We are reading about classical Christology this week in the course I'm TA'ing for this Fall. In addition to revisitng the views and arguments, I've also been asking what concerns were driving these debates? What fueled them? What made the debate a live issue and not just an academic reflection? There are at least three that come to mind.
(1) A hermeneutical concern propelled the debate. Throughout the extant documents, there is much discussion concerning the figure of Christ in Scripture. Apollinaris repeatedly argues for the unity of Christ on the basis of his singularity as a character in the Bible. Leo the Great distinguishes between the acts of Christ that issue from his divinity and those befitting his humanity. Such hermeneutical concerns make sense, since the identity of Jesus Christ is encountered in texts that require interpretation.
(2) A devotional concern fueld the debate. This is especially evident during the Nestorian controversy. Not only did Marian piety occasion the debate when he was asked the phrase "God-bearer" in reference to Mary, but the theological basis of the worship of Christ played an important role in Cyril's argumentation. If Christ is divided into two persons, one divine and the other human, then we are idolaters when worshipping him in his humanity. Such a devotional concern makes sense, since the identity of Jesus Christ as God incarnate raises questions about whether and in what sense he can be worshipped. So Christian devotion to Christ necessarily requires Christological clarification.
(3) A soteriological concern drove the debate. This was the dominant concern throughout its many stages. Gregory's famous "what is not assumed is not healed" formula reveals this concern, as does Cyril's argument that Christ can only overcome death if the incarnate Logos himself impassibly suffers. Christological reflection is not independent speculation into the ontological constitution of Jesus Christ, but a necessary inquiry into the conditions for the possibility of Christian redemption.
What other concerns drove the debate?
Are these concerns viable?
Can Christological reflection proceed without sharing these concerns?
If so, how does that change the conversation?