Torrance's Life and Achievement

The following biography of Thomas Forsyth Torrance is “Torrance’s Life and Achievement,” the first chapter in Elmer Colyer, How to Read T. F. Torrance: Understanding His Trinitarian & Scientific Theology (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001); #2001-EMC-1a. All rights reserved; used by permission of Elmer Colyer and InterVarsity Press.

For other accounts of his life and work, see also the various issues of Participatio, such as Thomas A. Noble, "T. F. Torrance on the Centenary of his Birth: A Biographical and Theological Synopsis with Personal Reminiscences," Participatio 4, "T. F. Torrance and Eastern Orthodoxy" (2013): 8-29; #2013-TAN-3.

Bio Introduction

We did not stop at Guanshien but skirted round it and crossed over the main course of the Min river by a wide new bridge that was still being constructed, and then turned left on to the road winding through the steep awesome gorges of the Minvalley. The road leads on to Songpan County and where the giant Panda Reserve is located about 265 kilometers from Chengdu. . . . The road up the left bank of the Min was very broken and very rough, for here and there the surface had been churned up by floods and was even washed away at places. . . . Every now and then we had to negotiate a landslide, so travel slow and up and down. Unfortunately after about ten kilometers or so, we hit a rock which holed the sump, so that all the oil leaked out, and we were left stranded.
Thomas F. Torrance, “Journal of My Visit To Hong Kong, Chengdu and Wenchuan”

In 1994 Thomas F. Torrance traveled to the remote Minshan mountains of Wenchuan area of China as a Christian emissary to the indigenous Qiang people. He carried with him a money belt bearing 11,200 yuan, part of a larger gift of money for rebuilding churches destroyed by the communist takeover in 1935. 1 Needless to say, the undertaking offers a rather unusual image of an eighty-year-old scholar and theologian. The incident is important because it reveals part of the origin of Torrance’s evangelical and missionary perspective that informs his life as a Christian, a minister of the gospel and a theologian concerned with evangelizing all areas of human life and thought. 2 You see, Torrance was also on his way to the place he called home for the first fourteen years of his life.

1) Torrance writes that he returned to the area “particularly with the hope of encouraging the Qiang Christians in the Mountains of Wenchuan County and finding ways to help them rebuild some of the churches destroyed by the contingents of Mao’s forces in the summer of 1935 when in the course of their ‘Long March’ they found Christian communities in the valleys of the Min and To rivers. I had particularly in mind the Church at Tongmenwai at the entrance to Longqi Township where my father has established his mission headquarters in the summer months” (unpublished Journal of My Visit to Hong Kong, Chengdu and Wenchuan, April 22-June 3, 1994, p. 1). Back
2) See I. John Hesselink, “A Pilgrimage in the School of Christ,” Reformed Review 38, no. 1 (autumn 1984): 49, 60; #1984-443. As a theologian, Torrance sees himself as an intellectual evangelist helping the church evangelize the entire culture. His years of dialogue with scientists needs to be viewed in this light. See Torrance’s interview with Michael Bauman in Bauman’s book, Roundtable: Conversations with European Theologians (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1990), p. 114; #1990-530. Also see Thomas F. Torrance, Reality and Scientific Theology (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, #1985-450), pp. ix-x for the general foreword to the first volume in the series Theology and Science at the Frontiers of Knowledge. Torrance was the general editor of the series. Back

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