Thomas F. Torrance’s theology of ministry and the pressing issues of today

Torrance, Iain R.
August 2013
Expository Times;Aug2013, Vol. 124 Issue 11, p521
Academic Journal
Thomas F. Torrance (born 1913) is chiefly remembered for his work on the early dialogue between theology and natural science. Out of tune with the liberal theology of the 1960s which he labeled as ‘dualist’, the dialogue with science was just one way whereby Torrance steered towards realism in an attempt to recover the classic structures, doctrines and forms of the Christian tradition. This short paper looks at the neglected topic of his theology of ministry. During the wary and fenced ecumenism of the 50s and 60s, Torrance systematically reconnected church order with the servant ministry of Jesus Christ. He recognised the temptations of ministry either to seek worldly credibility and prestige or to become otherworldly and merely pious. He eschewed both, but refused to over-specify ministry, insisting that the actual form it took is ambiguous, provisional and unfettered. That conception of ministry is tested against Torrance’s criticism of what he saw as a ‘detached’ understanding of the episcopate in the Church of England of the 1960s and in his support for the ordination of women. He maintained that those who obstructed the ordination of women argued as though the Incarnation had made no change in the order of fallen humanity. In his lifetime, Torrance never engaged with the issue of the ordination of gay persons, but the structures within which he understood ministry would be hospitable to any who committed to the servant ministry of Jesus.


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