Thomas F. Torrance was unique in that as a Reformed theologian he used the Church Fathers as an authoritative voice speaking within the theological tradition into his own theological system. Torrance provided a fresh voice into modern theological conversation by means of his approach to dogmatic and historical theology as a Reformed theologian with strong catholic leanings, intentionally situating himself and his reading within the universal church. Torrance’s reading of the Fathers was unique amongst other interpreters inasmuch as, being Reformed, he read them alongside theologians from his own tradition. Herein, Torrance had a unique conception of the Consensus Patrum consisting of primarily Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria, along with Irenaeus of Lyons, Didymus the Blind, Epiphanius of Salamis, Melito of Sardis, John Calvin, Karl Barth, and H.R. Mackintosh.
This paper will explore Torrance’s unique vision of the Consensus in the realm of Pneumatology. The precise patristic roots will be explored as well as Torrance’s interpretation and appropriation of them by means of his conception of the Consensus. This will be done on the basis of Torrance’s dogmatic and historical texts, with special attention given to his publications and work in the Reformed-Orthodox Dialogue. Herein, the way in which Torrance saw himself and those involved in the Dialogue bypassing the filioque debate altogether by means of a return to the “Athanasius-Cyril” axis of classical theology will be explored. Finally, the patristic sources used by Torrance for his doctrine of the Holy Spirit will be discussed, especially the Cappadocian Fathers and Athanasius of Alexandria. Furthermore, Torrance’s reading will be placed on the map of recent patristic scholarship in the field, portraying similarities and highlighting Torrance’s own unique contribution. The conclusion will be that Torrance’s vision, though open to certain critiques, has much to offer modern systematic and historical theology as well as contemporary patristic scholarship.