Review: Marvin Jones’ Basil of Caesarea: His Life And Impact

The Church currently finds herself at an important juncture in her history. The culture no longer is as favorable as it once was to Christianity. Christianity is no longer an assumed at least as it once was. At the same time, there are warring among Christians. I’ve been saddened that we do not argue well—as brothers and sisters. Partly, I believe this occurs because in American many are unfamiliar or even suspicious of the early church—her doctrine, the fathers, and the times. Micahel A. G. Haykin asks some poignant questions in the introduction: “But what say we of the fathers . . . ? What shall we think of them, or what account may we make of them?” (Kindle Location 94).

We must answer these questions and we must answer them well. We must know the difference between orthodoxy, heresy, and heterodoxy. This series may well be a help in understanding these categories. They are books that explore the life and theology of important early church fathers. Books that are readable and understandable. But that also introduce Christians to important figures and places them within their cultural, doctrinal, and historical context.

Basil of Caesarea does all of the above. Strictly speaking its not a straightforward biography, there’s quite a bit of space spent fleshing out the context of Basil’s life and his theological growth. This is seen in the chapters setting the context of the councils and also the theology of major players like Athanasius of Alexandria, as one example.  So expect almost equal time biography and historical theology for the Church during this entire period. Marvin Jones does an excellent job of tying these threads back into the fabric of Basil of Caesarea’s life. These threads of his life create a beautiful picture of the Trinity—as Basil matures in his faith and describes the doctrine of the Trinity with more precision, closing with a full picture of the divinity of the Holy Spirit in On the Holy Spirit.

I found the discussion of Hexaemeron (nine sermons on Genesis) an anachronistic. After discussing all the previous theological topics in their historical and theological contexts, Jones states “at the risk of being anachronistic” (KL 2581) then proceeds to argue that Basil indirectly argued for a young earth and against the theory of evolution. I’m not advocating for/against either position, but I just found the section odd within the larger scope of the careful historical and theological work Jones achieves.

All that being said. You’ll want to pick up Basil of Caesarea: His Life and Impact due to Basil’s clear and definitive doctrine of Trinity—especially demonstrated in his On the Holy Spirit. And for Jones’ approachable and informative writing on Basil of Caesarea.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. 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.”

Mathew B. Sims is the author of A Household Gospel: Fulfilling the Great Commission in Our Homes and writes for CBMW Manual, Gospel-Centered Discipleship, Borrowed Light, and other publications. He also works as the managing editor at Gospel-Centered Discipleship and offers freelance editing and book formatting services. He is covenant member at Downtown Presbyterian Church in Greenville, SC.