In My Place

The Biblical doctrine is not so much that I escape “scot free” as that I as a sinner have been judged in the Person of Christ my High Priest.  Forgiveness means that all my past sins have been truly dealt with, and only that fact brings peace and assurance.  Our relation to Christ as Substitute must be understood at once in terms of God’s free act of grace, and in terms of our God-given solidarity with Jesus.

—James B. Torrance, “The Priesthood of Jesus: A Study in the Doctrine of the Atonement” in Essays in Christology for Karl Barth, ed. T.H.L. Parker, 171

Graced Encounter (2)

Graced liturgy need not imply that any particular technique is necessary to engineer God’s presence. This theme is prominently underscored by James Torrance. Torrance argues that a trinitarian understanding of worship changes the spirit in which worship is offered: whereas a unitarian theology of worship, one that relies on human effort, “can engender weariness,” a trinitarian theology “releases joy and ecstasy.” Losing the sense of worship as an event of divine grace, for Torrance, is “to lose the comfort and peace of the gospel.” Any worship leader, Torrance suggests, that feels the need to “whip up” the congregation to an experience of God misses the point that worship is more like a gift than an accomplishment.

—John Witvliet, The Doctrine of the Trinity and the Theology and Practice of Christian Worship in the Reformed Tradition (dissertation), 237

Sanctification through Relationship

“God’s primary purpose for humanity is ‘filial,’ not just ‘judicial,’ where we have been created in the image of God to find our true being-in-communion, in ‘sonship,’ in the mutual personal relations of love.” (James B. Torrance)  In the outworking of sanctification, God’s primary purpose for humanity is not to adhere to external rules and regulations (judicial) but to participate by the Spirit in the Son’s communion with the Father (filial). As we share by the Spirit in the Son’s filial relationship with the Father, the outworking of sanctification is a natural consequence.

—Alexandra Radcliff, “James B. Torrance and the Doctrine of Sanctification,” in Trinity and Transformation, 89-90


Sometimes even the very churches which have taken their avowed stand on “the doctrines of grace” are the very ones which then make their acceptance of others conditional upon their subscribing to their particular formulations of the meaning of grace.

—James B. Torrance, “The Unconditional Freeness of Grace,” in Trinity and Transformation, 277

Indicative before Imperative 2

In the Bible, the form of covenant (in both the Old and New Testaments) is such that the indicatives of grace are always prior to the imperatives of law and human obligation. “I have loved you, I have redeemed you . . . therefore, keep my commandments. . . .” But Judaism turned it the other way round. “If you keep the law, God will love you. If you keep the sabbath, the Kingdom of God will come”, etc. That is, the imperatives are made prior to the indicatives. The covenant has been turned into a contract, and God’s grace made conditional on man’s obedience. It is precisely against this inversion of the order of grace that Paul protests in Galatians 3:17-22. God made a covenant with Abraham, and although the law came four hundred and thirty years later (to spell out the obligations of grace) it did not suddenly introduce conditions of grace. It did not turn the covenant into a contract. To introduce conditions would be to break a promise.

—James B. Torrance, “Covenant or Contract? A Study in the Theological Background of Worship in Seventeenth-Century Scotland,” Scottish Journal of Theology 23 (1970):56


Mystery and Wonder

Here lies the mystery, the wonder, the glory of the Gospel, that He who is God, the Creator of all things, and worthy of the worship and praises of all creation, should become man and as a man worship God, and as a man lead us in our worship of God, that we might become the sons of God we are meant to be.

—James B. Torrance, “The Place of Jesus Christ in Worship,” in Theological Foundations for Ministry, 351