Monday, September 15, 2008

On Innovative Theologies

St Basil the Great on the turning away from orthodox belief:

Our distresses are notorious … The doctrines of the Fathers are despised; apostolic traditions are set at naught; the devices of innovators are in vogue in the Churches; now men are rather contrivers of cunning systems than theologians; the wisdom of this world wins the highest prizes and has rejected the glory of the Cross. Shepherds are banished, and in their places are introduced grievous wolves harrying the flock of Christ… The elders lament when they compare the present with the past. The younger are yet more to be extended compassion, for they do not know of what they have been deprived.
Letter xc, quoted in The Life of St Basil the Great, The Lives of the Three Hierarchs, Holy Apostles Convent, 1998, p. 59f


Anonymous said...

Funny how trends repeat themselves, no?

We moderns are so advanced... St. Basil must have been referring to something peculiar to his own time - certainly not relevant today!

Thank you for this post. It mreminds me that I'm not imagining things!

Joe said...


Do you know which heresies and innovations St. Basil was specifically referring to? I think that would be really interesting. What the quote does show, clearly, is that the Orthodox Catholic fathers were the traditionalists and conversatives and that the heretics were the innovators. This is counter to the claim that is sometimes made that the heretics were conservatives who didn't like new formulations and the Orthodox were actually the progressives in developing doctrine.

The Byzantine Rambler said...

Dear Joe:

The context of the quote was the seizure of the Cathedral Church of Nicaea by soldiers under orders of Emperor Valens. The Emperor gave over the Church to Arians. St Basil was replying to requests from Orthodox Bishops for him to mediate the dispute and persuade the Emperor to return the Church to the proper hierarchs. He did, indeed, ultimately obtain the Emperor’s permission to mediate, and through a miracle revealing the Will of God the Orthodox hierarchs were reinstated.

You might want to check out The Lives of the Three Hierarchs, a very readable book available from