This is a complete and accurate transcript of a tape of the oral history interviews of Reuben Archer Torrey, III (CN #331, #T1) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. Nothing recorded has been omitted, except for any nonEnglish phrases which could not be understood by the transcriber. In a few cases, words were too unclear to be distinguished, in which cases, the word "[unclear]" was inserted. This is a transcription of spoken English, which of course follows a different rhythm and rule than written English.
... Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of thought within the sentence on the part of the speaker.
.... Four dots indicate what the transcriber believes to be the end of an incomplete sentence.
() Words in parentheses are asides made by the speaker.
 Words in brackets are comments by the transcriber.
This transcription was made by Lannae Graham and Robert Shuster, and was completed in June, 1989.
Collection #331, #T1. Interview of Reuben Archer Torrey, III, by Robert Shuster on May 14, 1986.
SHUSTER: This is an interview with Reverend R. A. Torrey the third by Robert Shuster, for the Archives of the Billy Graham Center of Wheaton College. This interview took place on May 14, at 2:45 pm in the offices of the Billy Graham Center. Reverend Torrey, where were you born?
TORREY: I was born in Jinan, Shandong, North China, on January 19, 1918 by the solar calendar, on the 12th month, the 5th day 1917, by the lunar calendar.
SHUSTER: What year, what animal was that in the Chinese calendar?
TORREY: I keep forgetting what animal I am. I think I'm a snake. [Laughs]
SHUSTER: What are your earliest memories?
TORREY: I have very vague memories and saw some pictures recently that sort of stirred them, of living in Dr. Murray's house on the compound...
SHUSTER: And that was....
TORREY: ...in Jinan and that would have been...I was about three, four years old.
SHUSTER: Uh huh.
TORREY: Playing with some of the other children around. And then I remember a summer trip we made to Chefoo, where we occasionally went for the summer, and we went by boat around and everybody was terribly seasick and our good amah was sick herself but she was busy looking after us kids and rubbing our stomachs so we would feel better. And I can still remember [Chinese phrase], in Chinese, "Please rub my stomach." [Laughs]
SHUSTER: What do you remember about your amah?
TORREY: Well, I was very very fond of her. She was a very important person in my life, she was really closer to me at that stage than my own mother and I thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world. She had a very wrinkled face and until I was about seven (let's see, 1926, I'd be eight) there were no particular problems, emotional problems, connected with having an amah. She was just the...the woman in my life, really, and my mother was "that white lady over there," sort of, but she was busy with mission work and so on and the amah took care of us. Jiang Liniang [sp?] her name was. And then when we were getting ready to go on furlough in 1926, I asked "Is Jiang Liniang going with us?" I sort of had a feeling they were not planning for Jiang Liniang to go with us, and I couldn't quite picture living without Jiang Liniang. And yet I, it seemed that that wasn't in the plans, so I asked rather cautiously, and they said "No, Jiang Liniang couldn't go with us." I said no more about it, but it was a source of real grief and I realized I wasn't supposed to grieve, so I bottled it up, and then when we got on the ship, there was a couple of English boys on the ship that had gotten on in Shanghai, and they had a song they sang: [sings, to the tune of a child's chant] "Skinny bones, banana, had a Chinese amah, amah dies, Skinny cries, Skinny bones, banana." So I learned that good imperialists don't love their amahs. They're not supposed to cry for their amahs, and I bottled up my grief completely, and never saw [Jiang Liniang?] again, to my recollection. I don't know why she wasn't with us when we got went back.
SHUSTER: Did you have a different amah, or...?
TORREY: Had a different amah, but never quite the same relationship. She was a very nice lady too, and had a good relationship to her, but it, naturally I was quite a bit older, we were in the States three and a half years, so I was eleven and a half going on tweleve when we got back and the situation was different. Then we went off to boarding school very soon after we got back and, again, no need for an amah anymore. So that was the most important woman in my life just suddenly snatched out of it in an instant and yet didn't die and it was kind of an abnormal situation which couldn't be worked through as an emotional problem because of the cultural barriers and years later in seeking to find out what subconscious problems I might have that surfaced and we worked it through and by God's grace, I received healing. But in the process I also learned something about the imperialist mentality and I had a.... Of course I was sort of...I...I...well, when I first came to America...the first time I came to America I was an infant, I remember nothing about that. But the second time I came, I was eight years old, and we stayed three and a half years, and for me it was a totally miserable time. We were in a different town each year, and I had to adjust to a different school each year, and adjusting to the American kids who were pretty cruel to anybody that didn't fit their pattern completely, was very painful and I didn't want to ever see America again. And my sympathies were entirely with China. Yet the China I knew was a highly artificial China, too, because we missionaries lived in a mission compound in a western style house and lived western style standard of living, except when we went out in the country, and even out in the country we didn't live completely Chinese style. It was always modified. And when the Chinese communists and other agitators talked about the western imperialists and the imperialist mentality and missionary imperialism, it sort of rang a bell with me. I realized there was something to it. Most missionaries were very resentful of that kind of talk and felt there was no grounds for it, that we weren't imperialists, but over the years, I've watched us, and I've seen how often we just have to manage other peoples' affairs. We cannot trust God to do it. We have to do it.
SHUSTER: And you think that's the essence of....
TORREY: I think that's the essence of imperialism, the white man's burden. I read everything Rudyard Kipling wrote and loved it, but the climax of course, was when he wrote the Recessional. The British Empire had their great Diamond Jubilee, and they asked Kipling to write the great poem in honor of the Diamond Jubilee, and he asked God for forgiveness, [Chuckles] and he never became poet laureate because of that.
SHUSTER: "Far called our navies melt away on dune and sandhill sink the fire."
TORREY: And, "Lo, all our pomp of yesterday is one with Ninevah and Tyre. Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, lest we forget, lest we forget." The British heard what Kipling was saying and they realized it was correct, and they did a lot of repenting. And the Americans never knew they were imperialists and so they didn't repent. They anything to repent of. But now looking back over both China, and Korea too, I see that the mentality wasn't all that different. We pride ourselves on being democratic and all the rest, but the fact is.... Well, Roland Allen was the theologian that put his finger on it, and he wrote this book, Missionary Methods: St. Paul's or Ours back in the twenties. And I remember when it came out and I remember there was a lot of discussion about it, but I wasn't in on the discussion. I was too young.
TORREY: But I knew that there was real tension in the missionary community over this book. And then suddenly, it was just not talked about anymore. It dropped and nothing changed. And I got the impression that it wasn't really approved of in mission circles. And I found out later that Roland Allen predicted to his son that it would be another forty years before people would accept his teaching. And sure enough, just about forty years later, they began republishing his stuff. And Fuller and other schools began teaching it.
SHUSTER: Why do you think that this kind of imperialistic attitude existed?
TORREY: Because the missionaries are always a product of their own culture. But also, it has to do with worldliness. There's a new book just come out by Bob Frayley arguing that the devil's technique for destroying the great American church (which he sees as the greatest church in Christendom today) the American church has been the source of all the missionary, so much of the missionary work, and so much other good things, that.... It is the capital of Christianity today, America, but Satan has to destroy this and his technique is to corrupt it and make it worldly, and get the church to conform completely to the world and the world is conformed to Satan's standards. And he goes into this in a great deal of detail, and I think his argument's quite valid. And he says the beast of Revelation is the American system. Well, actually, the church began conforming to the world in the time of Constantine the Great and has been doing it ever since and there've been people in the church who've struggled against that, but the general drift has always been culturally conditioned and so missionaries came out of the western, white culture, and didn't criticize it and didn't see it in Biblical terms. Their interpretation of the Bible was limited to just a few spiritual passages. They didn't see the economics of the Bible, or the politics of the Bible, or the geography of the Bible, any of these things seemed to them irrelevant. They were curiosities, they didn't have anything to do with truth. And so they never saw that the Bible was criticizing their attitudes. They never heard its criticisms and they fell into these attitudes which are just culturally conditioned attitudes. And the western culture, English or American are pretty much the same thing. The English defended their imperialism, said it was a good thing, and went out with their navies to conquer the world. The Americans said "We're anti-imperialist," and they went out with their dollars to conquer the world, and bought control. And then when it was challenged, they sent out the Marines and did the same thing. And Smedley Butler said, "I spent my life as a muscle man for American big business." And that's not very well received in this country, and Smedley Butler's stuff is suppressed. But that problem, you see, is the problem we were part of on the mission field.
SHUSTER: From what you remember of the American community in China, what were their attitudes towards this kind of imperialism, where they all of one mind or were they...?
TORREY: No, the business community and the missionary community were very much separate from each other and the missionaries looked on the business people as very sinful wicked people and had as little to do with them as possible.
SHUSTER: And why did they consider them sinful?
TORREY: I suppose because they were out to make money and because they drank cocktails and they were worldly. And we didn't realize we were also worldly, but in a different sense. We thought we were not worldly and the important things about worldliness, which is not trusting the Holy Spirit but trusting your own cleverness, and your own education, and your own manipulation, that's the real worldliness. And that we didn't see. We thought worldliness consisted of smoking and drinking, and going to movies and dances. And because the business community did those things, they were worldly. And we didn't do those things, so we weren't worldly. And we didn't realize that mentally, we were almost identical. And maybe because we were so much alike we were threatened by them, I don't know. It could be. I think my parents were not quite average. My father once remarked to me that if he had it to do over again, he wouldn't have built the kind of house he built. When they first went out there, they looked at the other missionary houses, which were big two story brick houses, and somebody said, "Are you going to build the same style of house as that?" and my mother said, "They have no style." [Laughs] So they built a house with southern colonial style. My mother was from Georgia. And it was a beautiful house and it had taste. It wasn't any bigger than the others, but it certainly was a lot more conspicuous. It was white limestone and a white tile roof and definite three stories with dormer windows in the third story, and you could go down to Chanfushan [sp?], the 5000 Buddha mountain south of the city, for picnics and go up on the mountainside where the temples were and all the people came to worship at the temples and to have picnics and look out across this tremendous city of half a million people spread out in the plain of the Yellow River Valley at the foot of the mountain.
SHUSTER: The city of ...?
TORREY: Jinan, and there (T-S-I-N-A-N is the old spelling, the new spelling I think is G-I-N-A-N). And there you could spot the east suburb and there in the east suburb you could see our house standing up there. Now the Chinese didn't build multi-story houses. They built one story houses with walls so high that no matter how pretentious the house was, nobody ever saw how pretentious it was. They're modestly hidden behind high walls. And they also considered it bad luck to build a two story house. You might interfere with the demons flying around. And of course we didn't think anything of that kind of superstition, so we built this conspicuous house. And it really stuck out. And years later, the minister of education for the province built a house exactly like it. He thought it was a pretty good model. [Chuckles]
SHUSTER: It had been a model for their community.
TORREY: Yeah. But my father said if he had realized then what he realized later, he would never have built that kind of a house. Our money went a long way in those days. The labor was cheap, the materials were cheap, and we could build a beautiful house for very little money. And we had a big yard around it, too. But he said that he'd have tried to live closer to the Chinese. But he said "Now we've built the house, we've got it, all we can do is try to use it on behalf of the Chinese church." So they had Chinese Christians in and out of the house all the time, and the Chinese were always welcome in our home, and as far as I know, never made to feel uncomfortable or unwelcome. And in that respect I think my parents were maybe a little different. Some of the missionaries preferred not having the Chinese in their homes, just in the office. And the office often had a separate entrance. And they...and of course, we fell in the same trap. We went down to the beach and just associated with nobody but white people for our vacation.
SHUSTER: Why do you think that was?
TORREY: Well, I got into quite a hot discussion just last night over this. Because through the years, the whole approach to missions has bothered me. That you preach the Gospel to people so they can go to heaven when they die, and you're not particularly concerned with what happens between now and when they die. And if you don't preach to them, they're all going to roast in hell, so you've got to get out and preach to them, whether you love them or not has nothing to do with it, and whether you want to associate with them or not has nothing to do with it. This is your duty, sort of like Jonah and Ninevah. And it seems to me that the mission enterprise has been largely involved in being Jonahs. Going out in a self-sacrificing way, more or less against our will because God sent us. And then later, another generation went out because it was a way of being important. And you had people who looked up to you and admired you and respected you as The Missionary.
SHUSTER: At least, in North America.
TORREY: Well, in China or Korea, too. I mean even in Korea today, the word 'missionary' is the highest rank in the hierarchy and the Koreans are very hierarchical. There's nobody higher than a missionary. But to be a missionary, you've got to have all kinds of training and qualifications and everything, and just to go to another country and start preaching the Gospel and call yourself a missionary they would consider rather unfair. You're supposed to go through all this training and stuff. They... And the missionary has this Authority. But the.... As I read the Bible, I ran across I John, and I notice two things about I John the first chapter, he's describing what he preaches is not theories, is not heaven and hell, it's his own personal experience of the Word of Life, the eternal life which is manifested. He's talking about life, he's not talking about death. He's not talking about hell, he's talking about life. And this life was manifested and we touched it and handled it and felt it and saw it. He's dealing with concrete experience, not theology. And then he says, "The reason we're telling you this is so you can have fellowship with us, and truly our fellowship is of God, and with His Son, Jesus Christ. And we write you these things so that our joy may be full." Now the King James says "your joy," which is condescending. But the modern translations, most of them think the better reading is "our joy," and I think that makes sense. You make us happy if you come in with us. We want, we crave fellowship with you, we crave to associate with you. And to share the association we have with God. Now to me, this is a very sufficient motive for missions. But it requires a love that Jonah didn't have. It requires a love that I didn't have. I went to Korea very much against my will. I didn't want to associate with Koreans, but I knew God had called me so I went. And by the grace of the Holy Spirit, I learned to crave to associate with Koreans.
SHUSTER: Why didn't you want to associate with Koreans?
TORREY: He made me want to.
SHUSTER: No, why didn't you want to?
TORREY: Oh, why didn't I? Because I was a white man, and because I was a Chinese. Two reasons. I was an American and I was a Chinese. Both sufficient reasons for despising Koreans. Because they're neither one.
SHUSTER: When you were a child growing up, when did you first become aware that your parents were missionaries?
TORREY: I don't know. Pretty early, because when I was about four years old, a dear old lady visited us, and she said "And what are you going to be when you grow up, young man?" I don't know what she called me - young man, little boy. "The same thing as your father, I suppose?" Well, I knew my father was a missionary, and I says, [in dispirted voice] "Yes, I suppose so." I didn't want to be the same thing as my father, I didn't want to be a missionary. I didn't want to be a preacher. All my friends were going to be firemen or hermits and live in trees and do exciting things and this was the dullest thing I could think of. But I supposed that was what God wanted me to do, so I had no choice. And I grew up with that feeling, I had no choice. I had to do what God wanted me to do and what God wanted me to do was be a missionary. But then as time went on, I disliked America so much, all I could think of was get back to China and if the only way I could get back to China was as a missionary, well, great. There was that side to it. But then when I got to college, it occurred to me that if I didn't know for sure whether there was a God or not, it would be dishonest to get up and preach that there was one. So, I better settle that question for sure. And while I kind of assumed there was a God, had assumed it all this time, and premised my life and behavior on that assumption, it was nothing but an assumption. It wasn't a fact of experience.
SHUSTER: You had no personal relationship with God?
TORREY: Not at an adult level. At...at a child level, yes.
SHUSTER: And what do you mean by that?
TORREY: I mean that I assumed that God was there, I took it for granted, I prayed to Him, and I made an act of total surrender and I accepted Christ as my Savior. I did all those things and yet when I arrived in college, looking back on it, I had done it because I assumed He was there. And from time to time, I seemed to have received His guidance and yet I did not have in my heart an absolute certainty that God existed. It could be just a lot of theory. It could be just something I'd inherited from my parents. And it occurred to me that if I didn't know for sure, if I didn't have any certainty that God existed, I couldn't be a preacher, I'd had no business being a preacher, and goody-goody, I could go into physics, which is what I really wanted to do. And I took all the physics that I could and I got...had a course in nuclear physics, which I enjoyed very much, and that's the direction I probably would have gone. But I figured, if there is a God, and I'm not right with Him, I'm going to be in real trouble, and I better settle this, so I asked God to make Himself real to me if He's there. And He did, but it took Him about two and a half years. But I promised I would read my Bible every day and I would pray simply and honestly, without any pretense, and see what would happen. And...
TORREY: ...pray for guidance. Promised God, and pray for guidance, and live up to whatever guidance I got. And when I read something in the Scripture that seemed to me probable that God was speaking to me through this Scripture, I would obey it. That was the test. If nothing happened, then okay, there's no God. If something happened, then probably there is. And it was on this basis that evidence began to accumulate. It began to look like there really was a God. But I didn't have any inner certainty at the end of the first year, so I decided to run the experiment a second year, and then at the end of the second year the cumulative force of evidence seemed to be that there probably was a God, and He probably was the God of the Bible, but I still didn't feel I had a certainty, so I decided to run the experiment one more year and somewhere through in the middle of that third year it suddenly hit me. There was no longer a shred of question in my mind. He was for real, and He was the God of the Bible. And absolutely no question, He existed. And from then on, there was no question of doing anything but what He wanted me to do. And I set aside my ideas of going into physics or any other career, and went ahead for the ministry, much as I disliked the idea. I had to obey. Now, I didn't learn to love God until quite a bit later. I learned to know that He existed and that He had to be obeyed, I was a good Jonah. [Laughs] So I understand the Jonah mentality completely, but in time He also taught me to love Him.
SHUSTER: How were you taught that?
TORREY: I don't know, exactly. I can't put my finger on when it happened but I would guess that it had to do with the Holy Spirit's work in my life, and I'm not sure, but it may be that it really began after I began speaking in tongues. I'd prayed for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and took it by faith I had the baptism of the Holy Spirit when I was still in college as part of my test. And there was every evidence that I'd received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and over a period of twenty years, all of the gifts of the Spirit were manifested except for tongues. I...other people would speak in tongues and God would give me the interpretation. And there was one or two healings, and a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and quite often the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge and steady guidance day by day. But never occurred to me there was any point in speaking in tongues. And nobody in my family had ever spoken in tongues. They'd all believed in the baptism of the Holy Spirit, prayed for it, claimed it, and had the evidence of it according to my grandfather's teachings. Grandfather taught very firmly that if you're going to do God's work, you must have the baptism of the Holy Spirit, quite apart from your salvation experience. And this was a problem to many of his co-workers, but he refused to back down. He also refused to get into any hassles about it.
SHUSTER: It was a problem because....
TORREY: Because they didn't like the word 'baptism' in the Holy Spirit, because the Pentecostals were using it. And for the Pentecostals if you've got the baptism, you spoke in tongues, or you didn't have the baptism. And my grandfather's colleagues felt that it just create confusion if they used this term. But I suspect there was more to it than that. They wanted to use the term "Be filled with the Spirit." And they didn't realize in the Bible, this is an ambiguous term, there are two different words for filled and have two different meanings and refer to two different experiences. And I think they wanted to avoid one of the things and just settle for the other. And my grandfather knew you couldn't. You had to have both. You had to be born again and you had to be baptized with the Spirit or be filled with the Spirit in that sense of power, supernatural power. And I think there were a lot of people who didn't want to settle for supernatural power, they wanted to settle for academic power. Study the Bible enough and you'll be okay. Be born again, you've got to be born again but the rest comes from Bible study, not from a personal encounter with the Holy Spirit. This seemed to be the climate they wanted. And so he quietly left Moody and went to BIOLA and then he quietly left BIOLA and retired. But he didn't retire, he just continued speaking and conducting the Montrose Bible Conference. But as soon as he was out of the picture, Montrose Bible Conference went the same way. And to this day, those people still won't use the word 'baptism in the Holy Spirit.' And they still are not aware, as far as I know, that there are two words for being filled with the Spirit in the New Testament. And when I wrote to the NIV people about this and suggested that they should do something about the translation, to distinguish these two words....
SHUSTER: Distinguish the two words that are used....
TORREY: For filled with the Spirit. You see the word that's used in the Book of Acts in the second chapter, the day of Pentecost they're all filled with the Holy Spirit, and the word that Paul uses in Ephesians, "Be not drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit," two different words. And they mean two different, they refer to two different things. And the Bible uses them quite consistently in two different senses. But I couldn't persuade the NIV to take me seriously. They implied that I didn't know what I was talking about. And then I wrote to the Wycliffe people, and they did take me seriously, and they said "There's something to what you say, and it bears more research." And we had some good correspondence back and forth about it. And now I propose to take it up with the New American Standard people. I don't know how they're going to react.
SHUSTER: What about the American Bible Society's Good News for Modern Man?
TORREY: I don't think very much of it. [Laughs] But I haven't used it enough to really have a right to an opinion. But I haven't got too good an impression.
SHUSTER: If we could backtrack a little bit, what are your, or how would you describe your parents, particularly, your parents as missionaries?
TORREY: Well, as far as I know my parents were almost the only missionaries in our mission who had prayed for and expected and received a definite experience of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. So they had a different atmosphere and a different climate.
SHUSTER: How do you mean?
TORREY: It was very subtle. It was hard to say, but basically, they believed in the supernatural, they believed in the power of God to work miracles, to answer prayer, and they depended on Him and not on human systems. Now, they were competent people. If anybody had any right to depend on the human, on the arm of flesh, they could. They were both very intelligent, very competent with good backgrounds in a human level. But they didn't trust that, they didn't depend on that. They assumed they had to get their guidance from God and they had to get their power from God. And so there was a different quality, I think, to their work. And as I say, my father sensed that building this big house, with its symbolism of aloofness, was not right, and so he had to make up for it, by putting it at the disposal of the Chinese church. He knew by the Holy Spirit that he must be close to the Chinese, that he must love them, and associate with them, and identify with them. And he learned Chinese so fluently that he could walk into a store and if the storekeeper had his back turned, he didn't know he wasn't talking to another Chinese. And for a person who started learning the language in his twenties, that wasn't a bad accomplishment. I still can't do that with Korean. Of course, I was, I guess, turning forty when I started learning Korean, but. He really had a different attitude about a lot of things. But it was a subtle difference and he never got into any hassles with his other...fellow missionaries. They had a lot of real nice things they brought with them from home, and they didn't see anything wrong with entertaining nicely with good silver and cut glass and so on, which in those days, you could transport across the Pacific by boat without too much problem. And then they realized that it was creating problems with some of the other missionaries who didn't have that kind of a background and felt they were showing off. So immediately they stopped using it and put everything away. They didn't want to be thought of as show offs, in any way. They tried to keep what today would be called a low profile and when the mission would look around for somebody to head up the Force Committee, which is the most thankless job in the mission, moving people around that didn't want to be moved, they put my father at the head of it.
SHUSTER: The Force Committee's job is to....
TORREY: The Force Committee decides who...where the force will be distributed, the work force.
SHUSTER: I see.
TORREY: And then when other missionaries got into theological hassles and when the mission began being pulled apart over various reports that were circulating at that time, I've forgotten, the one about missions that came out with a modernist flavor and when the tensions over the Presbyterian Church...the Westminster Seminary, Machen thing, my father always avoided controversy. He was like his father in that respect. They just did not want to get involved in controversy, they didn't think it was positive or constructive, and they stayed out of it, and often he was misunderstood by his more conservative and more aggressive colleagues who felt he was betraying the faith because he wouldn't take a clear stand. It wasn't that he didn't have a clear stand. He knew exactly where he stood and everybody else who talked to him knew where he stood. But he simply would not fight over it. And they wanted him to make an issue of it and that he wouldn't do. So, there was a different quality about their life and ministry. And I don't know how he felt about the Roland Allen thing, but I think he probably tended to be a little more sympathetic to Roland Allen's point of view than probably most of the other missionaries. That would be my guess. For years, I identified my father's attitude with those of the very ultra conservative, fundamentalistic disagreeable people that I kept running into. And later I found out that was a mistaken identification. He wouldn't criticize them, but neither was he of the same ilk, if you'll pardon the expression. [Laughs]
SHUSTER: How did you find that out?
TORREY: [Pauses] Well, indirectly. I had this image built up in my mind of my father. It was a completely false image and I disliked him, and sort of hated him, and really, I was hating other people that claimed to be speaking for my father. He was in China and I was in the States and it was people who thought it was their bounden duty to see that the Torreys all went straight, and especially R. A. Torrey, III. And it really bugged me and I became more and more rebellious more and more angry, and my parents didn't...didn't send me to Wheaton because they figured this was what would happen, that I would really rebel. So they let me go to Davidson where I was reasonably rebellious but not quite as totally rebellious as I probably would have been if I'd gone to Wheaton. But in my heart there was an awful lot of rebellion against my dad and for several years we didn't even correspond. My mother did all the correspondence. And then I dropped out of seminary and went into construction work and then I went to sea and during World War II I was going to sea when my parents were repatriated to this country. And I was on a ship going to England when they arrived. I didn't....
SHUSTER: Merchant marine or...?
TORREY: Yeah and I didn't even want to see them. My sister met them at the boat and they had lost an awful lot of weight, they looked pretty bad and she was just all torn up over the condition they were when they were repatriated. But it didn't touch me. And then I came back from a trip and I was going to ship right out again. I still didn't want to see them. And my sister Claire, whom I love dearly and always did, my little sister, called up and said I must come to Wheaton for Christmas because she was getting engaged. Something like that. And I couldn't pass that up so I cancelled my plans to ship out right away and caught a train to Chicago. And since I was in Chicago, I thought I'd go by my father's office. Well, I was dressed in blue jeans and I had a beard and had a fur jacket and I looked about as far out as I could. In those days. Nobody wore blue jeans, nobody had a beard. That was in the 1940's. And I walked into my father's office in Chicago and the lady in the front office thought I was a tramp and asked me what I wanted and I said I'd come to see Dr. Torrey. And she asked me what my business was. Well he recognized my voice and he came out and he just threw his arms around me. Didn't say a word, just hugged me. [Strong emotion in voice] And I suddenly realized it was all gone, the whole thing was my imagination. There was nothing. But he could have been angry at me, you know, he could have scolded me, he could have lectured me. He didn't. He never said a word. And I just suddenly realized I had built up in my own mind a tremendous figment of the imagination and I was fighting a straw man. And the things that I didn't approve of...I...I still don't approve of, but I don't get angry about them anymore. Occasionally a little bit of anger surfaces when I'm lecturing but usually I can manage to be fairly objective. But I do feel that the church must keep moving forward. And keep close to the Scriptures and let the Holy Spirit fill us with love. And our mission enterprise in recent years hasn't always been saturated with love. But it's been a matter of duty and we know the answers and it's our duty to tell the answers to the ignorant heathen.
SHUSTER: Can you think of some examples of how this manifested itself?
TORREY: Well, Roland Allen's criticism is that we should...he says when Paul started a church, he introduced Jesus, he introduced the Bible, he introduced the Holy Spirit, and he got out and let the Holy Spirit lead the church into the truth. And we don't believe that. We organize a missions structure to run the church, we organize universities and seminaries to train them in our point of view and make totally western mentality of them. We teach them nothing. They go through a Christian school system and they learn nothing about their own culture. And this really hit me when I was had one year at [Yen Jing [sp?] University in China, and the last semester, second semester, discovered some books in the library on Chinese culture and began reading them. They were English language books. And I got so excited about Chinese culture and then realized I was leaving China. And all my life, I'd grown up in the midst of this and knew nothing about it. Hadn't a clue to this five thousand year old culture. And finally when I got to the States, I took a course in education. I majored in education because...but my thesis (I took honors work so I could do all my work in research instead of going to classes) and the...my thesis was a proposed educational system...proposed higher educational system for China. So that gave me an excuse to read every book I could get a hold of about China and Chinese culture. And I realized, I felt really cheated that I'd never been exposed to this. And....
SHUSTER: Was that part of the resentment that you were talking about?
TORREY: Yeah, yeah. And this is...the missionaries just didn't pay any attention to Chinese culture. They made no effort to adapt the Christian church to Chinese patterns. You know, superficially, a little bit of Chinese architecture. And a tiny bit of Chinese music, almost none. Our hymnbook is almost solidly western hymns. And the same thing is true in Korea. I mean five hundred hymns, and 498 of them will be western hymns. And the ancestor worship problem, we're still struggling with. We haven't found an answer because we didn't let the Chinese work it out for themselves. We had to work it out and we didn't know, we weren't part of that culture. We had no business trying to work it out. The Holy Spirit wasn't going to tell us what to do. He was going to tell the Chinese. But we wouldn't let the Chinese listen to the Holy Spirit, they had to listen to us. This has been our attitude. That's what I mean by imperialism.
SHUSTER: You mentioned that, you grew up living in a western compound, the only time you left there was when you went on evangelism trips?
SHUSTER: What were those trips?
TORREY: Well, out in the country, from Jinan, there was a town named Lin yi, which was a district town with a wall around it, a fairly large town. But it was completely old-time Chinese style and we bought a small house there. It wasn't all that small, it had several courtyards, and we lived there when my father was out doing rural evangelism and he had a number of churches out in that area and he did a lot of evangelism in that area and had a great big circus tent, two-pole tent, in the big courtyard in front, where he had meetings. And he also did clinical work. My father was interested in economic problems. He introduced long staple cotton into that area. And he did a lot of clinical work and first aid work and a lot of teaching about hygiene and baby care and things like this. And he was a very practical person; he was always practical with his hands. He could repair anything. He originally planned to go into medicine but his father discouraged him and he went into the ministry but he always had an orientation toward science and practicality. He was a very down to earth person.
SHUSTER: Do you think that's where you got your interest in physics?
TORREY: Sure, I mean, I inherited a lot of that. From my mother's side, my Uncle Gene was the philosopher in the family and the thinker, and I loved Uncle Gene, loved to associate with him, talking about ideas and so I've got that side too. I'm more theoretical than my father was, in that respect, and yet I also have my father's practicality. I think I got a good combination. But he was concerned about peoples' livelihood and when they had a tremendous famine in Shandong he was the one that was the head of the entire Shandong Famine Relief Commission, International Famine Relief Commission for Shandong. He received many recognitions from the Chinese for that, big banners and plaques and things, in appreciation of what he did. And he was a good administrator. He knew what he was doing and he didn't get fooled and it was fairly administered and I heard stories about how people tried to give him the run-around and work him but he saw through it quietly....
SHUSTER: Can you give an example of that?
TORREY: Well, when they were giving out seed, they gave out seed before they gave out relief grain, if I remember the story correctly....
SHUSTER: Who is they?
TORREY: The Relief Commission. So, you would tell how much land you had and they'd give you enough seed to plant the amount of land you had. So if you had a lot of land, you got a lot of seed. If you had a little land, you got little seed. Well, this particular rich man saw that the more land you had, the more seed you were getting and he didn't worry about the logic of it. He just wanted all that was coming to him. So the next time around when they were giving the relief, of course, it was the reverse. The people with the least land were the poorest and they got the most relief and the people with the most land were the richest, they got the least relief. So he exaggerated his holdings, thinking he'd get more the second time around, and the second time around he got nothing. And he was furious. He happened to be a Roman Catholic and he went to the priest to complain bitterly that this Protestant missionary had diddled him and the priest and my grandfather er my father had no problems between them. They both understood the situation and the priest told the man that he'd cut his own throat. And he got along with other missionaries of other denominations. He got along with the Roman Catholic missionaries in the area. He was a man who believed in peace and he practiced it. And he got this from his father. My grandfather was a stern man, he was a man of strong convictions, but he was also a man of peace and I don't know of any controversies he ever got involved in. He just stayed out of controversy. He'd rather resign his position as head of an institution than get into a controversy with the people under him.
SHUSTER: Did that ever happen?
SHUSTER: Yeah, you mentioned that....
TORREY: Moody and BIOLA both.
SHUSTER: Do you recall any personal contacts or memories of your grandfather?
TORREY: Yes. When I was eight, we came over and stayed with them (they had moved to Asheville, North Carolina by that time) and we stayed with them in Asheville. And then we were with them two or three summers at the Montrose Bible Conference during the summer. And I was rather in awe of him, rather afraid of him. I didn't see the side of him my father saw. To his children, he was just fun. The kids loved him and they thought he...their daddy was the most fun. They couldn't understand why anybody else was scared of him. But as a teacher and a professor, and a preacher, he was pretty stern. He was an uncompromising person. But he had this very interesting combination of being uncompromising on the one hand, but refusing to get into conflict on the other. He would just state his position and hold it. And this made him very effective as a soul winner because he would give a clear-cut message. He'd tell the person he was dealing with what he...what was right and what was wrong and then let the man make his own decision. And he wouldn't wiffle-waffle about it at all. But he also respected the other man. And one of the interesting things about my grandfather's ministry is that most of his converts were men. He had a almost cold-blooded approach. He didn't try to stir up emotions. If emotions were stirred, it was the Holy Spirit stirring them, it wasn't him. He told how to be saved and how to be lost, in just so many words. He laid it on the line. And his whole approach appealed to men. It appealed to the will, not to the emotions. And I have met many people who were won to the Lord under my grandfather's ministry, or whose...who were influenced by somebody, but always it was a man.
SHUSTER: Never a woman....
TORREY: Never a woman. Now there were women that were won to the Lord under his ministry but the ones I have met have all been men. And I know...and I'm pretty sure that that is true, that his ministry was most effective among men. And that's one reason...the same approach, the solid, concrete, content-centered approach is why his stuff is still being read today. Because the content is correct and is worth reading. If he had just appealed to emotions, his books would've been forgotten years ago. But they're still reprinting them.
SHUSTER: How would you describe his appearance as you remember it?
TORREY: Well, very dignified. Of course he had a beard, and goatee, you know, and (not a goatee, a more or less full beard) and always wore proper suits, always dressed with dignity. Quiet suits, not spectacular at all. But he just impressed me as a very dignified person.
SHUSTER: Did you spend much time with him while you were....
TORREY: Not very much time and I don't recall any personal conferences we ever had. I think he...by the time I got to know him, he was a little out of touch with small children. He was keenly interested in me because I was his grandson, his first grandson, and his...carried his name. No, I guess I wasn't his first grandson. His first grandson was Linwood Wiggs. But I was the first one with the Torrey name. And he was just...I understood he was deeply moved when he found that they had named the boy R. A. Torrey, III. So, he was keenly concerned about me and he prayed for me, I know, he prayed for every one of his children and grandchildren, faithfully, until he died. And the ones for whom he prayed, as far as I know, have all turned out pretty well. They've gone roads that I think he would have been pleased about and I'm sure the Lord has been in...part...a very important part of their lives and is.... Well, not a part of their lives but has been the Lord of their lives. But I wasn't close to him. I didn't feel I could get close to him. He was pretty awe inspiring.
SHUSTER: Was your mother also involved in mission activity?
TORREY: Yes. That's why I had an amah, you see, because she was involved in women's work and she was a musician. She played the piano and she provided music for a lot of the things and...but she also did a lot of Bible teaching. And she's....the women's work pretty well centered around her, I guess.
SHUSTER: What did women's work consist of?
TORREY: Evangelizing women and also teaching Bible to women and also giving them practical instruction in raising children and caring for children: childbirth, hygiene, and practical things of that sort.
SHUSTER: Do you recall, at all, how your mother would go about presenting Christ to a group of Chinese women?
TORREY: I haven't a clue, haven't a clue, never saw her in action in that respect.
SHUSTER: What about your father preaching to a group of Chinese people, how would he start, what would he say?
TORREY: I don't know. No, I never saw them in action in that way. I'd go out to the tent and see the exhibits that they had on hygiene or on farming, on cotton, or on peanuts or what have you and I might see the clinics going on but I don't remember going to any of the meetings. And if I did, I didn't take in what was being said. And I've...I went to a Chinese church a few times when I was a kid, but I don't remember. I don't remember Father preaching. I remember hearing other Chinese preachers but so I can't...can't tell you what his approach was.
SHUSTER: You mentioned hearing Chinese preachers, did they have characteristics in common that impressed you as different than, say, a group of English preachers or American preachers?
TORREY: I didn't...I was too young to really register what they were saying or whether it was ringing the bell or not.
SHUSTER: Did you have much contact while you were growing up with the Chinese church?
TORREY: Not really very much. We went to the Chinese church when we were out in the country as small children and then, when we came back and I was old enough to really have some critical judgment, and think about these things we were all packed off to school.
SHUSTER: What was that like?
TORREY: We went first to North China American School, and we had a very strict disciplinarian as the principal. I got many lickings for very minor infringements of the rules.
SHUSTER: Such as?
TORREY: Well, not making up my bed correctly or not having the fingerprints off of my glass, my drinking glass, having a messy drawer (I was a messy person) and they were coming to me according to the rules of the game. Only twice did I get licked for something that was really serious. Once, the principal caught me telling a lie, and it was just a half lie, but it was a lie, all right. And he gave me a double licking for that one. It was normally six on a side. I got twelve on a side for that. And then one time, he thought I'd lied to him when I hadn't but I realized there was no way to prove it one way or the other, so I accepted the licking as the way the game goes. But my parents felt it had gone too far. And my sister was miserable at the school, completely miserable, and....
SHUSTER: What sister was that?
TORREY: Helen, my older sister. And she...she wrote home about the problems. I didn't ever complain in my letters home, but....
TORREY: I...I don't know why I didn't, I just didn't see any point in it, I guess. Why bug them about it? I just figured this was the way the world was. There was nothing could be done about it. And I accepted everything that happened as inevitable, sort of. And.... I wasn't passive. I...I actively got involved in scrapes of various kinds, and got into quite a few adventures but if I got caught, then, okay, that's the way the cookie breaks. But it bothered Helen a lot more than it did me, really. Then something happened, I got some teacher mad at me over some wisecrack on an exam or something, I don't know what it was. I was probably trying to be funny and it didn't come over. But anyway, I was put on some kind of restriction, I don't remember what it was, but it really upset Helen. She thought I must have either done something horrible or else they were being horribly unfair. And to me it wasn't all that big a deal. But she felt bad about it and wrote home about it. And finally, they decided to move us to Pyengyang[sp?] Foreign School in Korea. And, after the decision was made, after I knew the decision, the principal said to me one day (he seemed to be sort of checking up on me) says "Well how are you feeling, how's everything going?" or.... I said "Fine," because I knew I was leaving. I felt great. I didn't tell him why. A few days later, he got the letter from my father and he called me in, he says, "If you hadn't told your father you were unhappy here, he wouldn't have taken you out but you told me you were happy. Now you've lied to me." And he felt really betrayed, and I couldn't tell him I was happy because I was leaving. That would just be too cruel, I thought. So I said nothing and let him chew me out from here to yonder. But he was really angry and he told me a whole lot of home truth that I needed to hear. That I thought I was a great leader, a great Christian leader on the campus but the fact was nobody took me seriously, and so on and so on he went on and on. And I suddenly saw myself as just a phoney empty shell with a lot of selfishness and a lot of groundless pride, and that was the first experience I guess I've had of real repentance. And it, he wasn't a preacher, he was a businessman, [Chuckles] but he was angry and he told me what I needed to hear. And I knew this was from the Lord. And I went out on the sleeping porch, which was off-limits at that time of day [Laughs] but I had to go somewhere and I went out on the sleeping porch and knelt down beside my bed, and wept and asked the Lord "Please give me a chance to make a fresh start at Pyengyang." And when I got to Pyengyang, I really was determined to make a fresh start with the Lord. And the atmosphere there was so welcoming. There the name Torrey meant something, it didn't mean a thing at Tungjo [sp?]. The Tungjo [sp?] campus was on a Congregational mission compound, and they were liberally oriented and if they'd ever heard of Torrey, they didn't think much of Torrey. But Pyengyang was the other way. I mean, the name was a name to swear by. [Chuckles] And I had a tremendously warm welcome and Sam Moffatt took me under his wing. We were classmates and he rigged it for me to get elected President of the Christian Association. [Laughs] He was a good politician. And it really was as if the Lord was giving me a fresh start and...and a new chance, and the whole atmosphere was different. But, even so, when I got to college and raised the question whether or not there is a God, of course I had all of this kind of background, which predisposed me to assume that there was a God and that He was this kind of a God. But I still didn't have that sense of absolute certainty. Because I hadn't raised the question before. Now I raised the question, "Is there a God, or isn't there a God?" and I couldn't answer it. Even though I'd lived on that assumption all these years and there'd been no reason to question the assumption. But now as an adult intellectual I felt I.... And also, because I didn't want to go in the ministry. I had a real motive for questioning it. If I couldn't prove there was a God, I was liberated. [Laughs]
SHUSTER: I want to ask you a little bit about your work in Korea but before we leave China, do you have any general comments or reflections on MK's, being an MK, a missionary kid?
TORREY: Well, I think the big temptation is to go into some kind of work because that's all we know. That's our community. The MK community is a community to itself. It's neither Chinese nor American. It's itself. And we went to Montreat in the summers with all the other MK's and we lived in the missionary lodge and we all stewed in the same juice. And after a while I realized this was wrong. And I moved out of that orbit and tried to get right into American society, as is.
SHUSTER: You thought it was wrong, because...?
TORREY: It was a highly artificial world and it was a terribly limited
world. And the temptation was to...to do God's work in order to stay in the world we knew, not because God had told us to do it. And it's awfully easy to kid ourselves that we had a vocation when really all we wanted was just to avoid coming into contact with any other world that was too challenging to us. And that was the thing that worried me the most about the MK pattern. There were a lot of good things about it, of course. We were international, in a way, but in another way, we were terribly provincial. It was a provincial internationalism. [Laughs] Yeah. But now, you ask about the work in Korea. I...for years I wanted to go into missions. I wanted to be a teacher, I did not want to be a pastor. And I pastored for twelve years without liking it. Well, for eleven years, without liking it.
SHUSTER: In Korea or this country?
TORREY: In the States. I couldn't get an opening to the mission field. It never occurred to me to go to Korea. China closed down. I thought of going to a French-speaking country, because I'd learned French very well, and, and got a chance to speak French during the war, and practiced it up and I felt that maybe I should go to a French-speaking country. But, I just couldn't find any openings, and the Lord didn't move me, kept me in parish work. Pastoral work. And finally one day, after I'd been in the same parish for six years, and every opening I had was to do more of the same kind of work, not to go to the mission field, not to be a teacher, I said, "Well, Lord, if you're not going to give me a job I like, would you make me like the job you gave me? [Laughs] Ans He said, "Oh, you stupid bum. It took you six years to figure that out and you want to teach theology. How stupid can you get?" I said "Yes Lord, I guess I'm pretty stupid, and I'm not qualified to teach theology. So are you going to?" He says, "Of course I am." And in three days, my attitude changed completely and I was ready to spend the rest of my life being in that parish, being a pastor to those people. It just radically reversed my attitude toward parish work and pastoral work. And I had a great year and everything went right. I mean I had been working faithfully and dutifully all that time and there were results from it and I'd expected the power of the Holy Spirit, and been working in the power of the Holy Spirit, otherwise I don't think there would have been any results, just from sheer doggedness. But I didn't enjoy it. Now in addition to that, I was enjoying it and I had much more freedom and I had died to the idea of going back home, which was an obsession with me at the beginning of my ministry. That was a, something that required inner healing but it was healed and I was set free from that obsession. And everything broke right. I began to, my salary jumped up by a thousand dollars a year and I had to pay income tax for the first time in my life and the...we built a new educational plant, and so on, and my wife had a modern kitchen for the first time and we got the Sunday School out of the rectory. Then, all of a sudden, comes a letter from Korea. Would you be willing to come and restart our theological seminary. Well this was what I'd been asking for, to be a missionary and a teacher of theology, and here it was. I says, "Now Lord?" and He says, "Now." So there I was back down in rock bottom again, economically and convenience-wise, and starting from scratch all over.
SHUSTER: Where did the letter come from?
TORREY: The Anglican bishop in Korea. He had met my parents who, by that time were in Korea doing an amputee project for seven years. And he met them and found out they had a son who was an Anglican priest, an Episcopal priest and who had majored in education and who knew foreign languages....
END OF TAPE