“So you’re a theologian!?!”
That comment is seared in my brain for all time.
It came from renowned theologian, the late Dr. Thomas F. Torrance. And even though it may have sounded more like a question than a statement to some ears, to mine it sounded like prophetic affirmation.
I’ll start from the beginning.
I met Dr. Torrance when I had been in seminary (aka graduate school – smile) less than one month. That would be September 1996. I can still feel the soul-warming impression he left on me. He wanted to dictate a letter – so my boss (another renowned theologian, Dr. Douglas F. Kelly) recommended me. After all, I did possess shorthand skills and I had no problem using them just so long as it was clear to the one dictating that they could only speak 100 words per minute – or less.
There are two things I remember from that moment 18 years ago: One, I struggled greatly with his British accent, and two, he called me a theologian – sorta. And I have sorta kept the title ever since.
Here’s the conversation:
Dr. Torrance, I just signed up to be a seminary student! [great enthusiasm]
Oh, so you’re a theologian?! [greater enthusiasm]
[Look of wonder – not remembering what I said to that, if anything]
You know, my mother was the greatest theologian in our family.
I can’t remember anything else that was said, yet I do believe in that moment, the challenge to become a theologian began within one month of starting seminary. And it is all because this gentle giant in the body of Christ gave me this affirming encouragement.
You see, the Torrance family oozes great theological scholars. And, of course, anytime someone mentions a Torrance family member I am quick to share my own encounter.
Now, eighteen years later as I sit and reflect on that impressionable moment, I have to wonder, what is a theologian really – and what makes a good one?
I’m going to ponder this for a while and see what I come up with.