Personhood: Onto-Relational Christological Anthropology

I attempt to clarify the notion of a relational ontology of persons and consider whether T.F. Torrance’s claim that “’Person’ is an onto-relational concept” amounts to a relational ontology. By putting Torrance’s concept of personhood alongside John Zizioulas’s concept of personhood I argue that Torrance indeed presents a highly relational view of personhood but that his view does not amount to a “relational ontology.” After examining Torrance’s understanding of personhood, I then turn to his provocative claim that Christ is the “personalizing person.” I interpret this Torrancian claim as meaning that because of the vicarious humanity of Christ human beings enter into the kind of personal relation necessary for a personal life. On this account, in virtue of the vicarious humanity of Christ and the instantiation relation Christ has with the universal human nature, every single human being has objectively been personalized. Humans are personalized persons through what they receive from Jesus, namely “communion with the fullness of personal being in the Holy Trinity.” All humans exist in a fully personal manner because they are in communion with the Triune God in virtue of the vicarious humanity of Christ. This view I suggest does not suffer from objections that could be leveled against Zizioulas’s relational ontology of persons. Moreover, my argument suggest that our understanding of Christ and his salvific work informs an important aspect of our theological anthropology, i.e., the nature of human personhood. This demonstrates the promise of Christology for theological anthropology. The discussion of Torrance’s theology of persons is carried out in conversation with Peter van Inwagen’s notions of relational and constituent ontologies.

3 thoughts on “Personhood: Onto-Relational Christological Anthropology”

  1. All Humans Commune with God?
    Do all humans have communion with the triune God as stated? Is this universalism?
    Remember these chilling words. Many will say Lord Lord look what we have done in thy name. I will declare unto them on that day, depart from Me you workers of iniquity into eternal torment; I never knew you . . .
    Some clarification with the thesis may help.

  2. published scholar
    The confluence of the theology of Torrance & Zizioulas is interesting. I’m concerned about the apparent conclusion of this proposal, but this is a published scholar, & I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.


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