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Basil the Great: On the Holy Spirit

St. Basil’s refutation of the Arians’ charge against his teaching as innovative initiated his writing On the Holy Spirit. His great work demonstrates the frivolity of their arguments. Without a doubt, the Holy Trinity and the Holy Spirit’s position in the Godhead are one of the distinct tenets of Christianity. A proper discernment of the Holy Spirit is crucial to understanding the Holy Trinity. His relationship with the Father and Son is significant to understanding his position in the Godhead. Therefore, not only is he equated with divine essence (οὐσία), but there is relationship between each person (ὑπόστᾰσις) and ultimately with the spiritual life of humankind.

“[T]he Lord will finish what is left, either though us or through others, according to the knowledge furnished to those who are worthy of him by the Spirit.” – Basil the Great

Finally, St. Basil’s pneumatology contains vital implications for renewal studies. Because of the diminished appreciation for the Sprit’s presence in the life of the church, pneumatology is a comparatively novel topic of discussion in theological circles. Consequently, without recognition of the Spirit’s similar essence in the hypostatic union with the Father and Son (ὁμοούσιος), pneumatology has no divine connection to support its views and credo. Theologically, the exposition of the trinitarian form provides the basis for the renewal experience. Scripture, tradition and reason elucidates the Spirit’s presence and relationship in the Holy Trinity. Indeed, experience in renewal must be established in the concrete understanding of the Holy Spirit’s importance in academic and ecclesiological work. On the Holy Spirit reveals the struggle for the early development of the theologia of the Holy Trinity and specifically, the understanding of the Holy Spirit with this divine mystery. St. Basil stoutly concludes, “for the Lord will finish what is left, either though us or through others, according to the knowledge furnished to those who are worthy of him by the Spirit.”[12] If renewal studies can capture the same conscientious joie de vivre with the person of the Holy Spirit, then future analysis in pneumatology will unveil gems from the past that can illuminate our present and future theological research.

Reviewed by Cletus Hull



[1] St. Basil the Great. Popular Patristics Series. trans. (trans. Stephen Hildebrand. Yonkers, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2011), 30.

[2] Ibid., 30.

[3] Ibid., 92-93.

[4] Ibid., 45.

[5] Ibid., 78.

[6] Ibid., 73.

[7] Ibid., 52-53.

[8] Ibid., 75.

[9] Ibid., 51.

[10] The Spirit-fighters or pneumatomachians, confer decreasing essence to the Holy Spirit, as the Arians granted to the Son. See St. Basil’s scrutiny of their opinions in On the Holy Spirit, 57-58.

[11] Ibid., 112.

[12] Ibid., 122.

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Category: In Depth, Summer 2016

About the Author: Cletus L. Hull, III, M.Div. (Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry), D.Min. (Fuller Theological Seminary), Ph.D. (Regent University), has served as a pastor with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) for 32 years and psychiatric chaplain for 30 years. He teaches courses in New Testament at Biblical Life Institute in Freeport, Pennsylvania. He has researched the growing Disciples of Christ churches in Puerto Rico and has an interest in the significance of the Stone-Campbell churches in American Christianity. His article, "My Church is a Mental Hospital" appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of Healing Line. He is the author of The Wisdom of the Cross and the Power of the Spirit in the Corinthian Church: Grounding Pneumatic Experiences and Renewal Studies in the Cross of Christ (Pickwick, 2018). Twitter: @cletus_hull, Facebook,

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