REFORMATION 500: The Continuing Need for Reformation

Bishop Lesslie Newbigin has commented that when the average Christian in Europe or North America hears the name of God, he or she does not think of the Trinity. After many years of missionary work among Eastern religions, he returned to find that much of the worship in the West is in practice, if not in theory, unitarian. The “religion” of so many people today is moulded by concepts of God which obscure the joyful witness of the Bible to the triune God of grace. God is conceived of too often as the remote sovereign Individual Monad “out there,” the law-giver, the contract-God who needs to be, or can be, conditioned into being gracious by devout religious behavior or by this or that religious act, be it even repentance or prayer. The Reformers were concerned to sweep away these views of God, but in spite of the Reformation, such concepts are alive and highly influential in our day.

—James B. Torrance, “Contemplating the Trinitarian Mystery of Christ,” Chapter 12 in Alive to God: Studies in Spirituality, 141

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Worship & Culture 15: One Way

God does not accept us because we have offered worthy worship.  In His love, He accepts us freely in the Person of His beloved Son, who in our name and on our behalf, in our humanity, has made the One offering to the Father, which alone is acceptable to God for all humanity, for all nations, for all times, and who unites us with Himself in the One Body, in His communion with the Father….

There is only one way to come to the Father, namely, through Christ in the communion of the Spirit, in the communion of saints, whatever outward form our worship may take.

—James B. Torrance, “Christ in Our Place” in A Passion for Christ: The Vision that Ignites Ministry, 37

Another Comforter (4)

We need a recovery of the doctrine of the Priestly ministry of the Spirit. Christ as the One Mediator alone represents God to man and man to God. The Spirit as the Spirit of Christ is SPEAKING SPIRIT and INTERCEDING SPIRIT (Romans ch. 8). As speaking Spirit He mediates God’s Word to men and summons us to faith and obedience. As interceding Spirit, He lifts us up into heavenly places in Christ. He puts the prayer of Jesus into our lips—”Abba, Father.” He intercedes for us, helping our infirmities. God draws near to us in Christ through the Spirit, and we are drawn near to God through the blood of Christ by the Spirit. Perhaps in Presbyterianism we have emphasised speaking Spirit at the expense of the interceding Spirit. At the heart of all worship lies the doctrine of the Third Person of the Trinity—that our Ascended Lord, by His Spirit poured out upon His Church at Pentecost, lifts us up into His life of praise and communion with the Father—so that we know we are “lifted out of ourselves” into an objective world of worship and praise and prayer in communion with all saints.

—James B. Torrance, “Covenant or Contract? A Study in the Theological Background of
Worship in Seventeenth-Century Scotland,” Scottish Journal of Theology 23 (1970):75-76