Meeting The Orthodox (Page 15 of 25)

By: Fr. Thomas HopkoRead time: 40 mins11778 Hits


15. Church and State

You mentioned this evil world. What is the relation of the Orthodox Church to this world? What about such things, for example, as the Church and the State?

The Church first of all is the experience of the Kingdom of God on earth. It is a mystery, as we call it; a sacramental experience and vision of reality. It is that reality itself within which we can come to a knowledge of God and Communion with Him and all things in Him.

In this sense then, the Church is not merely a human organization or institution. Although it has organizational and institutional aspects — a “human form” — the Church cannot be reduced to these things, and essentially it is really none of them. The Church is not a human organization or institution at all. It is the gift of divine life in this world.

As far as this world is concerned, the Orthodox believe that although it is essentially “very good,” created this way by God, it is ruined and spoiled and in the power of evil. It needs to be healed and purified. In a word, the world needs salvation in order to be what God made it to be.

Because this world is, in its present ambiguous form, both good and evil at once; and because it requires salvation in order to be the perfect dwelling-place for God and man that it was made to be, it will always remain a world of relative values until being finally transformed by God at the end of the ages.

In this perspective, some form of government is necessary to care for life in this world in its present relative condition. Christians traditionally have held that there must be some form of state government with real power to care for the common good. The state can never be absolute however, and it may even be evil, in which case it must be resisted by men who love truth.

There have been in history many alliances between Church and state in Orthodoxy. These alliances have not always been happy ones and not seldom have been damaging to the Church and have required resistance from the Church in the persons of the prophets and saints. Nevertheless, the Orthodox would insist that for the relative life of this world, there must be some form of government with equally relative powers to preserve good order. And the Orthodox should be ready to be loyal to any such government which does not assume what belongs properly to God.


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