Theologian Thursday: Saint Basil the Great (330-379)

 (image found here)
If you subscribe to Greek Orthodox hagiography, Basil comes from a family full of saints. Can you imagine? His brothers Gregory of Nyssa (whom we'll talk about next week) and Peter, sisters Macrina and Theosebius, mother Emily and grandmother Macrina were all saints. The Roman Catholic Church also includes his father, Basil, among the saints.

He became the bishop at Caesarea, and used his position, along with his relationships with Gregory of Nazianzus and Athanasius, to fight the heresies of Arianism and modalism. These early discussions about the Trinity are so interesting because they wrestle with all these ridiculously fine points of theology. Basically, Basil & Co. wanted the Holy Spirit to be considered homoousios (ὁμοούσιος--same essence) with the Father and Son, however, faithful to the Greek tradition, he was wary of considering the Son homoousious with the Father, even though the Nicene Creed and the Western church had established this as orthodox. But obviously (because of his disdain for Arianism) he wanted to uphold the divinity of Christ. Crazy fine points!

I feel like in this time period of debate and compromise, no one really got everything they wanted, and I think this can speak to the church today--despite conflicting beliefs, there really is room at the table for everyone.

What you should read:
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Gender Equality:
Coming from such a holy family, Basil had a lot of respect for his grandmother, his mother, and his sisters. They all had significant influence on his spiritual development and his life in general.
Environmental Sensibility:
It's probably safe to say that Basil falls in line with the other Church Fathers here. It wasn't a high priority at the time, but surely, if questioned, he would support a positive environmental ethic.
Heretical Tendencies:
Though he (and the other Cappadocians, for that matter) were influenced by the work of Origen, they were staunchly orthodox.
General Badassery: 
Honestly, Basil doesn't seem too crazy. I think anyone who was part of these crazy theological debates in the fourth century had to be pretty intense, but I haven't read any stories of Basil being especially badass.

And a quote. This one is longer than the ones I usually share, but I think it's important, and very convicting!
“The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry; the garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of him who is naked; the shoes that you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot; the money that you keep locked away is the money of the poor; the acts of charity that you do not perform are so many injustices that you commit.”