The stratification of knowledge in the thought of T. F. Torrance

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Abstract

T. F. Torrance has made a significant contribution to theological method with his model of the stratified structure of theological knowledge. According to this model, which is grounded in Torrance's realist epistemology, the knowledge of God takes place at three distinctive levels of increasing conceptual refinement. First, at the level of tacit theology, we intuitively grasp God's trinitarian reality through personal experience, without yet understanding that reality conceptually. Second, at the level of formalised theology, we develop an understanding of the economic trinitarian structure which underlies our personal experience. Finally, at the meta-theological level, we penetrate more deeply into the structure of God's self-revelation in order to develop a refined conceptualisation of the perichoretic relations immanent in God's eternal being. The conceptuality achieved at this meta-theological level constitutes the ultimate grammar and the unitary basis of all theological knowledge; and a concentration of thought at this level offers the promise both of thoroughgoing theological simplification and of a shared ecumenical vision of the essential content of theological knowledge. Central to Torrance's entire model is the homoousial union of Jesus Christ with God: the homoousion enables a movement from a personal encounter with Jesus Christ to a knowledge of the econimic Trinity, just as it further enables a movement from the economic to the ontological Trinity. Although our theological thought thus moves towards increasingly refined concepts and relations, it remains always grounded in and coordinated with our personal knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalScottish Journal of Theology
Volume61
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2008

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