Saturday, August 11, 2007

Close Encounters of a Theological Kind:"Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace" by James B. Torrance, Part II.

In Part I of my review of "Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace" ( ), emphasis was placed upon Torrance's view that Trinitarian worship is worship not only centered on Christ, but led by Christ. Christ has a unique relationship of worship of and communion with the Father through the Spirit. Through the Spirit, we may participate with Christ in His own worship of and communion with the Father. In terms of public worship, Torrance focuses on two sacraments that allow us to participate in Christ's own worship of the Father.

In baptism, Torrance reminds us that just because we have chosen to be baptized, that does not make us the primary agents or actors. Christ is the primary agent in baptism. He is our "leitourgos", our high priest, whose vicarious atoning sacrifice for our sins cleanses us and sanctifies us so that He may present us to the Father. "Baptism in water is a sign in the first instance, not of anything in us, but of Christ in the Spirit. It is not my faith which cleanses but Christ by the Spirit-the Christ in whom I believe." (Torrance, p. 79-80) "Christ is the agent in baptism and he baptizes us into a life of sonship, of service, of dying and rising with him in newness of life (Rom. 6). He baptizes us into that life of communion for which we were created in the image of the triune God, to be co-lovers (condiligentes)." (Torrance, p.79) In communion, it is not an offering that we have made that is of utmost importance. What is most important is that Christ's offering on our behalf is brought back to our remembrance. And as we participate in communion, we are drawn to the Father and the Son and to each other. And our faith is nourished until Christ's return. This is a foretaste of what worship will be like when we are actually in the Father's presence in Heaven.

According to Torrance, what kind of communion are we drawn into through baptism and communion? We are drawn into Christ's own intercession for humanity. In corporate worship we become the Royal Priesthood referred to by Peter. As members of this priesthood, we bear the sorrows and cares of this world in our hearts as our high priest, Christ Jesus, does. Communion also performs a work of memory in us. "This work of memory, of realizing our participation and fellowship in the suffering of Christ, is the work of the Holy Spirit. He brings these things to our remembrance and interprets to us the meaning of the events. We remember Christ-yet it is not so much we who remind ourselves of these events, but Jesus Christ, who brings his passion to our remembrance through the Holy Spirit, as our ever-living and ever-present Lord, who in his own person, is our memorial in the presence of the Father. In other words, our memorial is the earthly counterpart of the heavenly memorial. Christ, in constituting himself as our memorial before the Father, by his Spirit, lifts us up as we present our memorials before God. So the Lord's Supper, like the Passover, is a memorial to us, but also a memorial before God." (Torrance, p. 86)

In Part III, I will examine Torrance's view of gender and its relation to the Trinity and how I applied these principles in my teaching, with good results.

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