Notes on two famous medieval thinkers:- 1. Ambrose of Milan 2. St. Gregory.
Medieval Thinker # 1. Ambrose of Milan:
In the fourth century, Christianity was made the state religion of the Roman Empire and after it the church became supreme, first in the spiritual affairs and then in the temporal matters. But the supremacy of the church could not solve the problem of loyalty.
A true Christian must show obligation to the church. But his obligation was not treated as absolute.
The orthodox adherents of the church demanded unconditional loyalty from the citizens. On the other hand, supporters of the temporal power argued that citizens’ first and foremost obligation would be to the emperor. In the background of this controversy we shall discuss the views of three churchmen—St. Ambrose of Milan, St. Gregory and St. Augustine.
So far as the Christian questions are concerned, St. Ambrose of Milan said nothing new. But he expressed his view in unambiguous terms. He advocates the autonomy of the church in spiritual matters.
He said, “In a matter of faith, bishops are wont to judge emperors, not emperors bishops.” The emperor has no right to interfere with the religious of spiritual affairs. His business was only with the political affairs.
That was the line of action pleaded by Ambrose. In one of his comments we find “palaces belong to the Emperor, churches to the priest. That which is divine is not subject to the imperial power.” We thus find that Ambrose drew a clear line between religion and politics.
Ambrose asserted that in spiritual and religious affairs the supreme authority of the church must be accepted by all. Even the king had no right to question the legality or anything of religious decisions.
Again, as a Christian, the king must accept the decision of the church. The king was the son of the church and for this reason he should not regard himself above the church. Ambrose was always against the application of force or execution of order. He advised the church not to incite the people against the true principles of Christianity.
Medieval Thinker # 2. St. Gregory:
St. Gregory is another Church Father who sought to establish the predominance and autonomy of the church. At the same time he admitted the independence of the king in the temporal field.
He thought that the temporal ruler might be weak or inefficient, but that could not be the cause of showing disloyalty to the ruler. He talked about passive obedience, That is, a wicked on inefficient ruler was entitled to passive obedience.
It is interesting to note that no other Church Fathers spoke of obedience to the temporal authority with so much emphasis. He asserted in no uncertain terms the sanctity of the secular government.
Gregory supported the view that the emperor should act independently in his own field, but he expected that he would act according to his own conscience.
Violations of divine rules or disobedience to God were undoubtedly unbecoming on the part of the emperor. He must remember the basic idea that he was the servant of God.
In his opinion since this universe has been created by God the secular authority must perform his duties remembering this fundamental point. All the rulers must be well-acquainted with the divine rules.
Being contrary to it would bring about great harm or disaster. He said “the peace of the state depends on the peace of the universal church.”
Although several Church fathers and Christian writers strongly supported the doctrine of two swords, the Pope and his adherents did not apply it and as a result of it, the bitterness between the church and the state heavily stormed the peace and tranquility of the medieval period.
The intransigent attitude of the church was singularly responsible for this. Though Ambrose and Gregory were orthodox Christians they openly declared that the secular authority that is king or emperor must have full freedom in the discharge of duties.