Philosophical Arguments and Christian Worship in St. Basil’s Debate with Eunomius

  • Gheorghe Ovidiu Sferlea
Part of the Pathways for Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue book series (PEID)


When St. Basil the Great entered the controversy with Eunomius, the political and theological context was not very friendly for the defenders of the Nicene definition of faith, to say the least. After Constantine’s death, the ideological consensus reached and maintained with such difficulties during his lifetime began to unravel rapidly. A significant and growing number of Eastern bishops were searching for an alternative expression of faith to that adopted in Nicaea. Of course, these bishops were careful to reject Arius’s patronage and ideas as extremist, but they also showed an even more resolute aversion toward the Nicene Creed, in which they claimed to detect a subtle form of modalism. Behind the text of the “318 Fathers,” their contention went, loomed the specter of Marcellus of Ancyra, reportedly holding, through an original interpretation of homoousion, that between the Father and the Son, the identity is not only generical but also numerical. “A new Sabellius” in the Nicene Creed, this was the rhetorical strategy by which many Easterners were seeking to discredit the definition of 325 and its ever fewer defenders. Yet, instead of making genuine efforts to bring more theological clarity to the controversial homoousion, as Athanasius was to do, these bishops were in fact eager to replace the Nicene Creed altogether with confessions of faith that were at best ambiguous in form and, in fact, more often subordinationist in their theological orientation.


Philosophical Argument Grand Rapid Christian Theology Rhetorical Strategy Divine Simplicity 
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© Gheorghe Ovidiu Sferlea 2016

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