Atonement and Epistemology: How T.F. Torrance’s Pneumatology Unites the Two

Over the last several months I have been very interested in T.F. Torrance’s theology. My interest in Torrance began when I took Oliver Crisp’s “Contemporary Theories of Atonement” class and read Torrance’s book “Atonement.” About a month ago I recieved a call for papers from the Evangelical Theological Society, this year’s Western Regional Conference was going to be on “Evangelical Perspectives on the Holy Spirit.” They keynote speak will be Michael Horton. I decided to submit an abstract for the conference, and lo and behold my abstract was accepted! Thus I will be presenting my paper on April 19th at Vanguard University. Here is the abstract I submitted:

Atonement and Epistemology:

How T.F. Torrance’s Pneumatology Unites the Two

Christopher G. Woznicki

Fuller Theological Seminary

Two topics that have dominated much of evangelical theology over the past several years are atonement and epistemology. The discussions have usually revolved around debates over penal substitution, and foundationalism/coherentism respectively. However these discussions have not had much bearing on one another. T.F. Torrance’s pneumatology draws these discussions together. This paper argues that Torrance’s theory of the Holy Spirit’s role in atonement provides us with the tools necessary to form a robust religious epistemology.

According to Torrance all genuine knowledge involves a cognitive union of the mind with its object, this calls for the removal of any estrangement or alienation that may obstruct or distort this union. In Torrance’s schema atonement accomplishes the removal of this estrangement and alienation. Torrance understands atonement as the recreation of the bond of union between God and humanity. The recreation of this bond is accomplished objectively through the hypostatic union but is actualized subjectively for the believer through the work of the Holy Spirit. Thus for Torrance the union which is necessary for knowledge of God is only made possible by the Spirit’s work in the atonement. This has profound implications for the task of doing theology.


Published by cwoznicki

Chris Woznicki is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He works as the regional training associate for the Los Angeles region of Young Life.

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