The Mediation of Christ
Frederick the Great of Germany once asked his private doctor this question. ‘Zimmermann, can you give me a single proof of the existence of God?’ Dr. Zimmermann replied, ‘Your Majesty, the Jews!’1 To Torrance the reply is not merely about the proof of God’s existence, more importantly it is about the great mystery of God especially in relation to his wonderful providence in the world. The persistent existence of the Jews testifies to the intent and act of God in the world. It is God’s deliberate work to set ‘the Jews before us even to-day in order to teach us something that we cannot learn in any other way.’2 To Torrance the selection of Israel by God underlines the singular purpose of mediating God’s selfrevelation in the world in order that the salvation of humanity is made possible through the later coming of the incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ. Torrance
says, ‘In his desire to reveal himself and make himself knowable to mankind, he selected one small race out of the whole mass of humanity, and subjected it to intensive interaction and dialogue with him in such a way that he might mould and shape this people in the service of his self-revelation,’3 and ‘out of the womb of Israel, Jesus-the Jew from Nazareth.’4 If God may be known through the Jews, the question inevitably is how could it be possible? The question essentially is about the nature of mediation; about the characteristic of Israel being the medium of God’s self-disclosure in human history. To answer the question, Torrance uses ‘tool’ as an analogy. He asks, ‘What are the tools we need in order to grasp the content of divine revelation?’5 Torrance continues,
The tools Torrance refers to are the matrix of ideas, concepts, categories, linguistic patterns, forms, structures and the whole of other human facilities that could be appropriated to articulate the radically new encounter with God.8 To Torrance
the uniqueness of Israel is that the matter of forging the appropriate tools does not fall solely on her although her participation is crucial and constitutive in the process. It lies fully and finally in God who moulds out of Israel an appropriate matrix of articulation and expression that would serve the cause. Using Jeremiah’s analogy to underline the necessary moulding process, Torrance says that it is like the potter at work with his clay.9 Torrance attempts to bring forth two points from the analogy. He wants to underline the fact that human thought by its sinful nature is unusable for the purpose of mediating divine revelation, and the moulding process is painfully unavoidable if it is to become an appropriate medium of God’s revelation. He says that through the historical struggles with God, ‘Israel teaches us, then, that divine revelation cuts against the grain of our naturalistic existence and calls into question the naturalistic pattern of human thought.’10 However, the painstaking process of transformation is not in itself the end to Torrance. What is important at the end of the moulding is the emerging of divinely ordained structures of thought and speech through which God could mediate his self-revelation in human history. Torrance says, ‘Among these permanent structures let me refer to the Word and Name of God, to revelation, mercy, truth, holiness, to messiah, saviour, to prophet, priest and king, father, son, servant, to covenant, sacrifice, forgiveness, reconciliation, redemption, atonement, and those basic patterns of worship which we find set out in the ancient liturgy or in the Psalms.’11 Torrance underlines that these structures of articulation and expression take incipient form in the course of the history of Israel. They ‘constitute the essential furniture of our knowledge of God even in and through Jesus.’12 Without them the significance of the incarnation of the Word ‘could not have been grasped-Jesus himself would have remained a bewildering enigma.’13 Torrance says,
The importance of the mediatory patterns of articulation and expression, or the appropriate tools, which God has forged in Israel, cannot be undermined. Torrance asserts that they play a crucial role in our understanding of God’s self-revelation in Jesus. In order to substantiate his argument, Torrance draws our attention to some modern theology that fails to recognise the important mediatorial role these authoritative patterns play. Torrance remarks,
Torrance’s point is basic but important. He is sounding a caution that in our attempt to make Jesus relevant to modern ways of thought, we are in fact obscuring him because the tools that we use are not of God’s choice.16 The truism to Torrance is, there are no other ways except the media which God has ordained-the authoritative conceptual and linguistic structures forged in the history of Israel-if our understanding of God’s self-revelation is to be authentic.