T.F. Torrance and the Consensus Patrum: a reformed, evangelical, and ecumenical reconstruction of the Church Fathers
Radcliff, Jason Robert
This thesis offers a constructive engagement with T.F. Torrance’s theological reading of the patristic tradition. It argues that Torrance reconstructs the Fathers into a Consensus Patrum, or “Consensus of the Fathers” consisting of catholic/ecumenical themes and figures. Torrance’s consensus is a creative attempt to produce a Reformed and evangelical version of the consensus which involves significant changes to both standard readings of the Fathers in other approaches to the consensus and Torrance’s own Reformed evangelical tradition. It is unique among other interpreters of the Fathers and ecumenically relevant, offering much to contemporary theology in both substance and method. In order to view Torrance’s project in historical context this thesis examines the notion of the consensus as found in historical Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant theology. Each tradition has a lens through which they view the Fathers: Aquinas for the Roman Catholics, Palamas for the Orthodox, Augustinian themes for the Reformers, and “de‐Hellenization” for liberal Protestants. This thesis places Torrance’s project within other contemporary retrievals of the church Fathers arguing for its uniqueness as a distinctively Reformed evangelical approach to the Fathers on their own terms. It inspects the Torrancian consensus exploring its consistence of a Reformed and evangelical approach to patristic themes and figures, rooted in the primary theme of the Nicene ὁμοούσιον and the primary figure of Athanasius of Alexandria. It examines Torrance’s creative reconstruction of the Fathers into a Reformed evangelical consensus and points to his constructive achievements demonstrating that Torrance’s approach is ecumenically relevant, as seen particularly in his work in the Reformed‐Orthodox Dialogue. A critical adoption of the Torrancian consensus is proposed in conclusion.