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Living in Grace: Interviews with Alan J. Torrance

Living in Grace[
**]Interviews With Alan J. Torrance

Copyright 2016 Grace Communion International

 

Table of Contents

Grace Leads to Godly Living

God’s Wrath, Hell, and Science

Living in Christ

About the Publisher…

Grace Communion Seminary

Ambassador College of Christian Ministry

[]Introduction

This is a transcript of interviews conducted as part of the You’re Included series, sponsored by Grace Communion International. We have more than 120 interviews available. You may watch them or download video or audio at www.gci.org/YI.

When people speak, thoughts are not always put into well-formed sentences, and sometimes thoughts are not completed. In these transcripts, we have removed occasional words that did not seem to contribute any meaning to the sentence. In some cases we could not figure out what word was intended. We apologize for any transcription errors, and if you notice any, we welcome your assistance.

Grace Communion International is in broad agreement with the theology of the people we interview, but GCI does not endorse every detail of every interview. The opinions expressed are those of the interviewees. We thank them for their time and their willingness to participate.

We incur substantial production costs for these interviews and transcripts. Donations in support of this ministry may be made at www.gci.org/donate.

Our guest in these interviews is Alan Torrance, son of James Torrance. He earned his doctorate in theology at the University of Erlangen-Nurnberg in Germany, and is now Professor of Systematic Theology at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. His work includes:

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p<>{color:#000;}. The Doctrine of God and Theological Ethics (editor, with Michael Banner)

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p<>{color:#000;}. Persons in Communion: Trinitarian Description and Human Participation

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p<>{color:#000;}. Scripture’s Doctrine and Theology’s Bible: How the New Testament Shapes Christian Dogmatics (with Markus Bockmuehl)

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p<>{color:#000;}. Christ and Context (editor, with Hilary Regan)

 

The interviewer was J. Michael Feazell, who was then vice president of Grace Communion International, and is now an instructor at Grace Communion Seminary.

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Grace Leads to Godly Living

Introduction: Welcome to a special edition of You’re Included, recorded in the ancient Scottish city of St. Andrews. St. Andrews is the home of the University of St. Andrews, Scotland’s oldest university, founded in 1413. St. Andrews enjoys a reputation as one of the finest institutions of higher education in the United Kingdom. It is the home of St. Mary’s College, the university’s renowned divinity school. In St. Mary’s nearly-500-year-old college hall, You’re Included host J. Michael Feazell, [then] Vice President of Grace Communion International, interviews Professor Alan J. Torrance.

Dr. Torrance is a Professor of Systematic Theology at the University of St. Andrews and a widely respected teacher and author. As the son of James B. Torrance and nephew of Thomas F. Torrance, he carries on their theological tradition. Professor Torrance’s work includes Persons in Communion: Trinitarian Description and Human Participation.

J. Michael Feazell: Professor Torrance, thank you for agreeing to meet with us.

Alan Torrance: It’s a pleasure to be here, Mike. Thanks for coming.

JMF: We want to begin by asking about a word that I’m sure my grandmother would not know what it means, but she knows what it’s about. Could you talk about the Incarnation, and why it’s important for Christians?

AT: The Incarnation concerns the heart of Christian faith. If I didn’t believe the Incarnation, I’d pack up my bags, resign my job, and go and do something useful. The Incarnation affirms that God is with us as the person of Jesus Christ. It’s fundamental to the knowledge of God. In the person of Christ we have God disclosing God’s own being to us. But it’s not just that in Christ God comes to us as God. God comes to us as man, and taking to himself a human-knowing of the Father.

When we affirm the Incarnation, we also immediately affirm the Trinity, because the knowledge that’s given to us in Christ is a human knowledge of the Father, and Jesus knows the Father in the Spirit. We are taken by that same Spirit to share in Jesus’ knowledge of the Father. But that’s not just a human knowledge of the Father—we’ve been taken into the knowledge of a Father that belongs to the eternal Son, in and through the incarnate Jesus.

Without the Incarnation, we don’t have anything that begins to resemble a full and final and adequate knowledge of God. But it’s not just the knowledge of God that the Incarnation’s vitally important. The doctrine of salvation is contingent, is dependent, upon the doctrine of the Incarnation.

What is the Christian doctrine of salvation? The key to understanding what salvation’s about is the Greek words that Paul uses. Paul uses the word apolutrosis, meaning redemption, and the key to that is three Hebrew concepts which that Greek word translates in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible.

The first is padah, meaning God delivers us from bondage. It’s a word that is used of God’s deliverance in Israel from Egypt. In salvation, God is delivering us from bondage, the bondage of sin, the tyranny of sin, the disease that we cannot overcome in and of ourselves. God does that in the Incarnation. God comes in Christ to deliver us from bondage. That’s the first key metaphor.

The second: God comes to us and deals with the costliness of sin. There’s another Hebrew word, kipper or kofer, that is also translated by a form of the word Paul uses for redemption, and that concerns the sacrificial offerings. On the Day of Atonement, the priest would take a lamb, and he would have [the names of] all the tribes of Israel along his coat…he’d lay his hands on the lamb, declare the sin of Israel—in other words, all of Israel’s sin is being laid on that lamb. Then the life of the lamb would be taken and Israel would see the life of that lamb, the costliness of its sin being taken from them. Or, a scapegoat. He’d lay his hands on a goat and declare the sins of Israel, hit it on the backside, and all of Israel in the celebration of worship would watch the goat run off into the wilderness carrying away its sin. So, the second metaphor, in the Incarnation, God comes as human to deal with the costliness of sin and carry our sin away from us.

The third metaphor is go’el, the kinsman redeemer. This is perhaps the most important. There’s a provision under the covenant where if a family lost its father, or a woman lost her husband, then a kinsman, a relative, would come and marry that woman and restore that woman to an inheritance that she would otherwise lose. Or, if a farmer falls into debt and loses his farm, the kinsman member…perhaps that man’s brother… of that family would come and restore that person to the inheritance that was lost. Again, the Incarnation concerns God coming as a human to restore us the inheritance that was lost in Adam.

All three metaphors are intertwined. So in the Incarnation, we have God coming to deliver us from sin and from guilt, most importantly. People think of guilt as a good thing. Well, guilt oppresses. It can make us ashamed of being in the presence of God. Guilt eclipses God. It can become a barrier between us and God. In the Incarnation, God comes to deliver us from guilt, and he comes as our kinsman redeemer, blood of our blood, flesh of our flesh, to restore us to an inheritance that was lost. What was Adam’s inheritance? Communion with God.

All this takes place in the Spirit. We have not just the doctrine of the Incarnation—the doctrine of the Incarnation unfolds properly when we understand the doctrine of the Trinity, because everything Christ does is in the Spirit, bringing humanity by the Spirit, through the Spirit, into communion with the Father, to share in that eternal communion which is constitutive of the being of God, which defines the being of God. God is eternally Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That communion of love is shared with the world in the person of Jesus Christ. Sinful, alienated, diseased humanity is taken and re-created and given to participate in that eternal communion of love.

A lot of people think of God as an individual voyeur God, who sits in a rocking chair at some distance watching the world and condemning all that goes on. A lot of liberal theology is like that. That’s why liberal theology is often full of exhortations and condemnations, bullying us into social action of some kind or another. That is a pauper’s understanding of God.

The God of the heart of the Christian faith is a God whose being is eternally one of love and communion. A self-contained individual isn’t capable of love. Without the doctrine of the Trinity, it wouldn’t make sense to talk about the love of God. 1 John suggests God is love. That is required to be understood in Trinitarian terms because there’s an eternal triune communion of loving.

I mentioned knowledge of God. The Incarnation opens out knowledge of God by getting us to share in Christ’s human knowing of the Father, which at the same time is the eternal Son’s knowledge of the Father. No one knows the Father save the Son and those to whom he reveals him.

It’s also incredibly important for worship. I’m sure you’re a more holy man than I am, but sometimes on Sunday morning I turn up in church and I don’t feel in the mood to worship. I ought to, but for whatever reason, maybe I’m worried about my work or family, I’ve got concerns. You go into church and you’re going to try to find the energy to pray, sing hymns, and worship. In charismatic churches, they often poof up the energy with lots of choruses and so on.

One of the great answers to this problem is to remember what worship is. Worship is the gift of participating in the incarnate Son’s eternal communion with the Father. Before we go into the church, the worship’s already going on. The Son is adoring the Father. The Priest, the sole Priest of our confession, is providing that everlasting worship in our place and on our behalf in the Spirit. When we enter into the church… (it doesn’t just happen at church, it happens at home)…when we worship, we’re not starting something that wasn’t previously going on. We’ve been taken by the Spirit to share in what is going on and to participate in the prayer that the High Priest is offering for me and for my family, concerning my work-related problems, et cetera. The praise and rejoicing that goes on in the mind of Christ I’ve been given to participate in by the Spirit.

JMF: The fact that it is in the Spirit would seem to indicate that we don’t see it. There’s not evidence to us that it’s going on, except that the word of God says so. Is that where faith comes in, to believe the word of God that it’s true, regardless of the fact that we may not see it or feel it?

AT: Precisely. Faith is a form of sight. It’s a form of healing as well. Remember when Simon made that confession about the Christ? Jesus said, “Flesh and blood hasn’t revealed that to you, but your Father who is in heaven.” Faith is about being given the eyes to see and the ears to hear, to recognize what we otherwise wouldn’t see. Sometimes I face struggles because sometimes we begin to doubt when we trust our own physical hearing and seeing. The Spirit gives us the conviction, the recognition of what’s going on.

Two years ago my wife died of cancer, and she was ill for three and a half years until she died. It was a very difficult time. I’ve got four boys; it was a difficult time for the family. During that period, sometimes it was difficult to understand and see purpose in all of this. We prayed for her to be healed, and she wasn’t healed. There were times when it was a challenge not to give up and find oneself disoriented.

Again, a return to the Incarnation, because this is so pertinent to faith. The heart of the Incarnation is the doctrine that Christ knows our weaknesses, takes our questions, our doubts to himself, (“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”) and identifies with us in our suffering. By the Spirit we are united with that. We don’t float free of the cares of this world. We are given to recognize the One who stands with us in the concerns of this world, who knows our weaknesses, our doubting, our blindness, who in every respect is as tempted as we are and knows our struggles. He knows even our sense of god-forsakenness at times, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

One of the most moving things that I experienced when Jane was dying in the final weeks of that awful period was the Spirit’s giving one the sense that God’s solidarity with one, was present with us in and through this grief, that God is Immanuel, God with us.

A lot of people ask the why questions. If you’re Christians, why is God not healing Jane? Even if they didn’t ask it verbally, you tended to feel that people were thinking that. But far more important than the why question is the where question. I don’t know why God allowed Jane to die of cancer, but I know the answer to the where question. Where was God in and through that process? He was right with us in that grief, sustaining myself and my family and giving us the eyes to see and recognize his presence in and through that misery.

When we’re talking about faith, we are simultaneously talking about the Spirit. It’s easy for us to make faith become a work. Suddenly Alan Torrance, in a heroic way, has faith. No, faith is about the work of the Spirit, taking Alan Torrance in all his frailty, confusion, doubting, and loneliness and suffering, and giving him the eyes to see and hear the grace of God in the context of doubt and suffering. I think that’s the answer one ought to give. Faith is a form of discernment. It’s through the hypostasis, the substance, in Hebrews 11:1, of things hoped for. It’s where we see and discern that which is the object of our hope.

JMF: Is our faith a participation in Christ’s own faith?

AT: That’s exactly what faith is. Faith is the gift of sharing by the Spirit in the incarnate Son’s human communion with the Father, his faith. There’s a big debate in New Testament circles which is incredibly important. Since Reformation times, we’ve always tended to emphasis in the Protestant churches justification by faith, as if Alan Torrance is justified by his faith. I don’t think that’s Paul’s argument. There’s a grammatical issue. Paul says we are justified, and then the question is whether he says by faith in Christ or by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. It depends whether the genitive case there is objective or subjective. There’s a strong case, when Paul says in two or three places that we are made righteous or justified through the faith of Jesus Christ, he means that we were made righteous through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ rather than through our faith in Jesus Christ. So the point you just made couldn’t be more important. Our righteousness, our justification does not lie first and foremost in our faith—it lies in the faith and faithfulness of our incarnate Lord.

JMF: That would mean that when we’re experiencing doubt, which is not uncommon for us to be full of doubt from time to time, we don’t need to fear that God has left us because we don’t have good enough faith, because our trust really is in Christ himself to have faith for us.

AT: You couldn’t put it better. That is gospel. That is good news. It wouldn’t be good news if God comes to me and says, “Alan, if you have faith, and if you somehow manage to sustain that faith to the point you die, then you’ll go to heaven, and you’ll be saved.” I don’t have confidence in my ability to sustain that. But the good news of the gospel is that God comes and provides that faith, and that faithfulness, for us on our behalf.

The parable of the prodigal son is one of my favorites. It’s often told as a story of confession. The prodigal son comes home because he’s repented, and because he’s repented, the father accepts him home. That’s nonsense. That’s not the story. He comes home for one reason and one reason only, and it couldn’t be more plain—because of the quality of the pig food! He wants to use his father still further. The point of the story is that the father, who is a wealthy dignified nobleman, ran—that means he grabbed his robes up around his waist—humiliated himself in order to run and embrace his son—before he had heard any statement.

It’s a great parable of the love of the father. But the gospel goes further. There’s a non-parallelism between this parable of the prodigal son and the gospel. The whole time that the son was in the far county, the father was at home. In the gospel, we have the Father going (in the person of the Son) and setting up home in the far country to be with the son and to be where the son is. And, just to continue the non-parallelism, in the person of the Son, God completes all that was required of the prodigal. He offers the faith, the worship, the worth-ship… all that is required is fulfilled in him, in the place of the son. So that by the Spirit, the son might be given to recognize the meaning of grace; that, as John Calvin put it, all parts of our salvation are complete in Christ, the head of the human race. Wonderful good news. Remarkable.

JMF: Some people, upon hearing that explicated, get uncomfortable and say, if that’s true, then that would give me the freedom to behave improperly. It would give me freedom to sin and not worry because I know that God has forgiven me and loves me despite my sins, so there has to be something wrong with that, because it would promote…especially among our teenagers… if they heard something like that, they would go out and sin all the more.

AT: That’s invariably the response that one gets. Let’s think about that for a minute. Let’s think up an analogy. I was blessed with a very devoted, faithful, loving wife. There’s one period in my life when I was involved in theological conversations in Holland, in the Netherlands. I was regularly going off to Amsterdam. Lots of non-theological things go on in Amsterdam, and it’s sometimes known as sin city. (I used to pull Jane’s leg about this.) Let’s imagine that my wife had come to worry as to whether I was engaged in illegitimate activities on my travels.

Two responses she might have given. She might have said, “Alan, I want you to know that if you even contemplate involving yourself in any illicit activities while you’re away in your travels, I get the kids and I get the car and you’re going to pay for this the rest of your days.” She could have spelled out the ramifications and implications, the costliness of any sinning I got up to.

Or she might have said this: As she waved me goodbye from the front door of my house, “Alan, I just want you to know that if ever you find yourself in trouble, no matter what comes your way, I’ll always be there for you. You’ll always be welcome home. I’ll always love you, I’ll always be there for you.” That sounds a little bit Mills and Boonish. [Mills & Boon publishes romance novels in the U.K.]

But ask yourself: which is most likely to lead me to engage in un-theological activities on my trips to Amsterdam? There is no question in my mind that I’d be much more likely to go my own way in the first situation, because the first response basically said, there’s no real unconditional love between us—it’s a contractual deal. If you play the game, then I’ll play my part, etc. That’s not love.

The second was genuine, unconditional, costly love, and that is what converts us, and that’s what makes us faithful. I don’t think antinomianism (the repudiation of law) is a consequence of discovering God’s grace, seeing the extent of God’s grace for what it is. It’s the opposite. When we are brought by the Spirit, we are given the eyes to see the lengths to which God goes out of unconditional love for you as a particular person, as an individual. When you see that and are given to live in the light of that, you’re liberated from sin. It doesn’t encourage us to go and sin, thinking it’s not going to matter. It has the opposite effect.

That’s the difference between what’s called legal repentance and evangelical repentance. When we’re presented with a law, I don’t think repentance is sincere. It’s when we’re presented with the gospel, the euangelion, the unconditional love and forgiveness of God, when we see that, believe it, given our eyes to recognize it and affirm it, that sets us free from sin. It liberates us from sin. It’s an evangelical metanoia*.* A metanoia is the word for conversion. It means the transformation of our minds. When we’re presented with unconditional love, it transforms our minds.

The church is often trying to prop up the gospel either by dangling people over the pit or setting up conditions: if you commit this sin, you’re beyond the pale. No. We should have the courage to trust in the grace of God and the work of the Spirit getting people let in, liberating people by giving them eyes to see the meaning of the unconditional freeness of grace.

JMF: It reminds me of Paul’s letter to Titus [2:12] where he says, “For it is grace that teaches you to say no to ungodliness.”

AT: Precisely. I like that. Why did I take five minutes to say what you said in a sentence? Exactly.

JMF: When people ask that question, it doesn’t work like that. Christians who receive the grace of God don’t think like that.

AT: There’s no question: good, devout Christians sin. I don’t mean to claim that I’m a good Christian, but I sin all the time. Why do I sin? Why do I sin when I believe so strongly in unconditional freeness? I am convinced when I look at a moment that I’m sinning, it’s because for that moment, I’ve lost my faith. I’m not believing in the grace of God.

To believe in the grace of God is to believe that the risen, crucified Jesus, the sole Priest of our confession, is now saying, “Alan, there is nothing you can do that will separate you from my love,” and when I believe that, when I’m presented with that and have the eyes to see that and hear it, I’m not tempted to sin. It’s when I look away from that, that sin becomes a temptation. So the answer to sin is for the church to continue to remind people of the unconditional, costly freeness of grace in Jesus Christ. It’s when we’re living out of that reality that we’re liberated. Not just liberated from sin but, more importantly, from the desire to sin.

JMF: The gospel is not about rules and law-keeping. The gospel is about the positive relationship that we’re brought into with God and with one another. The gospel is a gospel of relationship, not behavior.

AT: Precisely. That’s not just the New Testament—that’s the heart of the Old Testament. Exodus 20, the Ten Commandments, the laws, where do they start? The first one, “I am the Lord thy God who has brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” When people talk of the Ten Commandments, they want to start with the “thou shalts” and the “thou shalt nots.” But it only makes sense in the context of that first verse, which spells out the nature of God’s unconditional covenant commitment to Israel. He loves Israel and has delivered them from bondage in that love. It should read, “I am the Lord thy God which has delivered you from Egypt…therefore, as I am unconditionally faithful to you, Have no other God’s before me. And as I am unconditionally faithful to all of Israel, so be faithful to each other. Don’t kill, don’t commit adultery, don’t lie, don’t steal, etc.”

In other words, the Torah, the Jewish law, the commandments, are simply spelling out the structure, the logic of a relationship of love and faithfulness. The key concept in the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch, is God’s hesed, God’s covenant faithfulness, or beriththat’s the word for covenant. It’s about relationship. The whole of the Pentateuch is a relational gospel. When Jesus summed up the law, in “love God and your neighbor as yourself,” he wasn’t introducing some new formula—he was being a good Jew. He was summarizing the heart of the Ten Commandments. I couldn’t agree more with what you just said.

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[][]God’s Wrath, Hell, and the Role of Science

J. Michael Feazell: Let’s talk about a subject that is sometimes misunderstood, perhaps, or frightening to people. What is the wrath of God?

Alan Torrance: The wrath, or “wroth,” as we say in this country… When we speak about the wrath of God, we are speaking about the love of God. We mustn’t forget that. There are two kind of anger, or wrath, that we know in the human context. There’s wrath which can emerge when someone’s will is frustrated. Someone’s football team doesn’t win the game, or the referee makes a decision that wasn’t the one that you wanted to see made, and people get angry. A lot of people think of God’s wrath as the wrath of a largely voyeuristic individual up there, when his will is frustrated. But that is an unbiblical definition of the wrath of God. The wrath of God is the wrath of the jealous God.

What is meant by the jealous God? It does not mean jealousy of the kind that would mean a breach of the commandment, thou shall not covet. But rather God’s wrath, God’s jealousy, is God’s love for his people. When God loves a people, he hates to see that people taken apart by sin or by disease or whatever. The wrath of God is God’s anger at the costliness of sin to a people that he loves, when he sees the destruction of a people. So the best kind of human analogy is when a father adores a daughter or a son, and they are used and abused in some relationship where someone takes advantage of the one they love. Then there will be a wrath and anger that is a righteous anger grounded in love for their well-being.

God’s wrath doesn’t mean that he just loves the victim and hates the victimizer. God loves the victimizer as well as the victim. But God is angry with those responsible for all that destroys and destructs the shalom, the peace and communion and koinonia of his people. You can’t have a proper understanding of the love of God without an equally robust doctrine of the wrath of God. It’s imperative that we don’t forget that to speak of the love and grace of God is to take seriously the biblical affirmations of the wrath of God.

God’s love isn’t any kind of mamby-pamby sentimental fuzzy love. It’s a real valuing of the dignity of people. When that dignity is destroyed or betrayed by sin, God is angry — as angry as he is loving. But the important thing is…when we talk about the wrath of God, we’re not talking about something that is arbitrary. The Christian life should never be based in fear. Christian life is lived from the love of God. When we see the wrath of God, we see beyond it the love of God. The wrath reposes in the love of God. So we should rejoice in the wrath of God because, if we’re going to do this right, it’s the wrath of God that values persons, but loves…and not just the exploited, but the exploiter, the sinner and the sinned against.

JMF: There’s a passage about how mercy triumphs over judgment. Is that applicable to the wrath of God or the love of God in this way?

AT: Absolutely. This talk of mercy is there because of the wrath of God. God forgives those with whom he’s angry. He forgives me although I give him endless cause to be more than angry. We’ve got to say this as Christians — we rejoice in the fact that he’s angry. I can rejoice in the fact that God is angry with me, because God is only angry with me because of the extent of his love for me and for those against whom I sin. So when we’re talking about the wrath of God, we are talking about the good news, odd though that may seem.

JMF: We tend to think of God’s anger being just like ours, and ours is usually irrational. Even if it’s somewhat justified, it still is not under control so well, and it’s irrational, and we usually form poor conclusions while we’re in that state of mind.

AT: Precisely. Not so with God. What we must not do is project those conceptions of human anger and wrath and frustration of will onto God, because if we do that, we don’t have the biblical understanding of wrath. The theological mistake we make more than any other…is when we take human concepts, interpret them in the human context, and then project them onto God.

There’s a great example of Jesus dealing with that problem. After Peter’s confession about the Christ, Jesus says that the Son of Man is going to suffer, and Peter becomes angry. He says, “No, there’s no way we’re going to allow this to happen,” because Peter had a concept of messiah — and in the light of that prior concept in his mind, he was going to make sure that Jesus fitted that concept.

How did Jesus respond? The hardest comment that Jesus ever made was to Peter when he was doing that. “Get thee behind me, Satan.” In other words, it is demonic to take a prior concept from human order and try to fit God into that prior human understanding. Why is it demonic? Because it’s reversing revelation. It’s turning revelation on its head. Revelation takes our human terms and fills them with new meaning — the meaning that is given them by the gospel and by God’s involvement with us in the person of Christ. We must do that with the word “love,” we must do that with “wrath.” If we do the opposite, then we are not just impeding revelation, we’re inverting it. To do that is demonic.

There’s another remarkable example …in some ways that feminist theology wanted to grasp but failed to think through. Jesus is concerned about our using terms and concepts that are not reconceived in the light of the gospel. For example, he doesn’t like us using status symbols, “I’m a professor.” Jesus would have been skeptical about my using the term professor. We’re not to call anybody Rabbi. There’s only one Rabbi “Call no man teacher,” there’s only one teacher, namely God.

Jesus saw the way human beings used the terminology of hierarchy to oppress or control and exert power over people. What does Jesus do? We’re not allowed to use the term teacher. I’m not allowing you to use any term that people are going to use to oppress others and to control. Then he goes on and says, “And call no man father,” because there’s only one father.

If we’re going to use the same term for God and humanity, then as Jesus saw, there’s a potential for abuse. For male fathers, a term that’s appropriately used of God, and then, as it were, taking that divine authority to themselves in some sense. If we’re going to use a term “Father” of God, we’re to call no man father. That is a dominical injunction. How many Christians do you know stopped using the term father of their male parent? Christian churches ignored that for 2000 years.

Had we obeyed Jesus, there would never have been any feminist charges that it’s oppressive to call God Father. The feminists are right, but there is a risk. If we call God Father and males father, then we, by association, give male parents a kind of authority, a superiority in the world order. We open the door to sexism. Jesus anticipated that. We’re not to call anybody father, technically. I think what he means is this: We have got to be careful that every time we use terms of God they are radically commandeered and disentangled from any continuity with the human context, that is potentially oppressive.

So, back to the original question from wrath. If we use the term wrath of God, we must make sure that it is understood in the life and the totality of God’s orientation to the world and to his people.

JMF: His redemptive purpose.

AT: Exactly. Every term that is used of God and God’s purposes must be reconceived in the life of the gospel. The great theologian who was rigorous about this was John Calvin. Karl Barth, perhaps even more consistently than John Calvin. But Calvin set about doing that in his great work with the Institutio. Every term he sought to reconceive in light of biblical statements.

JMF: In that context, then let’s talk about hell for a moment. What is hell? How should a Christian view hell?

AT: Hell is a place of separation from God. It’s a place of godlessness.

JMF: Do you mean separation in the sense of alienation or in the sense of actual space?

AT: No, I think alienation. People standing against God, trying to live without God. There’s much that needs to be said here. First, when Jesus used the term kingdom, we often thought about the kingdom of God in terms of heaven. One day the kingdom will be fully realized. But the kingdom’s not at hand.

Just as the kingdom will be fully realized on one occasion, and yet is at hand at the moment, I think we have to say the same thing about hell. There’s a sense…to the extent that we seek to live without God, we stand against God, and hell is already realized in some sense. The Bible seems to suggest that one day it will be fully realized for people who seek to stand against God. But that raises the question as to what we can say about the population of hell and how populated hell is. We get into very controversial territory. Can I speak to that for one moment?

Several things have got to be said, but they can be said very quickly. First, to the extent that hell is populated, it’s populated by people who are loved by God. God is love. God loves all of his creation unconditionally, and that never ends. Second, to the extent that hell is populated, it’s populated by people for whom Christ died and whom Christ has forgiven.

People find that difficult to conceive. But just as we are to forgive 70 times 7, unconditionally, with no exception, so does Jesus. Jesus, as fellow human, wouldn’t tell us to do something he wouldn’t do himself. Jesus is God come as human. If God was telling us to do things that he wouldn’t do himself, then there’s no integrity in the gospel. Hell is populated by people who are loved and forgiven by God.

I think the most one can say is this: to the extent that hell is populated, it’s populated by people whom God has allowed to opt to live against his purpose or live in isolation from him. If that happens and to the extent that that does happen, God is utterly distraught for eternity.

Finally, it is not possible to be a Christian and want hell to be populated. It’s not possible. Why? Because we are to love our enemies. That means all our enemies. We’re to love Hitler, right?

JMF: That’s the first question that we hear. What about Adolf Hitler?

AT: We’re somehow to love Hitler. That may be humanly impossible, but I believe that God loves Hitler, and one day, when we have that mind which was in Christ Jesus fully in us, we will be set free to love even Hitler.

JMF: In that day we would also have seen and taken part in everything that Hitler had taken away having been restored through Christ, wouldn’t we?

AT: That’s right. It will be a lot easier. We don’t love what Hitler did. To love an evil person is not to love their evil. A final comment: I often have students come up to me and say that they had a grandparent that they loved who has just died, and they sadly weren’t Christians, and they fear for their salvation. They find it puzzling — how could it be the case that God doesn’t love the grandparent as much as they loved their grandparent? The only answer for that, is God loves the grandparent even though she or he wasn’t a Christian, and infinitely more than they possibly could.

JMF: Right.

AT: When it comes to questions of the future destination of people, often the people whom we’ve loved and who have died, we just say this —the only God we know is a God who is all loving, all just, and all forgiving, who would never do anything that is contrary to his love, justice, and forgiveness. Therefore we can joyfully commit those people to God and trust those people with God, given that God loves them more than we do.

I think there’s good news even despite the biblical warning about hell. In the dominical warnings, Jesus speaks about hell. Although it does raise a question sometimes whether Jesus in some sense speaks to that in and through the cross and resurrection, whether we need to go back to what Jesus said and interpret it in the light of what he has done, because he descended to hell for us.

JMF: Yes. That’s the reason he came, because of the reality of the consequences of separation and hell. Let’s switch gears for a moment and ask about science. Is science a hindrance or a help to Christian faith?

AT: Good science is a wonderful gift of God. It’s helping us understand God’s creation, simple as that. To the extent that scientists are being genuinely scientific, interpreting the contingent order, creation out of itself in its own light, and are doing so truthfully and faithfully, it’s a wonderful gift. Science can only function because of the intelligibility of the contingent order, and that intelligibility is given by God. It stems from the intelligence of the Creator. It’s an extremely strong argument from science for the existence of God, if you’re wanting to engage in arguments for the existence of God.

But there are problems in the scientific community, because there’s a philosophy that’s sometimes confused for science, called Naturalism. Naturalism is as old as the hills…well, not quite as the hills… but it’s as old as civilization. The view goes back to the creation. It is a view that the world is basically a closed causal system that operates in indifference to questions of value, fairness, and so on. Certain forms of science, sometimes in the biological sciences this is more common, science wants to presuppose naturalism, the view that God does not exist.

We see that illustrated in Richard Dawkins’s thought, for example. He believes that to be scientific is to repudiate the existence of God, to be an atheist. I am of the view that that is not scientific. Scientists should not be in the business of making theological claims – that is to go beyond the boundaries of scientific investigation.

How compatible, therefore, is the affirming of the existence of God with science? It’s remarkable what’s taken place in the last 30 years. We’ve seen in the last 30 years the most significant developments in philosophy and Christian philosophy since Thomas Aquinas. In 1974 I started a four-year philosophy degree. In those days, there was a man called G.L. Mackey who was of the view that it was logically incoherent to be a Christian theist. You could count the number of Christian philosophers on the fingers of a mutilated hand, to be frank. The vast majority of analytic philosophers repudiated theism.

In the space of only 30 years, that situation has changed profoundly. Now, at least one in four analytic philosophers in North America, which is where analytic philosophy is at its finest, is a theist; the vast majority of those are Christian theists.

In 2001, one of the world’s leading atheist philosophers, Quentin Smith, wrote an article (and this is going back to the science issue) in the journal he edited, which was called Philo… a journal of the Humanist Philosopher’s Association, with every leading atheist philosopher on its board — all the brains behind Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and so on. His article was a 10,000-word article called “The Meta-Philosophy of Naturalism” — a look at the philosophical underpinnings of naturalism — that’s the atheistic philosophy of Dawkins and his book.

In that article he establishes that the Christian philosophers, this new breed of Christian philosophers (led by Alvin Plantinga, the greatest living Christian philosopher, one of the greatest philosophers), have beaten the atheists, the naturalist philosophers. At every key point, their writings are more logically rigorous, more cognizant. His article was a clarion call to atheists to get their act together if they’re not going to be swamped by the quality of Christian philosophy.

One of the things that’s emerged out of the Christian philosophers was the number of arguments that stem from contemporary science for the existence of God. One of the factors that the Christian philosophers have been writing about recently is the fine-tuning of the universe. The chances of carbon emerging are infinitesimally small. Other factors, ranging to Planck time and so on.

I won’t go into the details right now, but the factors, the chances of this universe occurring in the way it is, such that there can be life on this planet, is just an unthinkably small number. We’re talking about factors such as 1 in 10 to the power of 60 in one of the fine tunings — in another fine tuning, 1 in 10 to the power of 43. But the difference between 1 in 10 to the power of 43 and 1 in 10 to the power of 42, we’re talking about massively small chances. And 10 to the 43 is 10 with 43 zeroes after it. Similar is the chances of there being a planet in which you and I can sit here being filmed engaging in intelligent conversation are unthinkably small. Science has no explanation for that. Science can’t explain the intelligibility of the contingent order. It can’t explain why there’s something rather than nothing.

One of the attempts to explain fine tuning on the part of atheists is called the “multi-verse theory,” which suggests that there’s a new infinite or infinite number of random universe occurings, one of which just happens to look like it’s been designed. But then there would need to be a mechanism to produce all these random potential universe occurings. Where would that come from? That still wouldn’t explain why there’s something rather than nothing.

There’s a vast number of fundamental questions which are beyond the bounds of science, that science will not be able to answer, which theism answers very straightforward. In other words, theism has spectacular and unparalleled explanatory power. That’s something to bear in mind when we get media from everywhere bombarding us with the atheism of people like the Dennetts and the Dawkinses of this world, and Sam Harris, and so on. The quality of the arguments and the final answer don’t even begin to touch the quality of the arguments that are being offered right now by the world’s leading Christian philosophers.

JMF: Do you have a suggestion for a lay person who might want to read a book that would help them along those lines? What would it be?

AT: John Polkinghorne has written some very useful books, and David Wilkinson of Durham has written some successful books. The person that I would encourage everyone to engage with is Alvin Plantinga. A great many of the articles he has written on God and science are on the internet, so you don’t need to fork out for a book to become familiar with the issues. Scotsmen will never fork out if we don’t have to.

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Living in Christ

J. Michael Feazell: Paul wrote to the Colossians that God was in Christ reconciling all things to himself. What are the implications of that for how human beings live together?

Alan Torrance: The word Paul uses is apokatallasso. That is the word for “to reconcile,” and it means, technically, “exchange.” It summarizes what you were saying earlier about redemption. You can summarize the whole of redemption and salvation in that verse…God was in Christ bringing about an exchange — taking what is ours, our alienated, sinful, fallen humanity — and healing it and transforming it. God is in Christ taking what is ours in order to give us what is his. What is his? It’s a life of communion characterized by unconditional love and unconditional forgiveness. When we are given by the Spirit to participate in Christ… The phrase “in Christ” appears in Paul 154 times. That’s the heart of Christian life, is being en Christo in Greek, participating in Christ.

To come to your question…what are the implications of this for how we live in society? To be a Christian is to be given the eyes to see and the ears to hear every facet of life in that light. To be a Christian is to think out of Christ in every situation. It’s never possible to bracket our Christian life out as something that happens on Sundays, or concerns our private piety. To be a Christian is to think about science, politics, every facet of our lives in the light of what it is to be en Christo. If we are re-created to be en Christo, if our being is defined by our participation in the body of Christ, then every facet of our lives has to re-thought in that light.

I had the privilege to spend two years in a North American based research group, with Miroslav Wolf, Nicholas Wolterstorff and two others, thinking about the implications, the ramifications, of reconciliation — of this reconciliation — for our political engagement. I think it means this: We shouldn’t advocate anything, not least in politics, that doesn’t reflect what it is to be in Christ. You don’t pray one thing and vote another. There’s got to be integrity and consistence in that. Christians (and this is what it means to be the salt of the earth) should work for reconciliation at the horizontal level everywhere they find themselves.

For example, if you’re a Christian in politics and you’re seeking to engage with terrorists or situations of conflict, you have to allow the truth of that verse to infuse and inform and direct your thinking in every respect. Does reconciliation mean ignoring terrorism or aggression? Emphatically not. But instead of simply enacting revenge or retribution, we should have an eye to thinking what is it that we can do, what is it we can (if we are politicians) inspire in our voters that will lead to genuine reconciliation, because that’s what God desires. What can we do that will generate healing and a restoration of good relationships?

To be a human being is to be created in the image of God, in the imago dei, as we often hear. We are to image, to reflect, to correspond, to who God is in all that we are. That’s in the Torah, the Jewish law, the Ten Commandments: “I am the Lord thy God who has brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Therefore, as I am unconditionally faithful to you and have been, so must you be faithful to me, have no other gods before me, and be faithful to each other.” That is to image God, to be in the image of God, that’s what the imago dei is talking about. It’s not talking about some innate human capacity. It’s talking about the form of human existence corresponding to God’s relationship to us.

Jesus summed up the law as to love God, and our neighbors as ourselves. He was talking about something that should impact every facet of our existences. To be lights in this world, to be the salt of the earth, is for Christians to have the courage, sometimes against the stream of popular opinion, to work for reconciliation, restoration, healing, and to think radically and creatively as to what is going to bring that about.

If every Christian in the West were to think out of the Christian faith, just imagine the priorities that would be manifest in our political decision making. This is controversial — we like to keep religion and politics separate. I don’t see any Christian endorsement of that. If every politician in the West who was voted into their office by Christians were to seek to enact those insights, the world would be a massively happier place, and the West could be seen as committed to reconciliation, to healing, to being concerned for the poor, for prioritizing, liberating two-thirds of the world from the extreme financial hardship and the disease and so on that causes so much grief. If that was what the eyes of our critics, our enemies saw when they looked to the West, a group of nations committed to making, to creating a reconciled world characterized by mutual care and concern, we’d be far more influential, there would be much more peace in this world.

There’s always going to be evil. We’re still left with situations where there’s always going to be, I’m afraid, terrorism, hostility, and greed, and sometimes (I’m not a pacifist, I’d love to be) we’ve got to take actions to try to ensure the best possible outcome for all concerned (though, as Stanley Hauerwas suggests, we’ve got to respect pacifists, because they have a strong doctrine of divine providence).

In everything we do and however we do it, the aim, the goal, must be shalom. Not just our own peace and well-being, but the peace and well-being of our enemies. The gospel is radical. The incarnation has radical implications. It should impact every facet of the way we live, vote, think, spend our money, and behave. Nothing would be more exciting than if the church had the courage, and it does take courage, to be that radical…

JMF: Christians don’t ever seem to come close in making that happen as a worldwide body. There are so many denominations, sects and splits. They don’t get along with each other; they’re divided against each other. How do we account for such division among Christians when we’re called to such radical living together as the body of Christ?

AT: You’ve put your finger on the tragedy of contemporary Christian existence. It’s a terrible witness that the body of Christ… We believe in one holy, catholic and apostolic church. That’s an article of faith to believe, that there’s one church, because there’s one body, just as there’s one Christ, there’s one body of Christ. To the extent that we are Christians, we are one, and we must be conceived as being one. Does the world see one body of Christ? One united communion of the body of Christ? I’m afraid it doesn’t. It sees a lot of Christian individuals driven by pride, very often—sometimes at war with each other. Look at the tragedy of events in Northern Ireland; look at what we’ve seen in South Africa. The German Christians—Hitler couldn’t have come to power without the support, I’m afraid, of the Deutche Christians, the German Christians.

You question why things are the way they are? Here’s a one-word answer: sin, or pride (which is the other side of the same coin). Many people want to go for a kind of ecumenism, which means that we form big bodies and we form federations – where the churches talk to each other and they’ve got good relationships with each other. What would our Lord want to see? He’d want to see one body of Christ characterized by radical communion and a coherent collective witness which has real integrity. He’d want to see love and forgiveness and mutual understanding. The church is divided because it doesn’t have the mind of Christ. Christ only has one mind (unless we’re going to delve into dramatic debates). The mind of Christ which is in Christ Jesus should characterize the body of Christ, and therefore to be an evangelical, to be a Christian, is to strive for that.

Look right and left, look at the people who belong to churches with whom you disagree, and you’ve got to say to yourself, “that is a tragedy, and what can we do together to find ways of not just being or possessing the mind of Christ, but embodying it within the world, because the divisions in the church are a terrible witness.” When I was involved in missions (Howard Marshall and I used to run missions together) I went around doors and the continual complaint was, “How can you Christians offer good news to the world? You can’t even agree amongst yourselves.”

JMF: Where we see communion and union in the body of Christ is among individuals and among pastors of various denominations who come together for working together, and they bypass what amounts to the institutionalism, the entrenched structures of churches and so on. They work around that in ways that reflect the body of Christ in individual ways. This is where we see what needs to be seen.

AT: That is what it is to be true to the gospel. It also means that we have to work within our churches to bring about change — so we can find constructive ways forward together with other churches and have high aims. I think denominational division of the kind we have at the moment is a handicap. To be evangelical is to be ecumenical. The sad thing is, ecumenism and evangelicalism have often been polarized.

JMF: They originate at the heads of or in the context of institutionalism, which itself is not Christianity but institutionalism.

AT: Precisely. We’ve got to move, to get beyond institutionalism.

JMF: It happens with people on the ground who are living out their faith…

AT: Usually the problem is establishment religion or civil religion. For example, in Scotland…very often, to be a Scot is to belong to the Church of Scotland, as I do, and to be part of that establishment. Establishment religion is not participation in the body of Christ. I don’t think there’s any place for establishment religion. We’re called beyond that, and we must do all we can to liberate the gospel from those forms of civil religion.

JMF: In the micro context of a family, where perhaps a husband is abusing a wife — this is not uncommon — and sometimes the church tells her that she needs to reconcile with this man who abuses her, and so …do we sometimes confuse the forgiveness and the reconciliation of the spirit with some kind of requirement to go back under the authority of this person who is bound to abuse her again?

AT: We should never advocate in the name of reconciliation a situation of sustained abuse. That is to turn reconciliation on its head, and as I am trying to explain, reconciliation is about being given to participate in what is Christ’s. Abuse within a family context is widespread; it’s a massive problem, not least within the Christian church.

When there’s abuse going on, the church has an absolute obligation (apodictic obligation) to stop that, to put an end to that abuse. How could we possibly give and communicate good news to a woman who is being abused by a husband by telling her to acknowledge his authority or anything of that kind? That is not the gospel. The gospel is to affirm the dignity and humanity of that woman, and do everything in our power to liberate her from the powers that would oppress and exploit, in this case, perhaps a violent or abusive husband.

I often think that the church should be much more outspoken about the problems of abuse within family life. One of the tragedies, sometimes, is this aligning of God’s fatherhood with human fatherhood and suggesting that fathers are somehow superior. Then they talk about the divine wrath! I know one Calvinist theologian who thinks he’s got grounds for what I think is fairly abusive discipline of his children, because he’s got to enact, as the image of the Father, “godly discipline.” He takes the belt from around his trousers and belts his children. That is precisely what Jesus was opposing. Every facet of Jesus’ ministry was opposing that.

Family life and marriages should be contexts of shalom where people should be liberated to be free to be themselves, to know what it is to be loved. A family is not being a family in truth unless it’s being the body of Christ in truth. The body of Christ is a radically inclusive, affirming, liberative communion. We’ve got to take these issues seriously. It is not surprising that feminist thinkers have been so concerned about abuses that have gone on within (let’s face it) often very patriarchal forms of Christianity. These have only emerged because we’ve failed to be true to the gospel, as to Jesus’ clear injunctions. We’ve got to work continually to oppose those forms of sin.

JMF: In the time we have left, would you mind sharing some personal reflections about your father, J.B. Torrance, and your uncle, T.F. Torrance?

AT: I was incredibly privileged. I was brought up in a wonderful home. I remember my father once said to me, “In the light of Matthew 23 (that statement about calling no man father) and in the light of the gospel,” he once said to me, “Alan, biologically I’m your father, but Christianly speaking, you and I are brothers.” As I was growing up, there was discipline, I’d get into trouble and he’d discipline me, but never in a way that it wasn’t – and didn’t make his love for me unambiguously clear.

From my later teens on, my father always treated me like a brother. Because he believed, if we’re going to think out of Christ, en Christo, in Christ, that is who we were. We had the most wonderful relationship. Even when I was 16 or 17, he’d discuss all sorts of family decisions with my sisters and myself — which is quite unusual to do in Scotland, which is a very traditional culture. If we were going to buy a house or the way we’d spend money, we’d all talk about it as a family, and my parents would involve us in major family decisions. It was a radically inclusive relationship. But for dad, what was always transparent was the fact that it was his Christian conviction that was informing every facet of his treatment of us.

There are some remarkable memories. I’ll just take one that stands out, for this is a wonderful incidence. Christmas was always a very formal time in our family because we used to get together, all the aunts and uncles and so on, and we all dressed up in our Sunday best. Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, was fun, very often, because all the same food was there, but then we’d be there together as a family and relaxed, and it was a great fun day. On one particular Boxing Day, we all sat down to lunch and there was a turkey and all the trimmings, and all the remains of the Christmas provision was distributed amongst all the family.

We sat down, and dad had just said prayers, and there was a ring at the front doorbell. I thought, “Who comes to the front door at 1:00 on…” Dad and I went to the front door, he opened the door, and there was a tramp. It was freezing cold out there. He said to my father, “I’m terribly sorry to bother you at this time, but I was wondering if you could provide me with some bread…it’s a difficult time to get food over Christmas.” Do you know what dad did? Ushered him into the house right straight through to the dining room and put him at his place in front of his food. All the Christmas food had been distributed.

Dad went through to the kitchen and got some bean and egg together… that was dad’s lunch. That tramp ate dad’s feast. He made that tramp feel as if he belonged in the family. My dad lived his life, and with that mind which is in Christ Jesus, and my mother was a great partner in that. It was a privilege.

My uncle Tom, T.F. Torrance, is a wonderful, wonderful uncle. I lived with him for a year. When I was at university, my parents moved, thus I lived with uncle Tom. It was a year of enormous intellectual stimulation – we had fabulous discussions. He had a spectacular sense of humor – we laughed till tears came down. He would pray for me. On one occasion I had broken up with a girlfriend and I was very distraught, and he took me into his study and he prayed with me. So I was very privileged.

These are both men who are theologians, totally committed churchmen that had a vision of what it was to share by the Spirit in the incarnate Son’s communion with the Father. They sought to see every facet of their lives in that light. Earlier, you mentioned ethics. Ethics, like worship, is a gift of participation by the Spirit in the incarnate Son’s communion with the Father. It’s interesting that worship, and worth-ship, ethics, are the same word. There should be no dichotomy between them. In other words, every facet of our human life is a gift by the Spirit of sharing in the incarnate Son’s communion with the Father.

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About the Publisher…

Grace Communion International is a Christian denomination with about 50,000 members, worshiping in about 900 congregations in more than 70 nations. We began in 1934 and our main office is in southern California. In the United States, we are members of the National Association of Evangelicals and similar organizations in other nations. We welcome you to visit our website at www.gci.org.

If you want to know more about the gospel of Jesus Christ, we offer help. First, we offer weekly worship services in hundreds of congregations worldwide. Perhaps you’d like to visit us. A typical worship service includes songs of praise, a message based on the Bible, and opportunity to meet people who have found Jesus Christ to be the answer to their spiritual quest. We try to be friendly, but without putting you on the spot. We do not expect visitors to give offerings—there’s no obligation. You are a guest.

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You’re Included…

We talk with leading Trinitarian theologians about the good news that God loves you, wants you, and includes you in Jesus Christ. Most programs are about 28 minutes long. Our guests have included:

Ray Anderson, Fuller Theological Seminary

Douglas A. Campbell, Duke Divinity School

Elmer Colyer, U. of Dubuque Theological Seminary

Cathy Deddo, Trinity Study Center

Gordon Fee, Regent College

Trevor Hart, University of St. Andrews

George Hunsinger, Princeton Theological Seminary

C. Baxter Kruger, Perichoresis

Jeff McSwain, Reality Ministries

Paul Louis Metzger, Multnomah University

Paul Molnar, St. John’s University

Cherith Fee Nordling, Antioch Leadership Network

Andrew Root, Luther Seminary

Alan Torrance, University of St. Andrews

Robert T. Walker, Edinburgh University

N.T. Wright, University of St. Andrews

William P. Young, author of The Shack

Programs are available free for viewing and downloading at www.youreincluded.org.

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Dr. Joseph Tkach, president of Grace Communion International, comments each week, giving a biblical perspective on how we live in the light of God’s love. Most programs are about three minutes long – available in video, audio, and text. Go to www.speakingoflife.org.

 

 

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**]Grace Communion Seminary

 

Ministry based on the life and love of the Father, Son, and Spirit

 

Grace Communion Seminary serves the needs of people engaged in Christian service who want to grow deeper in relationship with our Triune God and to be able to more effectively serve in the church.

Why study at Grace Communion Seminary?

  • Worship: to love God with all your mind.

  • Service: to help others apply truth to life.

  • Practical: a balanced range of useful topics for ministry.

  • Trinitarian theology: a survey of theology with the merits of a Trinitarian perspective. We begin with the question, “Who is God?” Then, “Who are we in relationship to God?” In this context, “How then do we serve?”

  • Part-time study: designed to help people who are already serving in local congregations. There is no need to leave your current ministry. Full-time students are also welcome.

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For more information, go to www.gcs.edu. Grace Communion Seminary is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, www.deac.org. The Accrediting Commission is listed by the U.S. Department of Education as a nationally recognized accrediting agency.

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[]Ambassador College of Christian Ministry

Want to better understand God’s Word? Want to know the Triune God more deeply? Want to share more joyously in the life of the Father, Son and Spirit? Want to be better equipped to serve others?

Among the many resources that Grace Communion International offers are the training and learning opportunities provided by ACCM. This quality, well-structured Christian Ministry curriculum has the advantage of being very practical and flexible. Students may study at their own pace, without having to leave home to undertake full-time study.

This denominationally recognized program is available for both credit and audit study. At minimum cost, this online Diploma program will help students gain important insights and training in effective ministry service. Students will also enjoy a rich resource for personal study that will enhance their understanding and relationship with the Triune God.

Diploma of Christian Ministry classes provide an excellent introductory course for new and lay pastors. Pastor General Dr. Joseph Tkach said, “We believe we have achieved the goal of designing Christian ministry training that is practical, accessible, interesting, and doctrinally and theologically mature and sound. This program provides an ideal foundation for effective Christian ministry.”

 

For more information, go to www.ambascol.org

 

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Living in Grace: Interviews with Alan J. Torrance

This is an edited transcript of three interviews conducted in Scotland for the GCI website series "You're Included." In these interviews, Alan J. Torrance, Professor of Systematic Theology at the University of St. Andrews School of Divinity, discusses grace. Grace is not permission to sin, but it teaches us to avoid sin. God's wrath against sin stems from his love for humans; hell likewise comes from his love, and hell includes only those people who prefer it, rather than the alternative. Salvation means that we live "in Christ," participating in his life.

  • ISBN: 9781370231249
  • Author: Grace Communion International
  • Published: 2016-08-22 19:05:17
  • Words: 11684
Living in Grace: Interviews with Alan J. Torrance Living in Grace: Interviews with Alan J. Torrance