This website exists to honor the legacy of Edward Irving (1792-1834), Scottish pastor and theologian of the 19th century. Irving distinguished himself from other leaders of his generation by integrating belief in the Holy Spirit's supernatural empowerment with a profound Trinitarian/Incarnational theology. His contribution to Christianity came more than 70 years prior to the outbreak of the Pentecostal Movement, and his articulation of the gifts, signs and wonders of the Spirit flowed from a richer vein of biblical/historical/theological understanding than the expression characteristic of 20th century American Pentecostalism.
Irving died at the age of 42, only four years after embracing the supernatural dimension of the Gospel. In his lifetime, he was fiercely opposed by those in disagreement both with his Incarnational theology and his endorsement of continuing miracles in Christian experience. The Church of Scotland removed his ordination and considered him to be a heretic. In addition, after his death, Irving’s followers formed an organization (the Catholic Apostolic Church) which chose to form their own identity apart from Irving’s original vision.
Irving’s name has resurfaced in the 20th century as the Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements have gained international attention. Some contemporaries applaud him as a Pentecostal precursor decades before the advent of the Pentecostal Movement. Others have come to appreciate his theological contribution, shaped by his insightful perspective of Christ’s Incarnation. Yet I have found after more than 25 years of immersion in Irving studies that very few value both dimensions of Irving’s legacy. I don’t believe that the two sides of Irving can be separated. His Pentecostal perspective was a logical development of his Incarnational Christology. While most of the 20th century expressions of Pentecostalism emphasize experience and devalue doctrine, Irving grounded his understanding of the supernatural dimension on the solid rock of Trinitarian/Incarnational theology. As Pentecostal/Charismatic Movements continue to be an agent of Christian revival in the 21 century, we stand on the threshold of unprecedented revival that could result in a full scale reformation of the Christian Church. Yet today’s revival will not lead to permanent reformation if we fail to ground our Pentecostal experience upon the bedrock of Trinitarian/Incarnational Truth.
In this pivotal moment of Christian history, I urge today’s Christians to take a look at the legacy of Edward Irving. His contribution was not taken seriously in his own generation, yet the depth of his vision carries the potential to address our needs today. This website is an attempt to further that objective.