T. F. Torrance on The Trinity

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Puritan Board Doctor
One of the best books ever published on the doctrine of the Trinity, in my opinion, is The Christian Doctrine of God: One Being, Three Persons (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996) by Thomas F. Torrance. In 260 pages, Torrance does a magnificent job of explicating the doctrine. He interacts with the church fathers to a great extent (one of his specialties) and does as fine a job as is humanly possible in discussing the ontological nature of our great God.

I know Torrance is neo-orthodox (having personally studied under Barth in the 1930s), but it's difficult to be neo-orthodox on this subject. It's Torrance's magnum opus and, as I said, one of the finest works of its type. It's also one of the few modern doctrinal books that one can read devotionally, as well as for its technical theological discussion.

Torrance, by the way, turned 93 last August and is still recovering, last I heard, from a severe stroke he suffered a couple of years ago.

Here's an excerpt (from page 155):

In our understanding of the New Testament witness to God's revelation of himself, "the Father," "the Son," and "the Holy Spirit" are unique and proper names denoting three distinct Persons, or real Hypostases, who are neither exchangeable nor interchangeable while, nevertheless, of one and the same divine Being. There is one Person of the Father who is always the Father, distinct from the Son and the Spirit; and there is another Person of the Son who is always the Son, distinct from the Father and the Spirit; and another Person of the Holy Spirit who is always the Holy Spirit, distinct from the Father and the Son. In this three-fold tri-personal self-revelation of God, one Person is not more or less God, for all three Persons are coeternal and coequal. They are all perfectly one in the identity of their Nature and perfectly homoousial or consubstantial in their Being. Each of the three Persons is, himself, Lord and God, and yet there are not three Lords or Gods, but only one Lord God, and there is only one and the same eternal Being of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Trinity of three divine Persons is, thus, perfectly homogeneous and unitary, both in the threeness and oneness of God's personal activity, and in the threeness and oneness of his eternal unchangeable personal Being. One Being, Three Persons.


...we cannot think of the ontological Trinity as if it were constituted by, or dependent on, the economic Trinity, but must rather think of the economic Trinity as the freely predetermined manifestation, in the history of salvation, of the eternal Trinity which God himself was before the foundation of the world, and eternally is. Hence, when we rightly speak of the oneness between the ontological Trinity and the economic Trinity, we may not speak of that oneness without distinguishing and delimiting it from the ontological Trinity - there are, in any case, as we have already noted, elements in the incarnate economy, such as the time pattern of human life in this world, which we may not read back into the eternal Life of God. On the other hand, the fact that the ontological Trinity has ontological priority over the economic Trinity is essentially and intrinsically evangelical, for it is precisely the ontological Trinity that God has made known to us in his self-giving and self-revealing as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in salvation history, and it is on the ontological Trinity that the evangelical nature of the economic Trinity entirely depends. (pages 108-109)

This is a book to make you think, and also a book to make you raise your heart to Heaven in praise to God. It is, in my opinion, one of the great theological books of the 20th century.

If you have not read it, I highly recommend it. If you have read it, I would be interested in knowing your opinion of it.
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