George Hunsinger's Eulogy to Thomas Torrance

At Faith & Theology, George Hunsinger (Hazel Thompson McCord Professor of Systematic Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary) posted this eulogy to Thomas Torrance, who died December 2:

Thomas Forsyth Torrance (1913-2007), who died peaceably in Edinburgh on December 2nd, was arguably the greatest Reformed theologian since Karl Barth, with whom he studied, and an eminent 20th century ecumenist. Having served for 27 years as Professor of Christian Dogmatics at New College, he was elected Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1976; and in 1978, he was awarded the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion for his contributions to the emerging field of theology and science.

In theology he generally placed himself somewhere between Calvin and Barth, though also moving well beyond them. An accomplished patristics scholar, he devoted himself to Eastern Orthodox–Reformed dialogue, being highly esteemed among the Orthodox for his ecumenical spirit and his grasp of primary sources in the original languages. He once surprised me by saying that his favorite theologian was Athanasius, whom he placed in illuminating relationship with Barth. An icon of the great Alexandrian appears as the frontispiece to his The Trinitarian Faith (1988), an exposition of the Nicene Creed which remains perhaps the most accessible of his numerous learned works.

Besides the theologian, the ecumenist, and the church leader, there were at least three other Torrances: the translator, the interdisciplinary theologian, and the historian of doctrine. English-speaking theology stands greatly in his debt for his monumental efforts in editing and translating not only Calvin’s New Testament commentaries but also Barth’s voluminous dogmatics. His interest in Einstein and modern physics from the standpoint of Nicene Christianity has yet to be adequately assessed. Least well known, perhaps, is his work as an intellectual historian. Scattered throughout many journals is a series of essays on virtually every major figure in the history of doctrine, though alongside Athanasius he had a special fondness for Gregory Nazianzen and Hilary of Poitiers.

In breadth of learning, depth of scholarship, quality of output, ecumenical conviction, and devotion to the Nicene faith, theology and church will not soon see another like him.

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Comments

  1. I am happy for Thomas Torrance, now at home with his Lord, freed from infirmaries of the flesh, and awaiting the glorification of his body in the resurrection to come.

    But I am saddened for his family and friends, and for the many of us who continue to benefit from his ministry of writing related to Christ-centered, Trinitarian theology.

    I was introduced several years ago to Torrance's writing by John McKenna and Mike Feazell (thanks John and Mike!), and then challenged by a professor at Trinity Evengelical Divinity school to go even deeper with Torrance, particularly with respect to his understanding of God's nature as Trinity and of the doctrine of the incarnation.

    I hope to be reading Torrance for many years to come, and so his impact in my life will certainly continue and deepen.

    Thanks Lord for your gift to us in and through the ministry of your servant Thomas Torrance.

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  2. I mourn with hope over this post as I learn of the passing from this flesh of one of my favorite theologians to date!!!

    Words cannot express adequately his positive impact on me in thinking more Christ-centered and faithful to the Apostolic and early church vision of the Triune God!

    Hardly a week goes by that I am not reading, or re-reading, one of his works on Trinitarian theology and continuing to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ!

    Thank you Thomas, sir! Thank you Mike Feazell, Dr. McKenna, and Baxter Kruger for sharing him with me, too! Not only am I glad, but so is my immediate family and church family, too!! :-)

    I join Ted in thanking you, too, Triune God, for sharing a great deal of yourself in and through him in our unending connection and union with you in Jesus Christ! The intent you had for personally granting me access to his thoughts I know are yet to be more fully realized, grasped and seen!

    I am praying for the family's comfort in your grace!

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  3. Thanks for posting this, I actually didn't know anything about Thomas Torrance at a personal level and I thought he'd passed away some years ago.
    A couple of phrases in Hunsinger's obit. seem like a confirmation to me that Western Christianity is on the verge of a New Reformation (something I'm blogging about at my personal blog on theadoptedlife.org)
    Hunsinger says, He once surprised me by saying that his favorite theologian was Athanasius... I don't find that surprising at all, the fact that Hunsinger was surprised tells me that the larger theological community is just beginning to awaken to the reformation that is about to take place.
    Hunsinger also comments, His interest in Einstein and modern physics from the standpoint of Nicene Christianity has yet to be adequately assessed. Indeed! This is an area I know almost nothing about (Dr. McKenna, if you're reading perhaps you can enlighten us a bit?) but I know enough to know that there is a very real chance that Einstein, Barth and Torrance could someday be credited with laying the foundations for the re-integration of human knowledge and the end of the false dichotomy between faith and science.
    What jumped out at me in this obit. was the sense that what the Holy Spirit is doing through Torrance's ministry has only just begun. Together with Barth, his brother J.B., and a few others (including, eventually, Baxter Kruger) I think these 20th and 21st cen. theologians are going to be revealed by history to be the founders of a New Reformation and someday join the ranks of history with Luther and Calvin.

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