Christian Worldview: Understandings from St Basil the Great

  1. Lemma
  2. Christian Worldview: Understandings from St Basil the Great
  3. English
  4. Tampakis, Kostas
  5. Patristic studies - Key thinkers - Cosmology- Anthropic principle
  6. 2013
  7. Costache, Doru [Author]. Christian Worldview: Understandings from St Basil the Great
  8. Cappadocian Legacy: A critical appraisal
  9. Saint Basil the Great - Homilies on the Hexaemeron - Saint Athanasius of Alexandria
    1. This article is a reworked version of the 2010 article of the same name, published in Phronema 2 (5). It explores aspects of St. Basil’s contributions to Christian cosmology. While noting how St. Basil ‘s legacy has been reduced to include only his asceticism, ethics and exegesis, the article instead proposes that Basilian thinking about the cosmos offers solutions to current problems, in a way that bridges scientific and theological worldviews. The article initially discusses St. Basil’s contributions to science and theology, followed by his vision of the cosmos as a theological school. Finally, it presents its vision of the world as a synergistic framework where divine and cosmic energies interact. In the first part of the article, Basilian thought is seen as following the footsteps of early Christian apologists, such as the bishop Theophilus of Antioch. Stemming from pastoral concerns, it is shown that Basilian thought is based on the Genesis creation narrative, without, however, adopting a polemical narrative. While the science it utilizes is now obsolete, the Hexaemeron remains relevant because of its Christian substance. St. Basil’s insistence on the ontological and teleological interconnectivity of human and cosmic realms, the article argues, remains very much valid. In the second part of the article, other important aspects of the Hexaemeron are discussed. A first such contribution is his proof that Christian understanding can creatively intersect with the cultural and cosmological paradigms of each time. This is accomplished by St. Basil being proficient in the sciences of his time and by considering the general scientific knowledge of Late Antiquity as a legitimate description of reality. A second contribution is how St. Basil relentlessly attacked the ideological wrappings in which scientific knowledge was presented to the public. He endeavored to combat the atheistic presuppositions of Late Antiquity philosophical schools, all the whole considering theology and the science of his time as complementary fields of knowledge. The third part of the paper presents the Basilian notion of the world as a teaching-ground, seen as a corollary of the principle that the cosmos was fashioned for us, to facilitate our knowledge of God. In fact, the article proposes that this theme should be seen as the basis of the whole Hexaemeron. St. Basil is seen as drawing from Origen the Alexandrian in order to understand the Genesis accounts as pedagogical parables. Noting the tension between the spiritualizing prologue and the descriptive comments of the homilies, the article concludes that this is an additional indication of the pedagogical orientation of St. Basil’s work. The author then presents the case that St. Basil beckons his reader to emulate Moses and embark on a spiritual journey through the world. This is also seen as a further proof of St. Basil’s reliance on Alexandrian traditions, especially that of St. Athanasius, in which creation is seen as an implicit Scripture. Finally, the third part of the article concludes by discussing other factors that contribute to the Hexaemeron acting as a pedagogical work. These are the refutation of Arianism and Manichean mythology and the decisive rejection and refutation of astrology. The world for St. Basil is an artistic structure, symphonic and harmonious, acting as an epiphany of God’s wisdom and beauty. Finally, the fourth part of the paper deals with St. Basil’s view of nature as interactive and synergistic. For him, the universe cannot survive or evolve without the constant support of the vivifying waves of divine energy. The divine word pervades uninterrupted the entire space-time continuum and the divine oikonomia of the world reaches the fulfillment by means of the Holy Spirit. Noting how close later teachings by St. John Chrysostom are to St. Basil’s thought, the article concludes that St. Basil’s contributions to Christian cosmology are a source of inspiration for the unfolding conversations between scientists and theologians.