Mediator and the mediations: divine self-disclosure in Thomas F. Torrance
Chung, Khiam Boon Titus
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Could a work of revelation justify itself today as a viable theological project? The question is imperative especially when sceptics have questioned the validity of revelation as a doctrinal discipline. Colin Gunton traces the modern difficulty with revelation to the influence of Hegel in giving rise to immediacy, and suggests that attention should be given to mediation. It is in this light we argue that the distinctiveness of Thomas F. Torrance’s theology of revelation and mediation is able to contribute significantly to the debate and bring a fresh breeze to the theological landscape laden with a sense of revelation-weariness. Principally we are making two claims. First, divine self-disclosure in Torrance’s theological scheme instead of immediacy is the mediation of God in Jesus Christ. It is through the Mediator who bridges between God and humanity that the self-revelation of God is finally and fully mediated, and the normative pattern of the union and communion of divine and human action of revelation and mediation is set. We would argue that dualism is, to Torrance, the threat to Christ’s revelation and mediation, and the way of surmounting is to return to the scientific realism of understanding God appropriately in accordance with the compulsive nature of his self-disclosure. Our discussion of Torrance’s pneumatology and multiple mediations involves the second claim. Notwithstanding the intent to uphold the primacy of scriptural mediation, we argue that Torrance, in responding to dualistic peril, has made the unusual move to advocate the effacement of scripture in revelation. Such move is unjustifiable as it has adverse repercussion not only for the mediation of scripture, but other media of revelation as well. The move has subtly gravitated revelation from mediation to immediacy and subverted Torrance’s theological framework. What is required of Torrance to overcome the dualistic tension, as we claim in the discussion of the church, Word and sacraments, and contingent creation as media of revelation, is to remain in line with the normative pattern of revelation and mediation which he has built upon the foundation of the Mediator. Essentially revelation in Torrance’s scheme is the mediation of God’s self-disclosure in Christ, and the continuous unfolding of that revelation by the conjoint work of the divine and the human through multiple mediations in human history. Finally, we would engage Paul Tillich and Colin Gunton in providing Torrance with alternatives that affirm the validity of scriptural mediation.