Sunday, September 29, 2013

The all-sufficient physician - 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.
"Our Instructor, the Word, therefore cures the unnatural passions of the soul by means of exhortations. For with the highest propriety the help of bodily diseases is called the healing art—an art acquired by human skill. But the paternal Word is the only P├Žonian physician of human infirmities, and the holy charmer of the sick soul... the good Instructor, the Wisdom, the Word of the Father, who made man, cares for the whole nature of His creature; the all-sufficient Physician of humanity, the Saviour, heals both body and soul.... Further, He heals the soul itself by precepts and gifts—by precepts indeed, in course of time, but being liberal in His gifts, He says to us sinners, 'Thy sins be forgiven thee.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 2)
There were plenty of physicians in Clement's day who could treat the miladies of the body, and some philosophers who claimed wisdom to enlighten the soul. but our physician is superior to them all in that He can heal both the soul and the body; He is our all-sufficient physician. Clement firmly believed that Jesus was still in the healing business, caring for the body through healing and miracles. However, he also believed that Jesus also cared for our souls, desiring to heal our inner-man that we might be in complete health, both the body and soul.

It is interesting in how Clement describes the inward healing of Jesus. He describes it as being through the agency of exhortations, precepts  and gifts. He describes Jesus as the "holy charmer" of the sick soul. This stands in stark contrast to how we sometimes imagine God. Sometimes we are like the servant who was afraid of his master, assuming him to be hard, austere, and exacting. Sometimes we perceive God as one driving us on to sinlessness as one would drive cattle or sheep before him. However, Clement reminds us that our Instructor is gentle, not driving us but prompting and cajoling us forward into sinlessness. Our instructor charms our soul with both precepts, enlightening our soul, and gifts, freeing our soul, for the gifts He has to offer are gifts of forgiveness.
"We, however, as soon as He conceived the thought, became His children, having had assigned us the best and most secure rank by His orderly arrangement, which first circles about the world, the heavens, and the sun’s circuits, and occupies itself with the motions of the rest of the stars for man’s behoof, and then busies itself with man himself, on whom all its care is concentrated; and regarding him as its greatest work, regulated his soul by wisdom and temperance, and tempered the body with beauty and proportion. And whatever in human actions is right and regular, is the result of the inspiration of its rectitude and order." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 2)
We are the most prized of all His creation; those at the center of His care. All the rest of creation God spoke into existence, but of man Clement of Rome wrote, "Above all, with His holy and undefiled hands He formed man, the most excellent [of His creatures], and truly great through the understanding given him— the express likeness of His own image." (Clement of Rome, Letter to the Corinthian Church, Chapter 33) Of His own undefiled hands He formed us and of His own breath He gave us life. We are not insignificant to Him, we are not some random accident of nature that God decided to take pity on, He made us that He might love us, and in making us, He made us well. Clement comments on the two-part aspects of our nature. The outer-man that is made appropriate for our environment by the gifts of beauty and proportion, and the inner-man that is made like unto God with wisdom and temperance. In all this He created us that we might be good, but not a goodness that flowed from our own faculties, but rather that all that is good and right within us should be seen to be the reflection of all that is good and right in God. Our nature and the conversation of our lives should be a reflection of all that is God is, that we might be His image and His likeness.

David Robison

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