A Rather Inflammatory Sermon

Despite this renewed condemnation of Arianism, it had adherents in the Eastern Roman Empire until the fifth century. It was for Nestorius, of all people, that this state of affairs had particularly bitter consequences. In his sermon on the occasion of his consecration as patriarch of Constantinople on 10 April 428, he threw down the gauntlet before the Arians by addressing Emperor Theodosius II with these words: ‘Emperor, give me your kingdom purified of the [Arian] heretics, and I will give you in return the Kingdom of Heaven.’ The Arian partisans, thus provoked, preferred to burn down their own church rather than had it over to the new patriarch. The fire spread to neighboring houses, and an entire quarter of Constantinople went up in flames, leading to great unrest. Nestorius’s inaugural sermon literally turned into an inflammatory oration. The situation was that much more explosive because all the Gothic soldiers stationed in Constantinople were Arian. Although the soldiers remained in their barracks, Nestorius had on his very first day in office incurred the anger of the Byzantine military leadership and a segment of their nobility.

Baumer, The Church of the East, p. 33

Whatever you make of the theological arguments surrounding what would later become known as Nestorianism, Nestorius himself is a historical object lesson in how to rashly make enemies and immediately burn bridges. It’s not without reason that Titus 1:7 calls for church leaders to “not be arrogant or quick-tempered.”

Photo by Mark König on Unsplash

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