Revista Studii Teologice


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"Putere politică şi putere bisericească la Sfântul Ioan Gură de Aur"

Political vs. ecclesiastic power in the view of St. John Chrysostom

Autor(i): Cristian ANTONESCU

Summary: Political vs. ecclesiastic power in the view of St. John Chrysostom
St. John Chrysostom did not write any treatise on power and political authority, however his views on this topic can be ascertained from the texts touching on it. To St. John, earthly power is far below ecclesiastical power. The reason is that worldly power commands earthly things, while ecclesiastic power commands the truly important things, that is the spiritual ones. St. John’s teaching on the importance of political power is based on the authority conferred to it by God. The authority of lay power thus has divine grounds, and is granted to people by God Himself. However, in acknowledging an indisputable right of the state power on lay issues, St. John does now acknowledge divine legitimacy of any political ruler, without questioning political authority in itself. The personal legitimacy of each ruler depends on their carrying out the responsibilities of a statesperson. Even if certain rulers are not directly appointed by God, their presence is nevertheless necessary and therefore their ascension to positions of authority is not driven by hazard, but by divine providence. Another important teaching of St. John on political life concerns the responsibility of any citizen towards the state affairs. Not only rulers are to blame if political events can have a negative influence on the citizens’ life, but also each of the latter ones. St. John also points out that ecclesiastical affairs depend on the moral state of the faithful. If worshippers neglect faith, or even work against it through their deeds, even though they pay lip service to Christianity, God allows ecclesiastic affairs to be run by a less able or worthy man. Thus, the infelicitous state of lay or ecclesiastical authority should not be deplored, as it testifies to God’s love. The situation becomes tragic when God’s love goes unanswered, that is when people choose not to understand the message God sends through church and lay rulers, and deceive themselves by blaming everyone around, except themselves. Those who do nothing either to improve the social life of their state, or to improve their own spiritual life, but instead ask much from both the lay and church authority, hypocritically ask others to do what is right, without joining their efforts. Such people will not or cannot understand that they are equally responsible for the evils around them. Although they constantly expect miraculous changes, brought about by God or a God-sent man, they are not aware that by their sins they counter not only the efforts of spiritual people, those who have understood that the only weapon against disorder “is constant prayer, together with penance, and refraining from sin” as St. John shows in the above-mentioned texts, but also prevent God from working. As St. John’s teachings demonstrate, God cannot work in an environment corrupted by sin, not because of any inability, but because if things went well, while people remained sinful, they could never become aware of their wickedness, but they would sink into sheer neglect of themselves and their neighbours. St. John points out that, in the moments when people lose their responsiveness to spiritual things, God intervenes in history in a more obvious way and, through political rulers, He attempts to remind the people of the true values and the truly important things. This accounts for tough, even exag-gerated measures taken by authorities at certain times; God attempts to save people’s souls by frightening them through the realities that matter to them – be they social, economical or political.

Pagini: pp. 111-144