Monday, 7 August 2006

Alister McGrath's biography of T. F. Torrance

There is a growing number of books on the theology of T. F. Torrance, but if you were going to buy just one, you’d want to get Alister McGrath’s important work, Thomas F. Torrance: An Intellectual Biography (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1999). This volume has just been released in an attractive new paperback edition, and the good people at Allen & Unwin (via their marketing guru Drew) have been kind enough to send me a copy.

McGrath’s work offers both an overview of Torrance’s life (supplemented with lots of nice photos) and an account of the development of his theology, with particular focus on Torrance’s relationship to Karl Barth. And while other studies of Torrance rely solely on published materials, McGrath also closely analyses Torrance’s unpublished lectures on dogmatics from the late 1930s. As McGrath shows, this unpublished material is especially valuable for grasping the early shape and development of Torrance’s thought.

Further, this book is important not only for an understanding of Torrance, but also for an understanding of McGrath’s own recent work on the relationship between theology and science. His three-volume Scientific Theology (also abridged as The Science of God) is indebted above all to Torrance – McGrath describes Torrance as his theological “role model,” and he dedicated the first volume of his Scientific Theology to Torrance.

4 Comments:

kim fabricius said...

Ben, do you know if this paperback simply duplicates the 1999 hardcover, or is it a revised edition? If they are the same, at Amazon and Abe there are hard cover editions that are cheaper than the paperback.

GoobyNelly said...

I read the hard-cover version a couple of years ago, and remembered it conveying Torrance's own personal integrity as a teacher and as a family-man, as well his sheer brilliance as a theologian. There were so many fascinating parts to his life, especially his childhood in China under the Boxer Rebellion (and his return there 10 years ago).
The story that made me weep the most was about his stint at Auburn Theological Seminary, and the metanoia of a particular student there. The student couldn't swallow the ontological significance of atonement (if I recall correctly), and one day visited Torrance in his office to display his discontent. The boy exclaimed, "I'm sorry Professor Torrance, but I cannot believe in that!"
Torrance replied,"My boy, it's not because you can't; it's because you don't WANT to."

The boy slammed the door, didn't come to class for three days, and finally returned to torrance's office. He looked deathly pale, as if he hadn't eaten or slept for days, yet his eyes spoke the "peace of Christ."

Aaron G said...

All biographies should come with a lot of pictures.

Ben Myers said...

Hi Kim: no, it's not a revised edition (although McGrath probably made some minor corrections). And the price difference would partly be just a currency difference (I've linked here to an Australian bookseller, so the price is in Aussie dollars).

I trust you're enjoying your holiday!

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