Torrance on the Incarnation – Part 1
Recently, I have begun reading through T.F. Torrance’s collection of lectures on the incarnation, called, well… Incarnation. I won’t be going through the entire book, but only want to give some highlights that will hopefully whet your appetites for further reading on your own (I have been excited thinking about Advent as I have been reading). But by way of introduction, I wanted to answer maybe the most pressing question you have at this point, “Who is T.F. Torrance?”
Thomas Forsyth Torrance was a Scottish theologian who taught theology at the University of Edinburgh (pronounced Edinboro) for almost three decades (1952-1979). If you have read Karl Barth, you may have seen Torrance’s name on the spine of your copy of Church Dogmatics. He was one of the editors of the English translation of all thirteen volumes. He was well suited to the task, having himself studied under Barth at Basel. Barth’s influence shaped Torrance and his work throughout his career, beginning with his consideration of the role of grace in the early church fathers, and leading him to a robust emphasis on the importance of the Trinity for Christian theology.
However, he was recognized as a significant theologian in his own right. He was especially noted for his work on the relationship of science and religion for which he was awarded the Templeton Prize in 1978 (other notable winners were Bill Bright (yes, that one), Mother Theresa, and Aleksander Solzhenitsyn).
Perhaps most importantly, Torrance was a churchman and pastor. He was a MK (“missionary kid”), born in China while his parents labored as missionaries there in the early 20th century. He served as a parish minister for a decade in the Church of Scotland, and eventually served as the moderator of the General Assembly in 1976 (this is a big deal for Presbyterians). And, not least, he was involved in hearty ecumenical dialogue, especially with the Eastern Orthodox Churches.
Finally, if theology can be in your DNA, then it is without question in the Torrance blood. His son Iain is also a New Testament scholar, currently serving as president of Princeton Theological Seminary. T.F.’s brother James Torrance also taught systematic theology at Aberdeen, and his nephew Alan is currently professor of systematics at St. Andrews (note: Alan was Marc Cortez’s doctoral supervisor for his dissertation).
Now that I have “fleshed out” Torrance for you a bit, we’ll get to how he understands the “fleshing out” of the Son of God in the next post.