On the Holy Spirit (Basil the Great)

Discussion in 'Book Reviews' started by BayouHuguenot, Dec 17, 2018.

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  1. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I am taking this from the Schaff edition, not the St Vladimir's edition. The latter is no doubt fine in terms of editing and scholarship, but I own the Schaff edition.

    Basil was responding to later, hardened forms of Arianism.

    The Neo-Aetian challenge on prepositions:


    Basil said ‘Glory be to the Father with the Son together with the Holy Spirit’ (instead of the usual formula: ‘Glory be to the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit’). Did Basil’s use of different prepositions suggest different natures?

    The Hellenistic mindset, especially in its hardened Arian form, said that a given style of language indicates a specific metaphysical reality. As Basil used different prepositions, he must have meant different natures. Therefore,

    Of whom = Creator

    Through whom = Demiurge (think the god of Freemasony)

    In whom = Holy Spirit in Place and Time.

    Basil has several lines of response:

    a) The different prepositions indicate not different natures, but Economy and Theology. Basil also says that the Aetian construction derives from heathen (read: Hellenistic) sources (III.6).

    b) second refutation: The different prepositions indicate distinct hypostases. Therefore, hypostasis doesn’t mean what later writers would call nature. Again, he has broken with Hellenism. Further, by distinguishing the hypostases, yet maintaining the co-equality, Basil has negated the Hellenic principle that distinction = opposition or declension of nature.

    c) third refutation: St Paul applies different prepositions to the same hypostasis (p.7).

    Key point: Different names represent different energies, not different natures (8.17). Names do not define the essence, but reveal it. Persons who exhibit common operations (energies) share the same essence.

    Simplicity of essence. For Basil it functions like homoousion. It is a theological symbol, not a philosophical construct.

    The numbers used in the Trinity are qualitative, not quantitative. We do not “count” in God, since that implies addition and partition (18.44). “We do not count by way of addition” (45). What does Basil mean by “monarchy?” We speak of a king, and a king’s image, but not two kings. We do not divide the glory. “Honor paid to the image passes to the prototype.”

    Positive Description of the Spirit

    He distributes his energy according to the proportion of faith (9.22). His essence is simple, yet he is impassively divided. Psalm 33.6: “The Lord gives the order, the Word creates, and the Spirit confirms” (16.38).

    Nonfallen angels receive a grace from the Holy Spirit that confirms the perfection of their essence (16.38).

    The Spirit’s operations were present before the ages: “What were his operations before that creation whereof we can conceive” (19.49). Therefore, God’s energies are eternal.

    Hard Sayings of Basil

    “We were regenerate through the grace given to us in baptism” (10.26).
     
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