In the business of theology it is hard not to be controversial - Jurgen Moltmann

Monday, 3 December 2007

T.F. Torrance: a Remembrance from Asia

A guest post by Titus Chung (PhD candidate, Edinburgh University, who is completing his doctorate in Torrance)


Lauded by some ‘as the most significant British academic theologian of the twentieth century’, Professor Emeritus Thomas F. Torrance died peacefully on 2 December in Edinburgh.  As one of the most distinguished academic staff of the New College of the last century, Torrance’s scholarly contributions to the English-speaking theological arena had arguably been unequalled. Not only in the 27 years as Professor of Christian Dogmatics Torrance had authored, edited or translated more than 360 pieces of work ranging vastly from patristic to modern theology and from theology to science, including the impressive translation of Barth’s Church Dogmatics and Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries, he had added 250 more after his retirement. His diverse works have aroused significant responses and are influential not only in the United Kingdom but more so in the United States and areas in Southeast Asia.  As a result, studies on them are highly diversified in focuses.  Besides academic writing, another major contribution of Torrance is, with J. K. S. Reid, the founding of the Scottish Journal of Theology in 1948.

As an established theologian Torrance at times had been called a Barthian. Although unquestionably an outstanding student of Barth and someone who self-professed to build upon the theological foundation his teacher had laid, Torrance was not the ordinary ‘Barthian’ of regurgitation. In fact, as a mature theologian some would regard him to have gone beyond Barth, especially in the area of correlating science and theology, and engendering a closer inter-disciplinary dialogue and interaction between the two disciplines; particularly in rejecting the old adversary model, Torrance had opened up the horizon for one to view science and theology as complementary, mutually fortifying and clarifying. The affirmation of Torrance’s contributions was manifestly evidenced when he was awarded the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion at the Guild Hall, London, in 1978.

As one of the Scotland’s great sons, Torrance, however, was born in Chengdu, China, to a missionary family in 30 August 1913. Having left China for Scotland to pursue his education as a teenager, China, or, to be precise, the churches in China that he grew up with, had in fact never left Torrance throughout his life. His unswerving passion for the Chinese missionary work took concrete expression and articulation in his determined return to Chengdu and Wenchuan in 1984 and 1994. These episodic events in the years of retirement and the lifetime’s commitment to the Church of Scotland unveiled in Torrance not only a scholar of rare distinction but also a churchman of unusual devotion. For these many would always remember him, not only those of the English-speaking world, but those among the Chinese as well.



托倫斯自稱畢生都在其老師巴特的基礎上繼續搭建,但是有論者認為,成熟期的托倫斯,成就已經超越其師,尤其在神學與科學的科際對話上,建立了兩者互相補充、強化、釐清的新模式,令他在1978年獲頒 『譚普頓獎』榮譽。


【客座撰文:章劍文 (愛丁堡大學博士候選人,專研托倫斯神學)】 【中文撮要:飲者】

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