At the end of her discussion of the uses and abuses of Gregory of Nyssa in TF Torrance and Robert Jenson ( Gregory of Nyssa, Ancient and (Post)modern , 48-49), Morwenna Ludlow suggests that “the major difference is in the whole aim of their systematic theological projects.”

Torrance is “conservative” and aims “to trace the lineage of trinitarian doctrine back along a pure family line. there have been illegitimate developments, but historical research will reveal the ‘true’ origins of Nicene doctrine, which need to be recovered.” Given this aim, it is “vital for Torrance’s account that the theologians he cites through what he claims they thought.”

The relation of historical sources and constructive theology is looser in Jenson’s “speculative” work: “Although he sees the Council of Nicaea as being decisive, it is - to follow his antagonistic vocabulary - only one early battle in a war which is still being fought; the footsoldiers of earlier days are examples for present-day theologians, but their fighting should not detract from the need to continue the struggle today.” Because Jenson sees his work as “reform and further development,” he is at liberty “to use Gregory’s ideas not so much as the doctrine of an authority-figure but as a springboard for his own theological imagination.”

It seems to me that the contrast of these two specific theologians has a much wider application, and the various contested issues of our time are in part due to these basic differences of orientation.

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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