Friday, 24 May 2019

Andrej Jeftić: Systematic and Historical Reading of the Fathers: Case of Thomas F. Torrance

It has been noted that Thomas F. Torrance read and interpreted the Holy Fathers not as a patristic scholar, but as a systematic theologian. Furthermore, the point is made that we ought not to blame him for making occasional interpretations of the patristic texts that cannot be supported by strict textual evidence because his goal was never to engage in the historical endeavor but the systematic one. I argue that ‘systematic reading’ cannot be an excuse for arbitrary interpretations of the patristic texts and that every systematic reading must be firmly grounded in the historical explorations of the texts. I examine three cases in which Torrance’s reading of the patristic texts cannot be supported by patristic scholarship: natural theology of St Athanasius, St Clement’s ‘kataphysic method’ and the concept of contingency in the Alexandrian theology. I conclude by suggesting what might constitute the difference between the two approaches to patristic theology and the way the relation between the two might be developed.

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