Friday, August 17, 2007

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

The final chapter of Torrance's book "Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace" ( ), is called "Gender, Sexuality and the Trinity." Not only was I impressed with what Torrance was conveying in this chapter, I have been able to use Torrance's insights in ministry with good results. Torrance points out that behind much radical feminist theology and its hostility to the fatherhood of God are the personal experiences of many feminists. The relationship between these feminists and their earthly fathers were often not only bad, but abusive, the fathers being the abusers. Torrance rejects the notion that we must redefine God and the Bible in terms of gender so that we can discern female traits in God. Torrance instead urges us to speak of God in terms of the Father. Yet he strongly cautions us not to interpret the fatherhood of God in terms of any earthly model of fatherhood. Instead, we should view fatherhood in the model of the relationship between Jesus and His Father. '...we are meant to interpret our humanity, our male-female relations, in light of the Trinity. God is love. Love always implies communion between persons, and that is what we see supremely in God. The Father loves the Son in the communion of the Spirit. The Son loves the Father in the communion of the Spirit in their continual mutual "indwelling"...The Spirit is the bond of communication between the Father and the Son and between God and ourselves. The Spirit is God giving God's self in love. The Father and the Son and the Spirit are equally God...But there is differentiation within God-personal distinctions in the Godhead. There is unity, diversity and perfect harmony. It is this triune God who has being-in-communion, in love, who has created us as male and female in that image to be "co-lovers" share in the triune love and to love one another in...unity." (Torrance, p. 104-105) As males and females, we find our identities and fulfilment in Christ. We look to Him to know what it is to be in the image of God.

I have been able to apply Torrance's teaching in prison ministry. Most, if not all the men I am teaching had bad fathers, if they knew their fathers at all. Their relationship with their fathers can make it difficult for them to understand God not only as their Father, but as their merciful and loving Father. I pointed out to them that to see Jesus is to see the Father. Jesus reflected the Father in His mercy, compassion and servanthood. I pointed them to the example of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples the night of His betrayal. Jesus used this as an example of how His disciples were to relate to one another. Then in the next few chapters Jesus stated that to see Him was to see the Father. His disciples were meant to apply the example of servanthood to the Trinitarian relationship that Jesus brought to their attention that night. This caused the men in the group to gain a truer vision of God as Father. Before, they had no models of fatherhood with which to understand God as Father. But now they have the correct model, Jesus Christ himself. In Jesus, they have a picture of how to relate to others. They have a model of God the Father as a servant, not as a tyrant.

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