Sunday, June 30, 2013

Thoughts on 1 John 1:1-4 and a lengthy quote from T.F. Torrance on the Incarnation

Grounded in Christ

In lecture today we were reading 1 John and I read the intro (1:1-4) in a way I never had before. I realized that it is one continual long flowing sentence that carries on four different declarations of “who or what” Christ is. The grammatical things that point out the continual and “declaratory” nature of this intro are: the continues use of “which”-it’s used 6 times and in the gk. it is the very first word that shows up on the text of 1 John; the verb of “proclaim” in vs.3 and 4 and the fact that a period does not show up until the end of verse 3! What these boring grammatical details show us is that John begins his epistle with a long continuos proclamation of “who or what Jesus is”. These points are underlined or highlighted in the verses below:

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” 

In summary, John Begins his epistle with proclaiming that Jesus is:
  1. From the beginning
  2. What John Heard
  3. What John Saw
  4. What John looked upon and touched, the word of life; 
  5. The manifest life which was made manifest to us
  6. What John has seen and heard.

This is what John was proclaiming-that the eternal word of life existing from the beginning was manifested in a way people could see, touch and hear. The eternal infinite entered time and space, the metaphysical entered the physical, God came to man. This whole topic has been summed up in the important theological term: INCARNATION. And all study of incarnational theology should find 1 John 1:1-4 an extremely relevant text. 

An important theologian of the 19th century who is known for his “incarnational” thinking is T.F. Torrance he expounds in a beautiful way about this teaching of incarnation in his book "Space Time and Incarnation", a lengthy and thought-provoking passage of that book is quoted in full below:

“If God is merely impassible He has not made room for Himself in our agonied existence, and if He is merely immutable He has neither place nor time for frail evanescent creatures in His unchanging existence.  But the God who has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ as sharing our lot is the God who is really free to make Himself poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich, the God invariant in love but not impassible, constant in faithfulness but not immutable. 

This relation established between God and man in Jesus Christ constitutes Him as the place in all space and time where God meets with man in the actualities of his human existence, and man meets with God and knows Him in His own divine Being. That is the place where the vertical and horizontal dimensionalities intersect, the place where human being is opened out to a transcendent ground in God and where the infinite Being of God penetrates into our existence and creates room for Himself within the horizontal dimensions of finite being in space and time. It is penetration of the horizontal [creation] by the vertical [Incarnation] that gives man his true place, for it relates his place in space and time to its ultimate ontological ground so that it is not submerged in the endless relativities of what is merely horizontal.

Without this vertical relation to God man has no authentic place on earth, no meaning and no purpose, but with this vertical relation to God his place is given meaning and purpose. For that reason it is defined and established as place on earth without being shut in on itself solely within its horizontal dimensionality.  Unless the eternal breaks into the temporal and the boundless being of God breaks into the spatial existence of man and takes up dwelling within it, the vertical dimension vanishes out of man's life and becomes quite strange to him -- and man loses his place under the sun.”

T.F. Torrance
Space, Time, and Incarnation, p. 75-6

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Alleluia the song of the desert; Merton on the dread and awe of the christian life

"The climate in which monastic prayer flowers is that of the desert, where the comfort of man is absent, where the secure routines of man's city offer no support, and where prayer must be sustained by God in the purity of faith. Even though he may live in a community, the monk is bound to explore the inner waste of his own being as a solitary. The word of God which is his comfort is also his distress. The liturgy, which is his joy and which reveals to him the glory of God, cannot fill a heart that has not previously been humbled and emptied by dread. Alleluia is the song of the desert

The christian is never merely an isolated individual. He is a member of the praising community, the people of God. Alleluia is the vicotrious acclamation of the Risen Saviour. Yet the people of God itself, while celebrating the praise of the Lord in a tabernale of beuty overshadowed by the Bright Cloud of his presence, is still on a pilgramage. We acclaim God as members of a community that has been blessed and saved and is traveling to meet him as he comes in his promised Advent. Yet as individuals we know ourselves to be sinners. The prayer of the monk is dictated by this twofold consciousness of sin and redemption, wrath and mercy- as is the prayer of every christian."

-Thomas Merton
from "Contemplative Prayer"

Friday, June 21, 2013


"Tradition, like Scripture, is not  made holy by being carved into stone, but rather by being interpreted within a community, by being the heart of the community’s relationship to God and the world.  Tradition is thus alive and constantly relating to the world, not written in stone and frozen in some past understanding.  For St. Paul Tradition is dynamic, creative, vivifying and renewing and keeps people focused on the goal – where God is leading us to, not the past and where we were.   Tradition is not the ship’s anchor, but its sail.   It consists not of repeating past teachings, but of interpreting God’s Word for the current generation."

-FR. Ted