Who was R.A. Torrey?
R.A. Torrey was dean of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (Biola) from 1912 to 1924. A graduate of Yale divinity school, he combined thoughtful, strongly orthodox theology with practical and global ministry. Inspired by his dedication and courage, the Torrey Honors Institute seeks to raise Christians leaders who will emulate R.A. Torrey in contemporary society.
The Torrey Honors Institute is a liberal arts and biblical studies program at Biola University. Its mission is to equip men and women to pursue truth, goodness and beauty in intellectual and spiritual community, enabling them to be strong Christian leaders. Classes, lectures, verbal exams, and student projects are all designed with the assumption that knowledge is an integrated whole, not fragments that can be easily separated. By exposing students to the great works of the Western and Christian traditions, Torrey provides the academic and spiritual foundation for work in any field and a life of Christian witness and leadership.
Torrey is partially modeled after Oxford's tutorial system. This means Torrey integrates rigorous reading, discussion and writing guided by faculty. Through reading and dialogue, Torrey students focus their attention on wrestling with big questions found in the great books of the Western and Christian traditions. Students do not major in Torrey, rather Torrey is designed to fulfill most of Biola's undergraduate general education requirements (including the thirty units of Bible).
At Torrey, we believe that general education should focus on three features often forgotten in contemporary education:
The education of the whole soulThe Torrey student is taught to love beauty as well as ideas, doing as well as thinking. Torrey students engage the worlds of art, commerce, and government. Our goal is to produce citizens for the City of God, not merely thinking machines.
The centrality of ChristWhile all secular education and even most Christian education has abandoned this truth,we are committed to the person and work of Christ as the center of the learning experience.
The Great Conversation applied to contemporary problemsToo often "classical" reading programs ignore current issues such as the assumption of naturalism in science or questions of justice and mercy in culture. The Torrey Honors Institute engages the key issues of our age, even as we draw from the wisdom of other ages. Torrey prepares its students to enter into cultural conversation where stakes are highest.
The Torrey curriculum has four main components: discussion, mentoring, writing and opportunities beyond the classroom.
Classes consist of faculty led discussions about assigned readings. Torrey classes are Socratic, discussion driven guided by a Torrey faculty member. Torrey’s texts are the great books of the Western and Christian traditions. Through their readings and class discussions, students directly engage the authors who have shaped Christianity and Western Civilization. This enables students to explore the effects and implications of the authors’ ideas. The faculty guide discussions by asking probing questions as opposed to giving “the” interpretation of a text. The faculty teach each class on a rotation so that each group has the chance to interact with every tutor, benefiting from his or her unique perspective and interests.
We do not believe that written or multiple choice examinations are adequate measures of student learning. Instead, at the end of each term, each student takes an oral exam, called Don Rags, conducted by two faculty members. Through Don Rags students demonstrate their grasp of the texts they have studied, their ability to analyze and compare ideas, and their skill in applying timeless truth to contemporary struggles.
In addition to discussion leaders, the faculty also act as individual mentors to Torrey students, providing personalized guidance and continuity throughout the program. The faculty regularly hold office hours where students can discuss the texts and authors further to understand a faculty member’s thoughts on the material in the curriculum. Torrey requires that students meet with their mentor at least four times a semester, though most students voluntarily schedule office hours more frequently. In addition to holding office hours, faculty routinely present lectures in order to help students establish context for their readings and discussions. Finally, faculty engage students beyond the classroom by leading abroad trips and participating in Torrey sponsored special events.
The writing program is centered in Torrey’s commitment to equip students to read well, write well, and think well. We combine these three aims by asking its students to write one major paper each semester that is rooted in at least one text and argues a persuasive thesis. The subject matter for this paper is always open-ended—students may choose their own texts and topics about which to write each term—in support of our belief that students learn best and ultimately take greater ownership of their education when constrained by fewer hard-and-fast rules. The most important element of the writing curriculum is one-on-one meetings between students and the Writing Program Director. Students are encouraged to schedule meetings with the Director early and often throughout the course of the semester to discuss the development of their paper at any stage.
In addition to the Torrey Paper, Torrey requires students to write short essays on each book read during the semester and maintain a Notebook with pre-class and in-class notes. These things combined with the Torrey Paper help students grow in their ability to express and defend their ideas intelligently, persuasively and graciously. After writing at least two Torrey Papers, students may discuss the option of substituting a project or involvement in a club for their paper. Substitutions need to be arranged in advance and approved by the student’s mentor.
Opportunities Beyond the Classroom
Torrey believes that community support and camaraderie play a formative role during a student’s college years. Upon entrance into the Institute, freshmen are placed in small groups. If they follow the expected track in Torrey, they will take their Torrey classes with this group for all four years. These groups become the students’ first communities in college and students typically form lasting friendships with their group members. Faculty members too participate in the Torrey community. Many live within walking distance of the campus and regularly open their homes to students for Bible studies and other activities.
Torrey educates its students to love doing as well as thinking. Therefore, Torrey presents its students with study abroad, community service, and extra-curricular opportunities. In addition to these opportunities, Torrey empowers its students to create programs or apply their knowledge to projects aimed at helping them and fellow students outside the classroom. The goal of these opportunities and projects is to help students apply their learning to the "real world" through practice. Click here to see the study abroad and special programs available to Torrey students!
Do you have questions? Contact us via phone: 562-906-4555 or e-mail us: Torrey.firstname.lastname@example.org.