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Number of Pages: 175
Vendor: Christian Focus Publications
Series: Early Church Fathers
Monks & Mystics: Chronicles of the Medieval Church: History Lives: Volume 2Mindy Withrow, Brandon WithrowChristian Focus Publications / 2005 / Trade Paperback$6.89 Retail:4.5 Stars Out Of 5 2 Reviews
$9.99Save 31% ($3.10)
Basil of Caesarea (329-379 AD) was a Greek Bishop in what is now Turkey. A thoughtful theologian, he was instrumental in the formation of the Nicene Creed. He fought a growing heresy, Arianism, that had found converts, including those in high positions of state. In the face of such a threat he showed courage, wisdom and complete confidence in God that we would do well to emulate today.
About Early Church Fathers: this series relates the magnificent impact that these fathers of the early church made for our world today. They encountered challenges similar to ones that we face in our postmodern world, and they met them with extraordinary values that will encourage and inspire us today.
All of the makings of an important story that Evangelicals need to hear... Dr. Jones has done... Evangelicals a great favor in writing this lucid account.
Introduces us not just to the subtlety and real acuity of Basil's thought but to a man of great warmth and affection... challenges us as well as instructs us.
Abounding with pastoral wisdom and with the discussion of theological themes important to any era... an insightful study in human nature and how men of God respond to the shifting sands of the theological and ecclesiastical landscape.... a critical but sympathetic assessment of a remarkable pilgrim on life's journey.
I am thankful for Marvin Jones and this new work.
Encounter(s) Basil as a lover of the Triune God and His church.
Jones through this work traces the theologians and theological issues leading up to Basil's day, providing a rich background for the settings which framed his thought. The work is richly researched and documented. Sidebars are provided to define key theological terms or movements. Basil of Caesarea provides an excellent introduction to the thought of Basil the Great. Highly recommended for theologians and pastor theologians.
Bob HaytonSt. Paul, MNAge: 25-34Gender: male4 Stars Out Of 5Helpful intro to an influential church fatherJuly 3, 2014Bob HaytonSt. Paul, MNAge: 25-34Gender: maleQuality: 4Value: 5Meets Expectations: 5If you grew up in American evangelicalism, like I did, your grasp of church history, especially of the church fathers, may be relatively weak. Like a good fundamentalist, I grew up knowing all about D.L. Moody, George Whitfield, and Billy Sunday. I also had heard of Martin Luther and John Calvin, although I had more suspicion of them. But the church fathers were Roman Catholics from who knows when, and they didn't have anything to teach me.
This idea, mind you, was "caught," not "taught." Church history has much to teach us, and the church fathers wouldn't so easily fit into the mold of Catholicism as we know it. The early church fathers, especially, are worthy of study, and to them we owe thanks for an orthodox understanding and articulation of such important doctrines as the deity of Christ, the Trinity, and the deity of the Holy Spirit.
Basil of Caesarea (329-379 AD), a Greek-speaking Bishop in what is now Turkey, was so important a figure in the fight for biblical orthodoxy, that he is remembered as Basil the Great. He may be the most significant church father that most people haven't heard of. Athanasius gets more notoriety for defending the Trinity contra mundum (against the world), but Basil was right there with him. Basil's writings against the Arians, and his work On the Holy Spirit, helped to provide the church with some of the terminology that would eventually make up the orthodox definition of the Trinity: "one essence, but three persons."
Marvin Jones provides a useful introduction to Basil's life and thought in Basil of Caesarea: His Life and Impact. The book is short and accessible and aims to allow Basil to influence the modern Evangelical church. Due to a collection of 350 letters of Basil to his impressive family (his father, sister and brother are all considered saints by the Eastern Orthodox Church) and others, we know more about Basil than any other Christian of the ancient church with the exception of Augustine of Hippo. Basil wrote on a variety of topics too. He aimed at reforming the liturgy or worship of his church, he appreciated but also critiqued monasticism, writing a helpful book with rules geared toward reforming the movement. He interacted with several key figures of the day and became more and more orthodox in his understanding of the Trinity over the course of his ministry. He even left us two series of sermons, one of which is one of the earliest known literal interpretations of the book of Genesis, including a defense of literal 24-hour days in Genesis 1.
This excerpt focuses on Basil's capable defense of the deity of Jesus Christ.
"Basil reviewed [his opponents'] rationale by stating, 'They say that the Son is not equal to the Father, but comes after the Father. Therefore it follows that glory should be ascribed to the Father through Him, but not with Him. With Him expresses equality but through Him indicates subordination.'
"Basil refuted this concept with a discussion on the word after. Basil asked, 'In what way do they say that the Son is after the Father? Is He later in time, or in rank, or in dignity?' The issue is that one cannot conceive of the Father without the Son as if there was an interval in their relationship or existence. He quoted John 1:1 and focused upon the word was as settling the issue of the Son's eternality. Basil stated, 'No matter how far your thoughts travel backward, you cannot get beyond the was. No matter how hard you strain to see what is beyond the Son, you will find it impossible to pass outside the confines of the beginning. Therefore, true religion teaches us to think of the Son with the Father.'" (Kindle location 2106-2112)
This book does what it aims to do: it introduces the reader to Basil and the theological debates of his era. In reading some of Basil's arguments and by considering the doctrines debated, I am impressed by his forceful and clear grasp of the significance of the doctrine of God, and his recognition of the key place that Scripture, over and above tradition, holds. His literal approach to Genesis and his reformer's approach to monasticism should make studying important and relevant for today's church.
This book and others in the "Early Church Fathers" series, would make for a great supplement to a homeschool or Christian school curriculum. Many parents, like me, should also read up on this forgotten father. I highly recommend this brief work, and hope that Basil's passion for the truth will continue to bless the wider church, now and always.
This book was provided by Christian Focus via the CrossFocusedReviews.com. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.
Coleman M FordLouisville, KYAge: 25-34Gender: male4 Stars Out Of 5An Evangelical Introduction to Basil of CaesareaJune 13, 2014Coleman M FordLouisville, KYAge: 25-34Gender: maleQuality: 5Value: 5Meets Expectations: 4What value does the early church hold for evangelicals today? How can the life and work of the early church fathers inform our theology today? The Early Christian Fathers series by Christian Focus Publications hopes to fill this gap by connecting ancient Christianity to evangelicals today. The latest offering highlights the life and theological contribution of Basil of Caesarea. Marvin Jones, Assistant Professor of Church History and Theology at Louisiana College, gives us an accessible introduction to this pivotal fourth century church father. Basil's contribution has remained in obscurity for evangelicals and Jones does well to remove him from the woodwork. Leaning on key primary and secondary works, Jones filters academic content in order to provide a succinct apologetic for why evangelicals today need to know Basil.
Recognizing the underlying threat of Arianism, Jones does well to focus much attention on this as the background for so much theological work in the fourth century. Orthodox Christianity was at stake. Jones notes, "Arius introduced a half-god, half-man, so that, through Arius' [sic] preaching, the Christian church was worshipping a demigod" (Loc. 247-248). The theological echo of Arius resounded throughout the fourth century. Jones promotes this as one of the factors in the rise of monasticism. Jones asserts, "[S]ince Arianism had engulfed the teaching of the church, the viable response was to separate from the unorthodox teaching, retreat to a place for solitude, and engage the Lord in order to conduct a ministry to the church" (Loc. 584-585). Certainly other factors influenced the rise of monastacism, but Jones helps readers make yet another connection, especially as it intersects with the life of Basil.
Jones also highlights the theological journey of Basil. He observes, "Against Eunomius revealed Basil as a `budding theologian' beginning to emerge as a theological force within the fourth-century ecclesiastical debates" (Loc. 720-721). Jones helps us understand the trinitarian heritage afforded to us by Basil. One of the greatest contributions in this text is highlighting Basil's pastoral theology and practice. Basil shined a light on Christ in both in preaching and outreach. Jones notes, "Although Basil was practical in his preaching, he did not neglect the sole purpose of preaching (i.e., the gospel message)" (Loc. 990-991). Also, "Thus, his passion for the pulpit included the spiritual development of the body of Christ" (Loc. 996-997). Basil's spirituality included a focus on liturgy in forming the believer around doctrine and doxology "imbedded with the truth of God" (Loc. 1026-1028). Evangelicals would do well to consider this aspect of Basil's pastoral theology and practice!
Though the content is refreshing and helpful, Jones's writing style is a tad sluggish. In quoting sources, Jones oddly uses the past tense ("stated", "noted", etc.). This tends to stunt the narrative and hurt the flow of the overall text. Additionally, the text seems to lack a coherent connection. Though the topic is clear, the narrative could have been more taut in order to aid in reader engagement. As single chapters, they stand well on their own but the arc of the text feels inhibited. Jones's first chapter on Basil's life ends rather abruptly with the death of Gregory of Nyssa. Jones's chapter on conversion and theology ends with an exhortation which seems more appropriate as a conclusion to the entire text. Each chapter generally feels like individual treatises rather than pieces which grow organically into a complete narrative. Jones would also do well to refer to more contemporary introductory church history texts. While Philip Schaff is generally helpful, the age of the text shows and demands that researchers look towards more recent church history introductions.
As an introductory text on Basil, Marvin Jones has certainly helped the church here. He introduces the life and theology of this fourth-century pastor and theologian in a way evangelicals should appreciate. Despite some of the literary idiosyncrasies, this book is worth owning for the quality of content and the strong evangelical appeal. Readers of all sorts will learn something from this book. Other recent offerings might probe deeper into the theological nuances of Basil (see Hildebrand for instance), but Jones finds a sweet spot by handing readers an approachable text in order to learn from this wise sage of the fourth-century church.
Thanks for Christian Focus for providing a free review copy in exchange for an honest review!
GazpachoClare, MIAge: 55-65Gender: female5 Stars Out Of 5Excellent resource for lovers of Christian historyJune 11, 2014GazpachoClare, MIAge: 55-65Gender: femaleQuality: 5Value: 5Meets Expectations: 5"[Basil's] sermons were Christ-centered. The homilies depicted a systematic theologian striving to proclaim the truth of Christ from the Old Testament and the New Testament. His concept of spirituality developed the body of believers, centered upon the Holy Spirit, revealing the truth of Christ to the congregant. He innovated to bring the truth of God's Word to the people of God so that the doxology [the way of worship] was theologically orthodox."
There is a good reason why a book like "Basil of Caesarea" is important to individual believers in the Lord Jesus Christ today. Simply put, what we believe about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit affects how we live from day to day. Most Christians today believe in the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. But we don't always look deeply enough to understand exactly what we believe about it. The task of the early church fathers was to make sense of God's nature, of the one who is not like anything or anyone on earth, and impart the knowledge to people living in a pagan world. Complications and barriers to understanding His nature was due to finite mental limitations trying to comprehend an infinite Being. Thus, the church in its early days struggled to find adequate language to contemplate and explain Him.
This book covers the background history of the early church's beliefs of the Godhead and how Basil helped refine these beliefs to the establishment of the foundation which would remain firmly orthodox to this day. The first part of the book follows Basil's life as he moved through the stages of maturity as pastor, a leader within the church, and eventually as wise theologian and prolific writer. There are over 300 letters and works available for study and cross reference with other church leaders of the time. These tomes aided the author in painting a vivid image of the spiritual struggles in the fourth century. I found all this fascinating reading since my own knowledge of this era is like Swiss Cheese--it is full of holes.
Producing precise language that dealt with the issues left unanswered by the Nicean counsel, that was closest to Scriptural truth as possible while unifying the factions splitting the church took a great deal of time and intellect. Basil, according to this author's assessment, was adequate to the task so that by the end of the fourth century the orthodox viewpoint was established and all the forms of Arianism were finally proven to be non-Scriptural.
While most of the content of this book relates the history of Basil's life and impact on the church as a whole, the author does take time to explain in each chapter how this knowledge could be valuable for the modern day Christian--in particular, evangelicals.
I appreciate the author's hard work collecting sources that are not readily available to most of us, to write with acuity the political and religious climate of the era and explain succinctly Basil's role in clarifying the Scripture's position of each member of the Trinity. All of this is accomplished in a short book whereas all the information could have filled several textbooks. I believe the author's purpose is to make this information widely available to the modern reader. If so, he has accomplished this goal. Some of the holes in my Swiss Cheese knowledge of Christian history has been filled in; my perception of early church struggles has been enhanced. I highly recommend this volume as a valuable reference source.
My one caveat is to warn the reader to be prepared for some tough vocabulary. I would recommend a good dictionary and/or the Internet to gain greater historical context. However, the benefits of learning and understanding the lives of pivotal church leaders of the past reminds me of a quote I heard from a movie recently--that in order to know where we are going, we must first know where we have been.
About the Author: Dr. Marvin Jones is the Assistant Professor of Church History and Theology, Louisiana College, Pineville, Louisiana, and the Chairman of the Christian Studies Department.
About the series editor: Michael Haykin is Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Cross Focused Reviews (A Service of Cross Focused Media, LLC)on behalf of Christian Focus Publication. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
David ShawTecumseh, OK4 Stars Out Of 5June 10, 2014David ShawTecumseh, OKQuality: 4Value: 4Meets Expectations: 3I enjoy learning about the early church, her beliefs and those who were instrumental formulating her doctrine and practices. Marvin Jones has written a book about one such person, Basil of Caesarea. Basil was a key figure in helping us understand Scriptural truths like the Trinity (individually and separately), creation, and others. He was engaged in many debates that led to a true understanding of these truths and yet did so in a Godly way. Jones also gives us the history of how Basil came to know Christ, how he lived a simple life and that without applying deep thought to Scripture we are missing out on so much God has for us. Jones also gives us a history lesson on the key figures that were for or against the position Basil held. He writes in a way that takes us back to that time and place and in a way that we all will understand. I appreciate all of that about this book.
My only issue with it is that in the first half of the book you read more about others than Basil. The last half is focused almost solely on his life and theology. While it is important to know all of the central figures and teachings I wished more time had been spent on Basil.
With that said please don't misunderstand the joy this book gave me. I will turn to it when I am teaching on those issues Basil had to deal with in his life and ministry.
Disclaimer- I received this book for free from Christian Focus through CrossFocused Reviews for this review. All that was required of me is that I review it, positively or negatively, on my site.