“The Unconditional Freeness of Grace” by James B. Torrance

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6 Responses to “The Unconditional Freeness of Grace” by James B. Torrance

  1. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    In 1978, during the summer between my junior and middler years in seminary, I had a powerful charismatic experience. A year later, after I had returned to emotional normality, I found myself struggling with deep feelings of spiritual incapacity, anxiety, and fear of divine judgment. I feared that, through sin and lack of trust, I had lost the Spirit. About this time I stumbled upon this little article by James B. Torrance, published in an obscure magazine put out by the long defunct Fountain Trust in England. Torrance spoke an important word to my soul, a word that dramatically impacted my understanding and preaching of the gospel.

    A lot of theological water has passed under the bridge since the–and I confess that most Reformed Christianity is beyond my sympathies–but I thought I would share this (poorly edited) article with you. I am especially curious how Orthodox and Catholics might receive it today.

    Is the grace of God unconditionally free? How are are you willing to pushing this unconditionality?

    If you are intrigued by this article by Torrance, I commend to you his little book Worship, Community, and the Triune God of Grace.

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  2. PJ says:

    I’ll have more words later, but my first thought was: “So…Protestant.” Not just in its theology. But in its very … vision? Spiritual aesthetic? It’s hard to see Athanasius and Calvin grouped together as a couple in any set, however broad, I must say! But this deserves deeper reflection, which I will hopefully provide later.

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    • Rhonda says:

      Funny, PJ, funny 😀
      Yes, Torrance is a Protestant. And Protestants are notorious for “we all believe the same thing & furthermore we always have” (through great mental leaps of reading the modern back into the ancient), so there should be no surprise at the Protestant ability to lump Athanasius & Calvin. Very funny indeed!

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  3. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    I came across another James Torrance’s essay on the net: “The Incarnation and Limited Atonement.” As you might guess, Torrance is quite critical of Augustinian/Reformed construals of limited atonement and double predestination.

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  4. Rhonda says:

    I found a couple of parts of Torrance’s article very ironic & they brought chuckles. For one I had to laugh when Torrence, a Protestant, lamented the shallow theology that characterizes of much Protestantism, especially the American brand. I found it also ironic that Torrance lauds the Puritans for bringing democracy & religious freedom to American shores. In reality they wanted the freedom to worship as they pleased & immediately imposed laws requiring everyone to be Puritans!

    However, I will actually keep this article in my resources for one purpose…to refer other Protestants that just cannot see the Scriptures in any other vein that the one they hold. I have found that it sometimes helps to have other & older writings by Protestants on hand when refuting notions that all Protestants have always believed this or all Protestants believe that. American Protestants are actually horrible in their knowledge of even their own religious history.

    Few realize that there were actually 4 branches of the Protestant Reformation historically & that there were other very dominant leaders than just merely Luther, Calvin & Zwingli. (See American Religious Traditions: The Shaping of Religion in the United States, Richard E. Wentz, 2003) The book actually identifies 5 branches by including the Counter Reformation as the 5th, although I disagree with this. 4 main groups were protesting against the RCC while the 5th group was professing & arguing in support of the RCC, therefore it makes no sense to me to title it as a Protestant Reformation group as the RCC itself was behind this group.

    One thing I also liked about Torrance’s article is his mention of the socio-political aspect to the Reformation. Most today think that the Reformation was a purely religious movement that just suddenly happened; it was not. It was actually more about gaining social & political power from the RCC & monarchies that were rapidly crumbling by (for lack of a better term) intelligentsia that had money & influence but no power. Frankly, they were far more concerned with grabbing power for themselves rather than any true concern with empowering the poor. Much blood was spilled (mostly by the poor) through their penchant for violence in the process.

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  5. Rhonda says:

    Sorry for the previous digression…
    Torrance’s view of grace & law I do tend to like better that what usually prevails within & throughout Protestantism. However, without understanding of the reality of the sacraments & Christ as the head of His Body, the Church, his grace amounts to next to nothing as it is still nothing more than an ideological concept. While Torrance admits that sacraments are not “badges of our conversion”, neither are they merely “signs and seals of the covenant of grace” either.

    I would argue that yes, God’s grace (love) is unconditional & is directed towards all alike, believer as well as unbeliever; salvation is available to all. The Incarnation, Crucifixion & Resurrection all happened because of God’s love so that mankind might be restored to the loving union with God lost in the Fall. We are to love God because He first loved us. Many however turn this around into we are to love God so that He might love us as if God’s love stopped at the Fall & didn’t (or couldn’t) resume until Christ’s Crucifixion was accomplished. I think that this is Torrance’s point in grace came before law & his covenant vs. contract arguments. We humans though tend to only do what is required of us, the bare minimum so to speak. We tend to turn the covenant of unconditional mutual love into a contract with conditions of love to be merited/performed.

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