Schools of Antioch and Alexandria debate Christology. Questions for Discussion: Lesson 15A- “Part IV Another Crisis Strikes the Church” and Chapter 13 “The Schools of Antioch & Alexandria Clash over Christ” from The Story of Christian Theology by Roger E. Olson
1. In the intense debates between the theologians of the Alexandrian School and the Antiochenes, we witness a troubling divisiveness that may make us wish, as Olson states it, they “had all taken deep breaths and stepped back from the brink of all out theological warfare.” But they did not, and therefore the question is, if they had what might have been the consequences of their going down separate paths peacefully?
2. A student in your Sunday School class comments, “I can see how during the Trinitarian controversy theologians, like Athanasius, could argue that it was a salvation issue – after all a creature cannot save a creature. But I don’t understand how the fight over Christ’s nature, and the incarnation, could be such a big deal for them. Both sides seemed to be saying Christ was divine, but became a man for a while.” How will you respond?
3. How did the methods of bible interpretation (biblical hermeneutics) differ between the Alexandrian School and the Antiochene School? Which approach has become the more influential in modern Western Christianity? Why did the methods of scripture interpretation matter?
4. Both the Alexandrian and the Antiochene Schools had histories of theologians who drifted into heterodoxy or spawned movements that “went out of bounds”, so to speak. Can you identify and explain some of these past movements for both schools that led subsequent generations of theologians astray?
5. A student in your Sunday School class asks, “Why were the Antiochenes horrified by the Word-flesh Christology? This seems a lot like what we read in John’s gospel, especially chapter one. Are they the same thing?” How will you respond?
6. Olson tells us that Theodore of Mopsuestia developed a Christology “dominated” by three main concerns. What were they?
7. Often Paul of Samosata, a hovering presence in these debates, is cited by Olson as a factor shaping responses to Antiochene theology. What exactly did this theologian accomplish?
8. What were the main points of disagreement between the Alexandrians and the Antiochenes that set the stage “for a theological blowout”, to use Prof. Olson’s phrase?
See Lesson 15B for Correlated Readings:
Paul Tillich’s Lecture 14 The History of Christian Thought
Bible Verses for Reflection