2013 was definitely the year of biographies for me – or the year of Dallimore biographies, I should say. Early in the year, I finished his two-volume biography of George Whitefield and really enjoyed his ability to just tell the story without embellishing or engaging in hagiography, so I was so excited to read this smaller biography about a character I didn’t know much about.
Born in 1792 to Scottish parents, Irving made a name for himself for his unusual ministry in London – a ministry which varied in theological positions to professing Presbyterians to an unusual premillennialism to (his most well-known position) a primordial form of charismatic theology. Tracing such an enigmatic figure is no mean man’s task but Dallimore handles it well, working the balance between honesty and understanding incredibly well.
Dallimore’s subtitle is Forerunner of the Charismatic Movement and as one reads the book, it becomes apparent that such a subtitle is indeed a worthy one. As a former Pentecostal, it was eerie to read a man in the 1820-30s espousing the same theology as you grew up under with the same artificial distinctions and multiplicity of excuses that follow when life diverges from theology as is often the case with poor theology.
I’m genuinely surprised that Edward Irving isn’t mentioned in more treatments of the history of the Pentecostal/Charismatic movements. Granted you cannot prove a direct link between the two but the resemblances are so uncanny you cannot help but wonder. I would heartily recommend this to anyone working through historic claims of the charismata – as well as learning some life lessons about humility, what true ministry is and why, as with most things as Dr James White has so succinctly put it, theology matters.