Son of a Hoboken, New Jersey, family, Torrey graduated from Yale University and Yale Divinity School. He was ordained in 1883 as a Congregationalist minister. Moving to Minneapolis, he served as a pastor and missions supervisor (1883–1889). In 1889 D. L. Moody asked Torrey to become the first superintendent of the Moody Bible Institute (then Institute of the Chicago Evangelistic Society). He remained in this post until 1908, laying the strong foundations the Institute displayed in its later development. From 1894 to 1906 Torrey served also as pastor of Chicago’s Moody Memorial Church (then Chicago Avenue Church). Further, in the years 1902 to 1906, Torreypursued his great interest in mass evangelism withCharles M. Alexander. This involved a remarkable series of overseas tours, including meetings in Australia, New Zealand, India, China, Japan, Germany, Great Britain, Canada, and elsewhere.
Torrey consented in 1912 to head the newly formed Bible Institute of Los Angeles (Biola). Again his leadership was foundational for an institution destined for enlargement and wide-ranging service. Torrey stayed at Biola until 1924. In addition, for most of these years he was pastor of the Church of the Open Door in downtown Los Angeles. Until 1911, he also continued his evangelistic campaigns in the United States and Canada. Despite his various demanding duties, Torrey produced a large number of written works. These were notable for their acute opposition to Protestant liberalism and advocacy of highly conservative doctrine and practice. Torrey was one of the compilers of The Fundamentals, for which he wrote many famous articles expounding conservative Protestantism (published from 1910 to 1915). In his later years, Torrey was active in summer Bible conference activities. He also returned to Moody Bible Institute as a lecturer from 1924 to 1928. Torrey carried out several crucial roles and wide-reaching ministries that had few parallels among American leaders of conservative Protestantism in the early twentieth century.
K.J.Bryer, “TORREY, REUBEN ARCHER” ed. J.D. Douglas and Philip W. Comfort, Who’s Who in Christian History (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1992), 681