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Edward Irving’s Incarnational Christology, Part 3

From thinking about the truth of doctrine, we need to consider the more fundamental living truth of Christ himself. That truth comes before all the dogmas, scriptures, creeds, classical theological formulations and so on. These are attempts to put into words the truth of Christ, and of necessity they are imperfect attempts, for no form of words can fully express the living personal truth of Christ. But we cannot do without words and language. To the extent that the records, doctrines, creeds, and the like point us to Christ and bring him before us – and some of them do this more adequately, some less so – they share in his truth. Without the words of scripture and doctrine, his truth could not be appropriated or communicated by us. We never fully attain to that truth and in its fullness it always escapes our verbal formulations. But we do claim to have glimpsed the fullness of the truth in Jesus Christ, and to the extent that our words can express that truth, we affirm their truth. Thus we confess him true man at the same time true God in human form.[88]




[1] Thomas Carlyle to John A. Carlyle, 1 May 1830, The Carlyle Letters Online, 5:95-99, DOI: 10.1215/lt-18300501-TC-JAC-01, [cited 22 May 2009]. Online:

[2] I. Howard Marshall, “Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earlier Christianity” in Themelios (1976) 2.1:14

[3] W. Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, London: SCM Press, 1972:234

[4] A.E. McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction (3rd edition) Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2001:151

[5] W. Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, London: SCM Press, 1972 (First published in 1934)

[6] J. Macquarrie, Thinking about God, London: SCM Press, 1975:44-5

[7] Ibid.

[8] For a discussion on the four fundamental heretical notions consistently found to preserve the appearance of Christianity yet contradicts its essence, see: F.D.E. Schleiermacher, The Christian Faith, Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1960

[9] H.E.W. Turner, The Pattern of Christian Truth: A Study in the relations between Orthodoxy and Heresy in the Early Christian Church, London: Mowbray, 1954

[10] I. Howard Marshall, “Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earlier Christianity” in Themelios (1976) 2.1:5-14

[11] B. Demarest, “Heresy” in S.B. Ferguson & D.F. Wright (eds), New Dictionary of Theology, Leicester: IVP, 1994:292-3

[12] D.L. Migliore, Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology (2nd Ed), Grand Rapids, M.I./Cambridge, UK: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004:4, 197-222

[13] Dorries, Edward Irving’s Incarnational Christology, 261-95.

[14] W. Klempa, “The Concept of the Covenant in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Continental and British Reformed Theology”, in D.K. McKim, Major Themes in the Reformed Tradition, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992:94-107; D.D. Wallace Jr., “Federal Theology” in D.K. McKim and D.F. Wright (eds), Encyclopedia of the Reformed Faith, Edinburgh: St. Andrew Press, 1992:136-7

[15] For an extensive summary of the formation of Reformed Scholasticism as a term denoting the technical/academic process of the institutionalisation of Protestant doctrine, see: R.A. Miller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, 4 Volumes, 2nd Ed. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003

[16] A.E. McGrath, Historical Theology: An Introduction to the History of Christian Thought, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1998:169-72

[17] J.B. Torrance, “The Covenant Concept in Scottish Theology and Politics” in D.J. Elazar & J. Kincaid (eds), The Covenant Connection: From Federal Theology to Modern Federalism, Lanham; Oxford: Lexington Books, 2000:143-62.

[18] P. Golding, Covenant Theology: The Key of Theology in Reformed Thought and Tradition, Ross-shire, Christian Focus Publications, 2004:57.

[19] P.A. Lillback, “Covenant” in S.B. Ferguson & D.F. Wright (eds), New Dictionary of Theology, Leicester: IVP, 1994:176. Also see: D.A. Weir, The Origins of the Federal Theology in Sixteenth Century Reformation Thought, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990

[20] Federal formulations of the covenants of works and grace received creedal status in the Westminster Confession and Catechisms (1643-49). Irving appeals to the Westminster Confession for validation of his teachings. For a short appeal, see E. Irving, The Orthodox and Catholic Doctrine of Our Lord’s Human Nature, London: Baldwin & Cradock, 1830:52-4; However, Irving unpacks the validation of his views by the Westminster Confession in E. Irving, Opinions Circulating Concerning Our Lord’s Human Nature, Tried by the Westminster Confession of Faith, Edinburgh: John Lindsay, 1830

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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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