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Edward Irving’s Incarnational Christology, Part 3

[21] McFarlane, Christ and the Spirit, 5.

[22] J.H. Elias, “Romanticism”, in S.B. Ferguson & D.F. Wright (eds), New Dictionary of Theology, Leicester: IVP, 1994:598-9

Literary and artistic figures of influence include William Wordsworth, S.M. Coleridge, G.G. Byron, Robert Burns, Percy, B. Shelly, John Keats, Sir Walter Scott, William Blake, Ralph W. Emerson, Henry D. Thoreau, Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Felix Mendelssohn, Richard Strauss among many others. See: D. Wu (ed), Romanticism: An Anthology, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2006; H. Honour, Romanticism, NY: Westview Press, 1979; R.M. Longyear, Nineteenth Century Romanticism in Music, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1969

Philosophical and theological figures of influence include J.G. Hamann, G.E. Lessing, J.G. Herder, Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Schiller, J.G. Fichte, Friedrich Schlegel, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schleiermacher. See: I. Berlin, The Roots of Romanticism, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999

[23] Dallimore, The Life of Edward Irving, 5-6, 10-11, 12, 16-17, 18, 23-25, 35-36, 39-41, 45-49

[24] The esteemed views that each man held for one another can be observed in their writings:

Coleridge wrote, “I hold that Edward Irving possesses more of the spirit and purpose of the first Reformers, that he has more of the Head and Heart, the Life, the Unction, and the genial power of Martin Luther, than any man now alive. See, J. Colmer (ed), The Collected Works of S.T. Coleridge, Vol. 10, London: Routledge, 1976:143.

Similarly, Irving wrote in appreciation of Coleridge’s influence; “…you have been more profitable to my faith in orthodox doctrine, to my spiritual understanding of the Word of God, and to my right conception of the Christian Church, than any or all the men with whom I have entertained friendship.” See, Oliphant, The Life of Edward Irving, 98; Also cited in Dallimore, The Life of Edward Irving, 4

[25] Dallimore, The Life of Edward Irving, 46

[26] Ibid., 49

[27] G. McFarlane, “Irving, Edward (1792-1834)” in T.A. Hart (ed), Dictionary of Historical Theology, Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2000:275-6.[Italics mine] To further address the question of Unitarianism would be to digress away from the main issues surrounding this thesis. However, if the reader is interested, Irving’s arguments against the Unitarian heresy can easily be viewed in C.W. IV.

[28] Ibid.

[29] C. Welch, Protestant Thought in the Nineteenth Century Volume 1 (1799-1870), New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1972:52

[30] A.E. McGrath, Historical Theology: An Introduction to the History of Christian Thought, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1998:227-9; R. Hille, “Transition from Modernity to Post-Modernity: A Theological Evaluation” in Evangelical Review of Theology (2001) 25:116-19

[31] D.W. Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730’s to the 1980’s, London: Unwin Hyman, 1989:75-104

[32] B.M.G. Reardon, Religious Thought in the Nineteenth Century, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966:239-53; See also, C. Welch, Protestant Thought in the Nineteenth Century Volume 1 (1799-1870), New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1972:108-26

[33] Reardon, Religious Thought in the Nineteenth Century, 242

[34] If this condemnation were upheld on this basis, then figures such as John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards, among many others, would suffer the same charge for heresy based on their influences from romanticism. See: C. Welch, Protestant Thought in the Nineteenth Century Volume 1 (1799-1870), New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1972:52-5

[35] An awareness of the tension between these two movements in Irving’s historical context is essential, not only with regards to our immediate enquiry but is also due to their increasing relevance in contemporary theology within a postmodern context. The reaction of Romanticism against the rationalism of Reformed Scholasticism is representative of the wider reaction of post-modernity against the Enlightenment. For an examination of Romanticism as the precursor of the Nihilistic epoch of the Postmodern age, see: M.A. Gillespie, Nihilism before Nietzsche, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995:101-34; I. Berlin, The Roots of Romanticism, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999.

The enormous challenges that face any Christian tradition that seeks to uphold its heritage within orthodoxy while simultaneously learning from the criticisms of post-modernity provides the backdrop of an emerging theological movement known as “Radical Orthodoxy”. See: J.K.A. Smith, Introducing Radical Orthodoxy: Mapping a Post-secular Theology, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic & Carlisle: Paternoster Press, 2004. Illustrations of this can be seen in various theological attempts to address the problems of modernism’s influence in aspects of the Christian life, each of which display provocative themes and language that are distinct to Romanticism, can be seen as follows: Dave Tomlinson acknowledges the disenchantment with approaches to faith experienced by many contemporary evangelicals. Many, locked into interpretations of Christianity that they can no longer accept, have given up on the Church altogether. See: D. Tomlinson, The Post Evangelical, London: SPCK, 1995. But in his follow-up work, Tomlinson asks whether re-enchantment is possible in the post-modern, post-Christian age. He explores how Christianity, once deconstructed, can become credible again. This involves looking at key components of Christian belief – God, sin, the Bible, resurrection, the Church, mission, prayer and more – and asking how they can be understood in deeper, more meaningful ways. See: D. Tomlinson, Re-Enchanting Christianity: Faith in an Emerging Culture, Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2008. Another such example can be seen in Richard Harries’ work examining the practice of decision-making in the Christian life. He is critical of traditional Christian approaches based on the idea of obedience, in light of the problems of temptation and sin, which has lost resonance in the modern world, and leaves Christian ethics open to the charge of reinforcing immaturity. See: R. Harries, The Re-Enchantment of Morality: Wisdom for a Troubled World, London: SPCK, 2008

[36] R.A. Muller, “John Calvin and later Calvinism: the identity of the Reformed tradition” in D. Bagchi & D.C. Steinmetz, The Cambridge Companion to Reformation Theology, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004:130-149

[37] S. Edmondson, Calvin’s Christology, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004; J. Calvin, J.T. McNeill (ed) (ET by F.L. Battles), Institutes of the Christian Religion, Westminster: John Knox Press, 1960:474-81

[38] S. Edmondson, Calvin’s Christology, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004:186-96

[39] S. Edmondson, Calvin’s Christology, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004:183

[40] Calvin, Institutes, III.I.I

[41] S. Edmondson, Calvin’s Christology, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004:210

[42] Calvin, Institutes, II, XIII, 4

[43] For a general overview of how closely the Scottish Reformation was influenced by Calvinist Theology, see: J. Kirk, Patterns on Reform: Continuity and Change in the Reformation Kirk, Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1989:70-95; M.C. Bell, Calvin and Scottish Theology: The Doctrine of Assurance, Edinburgh: Handsel Press, 1985

Some English Federal theologians include Thomas Cartwright (1535-1603), William Whitaker (1548-95) and William Perkins (1558-1602), whereas Scotland had equally produced some well known Federalists; namely Scottish Federal Theologians: Robert Rollock (1555-99), Robert Howie (1565-1645), John Sharp (1572-1648) and John Cameron (1579-1625). See: R.A. Muller, “John Calvin and later Calvinism: the identity of the Reformed tradition” in D. Bagchi & D.C. Steinmetz, The Cambridge Companion to Reformation Theology, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004:138

[44] T.F. Torrance, Theology in Reconstruction, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965:151

[45] T.F. Torrance, School of Faith: The Catechisms of the Reformed Church, London: James Clark, 1959:lxxxii, cited in W.B. Evans, Imputation and Impartation: Union with Christ in American Reformed Theology, Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2008:247

[46] K. Knight, Aristotelian Philosophy: Ethics and Politics from Aristotle to MacIntyre, Cambridge: Polity, 2007; D.M. MacKinnon, “’Substance’ in Christology – A Cross-bench View” in S.W. Sykes & J.P. Clayton (eds) Christ, Faith and History: Cambridge Studies in Christology, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972:281-83

[47] G.S. Hendry, The Gospel of the Incarnation, London: SCM Press, 1959:63-72

[48] Ibid., 71

[49] Ibid., 72

[50] R.E. Olson and C.A. Hall, The Trinity, Cambridge: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2002:67-95

[51] W. Herrmann, Communion of the Christian with God, London: Williams & Norgate, 1906; cited in G.S. Hendry, The Gospel of the Incarnation, London: SCM Press, 1959:15-16. [For a more thorough discussion of Herrmann’s significant critique of modern theology, see: G.W. Bromiley, Historical Theology: An Introduction, Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1978:397-404; H.R. MacKintosh, “Books that have influenced our epoch: Herrmann’s ‘Communion with God’,” in The Expository Times, (1929) 40.7: 311-315]

[52] Herrmann, Communion of the Christian with God, 289

[53] Ibid., 291

[54] W.B. Evans, Imputation and Impartation: Union with Christ in American Reformed Theology, Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2008:241-3

[55] H.R. Mackintosh, “The Unio Mystica as a Theological Conception” in The Expositor 1909 7:138-55. For a defence of the legitimacy of holding to the notion of ‘substance’ in theological reflection regarding the Incarnation, and therefore resisting a completely liberal hermeneutic, see: D.M. MacKinnon, “’Substance’ in Christology – A Cross-bench View” in S.W. Sykes & J.P. Clayton (eds) Christ, Faith and History: Cambridge Studies in Christology, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972:279-300

[56] R.E. Olson and C.A. Hall, The Trinity, Cambridge: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2002:95-115

[57] T.A. Smail, Reflected Glory: The Spirit in Christ and Christians, London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1975; M. Habets, “Spirit Christology: Seeing in Stereo” in Journal of Pentecostal Theology (2003) 11:199-234

[58] Perhaps Graham McFarlane ingeniously recognises this underlying perspective in Irving by comparing his theology with that of Schleiermacher’s. See, McFarlane, Christ and the Spirit, 131-8

[59] For an introduction to Torrance’s views on the significance of Christ’s assumption of human nature in its ‘fallen’ state, see: G.S. Dawson, “Far as the Curse is Found: The Significance of Christ’s Assuming a Fallen Human Nature in the Torrance Theology” in G.S. Dawson, An Introduction to Torrance Theology: Discovering the Incarnate Saviour, Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2007:55-74; For further illustration of how Torrance viewed the ontological implications of Christ assuming sinful flesh upon a vicarious view of the Atonement, see: E.M. Colyer, “The Incarnate Saviour: T.F. Torrance on the Atonement” in G.S. Dawson, An Introduction to Torrance Theology: Discovering the Incarnate Saviour, Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2007:33-54. For further explanation as to how Torrance responds to the critiques of liberal Protestantism, see: W.B. Evans, Imputation and Impartation: Union with Christ in American Reformed Theology, Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2008:246-9

[60] Torrance’s treatment of the doctrines of Incarnation and Atonement are presently being popularised for a wider church audience beyond the purely academic context. See: T.F. Torrance, R.T. Walker (ed), Incarnation: The Person and Life and Christ, Carlisle: Paternoster, 2008; T.F. Torrance, R.T. Walker (ed), Atonement: The Person and Work of Christ, Carlisle: Paternoster, Forthcoming

[61] For a helpful argument for Christ assuming a fallen nature, see: K. Gage, “What Human Nature did Jesus take?: Fallen”, p.1-9. [cited 22 May 2009]. Online: http://biblicalresearch.gc.adventist.org/documents/humanatureChristfallen.pdf

Conversely, works opposing an assumption of fallen nature include, P.E. Hughes, The True Image: The Origin and Destiny of Man in Christ, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989:125-35; O.D. Crisp, “Did Christ have a Fallen Human Nature?” in International Journal of Systematic Theology (2004) 6.3:270-88; O.D. Crisp, Divinity and Humanity, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007:90-117

[62] I. Davidson, “Theologizing the Human Jesus: An Ancient (and Modern) Approach to Christology Reassessed”, in International Journal of Systematic Theology (2001) 3.2:129-53

[63] K.M. Kapic, “The Son’s Assumption of a Human Nature: A Call for Clarity”, in International Journal of Systematic Theology (2001) 3.2:154-66

[64] T.A. Hart, “Sinlessness and Moral Responsibility: A Problem in Christology”, in Scottish Journal of Theology (1995) 48:37-54

[65] Cited in I. Davidson, “Theologizing the Human Jesus: An Ancient (and Modern) Approach to Christology Reassessed”, in International Journal of Systematic Theology (2001) 3.2:153

[66] K.M. Kapic, “The Son’s Assumption of a Human Nature: A Call for Clarity”, in International Journal of Systematic Theology (2001) 3.2:163

[67] Ibid., 164-6

[68] E. Irving, Christ’s Holiness in Flesh, 37

[69] C. Partee, Calvin and Classical Philosophy, Leiden: E.I. Brill, 1977; B. Magee, The Great Philosophers: An Introduction to Western Philosophy, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987

[70] A.E. McGrath, The Making of Modern German Christology, Oxford: Basil Blackwell Ltd., 1986:17-18; also cited in McFarlane, Christ and Spirit, 131

[71] Gunton, Two Dogmas Revisited, 371ff

[72] S.W. Sykes & J.P. Clayton (eds) Christ, Faith and History: Cambridge Studies in Christology, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972:39-52

[73] R.G. Crawford, “The Two-Nature Doctrine of Christ” in The Expository Times 1967) 79:4-8

[74] For an explanation of the direct affect of this upon the understanding of Irving’s views, see: Gunton, Two Dogmas Revisited, 359-65

[75] G.S. Hendry, The Gospel of the Incarnation, London: SCM Press, 1959

[76] Ibid., 14

[77] Ibid., 13-24

[78] Ibid., 24-31

[79] Ibid., 25

[80] Kapic suggests that terminology regarding original sin is one of the major aspects of theological enquiry that needs to be readdressed. See: K.M. Kapic, “The Son’s Assumption of a Human Nature: A Call for Clarity”, in International Journal of Systematic Theology (2001) 3.2:164-6

[81] P. De Rosa, Christ and Original Sin, London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1967:14

[82] Ibid., 27-8

[83] P. De Rosa, Christ and Original Sin, 42

[84] K. Ware, “A Note on Theology in the Christian East: The Eighteenth to Twentieth Centuries” in H. Cunliffe-Jones (ed), A History of Christian Doctrine (Scholars’ Editions in Theology), London: Continuum, 2006:453-7.

[85] D. Fairbairn, Eastern Orthodoxy Through Western Eyes, London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002:79-95; J. Meyendorff, Christ in Eastern Christian Thought, Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1987:69-89

[86] Bishop Kallistos of Diocletia, “The Humanity of Christ: The Fourth Constantinople Lecture” at the Anglican and Eastern Churches Association, 1985, cited in Gunton, Two Dogmas Revisited, 369

[87] This hermeneutic can be adopted from D. Fairbairn, Eastern Orthodoxy Through Western Eyes, London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002

[88] J. Macquarrie, The Humility of God: Christian Meditations, London: SCM Press, 1978:31-2

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Category: In Depth, Winter 2019

About the Author: Trevor W. Martindale has been involved in supporting church-planting ministries in South Africa, where he grew up, and in England and in Scotland, where he now lives. Currently, he is a graduate student at the University of Aberdeen.

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