Early Education

Excerpt from “Torrance’s Life and Achievement,” in Elmer Colyer, How to Read T. F. Torrance: Understanding His Trinitarian & Scientific Theology (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001); #2001-EC-1a. All rights reserved; used by permission of Elmer Colyer and InterVarsity Press.

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In Scotland, Torrance attended school and worked extremely hard to catch up on his studies. The Chengdu Canadian Mission School that he attended in China (1920-1927) was very deficient by Scottish standards. However, by 1931, after several years of intense study, Torrance had become a Dux (a senior scholar in Latin and Greek), and moved on to the university a year early. 12

During this period (1927-1931) Scotland experienced dramatic unemployment and housing shortages. The Torrance family (minus his father who had returned to China) lived in a house in Bellshill in Lanarkshire. Torrance describes it as a “very, very difficult life” which he does not “look back upon with pleasure.” 13

At the University of Edinburgh (1931-1934) Torrance studied classics (Latin and Greek) and philosophy. Two of his most formative teachers were Norman Kemp Smith, an authority on Kant and Hume, and A. E. Taylor, who was an expert in Platonic thought. 14 As a missionary family maintaining two households on a meager income, the Torrances were not well off financially. This meant that Thomas had to complete his M.A. in three years rather than four and then move on to New College and the divinity faculty.


12) Torrance’s mastery of other languages is impressive. He has published scholarly articles in Greek, Latin, French and German. Back
13) Hesselink, “Pilgrimage,” p. 51 (#1984-443). Back
14) References to the work of Smith and Taylor appear regularly in the footnotes of Torrance’s books. Back