Keeping with the theme of soteriology, and to add my two cents worth to what I have been watching unfold over at Bobby’s blog, I want to add an excerpt from a paper of mine on the relationship of Anhypostasis/Enhypostasis couplet in T.F Torrance. This seems to be the key for me in understanding the way in which Torrance conceives of the relationship between the work of the Spirit and the will of humanity in salvation. For Torrance there can be no independent human response to God (anhypostasis) apart from the work of the Holy Spirit (enhypostasis). So that even the word of God is ineffectual apart from the Spirit, making Torrance’s soteriology very trinitarian! While these are fundamentally christological categories I think they are very helpful for understanding Torrance’s all of grace and all of man and the logic of human response.
Torrance speaks of the anhypostasis and enhypostasis of Christ. This formulation will clear up some of the workings behind Torrance’s logic of human response. The anhypostasis-enhypostasis couplet was one which Torrance inherited from Karl Barth, tracing it back to Cyril of Alexandria. While Torrance’s former teacher H.R. Mackintosh regarded the distinction as “a finer species of Apollinarianism” , Torrance himself saw it as a necessary addition to an adequate Christology, and also a part of received orthodoxy.
Anhypostasis is the term which for Torrance indicates that there is no independent human personality inhabited by the eternal Logos. This means that there is no room for asserting that there would have been a man Jesus of Nazareth apart from the incarnation. This eliminates all forms of Adoptionism in Torrance’s thinking.
Enhypostasis indicates that there is a human being in the incarnation by virtue of the hypostatic union. There is no independent human hypostasis but there is a complete human hypostasis in Jesus Christ in union with the Logos. So then, the human person Jesus has his subsistence only in its union with the Logos of God. Together with the anhypostasis Torrance wards of any Nestorian dualism between the two natures of Jesus. He also undercuts any Monophysitism, because there is a real human Jesus in the incarnation.
This is extremely significant for Torrance as it means that all of grace also means all of humanity. There can be no understanding of the incarnation as an act which is not wholly an act of God. But it remains equally true that the incarnation is wholly an act of humanity. Thus, “In revelation, therefore, we are not concerned simply with anhypostatic revelation and with human response, but with anhypostatic revelation and true human response enhypostatic in the Word of revelation.” Torrance calls this the ‘logic of God’s grace’ as it reveals the way in which humanity is not lost in the process of redemption but is upheld in the Son of God, no less being simultaneously an act of God.
The anhypostasis-enhypostasis couplet is tied up directly with how Torrance understands the early church’s Christological discussion. Traditionally it has been thought that there were two basic Christological schools in the early church. They were the Alexandrian Logos-Sarx Christology and the Antiochene Logos-Anthropos Christology. While this is now thought by most to be an over simplification of the complex issues at play in the early church, it still remains a helpful indicator of the general streams of thought. Torrance does not seem to fit the description of either of these schools and as a result some have argued that he brings the two into a dialectical relationship, switching between them where appropriate. However this does not seem to be how Torrance saw the issue.
Torrance understood there to be a third school, characterised by Athanasius’s Christology. This school is said, by Torrance, to have emphasised the vicarious humanity and Lordship of Christ. Habets notes: “According to Torrance, patristic thought plotted this middle path between the other two ‘schools’, and Athanasius is held up as the supreme model. Athanasius understood the incarnation to be God as man in Jesus Christ. Understanding God as man meant that he had to understand the humanity of Jesus in a profoundly vicarious manner.” This is a middle path which when speaking of the humanity of Christ can appear Antiochene, and when speaking of the divinity of Christ can appear Alexandrian. While the historical reality of this account is dubious, theologically this is helpful in discerning the flavour of Torrance’s doctrine and the historical influences driving it.