A quick lesson in effective communication from Basil the Great

A quick lesson in effective communication from Basil the Great December 22, 2013

Remember that time you confused Hemingway with Basil the Great? I was reading something by St. Basil the other day and was amused by the overlap.

Basil the Great effectively communicating with and Prince Vasili III

“[T]he excellence proper to discourse is neither to hide the things signified in obscurity,” said Basil, “nor to be redundant and empty, turning in all directions while overflowing randomly.”

Clarity and economy. The thought reminded me of Hemingway’s comment on writing as architecture.

In his day, Basil was a popular writer and rhetorician, schooled in literature and practiced in public reading and homiletics. His editorial sentiment here is one born of loads of practice and worth heeding:

Know your point and get to it quickly.

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  • Susie Tiemeyer

    Newly elected politicians should take a course in Basil the Great 101.

    • Joel J. Miller

      Totally agree.

  • Joel,

    Please indulge an off-topic question about Eastern Orthodoxy (I couldn’t find a more appropriate place on your blog to ask it.)

    We know that the Great Schism occurred in the 11th Century. We also know that the Protestant Reformation was a separation from the Western Church (i.e. the Roman Catholic Church) in the 16th Century driven largely by a focus on sola scriptura/fide. Is there an analog to the Protestant Reformation in the Eastern Church? If so, please describe enough of it to me that I can research it. If not, what has been Eastern Orthodoxy’s historic stance toward Protestantism vis-a-vis its stance toward Roman Catholocism?

    • Joel J. Miller

      There has not been an analog to the Protestant Reformation in the East. One reason is that the abuses of Roman Catholic Church (e.g., selling indulgences, the doctrine of purgatory) have no analog in the East.

      The general take of the East on the Reformation is that it compounded the problems in the Western church, though certain reformers have been well regarded by the Orthodox Church (e.g., Jan Hus).

      The East does not affirm sola scriptura or accept the desacramentalism and iconoclasm of the Reformation, though the Orthodox generally (in my experience) want to seek common ground where available.

      The Orthodox have participated heavily in ecumenical activities and look for opportunities to work together.

      • Thanks. Very helpful.

        Quick follow-up: I take it that what you have expressed in non-controversial? That is, is this, generally speaking, the same answer I’d receive from practically any person knowledgeable about Eastern Orthodoxy and its history?

        • Joel J. Miller

          Correct, noncontroversial.