LISTEN: The Great Cappadocians, Part 7: Gregory of Nazianzus (The History of Christianity Podcast #139 with Daniel Whyte III)

This is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, with the History of Christianity Podcast #138, titled, “The Great Cappadocians [KAP-PUH-DO-SHNZ] (Part 7): Gregory of Nazianzus [NAH-ZEE-ANN-ZEE-NAHS].”

Our Scripture for today is Revelation 2:4-5 which reads: “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from Philip Yancey. He said: “History shows that when the church uses the tools of the world’s kingdom, it becomes as ineffectual, or as tyrannical, as any other power structure. And whenever the church has intermingled with the state, the appeal of the faith suffers as well. Ironically, our respect in the world declines in proportion to how vigorously we attempt to force others to adopt our point of view.”

Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “The Great Cappadocians (Part 7): Gregory of Nazianzus” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).

The other great Cappadocian theologian was Gregory of Nazianzus , whom Basil had met when they were fellow students. Gregory was the son of the bishop of Nazianzus, also called Gregory, and his wife Nona — for at that time bishops were often married. The elder Gregory had been an Arian , but Nona had brought him to orthodoxy. As in the case of Basil, Gregory’s family was very devout, to such a point that many of them have subsequently received the title of “saint” — Gregory himself, his parents Gregory the elder and Nona, his brother Caesarius, his sister Gorgonia [GOR-GO-NEE-UH], and his cousin Amphilochius.

Gregory spent most of his youth in study. After some time in Caesarea, he went to Athens, where he remained some fourteen years, and where he met both Basil and Prince Julian. He was thirty years old when he returned to his home country and joined Basil in the monastic life. Meanwhile, his brother Caesarius had become a famous physician in Constantinople, where he served both Constantius and Julian without letting himself be moved by the Arianism of the former or the paganism of the latter.

Back in Nazianzus, Gregory was ordained a presbyter, although he did not wish it. He fled to Basil’s monastic community, where he stayed for some time, but eventually returned to his pastoral duties in Nazianzus. At that point he delivered a famous sermon on the duties of a pastor. He began: “I have been overcome, and I confess my defeat,” and declared that his reluctance to serve as a pastor was due in part to his interest in the contemplative life, and in part to his fear that he would be unequal to the task, for “it is difficult to practice obedience; but it is even more difficult to practice leadership.”

Next time, we will begin looking at “The Great Cappadocians (Part 8): Gregory of Nazianzus.”

Let’s pray.


Dear friend, simply knowing the facts about Christian history without knowing the One on Whom this faith is based will do you no good. If you do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, may I encourage you to get to know Him today. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can be a part of the church in this life and in the life to come. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Until next time, remember that history is truly His story.