Adoptionism, Arianism and other doctrines examined. Questions for Discussion: Lesson 11A- “Part Three A Great Crisis Rocks the Church” and Chapter 9 “Alexandrians Argue About the Son of God” from The Story of Christian Theology by Roger E. Olson
1. Olson writes in the Part Three introduction “A Great Crisis…” of events that “no one expected”. What were these events and how did they unfold?
2. How did the church respond, according to Olson? How did the Edict of Milan serve church interests?
3. In the year 318 a riot broke out in Alexandria between factions of Christians. What were they fighting about? How would we classify the ideas of the opposing sides that motivated this confrontation?
4. The theologians trained in Antioch (the “Antiochenes”) did not openly, that is publicly, accept adoptionism, and according to Olson probably did not even “in secret”, but they had a perspective on the Logos that set them apart from the theologians of Alexandria. What was distinctive about this aspect of their Christology? How did the Alexandrians differ in their interpretation of the Logos?
5. What were the contributions of Origen to the debates of this period? Olson speaks of the “deep background” of the debates that lay in the concepts derived from Greek philosophy, sometimes via Origen’s writings. What were some of these key concepts and how were they interpreted differently by opposing sides?
6. What were the “two key elements of Arius’s thought about God and the Logos”?
7. Olson quotes at length Alexander’s response to Arianism and says Alexander’s summary of the Arian heresy reads “like a summary of the modern-day Watchtower Bible and Tract Society…”[known as the “Jehovah’s Witnesses”]. Can you summarize these points? How might you employ them when trying to educate a Jehovah’s Witness member who has expressed interest to you in leaving this cult?
8. Why does Olson observe that with the Arian controversy the church “came to a crossroads”? What made this issue so critical for the early church?
See Lesson 11B for Correlated Readings:
Constantine’s Letter to Alexander the Bishop
Bible Verses for Reflection