Knowing God in the Body of Christ


Christine E. Thornton, "Knowing God in the Body of Christ: The Epistemic Significance of the Church in the Theology of T. F. Torrance" (PhD dissertation, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2021)


Thornton, Christine E. "Knowing God in the Body of Christ: The Epistemic Significance of the Church in the Theology of T. F. Torrance." PhD dissertation, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2021

Publication life cycle / General notes

Advisor: Keith S. Whitfield.

ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, #28494598.


Within the context of Torrance’s dogmatic ecclesiology and theological epistemology, this dissertation will argue the Church is the scientific community of reciprocal response wherein theological knowledge is human, enabled by and grounded in God, actualized by the Holy Spirit with empirical and theoretical unity through Word, and Sacrament. Thus, this thesis engages and integrates Torrance’s epistemological and ecclesiological categories. Chapter 1 of this dissertation presents the thesis, and introduces both Torrance’s dogmatic theology and theological epistemology.

Chapter 2 addresses the significance of the nature of the Church for the development of theological knowledge within it. The first two sections of the chapter consider Torrance’s dogmatic understanding of the Church as human, grounded in God, and the final section presents the relationship between Torrance’s ecclesiology and epistemology whereby he establishes the Church as the unique community wherein Christians develop knowledge of God with empirico-theoretical unity.

Chapter 3 argues that the Church is the community of reciprocal response, and the ongoing development of knowledge of God in the Church occurs through the ministry of the Word in and through the Church with empirico-theoretical unity. To make this point, the chapter explains Torrance’s proposal for a proper understanding of Christ the incarnate Word acting from the divine and human side and thus as the Word of God to man and the response of man to God, the Scripture as the Apostolic foundation of the Church, and the kerygmatic proclamation of the Church.

Chapter 4 considers the significance of the Sacraments in Torrance’s theological epistemology and argues that Baptism and the Eucharist are God’s chosen means to develop empirico-theoretically unified theological knowledge, which is human and enabled by God. The chapter explicates the argument in four sections. First, it explains Torrance’s Christological proposal for the Sacraments, and how they relate to one another within that framework. The second and third sections consider Torrance’s argument for the epistemic significance of Baptism and the Eucharist, respectively. The fourth section expounds Torrance’s argument for empirico-theoretically unified theological knowledge in the unified liturgical ministry of Word and Sacrament.

Chapter 5 concludes the dissertation by outlining one concern for the internal coherence of Torrance’s project for relationship between his theological epistemology and dogmatic ecclesiology, highlight the most significant benefits of Torrance’s proposal for American Evangelicalism and Southern Baptists, and finally, offer suggestions for further work.