What Can We Learn from Clement?


I’m in Colorado this summer, taking classes at the lay seminary the organization I work for hosts every other summer.

One of my text books is Church History in Plain Language by Bruce L. Shelley. I read a fascinating passage in the book about Clement of Alexandria, who is known as “the first Christian scholar.” 

I’d really love for you to read it too, and interact with me over it! (I’ve got questions below…)

“[Clement] tried to blend into Christianity all that was best in the culture of the Hellenic world, especially in the Platonic and Stoic philosophers…The picture we get is a teacher of the Christian philosophy who is driven by a missionary eagerness to bring other lovers of wisdom to the truth of Jesus Christ…

He was versed not only in the Holy Scriptures but also in the knowledge of his time, including Greek philosophy and classical literature. He understood the questions and problems of the young people…

He had to enter their world, disentangle their [mis]conceptions, and lead them slowly from error to the true knowledge of Christianity. He lived and taught like a philosopher and used the forms and the language of the Gnostics of his time…

Clement’s purpose was clear. He seized not only the external garb and forms of expression of the contemporary pagan philosophers but also their problems…His purpose wasn’t purely or even primarily theological, but pastoral. He aimed to win not arguments, but men to Christ, and lead them to salvation…

Clement argued that [philosophy] was preparation for Christianity. ‘Before the advent of Christianity,’ he says in the opening chapter of his Miscellanies, ‘philosophy was needful to the Greeks for righteousness…Philosophy was a schoolmaster to the Greeks, as the law was to the Hebrews, preparing the way for those who are perfected by Christ.’”

What do you think of Clement’s ideas?

What is “best” in the culture in which you live or serve? Can it be blended into Christianity?

What do you love in the culture in which you live or serve? How can we “bring fellow lovers of [X] to the truth of Jesus Christ?”

Do we understand “the questions and problems of our young people?”

Are we willing to “enter the world around us” and do the “slow work” of leading others from error to truth?

Do we aim to win arguments, or win men and women to Christ?

What are the “external garb and forms of expression” of the culture in which we live or serve?

Clement argued that “philosophy was a schoolmaster to the Greeks as the law was to the Hebrews.” (See Galatians 3:23-25) What is the “schoolmaster” of the culture in which you live or serve?

2 thoughts on “What Can We Learn from Clement?

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