In the Mail: Why is Torrance Missing from American Reformed

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I would like to thank the fine folks at IVP-Academic for this review copy:

Product Description

This companion volume to T. F. Torrance’s Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ presents the material on the work of Christ, centered in the atonement, given originally in his lectures delivered to his students in Christian Dogmatics on Christology at New college, Edinburgh, from 1952-1978.Like the first volume, the original lecture matierial has been expertly edited by Robert Walker, complete with cross-reference to Torrance’s other works. Readers will find this the most readable work of Torrance and, together with Incarnation, the closest to a systematic theology we have from this eminent theologian.

About the Author

The late Thomas F. Torrance occupied the chair of Christian dogmatics at the University of Edinburgh for twenty-seven years. He was the recipient of the Templeton Foundation Prize for Progress in 1978, and he served as moderator of the Church of Scotland and coeditor of the Scottish Journal of Theology. He wrote extensively, contributing more than twenty major works of theology and hundreds of articles in a variety of languages.

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I reviewed the first volume in this series here.

I have a question, honestly. The American Reformed Church is so wrapped up in Piper et al, that they have yet to notice Torrance. Why? He handles theology and biblical studies with masterful skill. He doesn’t care much about the others issues that so many seem to be concerned with, but develops his ideas with supreme form and covers historical criticism without, well, fundamentalist criticism.

Of all the Reformed authors and writers that I have read (yes, I do read them, just don’t agree with them on a whole lot), he is by far the most…Christian.

I cannot wait to dive into this book!

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20 Replies to “In the Mail: Why is Torrance Missing from American Reformed”

  1. More Christian than Augustine, Luther, Melancthon, Tyndale, Bunyan, Owen, Sibbes, Charnock, Flavel, Manton, Brooks, Watson, Calvin, Whitefield, Edwards, Spurgeon, Brainerd, Judson, Paton, Wilberforce, Newton, Warfield, the Hodges, Machen, MacArthur, Begg, the Sprouls, and, yes, Piper? Calvinists all. Authors all. Great Christians, all.

    1. That’s not exactly what I meant, Sam. By ‘Christian’ I mean the broad reach he has across the spectrum. He doesn’t push Calvinism or Reformed or Anglican, but always Christ.

      1. No matter what “ism” you embrace, wouldn’t you say that all sincere Christians have Christ at the center? For instance, isn’t the “ism” secondary to Christ? Maybe I’m naive, but I would think most Christians who believe the chief end of man is to glorify God ultimately become a (name your “ism”) because he/she thinks that the tradition he/she identifies with best lines up with the truth God reveals through the Scripture.

        Implicit in your statement is that you have an approach to theology in mind that is superior to Calvinism, Anglicanism, etc.? What is it and what are its appealing distinctives?

        I’m not familiar with Torrance, so I’m curious if by “historical” you mean the general historical-grammatical approach to hermeneutics or the historical-critical method. The difference, as Mark Twain would say, is like the difference between “lightning” and “lightning bug.”


        1. Sam, you should be correct in your statements here, but often time people make you incorrect. This is not a reflection of you, but on the fact that people replace Christ with various ‘isms’.

          Noting implicit in the statements, Sam. Consider your first paragraph. Torrance is not promoting an ism, but Christ. Christ for him, it seems from his writings, is the only thing to promote. I don’t think Augustine promoted an ism either, nor really Calvin, but many of the newer Calvinists/Reformed/pick your ism do.

          Historical crit such as Bultmann. He is not afraid to argue with him on his field – science, etc…

          1. Admittedly, I have not read much on Calvin – not as much as Calvinism – but Calvin seemed to place the pastoral role above most other things. Perhaps then, that is the better word? Torrance is a theologian, and a pastor. Does this help to clarify what I mean?

          2. Three examples of great theologian/pastors come immediately to mind. Two from the past. One in the present. All three are Reformed: John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, and D. A. Carson.

            So . . . I guess I’m missing the distinction.

            Don’t worry. It’s probably not you, but this thick skull of mine.


          3. Not having read Owens, I would agree with you on Edwards. I am not Reformed – reformed, not Reformed – but I can appreciate Edwards as a pastor and a theologian. Not so much with certain neo-Calvinists. So too with Torrance. Edwards should appeal to a wider Christian audience, and does. Torrance as well. He writes masterfully on the Incarnation of Christ and the importance of that fact in a manner of a theologian and a pastor and he reaches across the denominational spectrum. I just don’t see that with some of the Reformed, neo-Calvinists, today.

            While the modern leaders are Christian, Torrance has leaped over my denominational barriers and should to reach the wider Christian audience.

          4. First of all, I highly recommend that you jump in neck deep with John Owen. Arguably the greatest English-speaking theologian ever. To get your feet wet, try “Overcoming Sin and Temptation,” masterfully edited by Justin Taylor. “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”

            I see a healthy ecumenism (not the “anything goes” variety) springing from Reformed circles. The Together for the Gospel (T4G) movement brings Southern Baptists, various independent Baptists, Presbyterians, Sovereign Grace churches, and many smaller denominations together to equip pastors to spread the Good News. In other words, T4G is also “reaching across the denominational spectrum.” Also, the Acts 29 Network is a church planting parachurch organization with strong Reformed roots serving multiple denominations.


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