Some years ago, the Orthodox apologetics site, Orthodox Bridge, did a piece evaluating Thomas Torrance. Orthodox Bridge banned me from commenting (or at least no longer approves any comments from me) some years ago, so I haven’t paid them much attention. I browsed their site the other day and it was more of the same: “Reformed believed this but if they realized Orthodoxy was correct they would believe otherwise.” There aren’t many commenters, either. I was the oil that kept the motor running.
I posted part one some years ago and I guess I Forgot part two. As is always the case in my interactions with Orthodoxy today: an Orthodox person will approve of everything I say. I am as fair as possible. I just want to highlight how bad the argumentation is.
This post covers some details I didn’t have time for yesterday. I came at yesterday’s post with the wrong assumption: I thought Orthodox Bridge would analyze Torrance’s writings and then do a critical review. No, what happened was they reviewed a journal issue dealing with Torrance. So, let’s continue:
One fascinating aspect of Tanev’s essay is his discussion of how Torrance’s understanding of space shaped his theology. Tanev criticized Torrance’s for his narrow understanding of science, e.g., he embracing Einstein while rejecting quantum theory (pp. 204-205).
But if you read Tanev’s essay, all you can really conclude is Torrance wasn’t satisfied with the yet-to-fully-mature work of the Copenhagen school. He didn’t think it had fully distanced itself from Kantian presuppositions (I have no idea whether that is true or not, and I am fairly confident that neither does OB). In any case, the relation of quantum mechanics to relativity has zero relevance for either Orthodoxy or Protestantism.
If you listen to his lectures Torrance fully embraced some understanding of quantum mechanics.
One notable contribution in quantum physics is the discovery that there is no simple objective study of physical phenomenon; “observed reality can be transformed by the fact of observing it.” (p. 207) This gives physical reality a dynamic and probabilistic character much like “the freedom of interpersonal human relations” (p. 209).
This is Karl Barth 101. God’s being is never separate from his act. In fact, it is being-in-act.
This leads Arakaki/Tanev to write,
Tanev saw Torrance’s failing to draw on the epistemological implications of quantum theory as contributing to his lacking a proper understanding of hypostasis (p. 208; 210-211).
This isn’t really a problem for Torrance. As any student of dogmatics knows, it is almost impossible to give a definition of “person.” Person is a who, and so resists any reduction to a what. Therefore, the question, in some Eastern models, “What is a person?” is a conceptually contradictory question. Further,
If it is true that Bohr didn’t use clear models and terms, then it might not be so much Torrance’s fault.
Taven goes on to quote liberal modernist Orthodox theologian Christos Yannaras on hypostasis. Yannaras’s has an intriguing model, something about being-a-person as tied to a relational field. A person is an ex-stasis, a standing out. Again, quite fascinating but this has ZERO dogmatic authority for Orthodoxy (and once you skim away the Heideggerian substructure, I am not sure how coherent it really is). And on some Orthodox readings, Yannaras is a modernist heretic.
As a corrective to Torrance’s realism, Tanev presents Christos Yannaras who appropriated Einstein and Bohr to explicate John of Damascus who saw physical space as a locus of the disclosure of God’s personal energy (p. 210).
I’m still scratching my head with this one. What do they mean by “Torrance’s realism?” Do they mean scientific realism? Philosophical realism? Both? Are they rejecting realism in favor of nominalism?
I’m not sure that Torrance would disagree with the last sentence. Torrance primarily used Einstein to rebut Newton’s notion of “Absolute Space” and the container notion of space. That would mean that God is identical with space, which is a no-no for Christians.
Tanev shows how quantum physics can lend support for the Orthodox approach to describing the Trinity.
Sounds a lot like natural theology and analogia entis. I didn’t think Orthodox liked that.