Space is here [in Nicene theology] a differential concept that is essentially open-ended, for it is defined in accordance with the interaction between God and man, eternal and contingent happening. It is treated as a sort of coordinate system (to use a later expression) between two horizontal dimensions, space and time, and one vertical dimension, relation to God. In this kind of coordination, space and time are given a sort of transworldly aspect in which they are open to the transcendent ground of the order they bear within nature. This means that the concept of space which we use in the Nicene Creed is one that is relatively closed, so to speak, on our side where it has to do with physical existence, but is one which is infinitely open on God’s side. This is why frequently when Byzantine art sought to express this ikonically it deliberately reversed the natural perspective of the dais upon which Christ was represented. The Son of God become man could not be presented as one who had become so confined in the limits of the body that the universe was left empty of His government. He could not be represented, therefore, as captured by lines which when produced upwards met at some point in finite space, but only between lines which even when produced to infinity could never meet, for they reached out on either side into the absolute openness and eternity of the transcendent God.
But I have always wondered what Torrance’s source for this notion was, and I would appreciate any suggestions from Logismoi readers. According to Victor Bychkov, in The Aesthetic Face of Being: Art in the Theology of Pavel Florensky, trans. Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky (Crestwood, NY: SVS, 1993), Fr Florensky gave some consideration to the ‘inverse perspective’ of iconography in an essay of that title, but his explanation of the phenomenon seems to be a more purely aesthetic and less a theological one (pp. 55-7, 60-1, 92-3). Furthermore, although I certainly admire both Torrance’s and Fr Florensky’s treatments of this issue, neither seems to be based on anything actually made explicit in Orthodox Tradition. I don’t recall seeing in the Fathers’ writings on iconography, for instance, anything quite like Torrance’s analogy between Nicene theology and the iconographic style and perspective per se.