Torrance on Ecumenism

These psychological mechanisms masquerading in religious and ecclesiastical symbolisms are everywhere evident in the ecumenical movement as Churches confront Churches and especially as they try to work out ways of actual reunion. It does not take much by way of scientific sociological research to show that the grounds for disunity between them and the reasons for remaining apart are more non-theological than theological, at least as far as the Evangelical Churches are concerned. The principle cuius regio, eius religio still maintains its power. This is certainly evident in Scotland where the ecumenical spirit has obviously brought to the surface age-old fantasies embedded in religious and ecclesiastical symbolisms, and where it becomes clearer every day that the real obstacle to reunion is nationalistic egoism. This has been fanned into a flame by popular music, art and literature that are deeply infected with romantic naturalism and are concerned with self-expression and self-fulfilment as the criteria of significance. Among teenagers, of course, this has contributed to the problem of stuck-adolescence and has even led to a marked regression to infantile behaviour. But in the Church itself it has brought about a state of affairs in which it is difficult to communicate or to engage in dialogue except within the orbit of the religious self-expression of the Scottish people and it’s ‘genius’. This has inevitably meant a return to the old womb from which came the historic bitternesses and divisions and a lapse into rigid and closed systems of thought such as one finds in paranoiacs as well as infants.

T. F. Torrance, God and Rationality (London: Oxford, 1971), 121-22


2 thoughts on “Torrance on Ecumenism

    • I’m going to assume that there is an argument somewhere hidden beneath your assertions. Also, your anality is duly noted, though it may just be a grammar thing as he capitalizes church in ever instance of this quotation (as I flip through the book, this seems to be the case throughout). Also, keep in mind that this was published in 1971, so the issues being addressed are somewhat localized to his experience at that time in Scotland. I posted this because I thought he made an accurate observation that (at least within Evangelical churches) the main hindrance to unity has nothing to do with theology (i.e., think of the many Baptist and Fundamentalist churches that believe essentially the same thing).

      I am glad, however, that you brought up this point. I think now would be an appropriate time to discuss the nature of of the Church (and I capitalize that correctly) and how does it relate to it’s individual members. Some of your statements appear to distinguish the Church and it’s individual members so much that never the twain shall meet. How do you overcome what appears to me to be a Kantian dualism between noumenal (i.e., Church which never errors or sins and it seems is imperceptible), and the phenomenal (i.e., all those individuals who are perceived and who mess things up)? I know Kant is later and shouldn’t be used to explain Orthodox theology; I only use him to illustrate what I see.

      Thanks for the link, that is encouraging to hear.

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