My dissertation is on the concept of grace and participation in the theology of T.F. Torrance. What follows is a general description of the gist of my thesis.
TRINITARIAN GRACE AND PARTICIPATION
It is the unique assertion of this monograph that Torrance’s doctrine of Grace, heretofore unexplored, is the central and controlling conceptual set which provides the fundamental organizing framework for his entire theological project. Such a bold claim is simply an attempt to follow the lead of the one who knew Torrance the best, Torrance himself.
Without doubt we find that in Christology, or viewed from another angle one might well say it was the doctrine of Grace. How God deals with us in Jesus Christ, that must be the norm for all our theologising. (Predestination in Christ, 127-28)
I begin in part 1 with ‘Objective Grace’: that is, with Grace as a movement of the Trinity, expressed in the economy of salvation which moves from the Father through the Son in the Spirit, and in the Spirit through the Son to the Father. Chapter 1 examines the dynamic ground which Torrance’s doctrine of Grace finds in the inner life and love of the triune God, while chapters 2 and 3 address the manner in which this Grace is given through the Son and the Spirit. Part 2 of the book builds on the ground laid in part 1 and focuses on how the objective motion of Grace of the Trinity applies to the human person. Thus, part 2 examines the way in which human beings participate in Christ’s Sonship through the Holy Spirit. Chapters 4, 5 and 6 examine this participation through the three concentric levels of anthropology, ecclesiology and personal formation in Christ by the Spirit.
The main point, in layman’s terms:
The Christian life is not about ‘getting saved’, but about living saved; or rather, living as one who has been adopted by grace to share in Jesus’ fellowship with his Father. We human beings are created and redeemed for fellowship with the triune God.
This means that ‘grace’ is not a ‘thing’ (a commodity we ‘get’) or a ‘force’ (top up), nor is grace a ‘state’ or ‘position’. Rather, grace is a person: Jesus Christ. Through living in relationship, that is, ‘face-to-face’ with Jesus, we learn how to be fully and properly human. From Jesus, the true image of God, we learn what God is like – and also what being human is meant to be like. From Jesus, we learn how to love, how to give, and how to forgive. We learn from Jesus how to live, not by copying him, but by participating in his life. Grace in this sense is not so much divine ‘favor’ as it is the divine gift of the Word Jesus and the Spirit, through whom and by whom we are included in the life and love of God. We cannot earn or collect this grace through good behavior any more than we can buy $3.00 worth of God and carry him around in our pockets. What God gives is his very presence.
Living the Christian life involves the ceaseless expression and exercise of faith, hope and love. We are invited to exercise our faith by fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, confident that we are included in the life and love that he shares by the Spirit in the Father. Face to face with Jesus we repent of all the idols and legends we have clung to for life and love, and we humbly align our hearts and minds with the reality that is in Jesus. We are invited to exercise our hope by daily feeding on Christ and learning from him. The love of God finds expression in our lives as we are freed to love, to notice, to see, and to serve our neighbor.