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Edward Irving: Romantic Theology in Crisis

Elliott, Peter (2010) Edward Irving: Romantic Theology in Crisis. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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In 1822 a young Church of Scotland minister named Edward Irving accepted a post in London and quickly attracted wide upper-class support. He numbered amongst his friends and admirers the political historian Thomas Carlyle and the Romantic poet-philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge. During the next decade, Irving developed views and practices that could be described as millenarian and proto-pentecostal; his interest in prophecy grew and his Christology became unorthodox. He was ejected from his church and hundreds followed him to begin a new group. Within a short period of time, he was relegated to a subordinate position within this group, which later became the Catholic Apostolic Church. He died in 1834 at the age of 42.
This paper examines Irving’s underlying Romanticism and the influences on him, including his complex relationships with Carlyle and Coleridge, and then demonstrates how his Romanticism informed all of his key theological positions, often in tension with the more established Rationalism of the time. In ejecting Irving from his pastorate, the Church of Scotland officials were rejecting his idealistic and Romantic view of Christianity. It was this same idealism, with reference to the charismata, that alienated Irving from a senior role in the nascent Catholic Apostolic Church. Although struggling with this relegation, Irving refused to compromise his principles and continued to anticipate a charismatic endowment, despite his rapid physical decline.
In these two main crises of his ministerial career, Irving faced opposition and relegation precisely because of his unique amalgam of Romanticism and Christianity. Irving’s ministerial crises offer valuable insight into the wider social and ecclesiastical issues of the early nineteenth century.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Supervisor(s): Strong, Rowan
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