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Spuren der alten Liebe: Studien zum Kirchenbegriff des Basilius von Caesarea.

Basil of Caesarea's ecclesial consciousness rested on antinomies. In practice, if not in theory, he had to seek a compromise between the spiritual and the temporal, the charismatic and the institutional, the religious and the secular, baptismal and monastic commitments, human authority and the sovereign lordship of Christ. Koschorke's study explores the ensuing tensions (Spannungen), following several of his predecessors, notably P. J. Fedwick and B. Gain. Rather than seeking a resolution, Basil's aim was to work out an acceptable compromise between the various poles underpinning Christian existence. On the one hand, according to Basil, the Church by its very nature is already measured by the criterion of her accordance with the love of Christ and the fulfilment of divine commandments. On the other, the Church is confronted with the public perception and the cycles of Christian identity, particularly vis-a-vis the growing power of the monastic movement, which Basil not so much fostered as tried to control in view of the criticisms leveled against it by church authorities, notably the Council of Gangra.

For Basil the mystery of baptism is the foundation not only of Christian life but also of the monastic vocation. To the question whether baptism administered outside the Church is valid, the several canonical letters, especially those addressed to Amphilochios, provide some answers according to the various levels of separation from the mainstream Church. In treating penance, K. highlights the changes from early rigoristic rules to ones in which, on the unspoken (Platonic) supposition that virtue is knowledge, the emphasis is placed on intellectual enlightenment rather than on corporal punishment. Because of K.'s rejection of the authenticity of On Baptism, he says nothing here about discipleship, one of the pivotal terms in Basilian ecclesiology.

The work Moralia provides K. with an outline of Basil's plan to reform the contemporary Church on the basis of scriptural teaching. Here, rather than talking of "Amt," K. could have placed more emphasis on Basil's notion of charisma (Moral Rule 60). This Pauline term plays a fundamental role in Basil; it is at the core of his conception of the Church as the charismatic body of Christ. The balancing of the functions or callings, both in the Church and in the ascetic community, is a challenge and test that Basil himself was exposed to, without always faring too well (see, e.g., his disastrous imposition of episcopal ordination on Gregory of Nazianzus).

In his longest chapter, K. addresses the question of the unity of the Church. He considers the very often shaky relationships of Basil with the see of Rome and whether or not a synodal structure of church government is not a most feasible alternative. The question whether unity is compatible with uniformity is not addressed by K., although Basil provides certain clues toward the resolution of this problem which in subsequent history, especially the Latin Middle Ages, played such a dominant role. Himself of an aristocratic ancestry, Basil did not view his role as a bishop as confined to the Church alone. K. describes his involvement with the state - at that time in the hands of Emperor Valens, whom Basil called the "first Christian persecutor of Christians." K. concludes with the discussion of a Church that is under the constant judgment of God, never allowed to rest on or boast of her achievements, always needing to be watchful and ready to fulfil God's will, "for we know not on what day or at what hour the Lord will come" (Matt 24:42). The task of always conforming oneself to the will of God weighs on all, including those who embrace monasticism. (The fulfilling of the will of a founder other than Christ is as foreign to Basil as it was to be to Stephen Muret).

Without detracting from the quality of this excellent study which shows a profound knowledge of both primary and secondary sources, I would question K.'s adherence to the chronology of the Moralia and its preface "De iudicio Dei" (350s-360s rather than 370s) and his dating of the Council of Gangra (340s rather than 360s), both as proposed by Jean Gribomont. K.'s acceptance of the authenticity of the extant correspondence with Apollinarius of Laodicea and his rejection of the authenticity of the work On Baptism are other issues which readers should not accept without checking the arguments to the contrary.

K.'s is a historical but not an antiquarian study. Hence it provides modern readers with important ideas as to how to go about solving some of the problems confronting the churches today.
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Author:Fedwick, Paul J.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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