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T. F. Torrance on the transition to the Apostolic Fathers


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#21 Shawn Lazar

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Posted 11 November 2007 - 07:39 PM

Dear MC Steenberg,

I think Torrance would agree with you where Ignatius and Clement are concerned. I just returned my copy of his work to the library so I don't have it in front of me. But of the Apostolic Fathers he cited those two as being more Christocentric than the others, though still less Christocentric than the Apostles themselves.

But consider, for example, the Didache, which makes little reference to Christ at all. It is mostly a moralistic tract which Torrance points to as evidence of failing to embody the Christ-centered gospel of the Apostles. But as for his complete argument you (and anyone else) would have to read Torrance for yourself. I really haven't studied the issue in depth, which is why I posted here in the first place to see if anyone else had.

-Shawn

#22 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 08:55 AM

Dear Mr Lazar and others,

as for [Torrance's] complete argument you (and anyone else) would have to read Torrance for yourself. I really haven't studied the issue in depth, which is why I posted here in the first place to see if anyone else had.


Torrance's book is a fairly standard volume on the apostolic fathers, by which I mean to say that it forms part of the standard bibliography students would be expected to read when studying them at most institutions. It is an old book, which means it's had plenty of time to work its way on to reading lists; and more, it is in many ways a work of solid scholarship. His supposition of the loss of Christological / grace-centred focus has always been challenged, from the very first. Part of that criticism has centred in his importing into the era an almost pre-supposed loss or falling away from 'New Testament' emphases (NT in quotation marks there, since it did not yet exist), as well as creating an incongruity between earlier and later writers, that those writers themselves show no signs of having felt (Irenaeus, for example, quotes both Ignatius and Hermas in rather the same way he quotes Paul or John).

In response to my previous post in this thread, you wrote:

I think Torrance would agree with you where Ignatius and Clement are concerned. I just returned my copy of his work to the library so I don't have it in front of me. But of the Apostolic Fathers he cited those two as being more Christocentric than the others, though still less Christocentric than the Apostles themselves.


And given that their output constitutes roughly two-thirds of the entire corpus usually called the apostolic fathers', this is saying something!

But consider, for example, the Didache, which makes little reference to Christ at all. It is mostly a moralistic tract which Torrance points to as evidence of failing to embody the Christ-centered gospel of the Apostles.


The same could be said of the New Testament epistle of James, which only mentions Jesus twice: once in the standard opening, the other as a title for his recipients ('Listen, you who believe in Jesus Christ...').

It is a fallacy to suggest (and I think this one of Torrance's flaws) that discussions are only centred on Christ and grace if they speak explicitly about these. If anything, to focus on the actual language of grace is not 'commonly apostolic', but in fact specifically -- and in some sense, uniquely -- Pauline. That was his habit. Other NT writers clearly emphasise and consider the grace of God, but often not through a discussion of grace as such; rather, through considerations of grace as encountered in the work and words of Christ (and interestingly, 'grace' is a word Christ does not appear ever to have used).

This is precisely what is found, for example, in the Didache. This text is essentially an extended practical / pastoral reflection on the words and example of Christ, as they ought to be incorporated into personal and communal Christian living. It is not simply a moralising tract. When one understands this as its nature and aim, one finds that it is in fact deeply Christologically significant. It contains, for example, reflections on:
  • Christ's commandment to love the neighbour;
  • Christ as present in the ministry of his teachers;
  • Perfection in the yoke of Christ; forgiveness when it is not taken up fully;
  • Baptism;
  • The revelation of the Seed of David in Christ;
  • Christ as servant of the Father's will;
  • Jesus Christ as the revelation of God;
  • Christ as the Power of the Father; encountered in the Eucharist;
  • The Son as nourisher of all creation;
  • Explicit claim of Christ as God, Son of David;
  • The Parousia (second-coming of Christ)
The constant reference of the Didache is Christ, and particularly Christ's examples in the Gospels (which are mentioned several times). The name 'Jesus' and the title 'Christ' are used several times; but by and large the text prefers to call him 'Lord' and 'Servant' - themselves important Christological terms.

I see no way of interpreting this as anything other than a deeply Christological text, unless one wishes to force a division between pastoral teaching and Christology (which would be quite the fallacy itself).

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#23 Shawn Lazar

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 01:40 PM

Ahh, thank you! That certainly clears things up for me! I'll have to go a re-read Torrance and the Fathers together with that in mind.

In Him,
Shawn

#24 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 12 November 2007 - 02:32 PM

Dear all,

Further to discussions on the apostolic fathers, I've pulled together some references from the writings of Ignatius of Antioch, to demonstrate just how much Christological material is found in his letters.

Please note that, as the bible referencing system in the forum will automatically convert Eph, Phil, and Rom abbreviations to links to the NT books of Ephesians, Philippians and Romans; I have side-stepped this by abbreviating all Ignatius' letters with 'Ad' - for 'To'; so 'AdEph' for 'To the Ephesians', 'AdRom' for 'To the Romans', etc. So the references in this listing are all from the epistles of Ignatius, as follows: AdEph: to the Ephesians; AdMagn: to the Magnesians; AdRom: to the Romans; AdSmyr: to the Smyrnians; AdTrall: to the Trallians; AdPhil: to the Philadelphians; and his epistle To Polycarp. All are from the shorter recensions of these letters, which are the most authentic.

The divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ
  • Jesus Christ is ‘joined to the Father’ in unity (AdEph 5)
    • Was ‘with the Father before the ages (AdMagn 6)
    • Does nothing without the Father (AdMagn 7)
    • Son of the Father, is his eternal Word, ‘not proceeding forth from silence’ (AdMagn 8)
    • His union to the Father, and the Spirit’s union to him, reveals the union man can have with God in Christ (AdMagn 13; AdPhil 7)
    • Most fully revealed in his resurrection; most visible in his invisible union with the Father (AdRom 3)
    • He is the mouth through which the Father has spoken (AdRom 8)
    • Christ is the manifested will of the Father (AdEph 3); is the knowledge of God the Father (AdEph 17)
  • Reverence to Jesus is reverence to God (AdEph 7)
    • God is his Father, he is man’s; the ‘bishop of us all’ (AdMagn 3)
    • Faith in Christ makes one not a ‘man-pleaser’ but a ‘God-pleaser’ (AdRom 2)
    • Jesus is God, who gives wisdom (AdSmyr 1)
  • Christ = ‘God existing in the flesh’ [God and man] (AdEph 7)
    • ‘God himself, manifested in human form for the renewal of eternal life’ (AdEph 19)
    • ‘Of Mary and of God’; first possible and then impossible; made and unmade (AdEph 7); the invisible made visible, impassible made passible (To Polycarp 3)
    • ‘Our God, according to the appointment of God’, born of Mary and the Holy Spirit (AdEph 18; AdSmyr 1)
    • Both Son of Man and Son of God (AdEph 20)
    • Jesus truly human, existing in genuine history (AdTrall 9)
    • Both flesh and spirit (AdSmyr 1)
    • After the resurrection, Christ still possessed his flesh—‘and so he does now’, even though he is also ‘spiritually united to the Father’ (AdSmyr 3)
  • Christ is the suffering God (AdEph 11)
    • Anti-docetism: Those who claim he only seemed to suffer are in error; they make a mockery of the martyrs (AdTrall 10)
    • The passion reveals truth; heresy is discord with the passion of Christ (AdPhil 3)
Jesus Christ as priest and sacrifice
  • Jesus is the true Law, according to which the prophets spoke (AdMagn 8, 9; AdPhil 9)
    • He stands ‘in the place of all that is ancient’: for the Law there is now the cross, the death, the resurrection and faith in him (AdPhil 8)
  • Christ is the Great High Priest (AdPhil 9)
    • The ‘door to the Father, by which enter in Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’—and all others, from the ancient covenant and the Church (AdPhil 9)
    • Perfector and sanctifier of obedient humanity (AdEph 2, 3; AdSmyr 4)
    • Christ is teacher, both in word and silence (AdEph 15)
  • Jesus’ death and resurrection raise up man to new life (AdMagn 9, 11; AdSmyr 2)
    • Christ, by Cross, lifts up humanity to the Father (with the Holy Spirit) (AdEph 9)
    • His death causes man to escape death (AdTrall 2)
    • Christ calls humanity to himself through his cross; it is the tool producing union (AdTrall 11, AdSmyr 1)
    • In martyrdom, one is united to Christ’s death and life; becomes the ‘wheat’ that Christ turns to bread [Eucharistic overtones] (AdRom 4, 6)
    • Man is to be an imitator of the passion of his God (AdRom 6)
    • Salvation = union with Jesus Christ (AdPhil 5)
    • Christ an offering and sacrifice to God (AdEph 1)
    • Jesus is the ‘new man’ (AdEph 20)
Jesus Christ and Christian encounter
  • Christ dwells in Christians as in a temple; he is God (AdEph 15, AdMagn 12)
    • This union perfected in love, and readiness to ‘die into his passion’ (AdMagn 5)
    • Christian life is an ‘intimate union with Jesus Christ our God’ (AdTrall 7, AdSmyr 12)
    • Baptised, purifying the water by which others are now united to him (AdEph 18)
  • Christ is, in the bread of the Eucharist, ‘the medicine of immortality, and the antidote to prevent us from dying’ (AdEph 20)
    • In him faithful have communion in both flesh and blood of Jesus Christ (AdMagn 1)
    • He is ‘the bread of God, the heavenly bread, the bread of life, which is the flesh of Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became afterwards the seed of David and Abraham; and I desire to drink of God, namely his blood, which is incorruptible love and eternal life’ (AdRom 7)
    • There is only one Eucharist, as Christ has but one flesh and one blood (AdPhil 4)
    • In Eucharist is physician of flesh and spirit (AdEph 7-10)
    • Those who deny the blood of Christ in the Eucharist are far from salvation (AdSmyr 6, 7)
INXC, Dcn Matthew

#25 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 13 November 2007 - 07:43 AM

Dear all,

Following on from my listing of Christological themes in Ignatius' epistles yesterday, and reference to similar themes in the Didache the day before, I've done a similar listing of Christological themes in the epistle of St Clement of Rome to the Corinthians. It is a shorter listing than of Ignatius, but of course we've only one epistle by Clement, rather than a library by Ignatius.

All references below are to chapters in the First Epistle of St Clement of Rome to the Corinthians (the so-called 'second epistle' of Clement to the Corinthians is spurious).

The divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ
  • Jesus ‘preaches the Gospel from God’, just as the apostles preach it from him (42)
    • Christ ‘therefore sent from God’, as the apostles sent from him (42)
    • This an ‘orderly appointment’, made according to the will of God (42)
    • Jesus Christ ‘chosen’ by God, and through him man chosen to be ‘a peculiar people’ (58)
  • Christ speaks by the Spirit (22)
  • Lord comes in ‘lowly condition’ as man, having humbled himself (16)
    • Christ descended from Abraham ‘according to the flesh’ (32)
Redemption offered in Christ
  • Christ is ‘High priest of all our offerings’ (36)
    • Defender and helper of human infirmity (36)
    • Through him man looks up to the heights of heaven (36)
    • By him eyes are opened and understanding of God blossoms (36)
    • Man’s ‘high priest and protector’ (58)
  • Emphasis on blood of Christ, shed for salvation, precious to the Father (7)
    • Cf. ‘scarlet thread’ of Rahab: indicates Christ’s blood (12)
    • On account ‘of the love he bore us’, Jesus gave his blood for man ‘by the will of God’ (50)
    • Gave his flesh for man’s flesh, his soul for man’s souls (50)
    • Jesus brings humanity to the Father’s compassions (20)
  • The head and preserver of the Christian Body – the Church (37, 38)
INXC, Dcn Matthew

#26 Aidan Kimel

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Posted 22 January 2008 - 02:01 AM

Thomas Torrance was no ordinary Protestant. He read deeply in the Church Fathers, particularly the Alexandrians, as well evidenced in his book *The Trinitarian Faith*. Sadly, this book, though well reviewed by Western patristic scholars, e.g., Robert Wilken, has been ignored by Eastern scholars.

Torrance's book on the apostolic fathers was an early book, written when he was deep in the thought of Barth. I do not know if he ever softened in his judgment on them.

Torrance was also a key figure in the Reformed-Orthodox dialogue. His hand is evident in the 1992 agreement on the doctrine of the Holy Trinity:

http://www.warc.ch/dt/erl1/13.html

I met with him at Princeton perhaps 20 years ago. I remember him speaking warmly of the Reformed-Orthodox dialogue. He also shared with me the story of how he was consecrated a proto-presbyter by Methodios Fouyas, who at that time was Archbishop of Ethiopia & Aksum. Years later I confirmed this event with Torrance's son Iain. It is mentioned in an online biography of Torrance:

http://www.tftorrance.org/bio.php

No Orthodox has been able to explain to me what this means, but I know that Tom was profoundly moved and honored. Evidently, the Orthodox who knew and worked with him felt a deep spiritual bond with him. Tom told me that one Orthodox bishop (perhaps it was Methodios--I do not recall) thanked him for "teaching us the Fathers," with special reference to Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria.

#27 Olga

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Posted 22 January 2008 - 03:23 AM

Being made an "honorary protopresbyter" is meaningless and of little or no consequence, canonical or otherwise, as far as Orthodoxy is concerned.

#28 Paul Cowan

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Posted 22 January 2008 - 03:33 AM

My priest introduced me to our Bishop as his proto-subdeacon. I almost said, whoa, slow down when did I agree to almost be ordained? I think he was testing me to see if I would bite. hummm.

Paul

#29 Aidan Kimel

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Posted 22 January 2008 - 04:04 AM

Being made an "honorary protopresbyter" is meaningless and of little or no consequence, canonical or otherwise, as far as Orthodoxy is concerned.


I did not use the word "honorary." All I know is that a ceremony of some kind was celebrated, led by Metropolitan Methodios, in which he was designated or consecrated or ordained or received or recognized or whatever, a "Protopresbyter." The obiturary for Torrance in the Church Times also notes the event: "His deep engagement with the Greek Orthodox tradition led to his designation as a Protopresbyter in the Patriarchate of Alexandria in 1973, an honour of which he was particularly proud." Perhaps what happened was without precedence. I do not know. But a special honor of some sort was bestowed upon Dr Torrance.

#30 Aidan Kimel

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Posted 22 January 2008 - 04:20 AM

I just found this citation about T. F. Torrance from a biographical article written by his brother:

"Earlier in 1954 he [Thomas Torrance] had called for discussions within the Orthodox Communion between Chalcedonian and non-Chalcedonian or 'monophysite' theologians. Agreement between them was eventually reached early in 1973. Tom was then invited to Addis Ababa by Methodios the Greek Orthodox archbishop of Axum, the see in Ethiopia founded by Athanasius, to join in commemorating the death of Athanasius in 373, and in celebrating the theological agreement Tom had initiated. There he was consecrated by Methodios as a presbyter of the Greek Orthodox Church, and given the honorary title of protopresbyter. Earlier in 1970, at a session of the General Assembly in Edinburgh, the patriarch of Alexandria had conferred on him the Cross of St. Mark, which was followed in 1977 by Tom's being given the Cross of Thyateira by the Greek orthodox archbishop in London."

(David W. Torrance, "Thomas Forsyth Torrance: Minister of the Gospel, Pastor, and Evangelical Theologian," in *The Promise of Trinitarian Theology* [2002], ed. Elmer Colyer, pp. 23-24)

Make of it as you will. I always thought it sounded like a very "Orthodox" thing to do.

#31 Olga

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Posted 22 January 2008 - 07:59 AM

Was Torrance ever baptised (or otherwise canonically received, e.g. by chrismation) into the Orthodox Church? If so, I stand corrected. If not, this bestowing of the title of presbyter, honorary or not, is meaningless, as he would not be entitled to serve as an Orthodox priest. The crosses of Thyateira and St Mark mentioned are simply honours which can be conferred to (almost) anyone, akin to British imperial honours. Think of the honorary knighthood conferred to, for instance, Bob Geldof. As he is a citizen of the Republic of Ireland, he is not technically entitled (despite the tendencies of the British popular press) to call himself Sir Robert in any official capacity.

Some might understandably have the view that this title conferred on Torrance is the equivalent of an honorary degree conferred by a university to a prominent public figure, and therefore cannot see the harm in conferring an honorary clerical (priestly/hierarchical) position. Not so, at least not in the Orthodox world. The Orthodox do not have "honorary priests", any more than "honorary bishops".

#32 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 22 January 2008 - 12:28 PM

Many strange extraordinary things were going on.

I guess it is "nice" that he was "honored", I believe that reflects well on him as a person, but in that an Orthodox priest has no authority apart from his bishop, that he is merely an extension of the bishop, I really cannot understand what an "honorary" protopresbyter could possibly be. I think that makes him rather unique in Orthodox history if he was not otherwise accepted in the Orthodox Church. The main reason for the priest is to celebrate the Eucharist. A priest who cannot celebrate the Eucharist is redundancy personified.

But unless he repudiated his earlier views of the Fathers, it simply makes no sense whatsoever. Whatever it was, it was NOT Orthodox.

Too much for this bear of little brain to process.

Herman the Pooh

#33 Father David Moser

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Posted 22 January 2008 - 03:35 PM

I have seen a number of non-Orthodox honored for their labors which had some benefit for the Orthodox Church. Sometimes those honors are completely misunderstood - even by the best scholars. I had a Greek language professor - a very nice man and very learned in Greek language and culture - who would visit Greece and the Middle East yearly during holiday breaks. Once he came back and told us how he had "received communion" in an Orthodox Church. From his description of events he had received only a piece of the antidoron such as is given to all the faithful as they come up to kiss the cross. This man, despite his long familiarity with Orthodox people and the Greek language, misunderstood what he had been given by interpreting his experiences through his Protestant experience. He was not a fool, nor was he stupid - he just misunderstood.

I can't say what exactly happened to Mr Torrance, however, I do know that he could not have been ordained to the priesthood unless he had first converted to Orthodoxy. And even if that were the case through some strange misunderstanding, if he renounced his Orthodox faith by returning to his former confession, then the priesthood would have been lost in any case. One of the narrative comments about this "award" was that he was "consecrated" a presbyter and later given the honor of the title "proto-presbyter". That description itself indicates that one is not at all familiar with the way these things are done. A priest is consecrated just prior to the consecration of the Holy Mysteries - after the Great Entrance. A proto-presbyter is not simply an "honorary" title but is a rank of the priesthood and is bestowed upon the priest during the small entrance. A person cannot be made a priest and proto-presbyter in the same liturgy. This "timing" issue also applies even more strongly because in Orthodox practice a man cannot be ordained a priest who has not first been ordained a deacon. The ordination to the diaconate takes place after the consecration of the gifts, before the distribution of Holy Communion. Thus it is not possible for a person to be ordained to the diaconate and to the priesthood in a single liturgy. This small confusion of terms and events makes me think that whatever was done was gravely misunderstood by the non-Orthodox participants.

It seems to me that Mr Torrance was indeed honored and quite revered by his Orthodox colleagues, but whatever honor was bestowed had to have been misunderstood, despite his learning and expertise.

Fr David Moser

Edited by Father David Moser, 22 January 2008 - 03:37 PM.
correct a cut and paste error


#34 Sacha

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 12:38 AM

I have read this thread with great interest and was wondering if anyone had any book recommendations on the topic of grace in the apostolic Fathers' writing. Is there an Orthodox book or article that delves into the Fathers' teaching on grace? (directly or indirectly addressing the charges made by TF Torrance and many protestants regarding a supposed 'loss of grace' in the transition between the apostles and the Fathers)

I know that Fr Dragas studied under him but it does not seem that this was addressed by him?

#35 Sacha

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 12:37 AM

Anyone?

Shawn you still around?

#36 Kosta

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 02:31 AM

From the excerpts provided of Mr Torrance book, i fail to see what his evidence is to support his thesis. Why would he use the Didache to prove his point when the Didache is a New Testament era book? Most scholar agree its a late 1st century writing so using that book would disprove his point.

#37 Olga

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 03:17 AM

Anyone?

Shawn you still around?


Sacha, it seems that Shawn has not logged in here since July last year.

#38 Sacha

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 03:32 AM

From the excerpts provided of Mr Torrance book, i fail to see what his evidence is to support his thesis. Why would he use the Didache to prove his point when the Didache is a New Testament era book? Most scholar agree its a late 1st century writing so using that book would disprove his point.


Yes, I agree. Is there any article or book on Orthodoxy that specifically looks at the understanding of grace in the apostolic fathers?

#39 Bryan J. Maloney

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Posted 28 January 2012 - 05:40 PM

It is a matter of dogmatic faith among protestant-type groups that the Church completely or almost completely abandoned the true faith as soon as the Apostles fell asleep in the Lord, perhaps even before then. There were no or nearly no right-believing Christians from that point in history until the Reformation, at which point perfect, true, and flawless knowledge was restored. Their interpretation of Church history, patristics, etc. demands that this dogma be accepted and then everything "interpreted" on that basis.

#40 Michael Stickles

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 02:23 AM

It is a matter of dogmatic faith among protestant-type groups that the Church completely or almost completely abandoned the true faith as soon as the Apostles fell asleep in the Lord, perhaps even before then. There were no or nearly no right-believing Christians from that point in history until the Reformation, at which point perfect, true, and flawless knowledge was restored. Their interpretation of Church history, patristics, etc. demands that this dogma be accepted and then everything "interpreted" on that basis.


I don't believe most hold to the concept that "perfect, true, and flawless knowledge was restored" at the Reformation (since their doctrine tends to differ, sometimes radically, from that of the reformers), but the rest is pretty much true. A book we used to have on Church history written from a Protestant perspective actually gave the title "The Decline of the Church" to the chapter on the three or four centuries after 100AD. I do think, though, that this interpretation of history is actually a conclusion rather than a premise. If you start with the Scriptures and a sola scriptura mindset, and through those come to a set of doctrinal beliefs which differ greatly from the Orthodox belief as held and taught by the Fathers, you will be forced to conclude that either your beliefs are wrong, or the Fathers were wrong. And the very nature of sola scriptura reasoning makes it almost inevitable that you'll reach the latter conclusion.




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