How to Read T. F. Torrance’s Creational Theology

For the upcoming Torrance retreat at the Firbush Centre of the University of Edinburgh (program), Bob Walker asked me to speak on how Torrance would respond to the question: “Did the Resurrection change the order of nature?” This question is a great starting point for teasing out the creational theology embedded in Torrance’s classic work, Space, Time and Resurrection (1976). Comments much appreciated.

My four goals with this presentation are:

  1. Encourage everyone to read Space, Time and Resurrection (STR).
  2. Encourage theology students to find the creational theology in STR more intelligible and not an obstacle to reading it. The goal here is not to compare, assess or engage TFT’s theology. I do not consider the secondary literature in theology or seek to make a new contribution in theology. Rather, the more modest purpose is just to prepare anyone to read STR with greater understanding, to make STR more accessible. An alternative title might be “How to Read the Creational Theology in Thomas F. Torrance’s Space, Time and Resurrection.”
  3. To show that STR can make an effective introduction to TFT’s creational theology, if you want to read it for that purpose. In addition, the conclusion suggests that STR still repays careful study from the standpoint of the ongoing task of developing a creational theology today.
  4. Finally, as a historian of science rather than a theologian, I’d like to suggest that if you’re interested in TFT, you’ll want to explore the history of science as well as theology. While not engaging the history of science in any depth, I’ll make references to some background sources a student would encounter in “History of Science 101.” In addition, if you’ll indulge me, I’ll raise a few historical queries of my own that some of you may be able to answer. This paper is a work very much still in progress, a first step in my journey of trying to better comprehend TFT in his historical and intellectual context for the history of science. Some of the queries I’ll make may not be answered in the archives (which I have yet to visit), so I’ll appreciate hearing any personal reminiscences you wish to share.

Note: In several places, this presentation refers to the problem of how disciplines which each follow a kata physin methodology (“integrity”) can still be coordinated (“integration”) without an improper incursion upon one or the other. How two or more disciplines can be seen, a posteriori, to share a kata physin boundary in common (a key concern for Torrance’s creational theology), is explored in another talk, The Nature of the Christian University. That presentation is a companion to this one.

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Queries

The following queries arise in the paper. Please let me know if you can share personal reminiscences or if you can point me to archival sources. Thanks!

  1. I’ve heard TFT enjoyed horses, and would love to hear more.
  2. Did Torrance explicitly address the two questions of the plurality of worlds or multiple incarnations?
  3. Geology makes an interesting illustration for TFT’s views on space and time. I don’t know why he didn’t write about it, given Scotland’s place in the history of geology. If you know that he was interested in geology in any way, please let me know.
  4. TFT participated in an Oxford International Symposium held at Christ Church in 1979. He contributed as essay on contingent order to the volume of proceedings from that conference, The Sciences and Theology in the 20th Century, ed. Arthur Peacocke and published in 1981. The topic was certainly a focal point of discussion, for the conference was called in tribute to Michael Foster. If anyone knows of TFT’s recollections of this conference, please let me know.
  5. In 1992, the Pascal Centre for Advanced Studies in Faith and Science at Redeemer College, in Ancaster, Ontario, held a 5-day research conference. Papers were distributed in advance to stimulate discussion and debate. At the conference, Torrance gave two keynote addresses that were published in Facets of Faith and Science, the 4-volume set of conference papers. I would very much appreciate hearing from you if you know anything about TFT’s conversations at the Pascal conference, particularly with those in the Dooyewerdian and Neo-Calvinist traditions.
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