world — Christ when he became human being, in his flesh the Fathers say, he included all human beings from Adam to the last human being. There isn’t anybody who’s is left out of the humanity of Christ, not because the humanity is an ideal Platonic universal, as some of the great theologians, historians of dogmas say, but because he is the one who has created all human beings. He’s the very image after whom we have been made according to his image and we have been made in what is the most crucial aspect of our existence which is our inner man, the inner man or ezo’anthropos (*sp?) as St Paul says, to use a Pauline term — our soul. In Athanasius and in the great Cappadochian Fathers — Gregory Nazianzen that he likes in particular, Torrance, and refers to him — the soul of a human being or the ensouling of the embryo is done by, as a new act, a continuous act, of the Lord.
G D: That has all kinds of implications for um, Original Sin and what is the human being and so on and so forth. The Fathers of the Church, the early Fathers, the Eastern Fathers —you won’t call them Orthodox they are the universal Fathers of the one Church undivided in the beginning — they all almost were unanimous about the soul being created by God so — the body too, all the processes in creation — are not independent of God. In Torrance’s way of putting it, this is the theistic context of cosmology and of creation. And that involves — God did not create and leave the world to live on it’s own but he sustained it through Divine Providence.
G D: The world is an open continuum, not a closed continuum. You know all about his cosmology and against the Newtonian universe and modern physics which is opened again; the Einstein and modern relativity theory and all this. Having done engineering and science I appreciated especially that aspect of Torrance which made him not only theologian of the fathers, not only a theologian of the Reformers but the theologian of our time. That’s why I chose this and it is this perspective of Torrance — which is very wide— that is actually ecclesiologically established and it is critical ecclesiology because ecclesiology is not determined and that is what as an Orthodox I fully understand. We do not make up the church, the Church is made the Body of Christ, the very Body, the Incarnation, the Church is the act of God in creating the world and man, in sustaining creation and man, the Church is the true image of creation which is revealed, of course, by the saints who participate, who receive it and manifest it.
G D: So that is exactly the objective basis of ecclesiology which includes of course the manifestation of the Church or the recapitulation of the work of the Church — is in Incarnation. There is that very important dimension in Torrance which you find in many of his writings and of course some monographs, eschatology — the eschatological context. With the Incarnation we have recapitulation of all that God has done in creation, a new chapter begins — that is redemption. That’s why I like the two volumes that Jamie Walker [Robert T. Walker] has edited and these were providential[ly], he [Torrance] was assigned these topics when he started lecturing — if you read again his biography and what he did as an academic, he wasn’t allowed to deal with the Trinity. If you read the McGrath book — and you should really if you are a Torrance fan and you want to get to know, and you belong to the Society, then you must read that biography. It’s a very good excellent work. I’ve read several times and I, it makes a lot of sense to me because I talked many times with him and we kept up relations, right up to the time when I came here and afterwards.
G D: He came to America after I came to America eighteen years ago [speaking in 2012] and we went to some of the colleges in the area, in the Boston area — and he introduced me there — and he said, “you must have discussions and relations:” Gordon-Cornwell and some other colleges — I’m sure you are familiar with these— so eschatology, this is the atonement, begins with Incarnation. In patristic language this is the final manifestation and revelation of God, we don’t expect anything else, it’s all given now in Christ. That is the pinnacle of BC and AD, of all time and space and creation. We are, that is the Alpha in the middle time, between what went before, from the beginning and returning to the Omega. There are many important things here in the Fathers and all that is captured by Torrance, but because he speaks as a Reformed, as language of the reformed — he speaks the language of the Fathers that he is excited with and has studied intensely —and he speaks the language of modern science— it all comes to us in a Torrancian synthesis.
G D: Florovsky was speaking about neo-patristic synthesis. Torrance actually did it and in the heart of the synthesis is the act of God in creation and redemption., That is what brings Barth into the same perspective for Torrance, because you know, Barth’s great Dogmatic[s] really goes around these two things, creation, redemption. These are the two chapters of the whole theology and these are the foundations of the Church, in other words, how God who called everything out of nothing and created all things, now he calls them again, out of alienation. They return to nothing which sin brought to humanity and to which God put a stop through death. So he came the one — I mean the Fathers of the Church say that God —and Torrance of course says the same thing in many places, you can see the patristic doctrine how it is wedded with the Reformed and to some extent what is stronger and more explicit in the one, he weds this, he joins it, to the reformed theology and some of the reformed concerns which are very important, on the Gospel, on Christ, they all acquired a new significance and importance the way he synthesises them.
G D: Now historians and modern scholars who look more to the detail and to the word, cannot understand the synthesis that Tom Torrance has produced. That’s the same way that academics — I’ve been now an academic for forty years and I know how academics — I am an academic and I’m not academic — I do not like a lot of the academic methodology which is historico-critical and they pay lip-service to the theology, to the act of God and to the act of God which comes to us in our inadequacies. Now this is where Torrance is most powerful when he challenges, through the early Church and the synthesis of the Fathers, because he found the masters who were persecuted — all these Fathers had a very hard time — Athanasius at one point as you know the phrase, is ‘Athanasius Contra Mundum’, ‘Athanasius against the world.’
G D: Somehow when I was a student at New College I thought it was Torrance against all the others. (laughing) He was, wasn’t it (smiling and raising arm), he was T. F. T, is he the only theologian here? (smiles) That is what I heard and I remember his rival, so to speak, or the head of the opposition which was the successor to John Baillie, um, John McIntyre who was also my professor — who was a very able man — but he had a very different approach — the academic approach to some extent. He was a good theologian too and he wrote on some topics — if Torrance wrote a book on Athanasius he wrote a book on Athanasius. I have his books also, and that sharpened my perspective and of course I had that advantage of reading Athanasius himself and trying to see who says what. Is it Torrance who is right? Or is it McIntyre who is right?
G D: I remember on the Holy Spirit, both of them wrote very profound books on this and on christology and on other things — christology and history — McIntyre did. It all comes to show how great Torrance was. I remember when McIntyre was very sick in hospital and Tom Torrance was the first to go and stand there next to him and pray and he phoned me up and told me about it. Now he did the same with many other people — with one of his early students who did a thesis on Cyril of Alexandria in which I typed as a student because I wanted to learn what is a doctorate, he, there was a lot of Greek [people]. This Greek he already was a Doctor in Greece, under the Professor of Dogmatics in Athens and had been sent to Torrance, two people, he did two doctorates to qualify for succeeding the great Professor of Dogmatics who dominated Greek Orthodox theology.
G D: His name was Constantine Dratsellus, I was in my years as a theology student, a B D student and he was doing a doctorate on Cyril’s soteriology. Torrance had a lot of students. If you want to find out the connections of Torrance with Athanasius you find all the theses, you have to look at all the theses written under him on Athanasius and Cyril — and I was one of them as well. So I haven’t been able to trace them all but I know the most important ones which were done and which are important. So, Dratsellas did not become a professor in Athens eventually, because he had a tumour, he had a disease that could not be cured. Torrance did everything for him, took him to the best doctors as if he was his son. He was treated in Scotland. He had tumour in his brain which would grow, they would remove it and it would grow again eventually. When he was dying Tom Torrance went to Athens, to the hospital, stayed by him until he died and he was praying — he told me all about it — and Dratsellus died by saying to him “I’m ready I want to see St Cyril. (relief laughter) I’m looking forward,” he couldn’t talk because the tumour had made his voice almost disappear and he was whispering to him and he told me his last words were, “I am ready to see St. Cyril” [smiles] he was more or less smiling and Torrance said, “I was envious George” — [smiles] he was going to meet Cyril.
G D: Um so, the man was amazing. He was not just academic, was not just scholarly, was very human, very, um, I have countless examples that’s why I, I think I love him very much out of all my professors, most. And that’s why I am grateful for this Society, for this Fellowship, and it is something that I believe will bring a great blessing to — bring out what the Lord gave — to the universal Church, this is why I chose this subject. The Church understood from a centre in Christ in God in his action in history from salvation history, because the Church is not determined by us, we are in-grafted into the Church, the Body of Christ.
G D: I think if we collect all the essays and what he has said about the Church you would be amazed. The ecumenical movement would have been different if they had listened to Florovsky and to Torrance who were together, and that’s how they came to know each other, and this is the relation really between Reformed and Orthodoxy, Reformed tradition and Orthodoxy, Torrance and Florovsky. It’s persons who do these things, not ideas, ideas do not clash. Florovsky said in Princeton in the first lecture, “if you think that ideas exist and float in history and they fight with each other as if the one is a thesis and the other an antithesis and then they produce a synthesis and the we go on and on and. You know who is behind this? Hegelianism. “Then you have nothing to learn from me or Gregory of Nyssa, please depart” said to his students (laughter).
G D: Now Torrance was the same because Torrance was not fixed on ideas, Torrance’s theology is not on the doctrine of the Trinity as such but is on God, is the experience of God, on Christ, on the Grace of the Lord and that, this personal experience.
G D: I remember the fights we had over the text when he was speaking about ousia and hypostasis. And he was was producing new words and he was putting there and I said “I can’t translate this into Greek. If I put into Greek — our common statement on the Trinity — he was thinking about hypostatic ousia, hypostatic(?*) ousia. I said “hypostastic essence,” the Father’s make a distinction between ousia which refers to the unity of the Trinity, and hypostases which refers to the person. Now to talk about “personal essence” or being, personal being or “essential hypostasis person” is to mix the two, professor. “This term is not patristic. “It’s Torrancian” I said but not patristic [audience laughter] “but I know what you mean” (laughs).
He said “I’ m glad you know what I mean,”
G D: I said, “yes” because we know through the person — personal energy for instance, you will find it there in his trinitarian theology. How do you put it in Greek? The only way to argue with him was to translate into — I remember he expected me early in the morning, I went, I was a Priest in Glasgow, so I drove from Durham through Edinburgh to Glasgow, and then he would say “on your way back to Durham stop with me on Sunday, spend the night here and Monday morning we’ll do some work and then you go back to Durham.” “OK.” He already had all the text ready for me. The man was working like nobody. I’m afraid I have taken a lot from him in that way. And eh, I couldn’t argue with him because he said, “I’ve done it George, it’s all ready. Just have a look and we’ll agree.”(laugh)
G D: I said well (lots of laughter) so I had to produce my own. On one occasion I was so desperate so I wrote my own formulation on the same thing and took it to him. So I said, “I haven’t got a lot of time, but I have done the Orthodox statement you can look at the two. Next time we meet we’ll discuss the two together and see where we go.”
G D: Before you knew it, in two days I received a text, he had done it. He had put the two together, he wedded them, he produced the concordance of the two, but it was blended in such a way that the one disappeared and the other was there (loud laughter) This was Tom. He had a passion for this and the passion I believe was that he believed that we must succeed, that we must bring the Christian’s together, that the Church, the name of the Church is called out of alienation from God into the newness of life in Christ. Now it’s this kind of objectivity and realism that people were criticising, that a, criticising him, “he’s a realist.” The opposite idea, and I don’t want to mention names, all kinds of people there in Edinburgh who would take the opposition was, “he knows it all and that it is all real to him but only to him.”
G D: “Nobody has this reality,” I said, “well it’s the reality of Christ, you either acknowledge it and submit to it or you don’t. And then you don’t know it” (laughs), it was this kind of argument that was going on and on.
G D: Now I do urge you to look at this book Theology and Reconciliation (holds up the book). Let me read you just a little bit in the beginning just to give you a taste of what he, I, mean by the ecclesiological context of Torrances’s theology, what I might call of the ecumenical, patristic, Reformed, and so on. What is patristic? What is Reformed? Where does he get the materials to build up his vision which is I think is a real vision out of deep faith and I could give you a lot of stories which reveal that depth of understanding of Christ and his Grace um, which is beyond Reformed, beyond all of them and includes what is best in every tradition.
G D: (reads from book) “Any theology” — listen to this — “which is faithful to the Church of Jesus Christ” only this phrase, the phraseology is like, that’s what I like in the Fathers that it is not me and my thought, it’s not my self-expression or my theology, it’s not my construction, it’s what we have received from the apostles. “What we have received from God. The Church of Jesus Christ within which it takes place, any theology which is faithful to the Church”—Church theology— all theology is Church theology — “of Jesus Christ within which it takes place cannot be a theology of reconciliation” OK? “For reconciliation cannot be, sorry (corrects himself) cannot but be a theology of reconciliation for reconciliation belongs to the essential nature and mission of the Church in the world.” That’s his passion. He has passion for Orthodoxy — is he Reformed? Well he’s interested in the Fathers — Calvin is a little picture there, Athanasius a huge picture. Is he Reformed? Is he evangelical? Does he believe in the Gospel? Oh yeah, of course he believes in the Gospel but, it’s the Church, because you can’t separate Christ from the Church and the christology is done within the Church, the Body of Christ.
G D: So here it is, “by taking it’s rise from God’s mighty acts in reconciling the world to himself in Christ, the Church is constituted” quote, “a community of the reconciled.” Now if you look at Christianity today here in America there are so many groups, they are not possibly rivals but they are not really what he says here, a community of the reconciled. That’s why our voice, the voice of Christianity is weak, very weak. There are all kinds of secular unities all around us that we cannot challenge, Christians that is. I think that’s the passion of Tom Torrance and that is the significance of ecclesiology which springs out of his deep sense and understanding of the mighty acts of God. It says here “by taking it’s rise from God’s might act in reconciling the world to himself in Christ, the Church is constituted a community of the reconciled and in being sent by Christ into the world to proclaim what God has done in him. The Church is constituted a reconciling as well as reconciled community.” That’s the manifestation of it. That’s what catholicity is all about and ecumenicity is all about. That nobody is excluded, that this is the anguish of the church, the Apostles were sent to call all people to Christ.
G D: (Reads from book) “The task of theology is made more difficult however by the fact that although the Church has been sent into the divided world in the service of reconciliation it has allowed the divisions of the world to penetrate back” —listen to this — “into itself so that it’s own unity in mind and body has been damaged. And it’s mission of reconciliation in the world has been seriously impaired.” That’s a critical, this is real critical, criticism, not criticism based on words like the Pharisees played with the words and a lot of modern scholarship that deal with this meaning and that meaning and all kinds of hypotheses.
G D: (reading again) “and it’s mission of reconciliation in the world has been seriously impaired. It is incumbent upon theology therefore to finding ways of overcoming disunity within the Church as part of its service to reconciliation in the world, but also to come to grips with the divisive forms of thought and life in human society where ever the Church is planted and takes root so that the children of God everywhere may share in the unity of the creation restored in the Incarnation of the Word, and the community of the reconciled in the Church may become identical with all mankind.”
G D: From the many to the one, I remember a book recommended by Florovsky at Princeton by a classical scholar Atkins. What was the cry of the ancient world? That the world was many pieces — pluralism and entrenched in pluralism as it is today. Individualism, pluralism, and all kinds of things. How do we unify? Let everybody do what ever they like, that’s permissive society. That’s society that doesn’t actually stand up to reason at all, because then reason is submitted to or subdue to an arbitrary will but according to the Fathers of the Church, the real will is the one which is coordinated with the logic of nature, with the rationality of nature. All these things he says about rationality — Tom Torrance — is patristic, is the best of theology of the ancient church, the rationality embedded in creation by God, the creator. The world is not irrational if it was irrational it would fall apart. God has put rationality in everything and nature really reveals the act of God.
G D: Athanasius says there are three ways of understanding God, look inside you because our true DNA is not in the flesh, it’s not, even if we do cloning and produce the same body, the soul will not be the same. Sometimes I tell my students what you think about cloning? And ah, should it be or should it be, should it not be we interfere with creation? — we do, but we have been allowed by God to do all kinds of things in creation. He allows us and we reap the consequences. If the soul is the creation of the ensouling of the embryo is truly the act of God, then we can’t clone souls. The true DNA is found in the Lord himself who sees everybody in the womb of his mother as the saints acknowledge and tell us. There are all these, um —
G D: (reads) — “The church is planted and takes root so that the children of God everywhere may share in the unity of the creation restored in the incarnation of the Word and the community of the reconciled and the Church may become identical with all mankind. Christian theology is thus inescapably evangelical, that’s the good news of the act of God, and ecumenical.” In other words you can’t exclude anybody. You can’t say this is the way I see it, this is the way you see it, this is the way everybody sees it. No! From the many to the one, that has been achieved in the one. The ancient world cried for unity and the unity was given when the Lord became man. That’s the Incarnation and that’s the Church, the Body of Christ is the true face of the world and of creation. And that’s what is happening between the first coming and the second we have the eschaton, the growth, the extension of the incarnation which is not a grace imposed on us but a free grace.
G D: I remember reading the first essays on predestination in the first volume — the first two issues I think or the second — the first volume of the Scottish Journal of Theology by J. K. S. Reid. I don’t know whether anybody has read this? — you probably knew this other great man in Scotland who was a friend of Tom Torrance, and I came to know him. He died prematurely but there was something about Calvin and predestination if I remember well, and the one was Calvinos predestinatus (*sp Latin?) and Calvinus ecumenicus (*sp Latin?), there was this play between, is Calvin — the real Calvin — the Calvin of predestination when God chooses some to save and others, or is Calvin the one who choses all but Grace is not imposed on people? — freely given, freely received. And that’s the tragic thing — what Torrance called the inconsistency — because you can’t put them on the same level, being and non-being. God and evil, they’re not on the same level, so you can’t make a rational account sequence in talking about these two things because they are completely, they are different. The one exists, the other doesn’t. Evil doesn’t exist, it’s against existence — it’s primitive, it’s privation of existence, or not allowing existence to take it’s course to where God leads it to.
G D: And so God comes back takes creation— that’s another big problem that I discuss many times with Torrance — what was the humanity of Christ? You know Barth said that it was fallen humanity that the Lord took up. That’s a big issue in Barth from [for] Orthodox theologians but Torrance also defended the same, and the only way that I, one day I reduced him to — because he has always arguing about it — and one day I said I found the solution, and you can’t go against this one Professor (pointing). He said, “what is this?” You know that his other great professor who was his mentor —because this is mentioned — was Mackintosh [H. R. Mackintosh]. Mackintosh did a very important book on Christology, which of course he has also edited, re-edited, a book, a small book by Mackintosh on Christology — I don’t know if you have see this one? —Torrance. Torrance’s edition of a little book on Christology by Mackintosh [The Person of Jesus Christ T & T Clark 2000 ]. But there is one, a big one, on the history of the Doctrine of the Person of Christ from the beginning with the New Testament, with the Old Testament background, with the Fathers etc, the Reformers up to the time, 19th Century and so on.
G D: Now, Mackintosh in that book, um, this series, the old series on doctrine by T and T Clark you probably, they’ve probably been reprinted here — in America everything of these great classics are reprinted. It has a long appendix on the sinlessness of Christ (makes a face), and the unfallenness of his humanity. Now I brought this to Torrance and I read it [to] him, he was listening (smiling). He listened right through because it was Mackintosh, not me talking about it (laughs), and he was reduced to silence.
G D: And I said, “now this is the patristic view,” it isn’t that he took some other humanity — and the whole idea of taking humanity from the Virgin is a sign, because the Virgin there is not, just a Virgin which makes him, which is the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church — the immaculate conception, which the Orthodox do not accept. It isn’t Mary that makes him immaculate, it’s him who makes her immaculate because God himself takes humanity from her. And she’s sanctified immediately, so the doctrine of salvation and recapitulation begins from the Incarnation — that’s the whole point, that you can’t separate Incarnation from the Atonement, from the death on the cross. So the Virgin birth and the empty tomb, the resurrection, they are the two mysteries that give you the whole perspective of christology from beginning to end.
G D: That is what Mackintosh actually brings out, and he brings out in this appendix he discusses the very point, so you can’t talk about fallen humanity. What I think the solution is — now that I haven’t got Tom Torrance to tell him where I have arrived with this question — that it’s us who are fallen humanity. Because in becoming human and in becoming true human without sin, he’s united with all of us. All the Fathers just to mention the most conspicuous phrase on this is John Chrysostom who says when he took flesh from the Virgin it was the flesh of all humanity. In other words, we are all interrelated because we all come from one another. Athanasius says humanity is multiplied because the body, the bodies in dimensions, so it is multiplied. But it is the human body, you can’t, human flesh is multiplied. The human spirit is something different which is implanted in the body. So when he became a human being he was immediately interrelated with all, and because he was the one who created all souls, he was the head of all, he was the new Adam. He was second, because he took flesh, the biological aspect from us, but he was the head of Adam as well. He took Adam to himself, as God, as God become man, he takes the whole of Adam — because he created Adam and all his ancestry and all his progeny. So, all humanity is included in the humanity of Christ. That means that each one of us is related to all other human beings. That is why the work of Christ is not just for the individual — we’re not individuals we are interrelated — we are members of the same vine, of the same body. The believers and unbelievers will rise again in the judgement seat of Christ in the end but we all have to give an account because grace is not imposed but freely given and freely received.
G D: There are all kinds of things here that Torrance actually brings out. This is what he talks about — if I had the time, just the prologue, read the prologue only, but read it and study, paying attention to it and see what is the key to it all, to the prologue. The prologue says it all. Um, look, what he says about the Fathers here (reads book). “The very relevance of that classical theology for our own scientific world reinforces it’s claim to constitute the ground upon which ancient and modern thought, Eastern and Western, Orthodox, Roman Catholic and evangelical theology can come together and work out fundamental agreement” — that’s Torrance doing it (smiles) — “as they seek together to re-think and re-formulate the essential dogmas,” the essential dogmas, “of the Christian Church in the mode and idiom of our own day and yet in basic continuity with the foundations of theology in the ancient, undivided Church.” This is an extraordinary formulation.
G D: I haven’t seen anybody speak in this kind of language, anywhere. Florovsky comes very close to this and he asks for neo-patristic synthesis, but Torrance has given it. You know that, when I went to Princeton, I said “can I go and see Florovsky and tell him that you send me?”
“Yes, of course you will go.”
I said, “what does Florovsky mean to you professor?”
He said, “if anybody disagrees with me I usually understand that he doesn’t understand me, but if Florovsky disagrees with me, then I have to go and think again, twice.”
G D: I went to Florovsky and I said — Torrance sent me to him — and when I told him that I’m Greek, I came from Edin’, from Edinburgh (Florovsky), I said, “from Tom Torrance,”
“Awgh,” he said, “Torrance, we must listen to him.”
G D: I will never forget this (holds up his hand). These little moments for me are very important because I was, I learnt a lot more with things like this. Ah, experience say of persons, the personal element and whole posture and way of thinking and manner of expression.
G D: Now, both of them were very able in expressing themselves on paper. Many of the ancient Fathers say that when you write your thought, you reduce it, because whoever, if you communicate it through the written word, that is minimised. It is compromised because you’re not there to correct yourself and to discuss. But if you are there and you clarify and discuss that’s very different. That’s why Origen, for instance, never wrote anything. It was all done by Chrysostom, the great Chrysostom. Didn’t write. All of his sermons, they were all spoken live and there were people who wrote them down, and then he went over them. And some of them, there is one in particular that I like, this is the Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles. If you really want to see what I am saying here about the Church being Christ and the Church, and the anguish, how to fulfil the mission of the church to unite people, rather than prove that I am right and you are wrong, that unfortunately has happened, um, read the commentary, especially the first sermons of John Chrysostom, on the Acts of the Apostles.
G D: Now all the scholars say that this is the worst commentary because he did it in anxiety(* ?) in Constantinople before he was exiled and died as a martyr — John Chrysostom. But, in other words, he had no time to correct the Greek and it’s rough — but what comes out rough from his mouth is so much alive, so powerful and the thought is so unbelievable, what he says there is that the Church does greater things than Christ, or Christ does greater things through the Church. He’s not doing anything because we’re divided today in the world. Because we’re not letting the church, which is his body, really do it. And then he explains that the Gospel has two sides. The Gospel of Luke is the Gospel, the Acts of Luke of the Apostles is the other side of the gospel, the Church, the gospel of the Church actually he called the it the gospel of the Spirit because the Spirit came and the Spirit will lead you and do greater things than I did, said to the apostles. He takes this point and says that the Church continues the work of Christ. It is Christ who does it through the Spirit, the Paraclete. So this is the appropriation of the mighty acts of reconciliation of Christ and the sanctification of human beings.
G D: Chrysotom’s Commentary is unbelievable, but what Chrysostom says there exegetically, Tom Torrance says it here theologically when he talks about the Holy Spirit, “come Creator Spirit”, to renew the world, this is the prayer of the Church. What we mean by spirituality — Orthodox spirituality — without the Holy Spirit acting in us, is nothing. It’s not a kind of mystical transcendental meditation — and I remember Torrance criticising all kinds of things like this. There was a student who had been a student of Dalai Lama, and had come to study — an American — and he did a doctorate on one of the mystical theologians, under Ronald Walls.
G D: Now you know who Ronald Walls was, his assistant in patristics. Another very interesting person, very interesting person, who died recently. I don’t know if you heard? I heard and ah, I liked him very much, and whenever he said something he said “I’ll say it in a low voice,” because Tom was upstairs “he will hear” (laughter starts) And one day he said something and there was something happened, and we heard a bang, and then, ‘it’s Tom, I told you he heard’ (laughter).
G D: Um, yes, sorry, I was intended to do something else (looks at wrist-watch) and I know that if you give me, the more time you give me, I’m going to continue saying things in a lively manner. Um this book (holds up book), I only gave you a foretaste, a very little taste from the forward. (leafs through book) You must read the whole forward which is a summary, a very well formulated, perfectly formulated summary, of the whole book. It has one of the most important essays on Athanasius. Athanasius, a Study in the Foundations of Classical theology. It has, On Cyril the Mind of Christ in Worship the Problem of Apollinarianism in the Liturgy.
G D: I remember I had done something on this and he said, “can I quote you,” I said, “what are you asking me? to quote me? No, just quote me, just put the thing in.”
G D: “No no, I want to quote you.” You know that he dedicated the book on the hermeneutics of the Fathers to me and my wife? — which is, was unbelievable. He sent me the first copy, signed — there. So what, the Paschal ministry of Christ in the Eucharist, it has Baptism and Eucharist, that’s another one because what he says about baptism and Eucharist, he was involved with the Roman Catholics on the Reformed Eucharist — on the Eucharist — and on baptism also he did the famous baptist — I have the collection of the documents that he did — he bound them together — gave me a copy. He was the head of the Doctrine Commission of the Church of Scotland on Baptism and on the Eucharist and on several other things. These are all ecclesiological matters and it was Reformed theology with Roman Catholic theology or with the other theologies — extraordinary things that he has done there.
G D: Um, I don’t think that in any other church we had things like that, or how he sorted out, I mean, he has actually given the way of reconciling the ministries or ministry. There are different names but the structures of the Reformed Churches, the Episcopal churches and the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, they’re very similar. They have differentiations but that’s exactly what he wanted, what he was after, theology and reconstruction was theology in the church reconstructed. Getting rid of, and re-uniting the Church. Torrance was an ecumenical theologian and this is where we failed in the twentieth century we, they started, they were pioneers and if you read the first, he was involved in the beginning, of Faith and Order and the World Council of Churches, with Florovsky.
G D: I think this is very important to explore how much the one gave to the other. There is a connection, very clear connection between the two because both of them told me about the other —that this is very important to listen to Torrance. And not only Florovsky but all the Orthodox listened to Torrance and sent many people to study with him. The only Reformed theologian that they would trust and go to because they saw this realism and this charisma — it’s a gift I think of God who raises great theologians in every situation to manifest the truth and to challenge the people with the truth. I think that’s how I see Tom Torrance.
G D: He told me in the end that the whole Reformed movement — I said “is the Church of Scotland a church in the same way as the Orthodox Church?”
He said, “no, in the end,”
G D: I said, “what do you mean? What is it then?”
“It’s a prophetic movement within the Church.”
G D: “You can’t identify the institution of the Church of Scotland” I said “you’re forcing me to say the same about the Orthodox Church” because we defined the Orthodox Church in terms of the doctrine of the Incarnation, the truth, but when you look at us we are all inadequate, we have all kinds of problems, ah “so, we’re movement also within the church” [laughter] but who is the movement, what is the movement? What is the criterion of the Church? I think that is the significance of Torrance. Torrance is a prophet, a great prophet who has actually looked in all the tradition[s] and produced a synthesis that is needed by the church today. It’s kind of opening up a new fire to enlighten the Christians who have been divided and therefore they’re atrophic. They can not challenge the world, as he says in the second essay which is the longest and the most important — listen to this, title: [reads]
G D: Ecumenism, a reappraisal of it’s significance, past, present, and future. Number one, ecumenicity and catholicity — it’s unbelievable what he says here. The formulations you will not find anywhere else um — that’s why all Orthodox, Catholics, some of the works, I remember when Space Time and Incarnation came out he showed me — one of the Roman Catholic magazines said, “this is the classic of the twentieth century.” It was written “this is the classic” —and I understand why because it was all based on the Fathers. Then I came up and said “well that’s what Chrysostom says”, exactly what you said.
G D: I gave him all kinds of topics about relativity of space and time — relativity theory based on the principles of the incarnation and understanding of the incarnation which Tom Torrance brought out from Athanasius and the Cappadochians, in which physicists understood only in the time by Einstein. So he made this connection, they thought he was crazy, reading things into all kinds of, you know, science and theology. No! there was no apology here. It was just straight realism, theological presuppositions lead us to the same conclusions as true scientific results.
G D: Torrances’s idea —I mean that’s the other dimension of the modern world and science, modern science and physics especially and the realism that emerges from the new categories that arose which are not rigid and closed, but they are theistic as it is in the scriptures and the Fathers. That goes hand in hand with theology, the theology of the Incarnation. We can’t explain the mystery of Christ. So if the one who cannot be contained enters into the world, the world is not a container — it is an open continuum, it’s related to, so it’s relative — immediately you draw this conclusion — and that’s exactly what the Fathers say, and that’s what the prophets say also, because the Fathers look to the prophets and they take it from there. That’s the significance of Torrance in articulating this. This is the greatest part of this book, Ecumenism a Reappraisal. He has, he’s in dialogue with everything here.
G D: I had already noted this, I had two essays — that’s what I was intending to give but I didn’t — I will submit this as a paper when —I was asked by my Archbishop who was one of his friends — the one who ordained me from Ethiopia — I came London and on two occasions because I collaborated with him in the publication of the Ekklesiastikos Pharos of Alexandria, a magazine that produced by the Patriarch of Alexandria, Athanasius’s see. So em, he asked me to write one when he became a moderator, what do I think of Torrance? And so I wrote an article “The significance for the Church — that was the title given to me by the archbishop.
G D: I said “are you sure you want me to write this? Which Church?”
“The church” he said,
G D: I said, “which church?”
“The church, there is only one” said the Archbishop. Now when you read these things here (holds up book), yes there is only one, now what you make of us? Nothing, we’re nothing compared to the one Church —who defines in that light? — if you read the essays of Torrance you’d be amazed, that the backbone of all his theology is the Church, the Body of Christ and he’s a spokesman of the Church. That’s what makes him a theologian for our times.
G D: That’s the thesis that I wanted to present and I already have it here and I (holds up paper) — because we changed all the carpets in the houses, there’s a big domestic turmoil and I lost all my notes and I have too many notes, just as he had a lot of notes, I discovered my big file with all the correspondence with him and I was amazed as I was looking to find my notes that I had delineated the structure of this long essay (holds up book). Em, and I have it here (holds up paper) in this, The Significance for the Church for Professor Torrance’s election as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
G D: Now this is an Orthodox Archbishop in Britain who asked me to do this (showing paper) — that he became moderator of the Church of Scotland that is significant for the Church.
G D: I said “which Church?”
The Church —
G D: — meaning the one Holy Catholic Church — and of course I think I stood up to the challenge — I was reading it and said did I write this, because this was in ‘76, right? And it reads very well and I end up with this essay here (holds up book), Theology in Reconciliation and I say that’s exactly what Torrance is saying in the whole book.
G D: Now that I have read it again and I’m much more mature, older with white hair, now it makes a lot more sense to me and this is what excited me in —I was thinking all these days as I was —especially yesterday we had the visitation of the synod and I just couldn’t get my things together — we had all the Metropolitan’s and the Archbishop investigating the school and raising critical questions so I lost most of my day, then I had three hours of teaching, I just didn’t have time as many professors would know and I appreciate that — so I have here (browsing his paper) some, extraordinary, man and his work, the moderator.
G D: Now I have something here based on the Bishop’s report that he did for the Church of Scotland. How he understood what a moderator is — is not a moderator of the Church of Scotland, he’s the Moderator of the General Assembly. Now why is, who is the Moderator of the Church of Scotland? The Lord himself. That’s the whole point and I, I make this and I said, “Archbishop are you the moderator?”
G D: “Are you the Archbishop, the bishop over the church?”
“No I’m not a pope” he said.
G D: The Lord is the one and you may know, some of you may know that such was the relation of my Archbishop to Professor Torrance, that first of all you know that he was given the title Protopresbytr is not only a title, it’s an office. The highest office to a priest was given by the Partiarch Alexandria when as Moderator, (looking at paper) and that’s what I say here em, — I don’t know how much more time you give me, I should stop yes?
G D: I’ll put these, because I’ll wed the two articles the one was when he became a Moderator and the other is on his eightieth birthday, that was the greatest moment for me and Torrance because I remember when I first went to Scotland I was lost, within two weeks I wrote a letter to my parents, and said forgive me for I’m going to say this, “these people here they’re barbarians they don’t know what a human being is” — I just couldn’t because I was asked to wash the dishes by the matron, a Greek boy wash the dishes in those days in the sixties in those days it was the abomination of desolation (laughing) and the matron said, the second day I arrived there, “George you wash the dishes it’s your turn”
G D: I said I’ve just arrived
“You wash the dishes”,
GD: Me? No,
G D: “I’m a Greek man” I said, (laughing) um, I’m a man, I’m a Greek man, no please with her. I learned and then I say how could I possibly do — it was the cultural shock from one situation to another. I did wash the dishes with my mother, I washed the house and they were saying I was better than a girl, than a daughter. She didn’t have daughters but the sons were both better than daughters, anyhow —
G D: The second one is on his eightieth birthday and I was a professor in Durham and I was chosen to be the first speaker of this amazing conference, I mean, event um with one hundred people being there. Academics, where you there (points in the audience)? You remember? I wrote and article (holds up article) and recorded everything that happened what I said and what the other two speakers including Fergusson (David Fergusson), all of them brought out amazing things — I couldn’t believe that I wrote this article, so I am going to put the two together. And it does actually — it’s a programmatic thing on this (holds up book) on the great article [the ecumenism chapter] and I’ll find my notes — I have a lot to do now, with Torrance Society I mean the Fellowship — and I have designed and found many other things, not only Athanasius but Athanasius and Barth, what is the connection and etc etc.
G D: Forgive me for speaking in this manner and not actually reading [to] you — my wife prohibits me from reading lectures so I don’t actually read them she says you’re nothing when you read things (laughs), you’re much better when you speak openly — and well every human being has his own or her own ways of communicating and it seems that my students also like me to speak openly and not to read lectures and I never do. Um. Thank you very much for your attendance. [clapping]
Questioner: Father George you mentioned that citation of [H. R.] Mackintosh with an appendix at the end. Can you give me the work citation again? — I missed [it].
G D: Well it’s the history, the history of the doctrine of the Person of Christ it’s this classic volume [‘The Doctrine of the Person of Christ?’ First pub. 1912] which he did and in the back of the volume there is an appendix on the sinlessness of Christ —which is sinlessness and unfallenness, it’s the same thing. So that was a very, and the argument was, he discusses those who object and say that if he had not taken our sickness and our sinful humanity how would he know? — he doesn’t know what sin is all about (chuckles) , and he argues, and he says actually that the passion of Christ was the greatest of all passions precisely because he was sinless.
G D: So the sinless one or the righteous one feels the attack of sin, and by being with us — that’s what he suffered everyday. Just as the saints are crucified as Paul says, I’m crucified in the name, for Christ’s sake, all the time. Imagine what the crucifixion of God as man would have been. There was somebody who was telling me that — eh, I think it was Nick my student — or was it you? — somebody who said, that there was an argument with some Jewish person that what did Christ suffer? — the suffering of Christ is nothing compared to the Holocaust of Israel. And I said, well, what is the answer to that? It’s the suffering of God.
G D: What is the greatest crime? —to kill the whole humanity or to kill the Creator of all humanity? To put to death God — you’re not putting there to death a human being, and you’re putting there the righteous one who came to destroy death through this righteousness — as man — our righteousness, to restore — so what is the greatest crime? If you don’t understand the person of Christ then you don’t understand the significance of the cross and the victory of the cross for the whole humanity and the whole world, but that is precisely what constitutes the church, that is the mighty act of God in Incarnation, in the humiliation of God, of the Creator and not only humiliation, going to the cross, to the every end, Atonement. We didn’t talk about Atonement in the [lecture].
Questioner: You seemed to emphasize the moniaf (*indeciph. ?) of God, the enhypostasia(*sp?) over and over again, should we not as much emphasize the enhypostasia and the vicarious humanity of Christ as much as the (*moniev? ) of God? So often Christus Victor (*? indecip) simply emphasize moniev (*? indecipherable) of God (* indecipherable) Torrance.
G D: Yes now anhypostasia, enhypostasia(*? sp) I remember we discussed this many times with Torrance. I wasn’t very happy with this — the anhpyostasia (* sp) — because I have written in my own research on Athanasius — and we discussed this up to a point but we never had a full opportunity to produce with him all my, I sent him my essays. Um, the mystery of the person of Christ in Athanasius already appears in the De Incarnatione but nobody has understood it. I remember Maurice Wiles [Professor of Divinity, Oxford University] coming to Durham and criticising the Orthodox enhypostasia(*an-? sp), en-hypostatic(*sp) or the hypostatic union of the two natures, saying that this is docetic. All Orthodox is docetic because they don’t accept the human person in Christ, so it’s anhypostatic (*sp), the human anhypostasia and I got up and said “excuse me, that’s not the Orthodox view.”
G D: Athanasius says that the hypostasis, the divine hypostasis became also human. So the humanity’s hypostatic, enhypostatic in the hypostasis of the Son who became human, the hypostasis becomes, the ousia doesn’t — that’s a very important point. I have, in essay, twenty, twenty-five quotations from Athanasius that it was not the ousia but hypostasis that become egeneto anthropos — that refers to the hypostasis becoming human. In the fifth, sixth ecumenical synod [Council] and John of Damascus, also Maximus the Confessor, Sophronius of Jerusalem, they all speak of a composite hypostasis, in other words there is a human person — but the human person in the Divine — there is not person in the same way as in Nestorius because there is a short-cutting, I mean um, em, a short-circuit, if you like, or the Divine and the human, and the divine and the human, the one is uncreated and the other is created.
G D: Human hypostasis — we can’t use the same word for God and for man, because the uncreated really is — the created is only an adjective to it — it’s added to it — Athanasius speaks of synousia, synmetahym (*? deciph.) metataxis (* sp)— it’s all this, we are not actually substantives — only God is substantive. So what are we? — the human person — we can’t use the same category for God and for man — so only the Trinity — that’s another important aspect of Torrance — it’s there if you explained to him what is the anhypostasia (*sp); how do we use it? Torrance used it because, you know this Reformed Dogmatics by Heppe? It was in scholastic, eh scholastic dogmatics which was issued by Barth I think, reprinted [quoted?] by Barth, Heppe, all this dogmatics — there are Reformed theologians who are very scholastic in that sense and this is why they criticise Barth and Torrance — but it was there in the Reformed tradition that it was anhypostastic(?*). In other words there was no human hypostasis as Nestorius said it, but there was the Divine becoming human, so there was a human and that’s what I told to Maurice Wiles and I pointed out Athanasius because then the egeneto sarx — what does it mean the egeneto? It isn’t the Divine being that became human, then we have a conversion of the human being that is Monophysitism. This is actually kenotic christology which is condemned by Athanasius in his letter to Epictetus. “What hell” he says “vomited such a doctrine to say” he has this: “what hell vomited such a view that the divine became sinews and bones and flesh.” Right? — became Divine ousia, Divine Being — it isn’t a divine being, so what became flesh?
[G D] It wasn’t the person who became flesh — he became a human person by taking humanity. St Cyril of Alexandria in his Five Tomes against Nestorius says, we don’t know when the ensouling of the embryo takes place — there are three view he says to him. Em, I think it’s second volume, that the ensouling is done immediately as the fertilisation of the embryo, or it is done on the ninth day, or it is done certainly on the fortieth day — then you have a complete human being inside the womb of the mother — that’s why abortion is a crime and all the Canons of the early church are against abortion because it’s interfering with the creation of God, with a human being. The human being is already formed on the fortieth day. The same happens when somebody dies in the old tradition, we keep prayers when somebody dies, immediately the priest goes and says the first prayers — then on the ninth day, and then on the fortieth day, because that’s recreation in the new condition in heaven. It’s entering into the life, entering into the other life, this [these] are coordinated in an amazing way, so Cyril says, it doesn’t matter when it is first, first day, or the ninth, or the fortieth day, the point is this that before this soul became a hypostasis he put his hypostasis in there and he became the hypostasis, so he became man. That’s the hypostatic union.
G D: Now this kind of refined use of the terms I don’t think Torrance entered into this but then of course he emphasised the doctrine of the hypostatic union — he said enhypostasia against Nestorius because then you have two sons —and the doctrine of the two sons was condemned by the ecumenical council, by Cyril — but he didn’t go deeper in some of these things. He did go into many things but you can’t expect everything from Tom Torrance. The fact that he went all the way he went and where he went, is just unbelievable and how he was in dialogue with so many, like Barth.
G D: I mean Barth is another amazing phenomenon — extraordinary phenomenon, recognised by the Orthodox as the greatest theologian — and pope, the Pope Paul — I remember I was in Princeton when this happened — you remember this little book, Ad Limina Apostolorom [by Karl Barth ditto, an appraisal of Vatican 11] — you could have done the same with Torrance. Many Roman Catholics acknowledged Torrance in the same way as Barth. So the Pope Paul the V1 who lifted the anathemas with the East — these are important things with Athenagoras of Constantinople [ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, 1948 -72], and opened the way of more dialogue and rapprochement — he invited Barth to go to Rome.
G D: This is a little book Ad limina Apostolorom, In the light of the Apostles — so imagine the Pope inviting him, a theologian, a Reformed protestant theologian, right? So he [Barth] said to him I will come but with one condition — this is all in the little book — Barth said I will come but on one condition that you will answer my questions. I am going to come with questions and the other one said yes, I promise I’ll answer all your questions, but on one condition, that you will not publish them (laughs).
G D: Now, he went, and then they made a statement afterwards — both of them — then Barth said, OK but we’ll make a common statement afterwards so people will say, what did they discuss? —they put questions — what questions did Barth put? Nothing? We’ll put, I’ll publish the questions, no answers, but the common statement, what you thought of me and what I thought of you and your answers. OK? — and this was done and you know what Paul V1 said? That Barth was the greatest theologian that the Church has known since, and greater than since Thomas Aquinas, and greater than him. That’s in Ad limina Apostolorum — I would say this of Torrance.
Questioner [Professor George Hunsinger]: I want to change the subject —
G D: Please —
Questioner: — OK, you said earlier that you thought that the ecumenical movement might have been different if it had followed Torrance and Florovsky —
G D: Yes —
Questioner: —would you say more about that?
G D: You see, both of them spoke about the Magnalia Dei, the magnificent acts of God. That’s a phrase that Florovsky used a lot, the mighty acts of God, Torrance says — in other words the mystery of the Incarnation, the mystery of Pentecost — the mystery of the revelation of the Church. the apostles and the mission of the Church. The conversion of the empire, the Roman Empire, and the triumph of the Church over paganism. All these things reveal the act of God with us and those who are faithful to his act — these fathers like Athanasius and the others, they manifested the unity of the Church on the basis of what [is] the Grace of God and the act of God.
G D: Now he [Torrance] discusses these points in this long essay — both Torrance and Florovsky— Florovsky says that the church has no limits for instance. Now every other Orthodox would say yes, there are limits because outside the church there is heresy and schism so you have the Body of Christ, the Church, the Catholic Church then the canons of the Church, the Canons of the councils define. He said no they don’t define. He, Florovsky said, the Canons define heresy — where is the boundary between what is wrong and what is right — but they don’t define the Church. Nothing defines the Church because the Church is the Body of Christ, includes God himself, the mystery of the Incarnation —the Holy Spirit — how could you? After we have this kind of essential, the essence of the Church, the essenc(*?*) of the Church are not the Canons, are not the apostolic succession in ministry — both [of them] discuss [this].
G D: In other words, all the things that are constitutive of the Roman Catholic church like the papacy for instance — and this is where Torrance raises — puts Grace against papacy. If, because the papacy limits the Grace of God to one person through whom it comes to the whole world. But then what about those who are not united with Rome? These are the questions so — what is essential in ecclesiology? — which actually is acknowledged by all but is obscured by the way it was domesticated in their own time, space, culture etc. that’s what he [Torrance] said, that’s why I think this is an amazing understanding of history and the act of God that we’re not deprived, no one is deprived, you can’t say— there are no limits — where is the Church?
G D: That’s the point: is it canonicity understood in terms of canons and law? Torrance did a lot of work on law, natural law and patristic law, um — that’s another very important, I don’t know if you know this little book he did on natural law and the law of lawyers that we have, juridical law? They are very different things, the one is order, natural law, the logic of nature; the other is law which prohibits error but doesn’t actually define nature at all or doesn’t specify the way nature works. So it’s this kind of natural rationality, Athanasius — I remember Torrance, took me some time before I understood what he meant — that we have to think kata physin — he was saying— kata physin — the pronunciation of the Greek, kata physin, “according to nature,” because kata physin is according to kat’ aletheian — the pronunciation just didn’t click that this word, two phrases, “what is according to nature is according to the truth.” The very word truth in Greek alitheia means what you must not forget — it doesn’t define anything, um, so in Greek terms — patristic terms — it’s apophatic and kataphatic [or cataphatic]— you don’t know, and that Torrance brought it out — I remember in a seminar it is all said [when?] he was doing Incarnation, christology soteriology, these major topics, and seminars on Hilary, Athanasius and the Cappadochians.
G D: Now on the Hilary, em I went to the Hilary seminar which was based on the Latin text — and Hilary’s known as “the Athanasius of the West,” because he did parallel works [explain?] as Athanasius — so I remember all the epistemological distinctions that he had in Athanasius — he [Hilary] found them in him. He [Torrance] had made me the secretary to keep — and I have my notes from then, I was writing notes and they were distributed afterwards and it was em “what is according to nature is according to truth” and the nature of things is open ended — so the truth is open ended so you can’t define the truth, so then, how do you appropriate the truth?
G D: The distinction which was in Athanasius, in Cyril, in the Cappadochians — in Classical theology — you don’t know what God is but you know that he is. What God is, is a definition, if you can’t, if you define God, and that is the problem of the Arians, they were defining what God is. For instance Younomie (*?) as an extreme Arian said that God is ayehinitos (*? sp), ingenerate, the Son is the Son generated —so he can’t be God. But then God’s ousia is not his aghenousia (*? sp) is not his ingeneratedness (*?sp) — right?
G D: We don’t know what God is but then how do we know? We know that he is, so we have indicative statements that he is and we have descriptive statements which are apophatic — we don’t know — and that applies not only to God, whatever is natural — we can’t reproduce nature —we can’t reproduce a human being, if we didn’t have a body then we couldn’t do even cloning —we can’t produce something out of nothing. Whatever we produce is a by-product of what has been produced by God. So we cannot delineate the essence of things, whatever claims we may make —and this is the foolishness of modern science that they think — would they create something out of nothing? They can only say that God created all things from that ‘little thing’ but that must have pre-existed.
G D: There isn’t much difference between the Greeks who said that there was pre-existent matter and God is only the one who gives shape and form to it. Plato said this. But the theologian of the Greeks was rejected by Athanasius, he called him the “theologian of the Greeks” because he believed in a logos that shaped things in the world, a demiurge but a demiurge was the designer of pre-existing substance whereas the doctrine from Creatio ex nihilo, out of nothing, is a real doctrine.
GD: Right? These are points that both Torrance and Florovsky were very well versed in the language, true language, of theology. The open-ended language which doesn’t define and close things and therefore divides and that, these are the divisions of Christians — confessions that were divided, the different confessions that divided one group of Christians from others, must be done in the reverse. And actually in some way this happened because all the historic documents of the Reformation now are historic documents — they’re not dogmatic documents. Those who keep to them, they are divided further — you know, if not in reality, you create another church — I mean the Westminster Confession — and Orthodox produce confessions to respond to the Reformed confessions — but these confessions are not actually confessions (laughs) because they are confessions trying to define things — that’s their own way of doing theology —which divides.
G D: Yes
Questioner: Thank you, just on that christological theme, I just enjoyed hearing — I know the time is limited — but, based on your appreciation of the legacy of both Florovsky and Torrance, where do you see the ecumenical movement today?
GD: Lost at the moment —that’s why we need some theologians —
Questioner: — what do —
G D: [overlapping] I hope that this group will resurrect Torrance and the other group will resurrect Florovsky —we need that other people, there are other people like this —
Questioner: — but to push you to be—
G D: — yeah —
Questioner: — to be a prophet, what, if we were to have in our midst more people like Florovsky and Torrance, how in practical terms could you see a convergence occurring between the churches ah, that would be faithful to the insights of (*? indecip)
G D: Our dialogues are not real dialogues any more. We talk for talking [sake] so that people will say agh! the Christians are not fighting each other they are talking to each other. But we all stick to our, we don’t have this agony that, this mission that the churches want (*?[are] one?) —what are we doing?
G D: I remember Canon Walls, Ronald Walls, he was telling me, George, I had a, when I was a student and I, for the first time I was seeing the variety Protestantism, and all the other churches — because I knew them only from books, so to speak in Greece — and in Edinburgh I went every Sunday I went to another Church — so I was going just to see, I went to all kinds of churches and I wrote my impressions to my mother so I have about two thousand pages of descriptions of my — and Tom Torrance, I was talking to him about this — I went to this church — you know the Holy corner in Edinburgh? — with four different denominations —I remember when I was a student, people would go, avoid crossing and passing in front of the other church, the other denomination, so they would go all the way round, so they, they would never even look at the other side.
G D: Now if you go today — I don’t know what [about the situation] today, the last time I was there in Scotland I was, all the elders and officers of the churches were out to invite people to come in because nobody was going. Now this is the ecumenical dialogue we are doing dialogue — I wrote to the patriarch — (smiles) you’re going to put on the internet —I wrote to the Patriarch of Jerusalem who asked me to be involved because he thinks he was my student long time ago and he thinks that I should represent Jerusalem — I do. We started dialogue with the Anglicans — we’re not doing dialogue because eh, I see the whole direction — we’re not excited with, we’re not urgent about — we have no agony about it, we are not discussing about union any more, it’s an academic thing —it’s failed.
G D: I went to Faith and Order, twice, — and most people go for the ride. It’s nice, to go to Malaysia, to go there, to go there—sightseeing, and talking about, [laughs] and talking about this, that and the other — you read the text and you say, now where are we here? I have a statement of Torrance — I was trying to find it, I couldn’t find it, and another [from] Florovsky — completely bewildered with the ecumenical movement. They started with tremendous hope and force and then in the end they abandoned it, because it all became political and it all became, it lost it’s, you know, it’s movement. It’s the same thing that happened, it became a super church, imposing on the churches and one after another, the churches rejected it and lost interest in it.
GD: So what is the way forward? I think we should go back and read these people [holds up Torrance book], study them, recover and rediscover, without this there are no scientific revolutions says Torrance — scientific revolutions happen, if you read what he says about Einstein and others — and you just go to the sources, Florovsky said “read the sources”— who reads? I know my students don’t read sources, don’t read the fathers, don’t read texts, don’t even read text-books. They want to pass the exam [laughs] and now that we have, and now that we have internet, go into Google, find a few answers there, you produce a paper, you passed — you don’t care, if you get an A or whatever, you want to get a degree and get a job —that’s it.
G D: What kind of job is this? —a nd what kind of profession is this? There is no passion, real understanding of the Lord because the person is not there — the real experience is not there — this is what differentiated Torrance from any others. I’ll tell you one thing and that might be — though I have said what I wanted to say— is the last word here [laughs] ah, I remember the definition of theology by John McIntyre. I asked John McIntyre when I applied for my lectureship — I went and asked him for a reference he said, he called me John because he didn’t remember the names he was John, every student who went to him was John — so he said “hi john what can I do for you?”
G D: I said “I need a commendation, I’m applying for a job.”
“From me?” he said,
G D: I said, “yes, you’re my professor aren’t you?”
“Yes, did you get one from Tom Torrance?” he said.
G D: I said “yes but I need one from you too.”
“OK” he said “I’ll give it to you.”
G D: I said “wasn’t I a good student?” “Yes”. I just said what you said now whether I agreed or disagreed that’s another matter —
“I know” he said. (laughs)
G D: — that I didn't agree. Now you know what his definition of theology was? That’s a perfect definition of the academic — most academics and he was a perfect academic. “Theology, don’t worry about it” he said, “don’t get excited, theology is talking about talking, about talking, dots [points with finger dots], God” (laughs). In other words, what did he say? What did he say? Now you know what Barth said? What this one said, what the other one said — just talking about ideas.
G D: Florovsky said, ideas do not exist, do not float in history — existential theology, the real existence — realism of, the realism of, the existentialism of Kierkegaard — I remember Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard is, that, Kierkegaard of Torrance is a very different Kierkegaard from the liberals, from the existentialists. Huge difference of interpretation. A young professor in Thessalonliki who does patristics — I was there as an external assessor according to the new laws in Greece there must be a professor from abroad to be the, you know, on the panel, for his promotion. He’s written a book, a very interesting book, interpretation and misinterpretation of the Fathers of the church [Professor Christos Arampatzis]. He’s a patristics professor and he has taken cases all the way to the fall of Constantinople— every century. A very interesting book which I’m translating — actually it should be out soon because he needs it — part of his promotion is to produce this book in English, so I’m doing it (laughs) to help him. Ah, it will be acknowledged that it is worth publishing abroad something of his works, and that’s a fascinating thing —this is what theology is today, but we don’t have interpreters, we have misinterpreters all the time, so if it is misinterpretation then we are not getting anywhere.
GD: OK now, how did I want to finish, there’s only one little thing. T. F. Torrance [reads from paper], what a person. Truly great. Athanasius the great. Torrance the great. His lectures were to me, and I mean that, was like an Orthodox liturgy that’s what differed from, when he went to, on the pedestal [podium] there, you thought that the liturgy is going to start. He was passionate, he gave his soul, everything in it — not the other professors. They were distant I mean, theology was distant things. (reading) The podium was both like a pulpit even like an altar, he was reformed. He used the Word (?*), but the Word he used [offered?] it really — right — that is the best of the Reformed. He used the Word in the fullness of the, but he linked it with Athanasius, he linked it with, this is the whole point — the Word.
G D: Ah,(reads again) many of his judgments were axioms to me — most powerful and most humble, and I have two examples. I mention the one, the memoranda that we did [pointing] oh, yes! the memoranda when he did, when he did the dialogue in Athens— I’m sorry (laughs) ah, when —I’m not as good as Tom on this, em, when he was ready to go to Constantinople with four Reformed theologians to ask for a dialogue um, he, we were, he was President of the Academie Internationale des Science Religieuses you probably know from his, and I had been elected not only a member but vice-president, so he came to my room and said “George I need you for something very serious. Sit down, where do we go, to my room or your room?”
G D: I said, “go to my room.” He gave me a memorandum that he was going to present to the ecumenical patriarchy in Constantinople, a proposal to start a dialogue. So it was all about starting with the Creed, the common faith and see what you understand by it, what we understand according to the fathers. I said, he said, “you like it?” But he had some points there which were disagreeable points so he said, he started, read it, I read it, he said “what do you think?”
He said, “I want criticism” he said.
G D: “Really?”
G D: “Straight?”
G D: “Straight?” “It’s all wrong (laughing), you should have seen, it’s all wrong, professor.”
G D: I said, now, you will listen as I listened [to you], I read it all, now you listen to me going through it all. I said “you don’t go there to a church why do you go a dialogue?” —“you say who you are. You say what are the common things and you say what is your intention” —“you’re not going to tell the Patriarch that Basil is wrong and Gregory and Athanasius are right” — your Basil [St. Basil the Great, Bishop of Caesarea] is your (*?undeciph?) Basil — is not Basil, (pauses) is not Basil, (smiles) — so in many other things — he said “but you know.” I know what you mean but you don’t go straight to ask for a dialogue and you start something which is passionate for you, you just go as a Reformed theologian and you say we have the Bible, we have sacraments, we have synods — we have this, we have that — we are like you in many respects, how can we get closer together and understand on another. We believe that the church is one and we must manifest the same faith. When I told him all this he said, “um”—
G D: “you just present your credentials,” I said to him —
— “And why?”
G D: — “and you recognise his credentials and you see your credentials and that’s how you ask, and then you produce the other one.”
“You write it for me.”
G D: I said, “I write it for you?”
“Yes, you write for me.”
G D: “Yes” I said but there are four theologians, it was McCord, it was young, ah, from Czechoslovakia, four great Reformed theologians of the time. Somebody from em, [memory lapse]
“Anyhow you write it, I’ll persuade them that this is ours, that I did it.”
I wrote this, so he went and he phoned me back and said, “George,” he said, “I went, the dialogue is starting and I asked for you to be there and then he said you know what happened?
G D: I said, “what?”
“I gave both memoranda, mine and his.” [laugh] and the Patriarch liked both, he said. (laughing)
G D: This is Torrance. But then he went to the meeting, the plenary and he said up to this point I was the Professor of Father Dragas. Now he’s mine, he said. I was his teacher, now he’s become my teacher.
G D: So, I said no, you will always be my teacher, and I will never accept this (laugh) and that’s the case. I think the man was too big, too amazing and we have to learn about him and his theology. If we recover this passion, this theology, that amazing synthesis of this great man, then I think the spirit of God will help us to do the next step — which was the question, where do we go from here? We take a thing at a time, we have to work hard, he worked hard all his life. Now he’s being resurrected. All the prophets are not acceptable in their life[time], only afterwards. And that’s Tom Torrance and I hope he will be, and this fellowship will bring him up for all the wonderful things that the Lord did through him in his life and I know that there are many people around who will join, and many Orthodox are going to become the ambassador to Orthodox students of his.
Thank you, (Clapping)