Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ by Thomas F Torrance (Edited by Robert Walker)

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This volume (and the companion volume on the Atonement) is made up from the notes of the late Thomas Torrance, comprising of over 25 years of lectures given to students in Christology at New College Edinburgh.

Edited into the final book form by Robert Walker (and Torrance’s nephew) it reveals the deep and rich thinking of this great modern theologian. Through this book you encounter a level of interaction with the topic of the personhood and life of Christ rarely seen. Lecturers can (and most do) just regurgitate other scholars views and thinking giving overviews and comparisons, peppered with a little of their own thoughts. Reading this book, you realize that this was not Torrance’s method of teaching. He lectured from the depth of his own thinking and study, which makes him original. Yet it is not ‘original’ thinking in the sense of new, or divergent ideas that take you on strange and unfamiliar paths. No, it is rooted in scripture and orthodoxy and ultimately in Christ himself, God who became man. And so, on another level it is not original thinking. Torrance’s skill is to draw you into the ancient, established and eternal truths of Christ, but he does it in such a griping way as he weaves through each topic and chapter like a master weaver. A very simple and brief example of this is seen when Torrance writes:

Any Christological approach that starts from the man Jesus, from the historical Jesus, and tries to pass over to God  and so to link human nature to God, is utterly impossible. In fact it is essentially a wrong act: for it runs directly counter to God’s act of grace which has joined God to humanity in Christ. All attempts to understand Jesus Christ by starting off with the historical Jesus utterly fail; they are unable to pass from man to God and moreover to pass from man to God in such a way as not to leave man behind altogether, and in so doing they deny the humanity of Jesus.

It’s almost poetry!

This is not a book for beginners. It is definitely hard going and it’s a book that you need to work at. It will stretch your thinking and your brain. But, if you are willing to make the investment of time and energy, you will reap a wonderful return in terms of understanding the person and life of Christ and the incarnation.

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