St. Ambrose, and Serious Christianity in Politics

From Steve Macias

Contemporary with the fourth century councils, St. Ambrose rose to the rank of Roman governor over the region of Liguria and Emelia. Titled the “Consular Prefect” Ambrose was headquartered in Milan, the functional capital of the western Roman empire. In such an influential seat, Ambrose had the attention and recognition of the emperors.

St. Ambrose the Proto-Kuyperian

The cornerstone of the Kuyperian worldview is the principle of sphere sovereignty, the idea that God has ordained the institutions around us (e.g. Church, State, Family) and given them limited authority and responsibilities. These spheres work together like cogwheels as God expresses his will through the created order. Ambrose himself set many of the sphere boundaries that will later be embraced by Kuyperian systems.

During Ambrose’s tenure as governor, Milan’s episcopal seat was maintained by an Arian Bishop. When he died, both factions of the Church sought to place their own man in the vacant seat. Recognizing that his place was a servant of the public, not a member of the clergy, Ambrose refused to take a side. Instead he made a plea for peace between the two parties and urged the people of Milan to choose a new bishop without violence. While Ambrose could have easily called down the power of the state to squash Arianism, he recognized that such an act would have been outside his office’s legitimate authority and purpose.

The people of Milan then did the unthinkable – they demanded the unbaptized Roman governor as their new Bishop. Ambrose fled to plead with the Emperor for any excuse out from under the miter. Having no imperial sympathies, Ambrose was baptized and finally succumbed to episcopal consecration on this day (December 7) in 375 AD.

Continuing in the proto-kuyperian theme, Ambrose recognized that in this new sphere of the state, his worldly titles and wealth would be an hindrance to the proper function as the overseer of Milan. Ambrose disposed of his worldly wealth by giving it to the poor and the church. All his silver and gold, his lands and estates were given away as he sought to focus himself on the ministry. Overnight, the once powerful Roman governor becomes Victor Hugo’s “Monseigneur Bienvenu.” His consistency alone is worthy of our admiration.

I advise you not to hold your breath, waiting for today’s “Christian conservatives” to behave in a similar fashion.

[…]

[Emperor Valentinian II demanded that Ambrose be tolerant of the heretical Arians. Ambrose responds by having his parishioners barricade themselves inside the basillica until the order is rescinded.] Ambrose continues to maintain sovereignty of the church refusing to bow to the state’s demands of religious tolerance.

Tolerance for evil, for any way other than Christ, is not permitted for a believer. It is to be completely rejected from the Church. Public wickedness is to be suppressed by the State as well (it being a minister of God), with its powers and authority determined by the Old & New Testament instead of self-serving state bureaucrats, leaders, and bought-and-paid-for intellectuals & the media establishment.)

[…]

Ambrose’s civil disobedience is most famous in his excommunication of Emperor Theodosius, who oversaw the brutal massacre of 7,000 people in the city of Thessalonica. Ambrose refused the emperor access to the Lord’s table and demanded repentance. Ambrose is said to have met Theodosius at the door of the Church and said,

“It seems, sir, that you do not yet rightly apprehend the enormity of the massacre lately committed. Let not the splendour of your purple robes hinder you from being acquainted with the infirmities of that body which they cover. You are of the same mould with those subjects which you govern; and there is one common Lord and Emperor of the world. With what eyes will you behold his temple? With what feet will you tread his sanctuary? How will you lift up to him in prayer those hands which are still stained with blood unjustly spilt? Depart, therefore, and attempt not, by a second offence, to aggravate your former crime; but quietly take the yoke upon you which the Lord has appointed for you. It is sharp, but it is medicinal and conducive to your health.”  (Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73).  Volume XII: December. The Lives of the Saints.  1866.)

Ambrose gives the emperor eight months of penance, which he submits to from his palace.

Ambrose was serious when it came to obedience to God. We should be too.

(And note: not a drop of Republican warmongering!)

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