Orthodox Survival Course, Class 9

Orthodox Survival Course

St. Irene Orthodox Church

Rochester Hills, Michigan


Class 9 – The Church of the Romans: Topic 6, Church and State

The notes below are just a brief summary of everything that we talk about.  For the most benefit, listen to the audio! The podcast of this session can be listened to at www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/class-9

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. I Timothy 2: 1-4.

Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.I Peter 2:15.

the whole world is like one well-ordered and united family. For our Emperor, invested as he is with the semblance of heavenly sovereignty, directs his gaze above and frames his earthly government according to the pattern of the divine original, finding strength in its conformity to the monarchy of God.”Eusebius of Caesaria, Oration in Praise of Constantine (English translation, 1845, p. 303), quoted by Christopher Dawson, The Formation of Christendom (Ignatius Press reprint 2008, p. 140)

Introduction – Our final class on the Orthodox Church of the first millennium is on the relationship of the Church to the state. I apologize that I was not able to prepare a complete set of notes for tonight’s class. Instead, we have reprinted below the summary of our course on Orthodox political theory, which we held last year. It contains the main points I wanted to make tonight.

Orthodox Political Theory

A Study of Politics from Cain to Constantine, by Vladimir Moss

Final Class – Summary


We began this mini-course in response to the turmoil in current political life. It is essential that Orthodox Christians look beyond the chaos of contemporary life and understand the timeless truths that our Faith teaches, including truths about political authority and the organization of society.

Our vocation in the current situation is to rise above political passions and witness to the timeless truths of the Faith, in order to help our neighbors.

I. The nature of legitimate authority:

A. All legitimate authority derives from above, from God, and not from below (thepeople”). This is extremely important to remember in light of our country’s political philosophy being so influenced by the 18th century idea of the “sovereign will of the people.”

B. We see right from the beginning, in Genesis, that God established earthly authority in the persons of Adam and his consort, Eve, as possessing a delegated authority over creation.

1. Adam, as head of his family, is the prototype for all earthly rulers.

2. We see here, then, that godly authority derives from God, and is hierarchical, patriarchal, and familial.

II. False Models of Authority

A. The pagan god-king

i. arose after the corruption of the human race

ii. not only is all civic and priestly authority vested in one man, but he is worshipped as a god or The God.

iii. invariably involved with human (usually infant) sacrifice and immoral sexuality, connected to demonically distorted ideas of fertility and material success

B. The Utopias of the Philosophers

i. Plato and Aristotle had many important insights, but ultimately their vision was flawed because of incomplete understanding of human nature, the reality of sin, and, of course, their lack of knowledge of the true God.

ii. Their valuable insights, however, still shed light and can be incorporated into an Orthodox Philosophy of Politics. Examples include Plato’s Allegory of the Cave as an illustration of the need to be ruled not by the most rich or powerful but by the most wise, and his theory of the Tripartite Powers of the Soul; as well as Aristotle’s explanation of three forms of legitimate government (monarchy, aristocracy, and politeia [res publica]) and their corresponding corruptions (tyranny, oligarchy, and mob-rule).

III. True Models of Authority

A. Sacred Kingship in the Old Testament Church

i. Key figure is David, who was called by God precisely because of his personal holiness. He is the archetypal image of the Good King.

ii. The sacerdotal and kingly powers are separate.

iii. The king is not God, and his rule is not arbitrary, but bound by the law of God.

iv. The king protects the Old Testament Church structure (the temple, the priests, etc.), and they are loyal subjects of the king, not rivals to the king.

B. Sacred Kingship in the New Testament Church

i. Key figure is St. Constantine. ii., iii, and iv above are all present.

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