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Edward Irving’s Incarnational Christology, Part 1

It is somewhat remarkable that theological discussion over Irving’s views has long outlasted his ability to participate in debate. Many varied opinions of respected theologians continue to give attention to Irving, regardless of what conclusion is reached over the orthodoxy of his views. Incarnational issues such as this one seem to remain a significant part of Christological discussion in this generation, as with any other. Irving’s longevity in this particular debate suggests that he is a worthy theological figure whose views have come to present a considerable, sustained significance within contemporary scholarship. Hence, his theological contribution should not be frivolously dismissed. Therefore, the following chapter presents the foundational elements of Irving’s views in order to then determine their significance within his historical context.




Coming in Part 2 (Fall 2018):

The Crux of Irving’s Christology



[1] John 1:14 (NIV)

[2] John 1:14 (NLT)

[3] Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23

[4] J.D.G. Dunn, Christology in the Making, London: SCM Press, 1980. For a review article on this book, see: L. Morris, “The emergence of the doctrine of the incarnation” in Themelios (1982) 8.1:15-19

[5] Much theological development within the early church was focused on Christological/Incarnational questions. The formulation of various foundational creedal statements, such as The Apostle’s Creed, The Nicaean Creed (325 AD) and the Chalcedonian Definition (451 AD), are evidence of the response to refute beliefs that were found to be heretical.

[6] J. Hick (ed.), The Myth of God Incarnate, London: SCM Press, 1977; M.D. Goulder (ed.), Incarnation and Myth: The Debate Continued, London: SCM Press, 1979; O. Skarsaune, (trans) T.R. Skarsten, Incarnation: Myth or Fact?, St Louis (MO): Concordia Publishing House, 1991

[7] B. Hebblethwaite, “Incarnation” in D.W. Musser & J.L. Price (eds), A New Handbook of Christian Theology, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1992:250-4

[8] Cited in T.C. Gordon, “Edward Irving 1792-1834”, in R.S. Wright (ed), Fathers of the Kirk, London: Oxford University Press, 1960:142. Gordon here quotes the inscription engraved on a stone tablet near the Old Fish Cross of Annan marking the birth town of Edward Irving. This monument no longer stands near this site. Instead, there is an impressive statue of Irving which today stands on the site of the very church that condemned him for heresy and stripped him of his ministerial status. These tributes to him are ironic since it was the attitudes of his enemies that were influential in his downfall.

[9] For literature adequate for this purpose, see: W. Jones, Biographical Sketch of the Rev. Edward Irving, Late Minister of the National Scotch Church, London: With extracts from, and remarks on, his principal publications, London: John Bennet, 1835; M.O.W. Oliphant, The Life of Edward Irving Vols. 1, 2, London: Hurst & Blackett Publishers, 1862.

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Category: In Depth, Summer 2018

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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