Saturday, October 03, 2015

Clement Of Alexandria On Christian Intellectual Neglect

"Pagans had to find the treasure which was in Christ. Christians had to explore it, to advance beyond the mediocrity in which they slumbered. Tertullian spoke at this time of 'nostra mediocritas'. Faith must grow into knowledge. Clement showed more sympathy with Gnostic sects than did his contemporaries; at least Gnostics saw the need to move on. His own ideal, the true gnostic or man of knowledge, was within the reach of all believers….his chief concern was to join Athens and Jerusalem….The farmer needs to learn different skills if he wants to cultivate, just as the doctor and hunter need to learn many things if they are to heal or hunt. And so must he who wishes to gain from the scripture and from Christ learn all rational and logical skills. He must go to geometry, music, grammar and philosophy itself and take from them what is useful, in order to defend his faith against those who plot to destroy it. If he does not do this, he is, as Plato says, like the athlete who turns up unprepared for the games (Rep. 3.404ac)….'How can it not be necessary, for him who wishes to lay hold of the power of God, to philosophise and to grasp with comprehension intellectual concepts?' ( He who reads the bible must know how to detect ambiguities and multiple meanings in the biblical text; this is where philosophy helps….There is no doubt that the joining of Athens and Jerusalem in Philo and Clement provided a major element of western culture." (Eric Osborn, Clement Of Alexandria [New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008], 24-5, n. 84 on 25, 63-4, 104)

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