The Torrance family may well be the closest thing that Presbyterians may have to royalty. Tom Torrance was a noted and respected theologian, teaching Dogmatics at the University of Edinburgh -- his brother James, the subject of this reflection, was professor of Theology at the University of Aberdeen. Meanwhile Ian Torrance is currently President of Princeton Theological Seminary.
James Torrance died in 2003. In his obituary, we discover that he was born in 1923, the son of a missionary couple who served in China. James and his five siblings were all ministers or married to ministers. After serving in World War II in the Royal Air Force, Torrance studied Philosophy and theology. He served in parish ministry near Dundee before returning to the academy in 1963 at Edinburgh, where he lectured on Christian Thought.
As to his character and influence on his students:
There can be little doubt that the buoyancy and vibrancy of Aberdeen’s Faculty of Divinity in the late 70s owed a vast amount to his inspiring teaching, and to his bold leadership as Dean. He travelled widely, especially to the United States, Canada, South Africa and Australia, teaching and preaching up to five times a day. As a result, students flocked to study with him from all over the world.
On retirement in 1989, with unstoppable energy he continued to travel widely, and encapsulated the heart his convictions in a remarkable book, Worship, Community, and the Triune God of Grace. In 2001 he was invited to deliver the prestigious Warfield Lectures at Princeton Seminary (soon to be published).
No-one could miss the secret of his inspiration: he lived and breathed what he believed. His life was marked by an open-hearted generosity born of his own conviction that he had been welcomed unconditionally by an open-hearted, generous God. Few who knew him will forget the extraordinary hospitality he and his wife, Mary, showed in their home.
Apparently, he was concerned with impressing upon his students that theology was not just a dry and dusty exercise, but a vital discipline of living.
Blogger Andy Goodliff (a British Baptist), gives us this list of major works. A quick perusal of the titles will tell you that this fellow dealt with pretty heady stuff.
Here's a reflection from Andrew Thompson as he wrestles with the concepts in Torrance's book. As I've scoured the web, I've found nothing but glowing reviews. However, it is worth remembering that this book is a collection of lectures given at a theological college -- Torrance assumes a familiarity with technical terms and theological dramatis personae that the average reader will not have. Lord willing, we'll unfold some of that as we go along.
Soli Deo Gloria