Friday, September 27, 2013

Healing before learning - The Instructor

This is a continuation of my series on Clement of Alexandria and his book, "The Instructor." If you are new to this series or are unfamiliar with Clement and his book, you may want to first read the introduction to this series.
"The Instructor being practical, not theoretical, His aim is thus to improve the soul, not to teach, and to train it up to a virtuous, not to an intellectual life. Although this same word is didactic, but not in the present instance." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 1)
There are two main purposes of those who minister the Word of God, one is to instruct and the other to teach. The Instructor aims at the salvation of the soul while the teacher at the salvation of the mind. One seeks to improve a mans character and nature while the other his reason and perspective. Both are necessary for the full-grown man and women of God, however, each in its own order.
"For the word which, in matters of doctrine, explains and reveals, is that whose province it is to teach. But our Educator being practical, first exhorts to the attainment of right dispositions and character, and then persuades us to the energetic practice of our duties, enjoining on us pure commandments, and exhibiting to such as come after representations of those who formerly wandered in error. Both are of the highest utility,—that which assumes the form of counselling to obedience, and that which is presented in the form of example" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 1)
Clement identifies the basic tools of our instructor. They are exhortations, persuasion, commandments, and examples. Our instructor first exhorts us to leave behind our old life for a new life in Christ. Then he persuades us to continue in the way that we might receive the fullness of what our new life has to offer. Further he adds his "pure" commands to further shape our lives, such as, love one another, don't lie but speak the truth in love, and don't steal but be ready to give. Finally, he uses examples of those who have lived well along with examples of those who have not. These examples allow us to see, in the lives of real people, the truth of what our instructor is saying. We see the rewards of those who have followed the instructor and the pains of those who have not.
"There is a wide difference between health and knowledge; for the latter is produced by learning, the former by healing. One, who is ill, will not therefore learn any branch of instruction till he is quite well. For neither to learners nor to the sick is each injunction invariably expressed similarly; but to the former in such a way as to lead to knowledge, and to the latter to health. As, then, for those of us who are diseased in body a physician is required, so also those who are diseased in soul require a pædagogue to cure our maladies; and then a teacher, to train and guide the soul to all requisite knowledge when it is made able to admit the revelation of the Word. Eagerly desiring, then, to perfect us by a gradation conducive to salvation, suited for efficacious discipline, a beautiful arrangement is observed by the allbenignant Word, who first exhorts, then trains, and finally teaches." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 1)
Each in its own time. When someone is sick, they do not turn to the study of medicine to learn about their disease, rather they turn to a physician to be healed of their sickness, then, if they so chose, they are free to study what ever branch of medicine they might be interested in. Clement reminds us that there is an order to the ministry of the word in our lives, first to heal then to teach. If we have not learned to live godly lives then how will we be able to understand spiritual mysteries? Unfortunately, in many of our churches, we have become very good at teaching people but poor at healing them. We have churches full of people who understand every minutia of eschatology but do not know how to deal with anger in their lives. In many ways we have go it all backwards. There is an order to our growth in Christ: first exhortation, then training, and finally teaching, or, to put it another way, healing before learning.

David Robison

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