Gregory Nazianzus on Sacred Monarchy

I was reading St Gregory of Nazianzus’s Theological Orations, and he has a very interesting section in the Third Oration. While his purpose is to explain the monarchia of the Father and that the Father is the cause of the other two hypostases in the Trinity, Gregory, like every ancient thinker in the world, knew there was a direct causation between Theology and Society. What you believe about God determines what you believe about Government.
He originally writes

The three most ancient opinions concerning God are Anarchia, Polyarchia, and Monarchia. The first two are the sport of the children of Hellas, and may they continue to be so. For Anarchy is a thing without order; and the Rule of Many is factious, and thus anarchical, and thus disorderly. For both these tend to the same thing, namely disorder; and this to dissolution, for disorder is the first step to dissolution.

An astute observer could easily respond, “Yeah, and Gregory’s ultimate point is theology, not politics.” And that’s largely true, but Gregory is using the Greek word “Arche,” which means principle or origin both in the source of being/subsistence and in the source of morality (government, social order). An error in the doctrine of the Trinity will determine the outflowing of the rest of social life. Interestingly, and from a other perspective, that’s also why Thomas Aquinas tied his belief in the Filioque with his strong doctrine of the Papacy.
Gregory continues,

But Monarchy is that which we hold in honour. It is, however, a Monarchy that is not limited to one Person, for it is possible for Unity if at variance with itself to come into a condition of plurality; but one which is made of an equality of Nature and a Union of mind, and an identity of motion, and a convergence of its elements to unity— a thing which is impossible to the created nature— so that though numerically distinct there is no severance of Essence. Therefore Unity having from all eternity arrived by motion at Duality, found its rest in Trinity. This is what we mean by Father and Son and Holy Ghost. The Father is the Begetter and the Emitter; without passion of course, and without reference to time, and not in a corporeal manner. The Son is the Begotten, and the Holy Ghost the Emission…

And this is why I tried to point out last summer on a Reformed message board (these guys were big into how all the church in history secretly believed in “their” version of theocracy; e.g., Calvinist Republics—good luck finding those in the early church!) how the early Church, the medieval church, and even some parts of the (very early) Reformed church held to monarchy (and with the exception of the latter, they all held to sacred monarchy). They had read Gregory correctly. The monarch, thus, was a mirror of heaven. This is also explained in Eusebius. And while Augustine put the breaks on theocratic enthusiasm, he just as firmly believed in a “Christian Emperor” (That’s in O’Donovan’s book, which I gave away and can no longer reference).
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2 comments on “Gregory Nazianzus on Sacred Monarchy

  1. MG says:

    Hey,I saw your comment on By Whose Authority, and would like to talk to you about Protestantism and Orthodoxy. Send me an email if you get a chance. mm_aa_gg(at sign)hotmail dot com–MG

  2. MG says:

    Hey,I saw your comment on By Whose Authority, and would like to talk to you about Protestantism and Orthodoxy. Send me an email if you get a chance. mm_aa_gg(at sign)hotmail dot com–MG

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