LISTEN: The Great Cappadocians, Part 3: Basil the Great (The History of Christianity Podcast #135)

This is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, with the History of Christianity Podcast #135, titled, “The Great Cappadocians [KAP-PUH-DO-SHNZ] (Part 3): Basil the Great.”

Our Scripture for today is Psalm 18:30 which reads: “As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from John Woodbridge and Frank James III, who wrote in their Church History book: “The history of the church reminds us that Christians can be culprits of foolishness as well as bold titans for truth. They can be egoistic and self-serving; they can be humble and generous. A single individual can embody conflicting traits. We may find it disconcerting to discover that our heroes are sometimes flawed. [But] God works through sinners to accomplish his good purposes.”

Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “The Great Cappadocians [KAP-PUH-DO-SHNZ] (Part 3): Basil the Great” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).

Years earlier, Basil had returned from Egypt, Palestine, and other lands where he had gone to study the monastic life, and had settled near Annesi. He and his friend Gregory of Nazianzus [NA-ZEE-AN-ZUS] founded a community for men similar to the one Macrina [MA-KRI-NUH] had created for women. He believed that community life was essential, for one who lives alone has no one to serve, and the core of monastic life is service to others. He himself made it a point to undertake the most disagreeable tasks in the community. He also wrote rules to be followed in the monastic life. Since all the legislation in the Greek church regarding monastic life is based on the teachings of Basil, he is usually regarded as the father of Eastern monasticism.

But Basil had lived as a monk for little more than six years when he was ordained a presbyter against his will. He soon had conflicts with the bishop of Caesarea, and rather than creating greater difficulties decided to return to his monastic community. He remained there until Valens became emperor. Since the new emperor was Arian, the bishop of Caesarea decided to set aside his differences with Basil and call on the holy monk to assist him in the struggle against Arianism. 

When Basil arrived at Caesarea, conditions were very difficult. Bad weather had destroyed the crops, and the rich were hoarding food. Basil preached against such practices, and sold all his properties in order to feed the poor. If all would take only what they needed, he said, and give the rest to others, there would be neither rich nor poor. He wrote, “If one who takes the clothing off another is called a thief, why give any other name to one who can clothe the naked and refuses to do so? The bread that you withhold belongs to the poor; the cape that you hide in your chest belongs to the naked; the shoes rotting in your house belong to those who must go unshod.”

Basil joined these claims with action. On the outskirts of Caesarea, he created what his friend Gregory of Nazianzus [NA-ZEE-AN-ZUS] would call “a new city.” There the hungry were fed, the ill cared for, and the unemployed given employment. For the support of this new city—which was called Basiliad [BA-SIL-EE-AD]—Basil collected resources from the well-to-do, telling them that this was their opportunity to invest their resources in a treasure in heaven, beyond the reach of thieves and moths. 

Next time, we will continue looking at “The Great Cappadocians [KAP-PUH-DO-SHNZ] (Part 4): Basil the Great.”

Let’s pray.

—PRAYER—

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.