Saturday 14 June 2014

Basil of Caesarea: a review

Recently, I've been teaching a small group of children some church history: stories of people and with a bit of art and craft thrown in at the end. Polycarp was dramatic and certainly worthy of telling as a story. Constantine was graphic and led to art around Christian symbols. Athanasius was a bit more complicated and then next come the Cappadocian Fathers. Now part of the problem is my lack of knowledge. Yes, I have read about four different volumes on church history, some for children and some of adults along with a fair few more books about later times in church history but when it comes to talking about Basil of Caesarea who was one of the Cappadocian Father then I didn't even need postage stamp for my knowledge. So, I jumped at the chance to review Marvin Jones' new book, Basil of Caesarea.

This book is a part of a new series on the Church Fathers published by Christian Focus and edited by Michael Haykin.

The book has seven chapters:

  1. Basil's Life
  2. Conversion and theology
  3. Solace in the desert
  4. Development of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit
  5. Basil's contribution to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit
  6. Basil's Hexameron
  7. Basil speaks today
Basil lived in Caesarea, in what we would now call Turkey. He lived in late Roman times soon after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. The major doctrinal threat to the Church, in his day, was that of Arianism. The Arians didn't believe that Jesus is God. The Council of Nicea combated this teaching but the Arians didn't go away. What the book calls "second wave" Arianism also challenged the Godhead of the Holy Spirit. 
One of Basil's major contributions was to examine the texts about the Holy Spirit in the Bible and write about the Holy Spirit as part of the Godhead.

Basil had a major emphasis on holiness and working this out in a Scriptural way. This meant that he rejected the hermit life. He believed that Christians should be separate from worldliness and should live in community. Basil's interpretation of this was not that believers should live in families but instead, he founded several monasteries for which he wrote manuals. These manuals were based on Scripture. I found this part of Basil's life fascinating but would have liked more engagement and discussion around this subject.

In the Hexameron, a series of sermons on creation his stand for a literal interpretation of Genesis one sounds surprisingly modern. 

What did I think about the book?
  • I certainly now have more knowledge on the subject of Basil and his contribution to theology and church life. 
  • Sadly, the book is clearly mainly written for pastors and sometimes just addresses them. I can't see any reason why learning about Basil's life might not be beneficial for others.
  • There are a fair number of theological terms. These are often explained in a grey box on the page which I found helpful but a glossary would be really helpful as would an index, particularly, in view of the number of characters.
  • Each chapter is carefully referenced.
  • In terms of why I wanted to read the book it was a success. I know more about Basil and a little more about the other Cappadocian Fathers. The next challenge, for me, is to take this information and make it accessible to children.
Basil of Caesarea can be purchased from Christian Focus at £7.99. It is also available on Amazon both as a paperback and in Kindle format.

I received an e-book of Basil of Caesarea in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own.

This is linked to Saturday Review of Books on Semicolon.
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1 comment:

  1. Sarah,

    Thank you for participating in the Basil of Caesarea Blog Tour.

    In Christ Alone,

    Dave Jenkins
    Book Promotions Specialist, Cross Focused Reviews