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The Guest of God


Basil of Caesarea (ca. 329–379) was one of three* fourth century theologians from the province of Cappadocia in Asia Minor. They are known as the Cappadocian Fathers. Basil, like Athanasius, was compelled to counter the continuing influence of Arianism.† He also faced a new heretic, Eustathius, leader of the Pneumatomachians, who, in addition to his denial of the deity of Christ, claimed that the Holy Spirit was also a created being.‡ In those days, these conflicts were not merely debates among theologians; a faithful pastor might have to put his life on the line to stand for truth. Basil was willing.

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The reigning emperor in the East was Valens, who supported Arianism. When Valens announced that he would visit Caesarea, it was understood that the emperor would use this appearance to promote the heretical teachings of Arius. Imperial officers arrived beforehand to prepare for Valens’s visit by seeking to influence Basil through imperial promises and threats.

But unlike other bishops, Basil could not be controlled by such tactics. A heated exchange ensued, with the praetorian prefect threatening Basil. But Basil replied: “Nothing more! Not one of these things touches me. His property cannot be forfeited, who has none; banishment I know not, for I am restricted to no place, and am the guest of God, to whom the whole earth belongs; for martyrdom I am unfit, but death is a benefactor to me, for it sends me more quickly to God, to whom I live and move; I am also in great part already dead, and have been for a long time hastening to the grave.” The prefect was taken aback. No one had ever spoken to him like this, he declared. Basil answered, “Perhaps that is because you have never met a true bishop.”

—Steven J. Lawson, Pillars of Grace (Reformation Trust, 2011), 168.

* Also Gregory of Nazianzus (330–389) and Gregory of Nyssa (Basil’s brother, ca. 336–after 394).

† Find Phil Johnson’s lectures on Arianism (and other heresies) here.

‡ See The Book of St. Basil on the Holy Spirit in Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Series II, 8:2.



Posted 2018·08·28 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Arianism · Basil of Caesarea · Church History · Early Church Fathers · Pillars of Grace · Steve Lawson

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