The Theologian as Evangelist

The old Scottish theologian James Denney used to say: “If theologians were our evangelists, and evangelists our theologians, we would be closer to the ideal church.”
As an evangelist I like that!

Recently I came across an outstanding example in one of the foremost theologians of my lifetime, also a Scot, Thomas Torrance of Edinburgh. Torrance is renowned for his work in integrating theology and science. He was certainly a theological giant. He was also an evangelist. Born of missionary parents in China, he kept the passion to see people won to Christ (and was a supporter of Billy Graham’s Scotland Crusade when Billy was under attack by other church leaders).

Torrance’s biographer Alister McGrath recounts a lecture series on science and theology, which ended with this appeal that could be an altar call!

How glibly and dispassionately we can talk about God and discuss whether or not he is the creator and ground of the universe.! But it is quite another thing to hear God’s call to us in Christ to the Great Decision. Our equanimity is disturbed and all the natural man in us bristles. Challenge comes forth to us all the same, and it is like the sound of many waters. ‘Behold I stand at the door and knock. If any man will hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and sup with him and he with me.’ Jesus stands today as always in Pilate’s judgment Hall, waiting for the verdict of the world: ‘What think ye of Christ/’ ‘What shall I do then with Jesus who is called the Christ?’

(From Alister McGrath, T. F. Torrance: An Intellectual Biography. 204)

Evangelists and pastors could learn from this theologian, don’t you think?

Leighton Ford

April 2008

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