Irenaeus’ polemics contribute to our understanding of early Gnosticism. Questions for Discussion: Lesson 5A – Chapter Four “Irenaeus Exposes Heresies” from The Story of Christian Theology by Roger Olson
- What was Irenaeus’ contribution to the debate with the Gnostics; that is, what did his “threefold assault” on Gnosticism involve? His polemics rested on some critical assumptions. What were they?
- Irenaeus wrote an enchiridion. What is this type of document and how did it serve early evangelism?
- What roles did Valentinus and Ptolemaeus play in shaping the theological contributions of Irenaeus? How did his assessment of these Gnostics occasionally employ parody and humor?
- What was the Gnostic perspective on the Doctrine of the Incarnation? How did Irenaeus counter their position?
- What did Irenaeus mean when he wrote that in Jesus Christ God “recapitulated the ancient formation of man”? How did this construct link to the doctrine of saving incarnation?
- What were the underlying assumptions/premises in Valentinian Gnosticism that compelled heresy when defining their soteriology?
- How might we compare Irenaeus’ doctrine of salvation, his soteriology, with the doctrine of salvation that the Protestant reformers of the sixteenth century advanced?
- Imagine you have a time machine that has transported you to second century Lyons in Gaul. You encounter young Bishop Irenaeus. He tests your knowledge of the gospel by asking you “how are we saved?” Evidently Bishop Irenaeus wants you to discuss the salvific act of our Lord and its meaning for our salvation today. What will you say to satisfy him that you have a fundamental grasp of the gospel?
See Lesson 5B for Correlated Readings:
Selections from Irenaeus’ The Demonstration of Apostolic Preaching
Bible Verses for Reflection