By Carlos R. Galvao-Sobrinho
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Extra info for Doctrine and Power: Theological Controversy and Christian Leadership in the Later Roman Empire
6 Such rhetoric illustrates the bishops’ view that dissent and opposition undermined episcopal authority. It also reveals their readiness to discipline dissenters to preserve church unity under their leadership. In practice, however, despite the growing theological ferment of the third century, bishops learned to minimize the challenge of doctrinal disputes to their leadership. 7 Cyprian’s harsh declaration notwithstanding, churchmen tried to resolve disputes through thoughtful discussion and debate and were prepared to live with a great deal of dissonance and disagreement.
49 And a little further on, he declared an “impious assertion . . [that His] Sonship . . has nothing in common with the sonship of others. . indd 39 06/08/13 3:41 PM 40 God in Dispute be condemned because it seemed to open the door to a view of the church that denied prelates their monopoly of spiritual power. “For the Son,” Alexander insisted, “is of an unchangeable nature, perfect . . 55 From the moment Alexander grasped more fully the implications of Arius’s teachings, he was convinced that Arius was wrong.
As in the past, they engaged in debates, met in synods, and consulted with their peers, seeking expert advice. Yet, at the same time that they sought a solution, they found themselves sliding more deeply into conflict, embracing with ever-greater zeal theological positions of ever-greater depth, complexity, and detail, making reconciliation ever more difficult to achieve. As the dispute escalated, persistent and widespread confrontation and conflict replaced the conciliatory approach that had been the norm in past disputes.