A Review of “Gospel, Church, and Ministry” by T.F. Torrance

This book is edited by Jock Stein published by Wipf and Stock. Stein is a retired Scotland minister who manages Handel press and studied directly under T.F. Torrance. Stein collected 12 articles written by Torrance on the basic topic “Gospel, Church, and Ministry.” This book thus has 12 chapters, one article per chapter. The chapters are as follows;

1. My Parish Ministry: Alyth 1940–43 [memoirs]

2. The Church in the World

3. The Humanity of Christ in the Sacramental Life of the Church

4. The Meaning of Order

5. Consecration and Ordination

6. Service in Jesus Christ

7. The Church in the Last Quarter of the Twentieth Century

8. God, Destiny, and Suffering

9. Eldership in the Reformed Church

10. The Ministry of Women

11. Preaching Christ Today

12. Legal and Evangelical Priests

The selected articles give a good picture of Torrance’s vision for the church and theology, both working together for the sake of the Gospel. If you wanted to place Torrance in a theological ivory tower, just read this book. It truly shows his engagement with current cultural issues through his theological lens. What follows are small summary quotes from each of Torrance’s articles in this book.

  1. “In 1940 I was still at Oriel College, Oxford, working on my dissertation on The Doctrine of Grace in the Apostolic Fathers, when I began to think seriously of entering the parish ministry. I had earlier offered to serve as an Army Chaplain under the Royal Army Chaplains Department but was told that there was a two-year waiting list, and so I decided to get to work on my dissertation for the Basel doctorate, and to go up to Oxford.” (pg 25).
  2. “The following address was delivered on 21st January 1942, by Mr. TORRANCE to a special meeting of the Presbytery of Meigle convened for the purpose of discussing the spiritual issues involved in the present world situation, particularly with reference to the Report of the General Assembly Commission for the. Interpretation of God’s Will in the Present Crisis and the Supplementary Report of the Foreign Mission. Committee.” (pg 74)
  3. “It belongs to the very essence of the New Testament gospel that it is not concerned only with two dimensions of thought, with God and man, but with a third dimension in Jesus Christ in whom God and man are one and in whom there is a new creation. That is all-important, for example, in our understanding of eschatology.” (pg 85).
  4. Torrance says that the church is ordered by “(a) By being obedient to the historical Jesus Christ in space time in the tradition of the apostolic Church, in which he, the risen and ascended Christ, comes to rule and order the Church by his Word and Spirit, making it his body and servant in history; (b) By sharing in the obedience of Jesus Christ in space and time through the communion of the Spirit in which he, the new man, gives it to share in his new humanity as he, the Lord, undergirds it in all its frailty and weakness by his new covenant, so that already it is given to abide in the life and time and order of the new creation;(c) By looking beyond the historical and institutional forms of its ordering in space and time to the fullness of its life in Christ, who comes to meet it in mercy and judgment, and who at his parousia will unveil the full reality of the Church in the glory of the Son of man.” (pg 109)
  5. “In order to understand the New Testament teaching about consecration and ordination we have to examine the rites and language of the Old Testament tradition. The rites were not carried over as such into the Christian Church, for they were fulfilled in Christ and abrogated; but the New Testament does use the language of the rites to speak both of Christ and his Church, and it does adapt some of the Old Testament rites for its own use, but with entire freedom and with quite new significance.” (pg 111).
  6. “All members of the body of Christ are constrained through love to bear witness to him and to pray for others, but some have this ministry laid upon them as a special task, so that they fulfil it not only out of love but in obedience to a specific commission from the Lord and with the definite authority of that commission behind them.” (pg 140).
  7. “Many people today seem to take for granted that the future will be dominated by Marxism, or even by some form of Communism. They see ahead a state of affairs in which, under pressure from economic forces from below, there will increasingly take place organized control of our social life through State legislation. Certainly not a few seem to have capitulated to what they consider the inevitability of that kind of take-over and have been trying to adjust their expectations to fit in with it. I do not say that this is always deliberate, for often they are just caught up half-thinkingly in the stream of prevailing trends, and yet, on the whole, the Churches seem bent on adapting themselves to the ceaseless onrush of socio-political change, under the naive impression that this is the ‘progressive’ or ‘enlightened’ thing to do, and that neither preaching nor theology can be relevant unless it is ‘politically involved.’” (pg 162).
  8. “This evening I thought I would head my address “God, destiny, and suffering” and offer you some thoughts arising from my recent visit to the Middle East.” (pg 173).
  9. “In the ecumenical context of today, however, the Reformed Church is bound to take a fresh hard look at the nature and function of the eldership, if only on its own basic principle that it is not only an ecclesia reformata but an ecclesia reformanda, not just a reformed church but one always open to reformation in the light of what may still be learned from the Holy Scriptures and a deeper understanding of the Christian Faith.” (pg 183).
  10. “As in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, so there is neither male nor female, for all sinful separation and gradation between them resulting from the fall of mankind have been done away, while God-given distinctions have been preserved, renewed and sanctified. Through the Incarnation, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ humanity has thus been set upon an entirely new basis of divine grace, in which there is no respect of persons, and women share equally with men in all the grace-gifts or charismata of the Holy Spirit, including gifts for ministry in the church (cf. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 88).” (pg 219).
  11. “Preaching Christ is both an evangelical and a theological activity, for it is the proclamation and teaching of Christ as he is actually presented to us in the Holy Scriptures. In the language of the New Testament, preaching Christ involves kerygma and didache—it is both a kerygmatic and a didactic activity. It is both evangelical and theological.” (pg 220)
  12. “This essay will concentrate on Calvin’s expositions of the prophecy of Malachi, “the messenger of the Lord” who pointed ahead to the advent of Christ, and his trenchant criticism of the behaviour of the Levites and priests after their return from exile and the restoration of the temple in Jerusalem.” (pg 257).

When I think of theology serving the church this book is the prime example, in my mind, at least, of what that looks like. It reminds me of what one of my profs at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School said that theologians are to be doctors of the church. This book is a fine example of just that. Coming from a place of deep love for the church, Torrance has done a mighty good job at addressing the church for the hopes that they will conform to the image of Christ.

Readability: Moderate

Quality rating: 4 stars

Recommended Reader: the lay churchman to the Torrance scholar.

Price:$24.93 (Amazon)

Pages: 292

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