The ancient church has much to offer to modern Christianity. The problem we have today are the numerous differing presuppositions on the true nature of the Christian God. What we have is a church community that is divided against itself. T F Torrance could see the root of this problem lies in understanding the gospel in same way the ancient community understood, which they believed to be the very same as was handed to them by the apostles. In his scientific theology, Torrance tries to show the mind of the ancient church is one in her understanding of God revealed in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. Sadly, many do not understand the full significance of what he was trying to show here. His scientific theology is often seen as an aside to his work when in fact it is central to the whole framework of the method the ancient church employed to show the reality of God shown only in Jesus Christ. They understood two main themes: 1. Jesus Christ is the only one who knows the Father (Matt. 11.27). 2. Let God be true and every man a liar (Rom. 3.4). Believing Christ to be God in the flesh, then it is Jesus Christ, the God-Man who is true and every other man a liar. This cuts out every human being who tries to say something different to Jesus Christ as the heretics of old and the modern together try to do.
Torrance showed clearly the method of investigation employed in modern physics through James Clerk-Maxwell and Albert Einstein is precisely the same method we should employ in theology today. The ancient church employed this very same method, which is to trust the total reliability of the object in question to speak for itself. If we are willing to lend an ear to it, then the object will disclose its inner truths. Our language will be thus conformed to the reality of the object where everyone who employs this method will also be able to hear what we hear, see what we see and thereby say what we say bringing unity between the object in question and the investigating community. This is particularly so in the area of James Clerk-Maxwell’s Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field (1864) and Albert Einstein’s Special (1905) and General Relativity (1915). Their works were groundbreaking and have been unshaken for more than 150 years. Torrance has used their works as a case study to try and bring unity in how we pursue our study of theology from a fixed, non-negotiable, invariant point. The object in question is not just God. It is God who has disclosed Himself in our human history as the Man, Jesus Christ. From here we move away from what we might think God to be to what God eternally is in His own self through Jesus Christ who is God speaking on His own behalf. In Him we see the true nature and character of God. As we allow ourselves to assent to Him, submitting all our thoughts to conform to what He has said in time and space, then we find a unity in language between what God actually says in Person and what we say as His witnesses. In this that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me (John 17.21).
Many in the community have the impression that Christianity is not compatible with science. Even within some of the more fundamental denominations, “faith” is to be trusted more than science. Through the media a wedge is placed between what might be considered what is reserved just for those who have “faith” while science is concerned with the “facts.” This misconception of the term “faith” is widespread. Even within Christianity, if we have faith then Christianity will be true. Perceived in this way, the danger is one can be open to manipulation and control. When legitimate questions are raised by those seeking answers, some might respond by the saying, “You just need faith.” This is highly inadequate making Christianity something ambiguous that is out of reach unless we see it the right way (which usually means conforming to a set of values or a strict premise in the form of a doctrinal statement according to a denomination). What we lack is the understanding Christianity is about the overwhelming reality that is behind all things where we claim Jesus Christ is the one from before creation and in Him all things consist and are held together (Col. 1.17). Thus having faith is a response to the reality that is disclosed by Jesus Christ in Person deep within our souls where we know internally, or intuitively, this is the Truth of all truths. Faith is after the encounter, not prior. It is the very same in science. Once the nature of the object reveals its inner truths, then the observers have faith in what they see. Faith helps us to repent because we experience real encounter and real disclosure of God Himself. Once we encounter Him, then His disclosure helps us to change our mind about God. Once the eyes of our heart are opened, then confidence in the intimacy of the experience is rock solid. In the same way in science. When it was realised the characteristics between light, electricity and magnetism were actually related to each other, the scientific community had to assent to the truth of their inner characteristics and repent of all prior thought. The shackles of the Newtonian mechanics were broken and physics began to enter into a new age of investigation starting with the reality of what objects actually disclosed. In doing so, accurate information was drawn from the object and this useful information could be freely shared and real progress made.
In the world of natural science, the inherent nature of the objects we study are what they are. Water is H2O. That is, for every single oxygen atom, there are two hydrogen atoms attached to it. The whole of life on earth depends on water and structured in this precise way it is able to sustain life. If one hydrogen atom is removed it is no longer life giving water, it is toxic Hydrogen Peroxide. Great for bleaching, a good antiseptic but not good for drinking. Water and hydrogen peroxide are what they are according to their internal structure and they cannot be anything else. God is what He is in His own Being. Like properties in nature, God is what He is and cannot be anything else. The difference here is unless God discloses Himself in such a way that is observable to us, there is no way we can know His true nature and character. It takes God to know God and without God, God cannot be known is the common theme throughout the ancient church. The Incarnation of God, coming as the Man, Jesus Christ is the only time in the whole of human history that God has taken a step downwards, towards us to make Himself known. God has now revealed Himself in a manner that is universally observable and accessible to all human beings. In Jesus Christ we seeing the internal Being of God act and speak humanly, in precisely the same way the Father acts and speaks.
The gospel of Christ in union with all people means no one can appropriate this truth, contain it and monopolise it for their own gain. The truth of Jesus Christ concerns not just Christians but all people throughout the world. He truly is the One mediator between God and humanity (1Tim 2.5). Yet many leaders in churches try to contain Jesus Christ and make Him fit into their doctrines. This is an impossible thing to do! If we fail to see Jesus Christ connected to the very internal being of every person, then we fail to see Him as truly God. Jesus Christ has done all the work. All we have to do is to tell people this good news. There are two universal truth: There is a God and you are not Him. (This needs to put on our toilet door to remind ourselves of this eternal fact). If we truly believe Jesus Christ is God, then we must turn to God and allow our minds to assent to all that He declares Himself to be.
What we say about Jesus Christ will determine the kind of message we share with people. For example: If we believe human beings cannot tolerate the absolute presence of God, then Jesus is only a creature and all the heretics throughout history are right! God forbid! We cannot hold this belief and claim Jesus is God. It does not matter if one undertakes rhetorical somersaults to make this claim stick, declaring that human beings cannot tolerate the absolute presence of God and then declare Jesus is God can never hold together. Because of Jesus Christ, all humanity are brought into the presence of the Father, Son and Spirit. Jesus spoke the Words of God because, as God, Jesus spoke things concerning who He is in His own Being. As God, Jesus acted in precisely the way God would act. As God, Jesus touched people with His own hands. When Jesus Christ became Man, He united Himself with all humanity. While Jesus was united with all humanity, He maintains His in-dwelt unity with the Father and the Spirit. Although people are united to Jesus Christ they can be alienated from the truth purely because they are ignorant of it or defy it. However, the Father has such a grip on them in Jesus Christ that He will never ever let them go. The Truth of our Triune God is so embedded into the fabric of creation their pattern of life is the pattern not just for human relationships but also in nature including the rules and laws of our physical universe.
One of my favourite scientists is Albert Einstein. I just love the way his mind works. I believe his framework of thinking cross-pollinates with the gospel. Building on the work of James Clerk-Maxwell and following his interpretive method of studying the physical world, he presented his famous Special and General Theory of Relativity. In particular, in Special Relativity, Einstein proposed that the laws of physics was the same for all non-accelerating observers. He also determined the speed of light was constant and independent of the motion of all observers. I have close friends who share the same admiration. T F Torrance held him in high regard. Many are quick to discount Einstein by saying he was not a Christian. I and my close friends are inclined to disagree. If we, for arguments sake, held to evangelical church’s statement of beliefs outlining what one must do to be a Christian, then not only does Einstein fail to reach the mark, its demands means we all fail.
Albert Einstein made many statements that were totally consistent with New Testament Scripture. At other times, he was not always consistent. He knew there was some mysterious power behind the universe and when he was willing to listen, it appeared to communicate with him and given him its inner secrets. He compared the work of Isaac Newton and James Clerk-Maxwell. Many physicists of his day were building their work upon Isaac Newton. Others were trying to combine the work of the two. Einstein found the work of Maxwell appeared to better reflect the inner workings of the physical world. He was able confirm what Maxwell proposed and show that the properties of light were part of the electromagnetic field. As he lent an ear to the universe, his groundbreaking work paved the way for the technological revolution that is still having its enormous impact to this very day. Just about every electronic device we now have is because the theories presented by Albert Einstein building upon the work of James Clerk-Maxwell truly reflect the inherent qualities of nature. The following is an interview conducted by the Saturday Evening Post 26th of October, 1929. If you are one of those people who are quick to discount Einstein simply because he was not a Christian, then the following may be cause for reconsideration:
“To what extent are you influenced by Christianity?”
“As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene”
“Have you read Emil Ludwig’s book on Jesus?”
“Emil Ludwig’s Jesus is shallow. Jesus is too colossal for the pen of phrasemongers, however artful. No man can dispose of Christianity with a bon mot”
“You accept the historical Jesus?”
‘Unquestionably! No one can read the gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates every word. No myth is filled with such life.”
When I first read this a few years ago, I was taken very much by surprise. It clearly showed the union of God with humanity in Jesus Christ means that His life resonates within the very intrinsic fabric of our creation. In this interview, Einstein reported that Jesus was the greatest of all Jews. Only by the Spirit of Christ could Albert Einstein ever make such a statement. Luke 19.40; But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!” In His Ideas and Opinion (New York, 1954) He said:
Science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling however springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation might be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.
Albert Einstein held the universe with tremendous awe. He believe there was a rationale woven in the universe is such a way that if we attempt to engage with it in a humble, teachable way, it discloses to us its inner secrets. T F Torrance believe this very method is the same we should employ in our theological endeavour. If we engage with the Scriptures in a humble and teachable way, then what we learn is in Jesus Christ we see what outwardly in what He says and does gives us the most clear glimpse of the inner nature and character of the Triune God.