Thursday, October 31, 2013

Is God good? - 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.
"At this stage some rise up, saying that the Lord, by reason of the rod, and threatening, and fear, is not good; misapprehending, as appears, the Scripture which says, 'And he that feareth the Lord will turn to his heart;' and most of all, oblivious of His love, in that for us He became man." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 8)
Clement is beginning a refutation of those who claim that a judicious God, one who disciplines, corrects, judges, and threatens, cannot be a good and loving God. Clement asserts that those who hold such beliefs do so through a misapprehension or misunderstanding of the scriptures. While God at times may appear harsh and exacting in the scriptures, this does not contradict His goodness or negate His love for us. Over the course of this chapter (chapter 8), Clement will argue this point in greater detail, but first, he sets out to establish the point that in all ways and in all times God is good.
"For more suitably to Him, the prophet prays in these words: 'Remember us, for we are dust;' that is, Sympathize with us; for Thou knowest from personal experience of suffering the weakness of the flesh. In this respect, therefore, the Lord the Instructor is most good and unimpeachable, sympathizing as He does from the exceeding greatness of His love with the nature of each man." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 8)
Perhaps the greatest demonstration of God's love for mankind is that He became a man, lived among us, died for our sins, and was resurrected to secure for us new life in Christ. God is able to sympathize with our weaknesses because He too was once a man and experienced the same struggles and temptations that we face, although without sin. Thus God showed Himself to be good in that He did for us what we could not do for ourselves; He gave us salvation when salvation was quite beyond our reach. For us, He became both the just and the justifier. "Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives." (Hebrews 2:14-15)
"'For there is nothing which the Lord hates.' For assuredly He does not hate anything, and yet wish that which He hates to exist. Nor does He wish anything not to exist, and yet become the cause of existence to that which He wishes not to exist. Nor does He wish anything not to exist which yet exists. If, then, the Word hates anything, He does not wish it to exist. But nothing exists, the cause of whose existence is not supplied by God. Nothing, then, is hated by God, nor yet by the Word... If then He hates none of the things which He has made, it follows that He loves them. Much more than the rest, and with reason, will He love man, the noblest of all objects created by Him, and a God-loving being. Therefore God is loving; consequently the Word is loving." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 8)
Clement quotes from the Book of Wisdom, "For you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for what you hated, you would not have fashioned." (Wisdom 11:24 NAB) It must be remembered that such books were not yet considered apocryphal by the church at that time. Also, it's good to remember that many of these early writers were trained in logic and philosophy which can be seen in the construction of their arguments.

Clement's basic point is that nothing exists without God having willed it to exist therefor nothing exists that was not wanted and willed by God. Consequently, nothing created by God is hated by God rather loved by God for why would God create what He hates. Consequently, both God and the Word are loving. God loves all that He has made, especially man, which is the zenith of His creation.
"But he who loves anything wishes to do it good. And that which does good must be every way better than that which does not good. But nothing is better than the Good. The Good, then, does good. And God is admitted to be good. God therefore does good. And the Good, in virtue of its being good, does nothing else than do good. Consequently God does all good. And He does no good to man without caring for him, and He does not care for him without taking care of him. For that which does good purposely, is better than what does not good purposely. But nothing is better than God. And to do good purposely, is nothing else than to take care of man. God therefore cares for man, and takes care of him. And He shows this practically, in instructing him by the Word, who is the true coadjutor of God’s love to man." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 8)
To love something is to wish it good. God, therefore, not only loves us but wishes us good and, in wishing us good, does good to us. This good that God does for us is seen in how takes care of us. God not only cares for us but practically shows His care by caring for us. Caring for someone is purposefully doing of good for the one whom you care for. For God, this care for us is shown, in part, in His instruction towards us; His teaching, guiding, directing, and correcting of our lives. It is a care that is practical and visceral not merely theoretical and mental. In all these things it is right and true to say God is good.

More to come...

David Robison

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

From Moses to Christ - 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.
"It is He also who teaches Moses to act as instructor. For the Lord says, 'If any one sin before Me, him will I blot out of My book; but now, go and lead this people into the place which I told thee.' Here He is the teacher of the art of instruction. For it was really the Lord that was the instructor of the ancient people by Moses; but He is the instructor of the new people by Himself, face to face." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 7)
Instruction was not wanting before the advent of Christ, however, it was an instruction through the agency of a mediator. For while God instructed Moses who then instructed the people, now God instructs us face-to-face having taken away our intermediator and having appeared Himself to take away our sins and to lead us into the right path. Having been brought into right relations with God, we are now instructed by God, face-to-face, as a father to his child. No more must we depend in the intermediation of another, for we can approach God directly for whatever we might need.
"For the same who is Instructor is judge, and judges those who disobey Him; and the loving Word will not pass over their transgression in silence. He reproves, that they may repent. For 'the Lord willeth the repentance of the sinner rather than his death.' And let us as babes, hearing of the sins of others, keep from similar transgressions, through dread of the threatening, that we may not have to undergo like sufferings... Who, then, would train us more lovingly than He? Formerly the older people had an old covenant, and the law disciplined the people with fear, and the Word was an angel; but to the fresh and new people has also been given a new covenant, and the Word has appeared, and fear is turned to love, and that mystic angel is born—Jesus. For this same Instructor said then, 'Thou shalt fear the Lord God;' but to us He has addressed the exhortation, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 7)
There is no instruction without rebuke. While one may teach without regard to the obedience of their students, the goal if instruction is obedience by those who are instructed. Instruction calls us into obedience to the one instructing us and, when obedience is lacking, instruction provides adequate rebuke and discipline to restore us back to obedience and the right way. Under the Old Covenant, obedience was secured by fear; fear of rejection by God, fear of capital punishment, and fear of being excommunicated from the life of Israel. However, under the New Covenant, our obedience is secured by love; God's love for our and our love for Him. The law was a hash task master, requiring obedience before acceptance, yet Jesus is the loving Son of God who, after loving and accepting us, prompts us to obedience through our love for Him.
"Now the law is ancient grace given through Moses by the Word. Wherefore also the Scripture says, 'The law was given through Moses,' not by Moses, but by the Word, and through Moses His servant. Wherefore it was only temporary; but eternal grace and truth were by Jesus Christ. Mark the expressions of Scripture: of the law only is it said 'was given;' but truth being the grace of the Father, is the eternal work of the Word; and it is not said to be given, but to be by Jesus, without whom nothing was." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 7)
We often don't think of the Law as being a form of grace. We may even think of the Law as something evil, enslavish, and separate from the love of God. However, this is not the case. The Law was given through the grace of God to teach us what is right and good and to prepare us for the coming Christ. God's grace, or favor, was shown to His chosen people in that they were chosen to receive His law. Paul writes, "who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen." (Romans 9:4-5) and "But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully" (1 Timothy 1:8) The Law is good an holy, but it also represents a temporary grace. The Law "was given" while the grace Jesus brings is who He is. One is given for a time and one remains forever. Thus, Moses speaks of another Instructor to come:
"'A prophet,' says he, 'like Me shall God raise up to you of your brethren,' pointing out Jesus the Son of God... 'Him shall ye hear;' and, 'The man who will not hear that Prophet,' him He threatens. Such a name, then, he predicts as that of the Instructor, who is the author of salvation. Wherefore prophecy invests Him with a rod, a rod of discipline, of rule, of authority; that those whom the persuasive word heals not, the threatening may heal; and whom the threatening heals not, the rod may heal; and whom the rod heals not, the fire may devour." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 7)
As our eternal Instructor, Jesus comes with a full complement of tools to instruct, train, discipline, and direct: He persuades, He warns, He disciplines, and, if need be, He judges. All this that He might train a generation of righteous sons and daughters.
"For to be chastised of the Lord, and instructed, is deliverance from death. And by the same prophet He says: 'Thou shalt rule them with a rod of iron.' Thus also the apostle, in the Epistle to the Corinthians, being moved, says, 'What will ye? Shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, in the spirit of meekness?' Also, 'The Lord shall send the rod of strength out of Sion,' He says by another prophet. And this same rod of instruction, 'Thy rod and staff have comforted me,' said some one else. Such is the power of the Instructor—sacred, soothing, saving." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 7)
What a loving God who does not withhold anything meant for our benefit. How great is His commitment to our instruction that even when we are not willing He is still willing. What a great and loving Instructor we have.

David Robison

Friday, October 25, 2013

Human vs Divine Instruction - 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.
"What is called by men an ancestral custom passes away in a moment, but the divine guidance is a possession which abides for ever." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 7)
Part of our earthly instruction is to learn about the culture we live in and their manors and ways of living so we can become productive members of society. However, culture and manors are an always moving target. We could no longer live today as the Romans in Clement's day did as they could in ours. Living in harmony with society and its culture is a good thing, but its not an eternal thing. Man's instruction is for the moment, but God's instruction is for eternity.
"They say that Phoenix was the instructor of Achilles, and Adrastus of the children of Croesus; and Leonides of Alexander, and Nausithous of Philip. But Phoenix was womenmad, Adrastus was a fugitive... Those have not escaped our attention who are called royal instructors among the Persians; whom, in number four, the kings of the Persians select with the greatest care from all the Persians and set over their sons. But the children only learn the use of the bow, and on reaching maturity have sexual intercourse with sisters, and mothers, and women, wives and courtesans innumerable, practiced in intercourse like the wild boars." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 7)
Worldly instruction has value, but it fails to teach us what we really need to know; how to live righteous and godly lives. What good is instruction that trains the mind for here and now without also providing instruction that trains the soul for eternity? Worldly teaching can change the mind but what can change the soul? Fortunately, we have a heavenly instructor that teaches the eternal ways of God.
"But our Instructor is the holy God Jesus, the Word, who is the guide of all humanity. The loving God Himself is our Instructor. Somewhere in song the Holy Spirit says with regard to Him, 'He provided sufficiently for the people in the wilderness. He led him about in the thirst of summer heat in a dry land, and instructed him, and kept him as the apple of His eye, as an eagle protects her nest, and shows her fond solicitude for her young, spreads abroad her wings, takes them, and bears them on her back. The Lord alone led them, and there was no strange god with them.' Clearly, I trow, has the Scripture exhibited the Instructor in the account it gives of His guidance." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 7)
Our instructor, who trains our minds in the understanding of God and our souls in the doing of what is right, is God Himself. God has not left this work to human instructors but instructs His children Himself. Consider what Paul says, "which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit," (1 Corinthians 2:13) and "for you yourselves are taught by God." (1 Thessalonians 4:9) We have not been left alone, we have a heavenly instructor to train, lead, and guide us. He it is that we should listen to.

David Robison

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Teaching and Instruction - 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.
"Since, then, we have shown that all of us are by Scripture called children; and not only so, but that we who have followed Christ are figuratively called babes; and that the Father of all alone is perfect, for the Son is in Him, and the Father is in the Son; it is time for us in due course to say who our Instructor is." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 7)
Many of the early Christian writers had a propensity for thoroughness, almost to the point of "OK I got it, now lets move on!" Having taken great pains to show that, no matter how old we are or how long we walk with the Lord, we are still His children and still in need of His instruction, he now turns to identifying for us who our instructor is, and it should not surprise us that our instructor is Jesus.
"He is called Jesus. Sometimes He calls Himself a shepherd, and says, 'I am the good Shepherd.' According to a metaphor drawn from shepherds, who lead the sheep, is hereby understood the Instructor, who leads the children—the Shepherd who tends the babes. For the babes are simple, being figuratively described as sheep. 'And they shall all,' it is said, 'be one flock, and one shepherd.' The Word, then, who leads the children to salvation, is appropriately called the Instructor (Pædagogue)." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 7)
Jesus is our instructor not because He teaches us, although He does, but because He leads us to salvation and life eternal. Growing up I had many teachers that taught me many things but I had few instructors that lead me to where I wanted and needed to go. Even today there are many Bible expositors that can teach us many valuable things about the scriptures and the message they contain, but what use is learning if we remain uncertain about our destination or the path we need to take to arrive at our desired destination. We need more than a teacher, we need an instructor.
"With the greatest clearness, accordingly, the Word has spoken respecting Himself by Hosea: 'I am your Instructor.' Now piety is instruction, being the learning of the service of God, and training in the knowledge of the truth, and right guidance which leads to heaven. And the word 'instruction' is employed variously. For there is the instruction of him who is led and learns, and that of him who leads and teaches; and there is, thirdly, the guidance itself; and fourthly, what is taught, as the commandments enjoined." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 7)
The end result of instruction looks like piety. Webster defines piety as that which is "marked by or showing reverence for deity and devotion to divine worship." However, Clement defines piety as having learned how to serve God, having trained ourselves to obey the truth, and having followed the pathway to salvation. The more we attain in these three areas of our lives, the greater is our piety before God. Similarly, there are many aspects of instruction; there is the learning of who we are, of who God is, the path to take from here to there, and the specific commandments that are taught to lead us along the way. However, regardless of the form it takes, what matters most is not information, but direction.
"Now the instruction which is of God is the right direction of truth to the contemplation of God, and the exhibition of holy deeds in everlasting perseverance." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 7)
The goal of God's instruction in our lives is first to know God and second to imitate God through "holy deeds." True education is not just learning but it is also the assimilation of what we have learned into our lives. It is not enough just to know God but we are to also imitate God in and through our lives. We are to be "conformed to the image of His Son." (Romans 8:29)
"As therefore the general directs the phalanx, consulting the safety of his soldiers, and the pilot steers the vessel, desiring to save the passengers; so also the Instructor guides the children to a saving course of conduct, through solicitude for us; and, in general, whatever we ask in accordance with reason from God to be done for us, will happen to those who believe in the Instructor. And just as the helmsman does not always yield to the winds, but sometimes, turning the prow towards them, opposes the whole force of the hurricanes; so the Instructor never yields to the blasts that blow in this world, nor commits the child to them like a vessel to make shipwreck on a wild and licentious course of life; but, wafted on by the favouring breeze of the Spirit of truth, stoutly holds on to the child’s helm,—his ears, I mean,—until He bring him safe to anchor in the haven of heaven." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 7)
God instructs and directs us because He cares for us. He has taken upon Himself the care and salvation of all of mankind making it is aim to deliver as many as possible from the condemnation of hell. Just as the general directs his solders having concern for their safety, and just as a pilot steers his ship with the lives of those on board in mind, so does God direct our lives through His solicitude for us. However, as a good instructor, God does not always give us what we want but He always gives us what we need. Even as parents we sometimes give our children what they need rather than what they desire and so does God. When God forbids some behavior and encourages others it is because He knows what is best for us and has our best interests and salvation at heart. What a beautiful picture Clement paints of God being firmly in control of our lives, directing us into the ways of salvation  and eternal life. What more could we ask for from our Instructor?

David Robison

Monday, October 21, 2013

The nourisher - 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 blood of the Word has been also exhibited as milk. Milk being thus provided in parturition, is supplied to the infant; and the breasts, which till then looked straight towards the husband, now bend down towards the child, being taught to furnish the substance elaborated by nature in a way easily received for salutary nourishment. For the breasts are not like fountains full of milk, flowing in ready prepared; but, by effecting a change in the nutriment, form the milk in themselves, and discharge it. And the nutriment suitable and wholesome for the new-formed and new-born babe is elaborated by God, the nourisher and the Father of all that are generated and regenerated." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
Clement, having contended that the milk of the Word and the blood of His Son are one and the same, proceeds to identify the allegorical reality of both the blood and the milk.
"Further, pregnant women, on becoming mothers, discharge milk. But the Lord Christ, the fruit of the Virgin, did not pronounce the breasts of women blessed, nor selected them to give nourishment; but when the kind and loving Father had rained down the Word, Himself became spiritual nourishment to the good. O mystic marvel! The universal Father is one, and one the universal Word; and the Holy Spirit is one and the same everywhere, and one is the only virgin mother. I love to call her the Church. This mother, when alone, had not milk, because alone she was not a woman. But she is once virgin and mother—pure as a virgin, loving as a mother. And calling her children to her, she nurses them with holy milk, viz., with the Word for childhood. Therefore she had not milk; for the milk was this child fair and comely, the body of Christ, which nourishes by the Word the young brood, which the Lord Himself brought forth in throes of the flesh, which the Lord Himself swathed in His precious blood... The Word is all to the child, both father and mother and tutor and nurse... Such is the suitable food which the Lord ministers, and He offers His flesh and pours forth His blood, and nothing is wanting for the children’s growth. O amazing mystery! We are enjoined to cast off the old and carnal corruption, as also the old nutriment, receiving in exchange another new regimen, that of Christ, receiving Him if we can, to hide Him within; and that, enshrining the Saviour in our souls, we may correct the affections of our flesh." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
Christ Himself has become our nourishment and He has become the sum total of all we need. Jesus has become our all in all. He is all we need to grow both strong, spiritual, and righteous. Furthermore, He has called together His church that within her His children might be cared for and nursed upon the true nourishment who is the Word of God. The church is not the nourishment, but by her loving care she call His young to gather together and to be feed on the true meat and true drink of the Word. However, we must not look to the church nor to the written word as our nourishers, for neither of these are, though they contain nourishment, rather we must look to the Father who is the true nourisher of us all.
"The flesh figuratively represents to us the Holy Spirit; for the flesh was created by Him. The blood points out to us the Word, for as rich blood the Word has been infused into life; and the union of both is the Lord, the food of the babes—the Lord who is Spirit and Word. The food—that is, the Lord Jesus—that is, the Word of God, the Spirit made flesh, the heavenly flesh sanctified. The nutriment is the milk of the Father, by which alone we infants are nourished. The Word Himself, then, the beloved One, and our nourisher, hath shed His own blood for us, to save humanity; and by Him, we, believing on God, flee to the Word, 'the care-soothing breast' of the Father. And He alone, as is befitting, supplies us children with the milk of love, and those only are truly blessed who suck this breast." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
Jesus is our nourishment and the Father our nourisher. All of life begins and ends with God. He is the "Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end." (Revelation 22:13) All who seek Him will find food, nourishment, and love.
"Thus to Christ the fulfilling of His Father’s will was food; and to us infants, who drink the milk of the word of the heavens, Christ Himself is food. Hence seeking is called sucking; for to those babes that seek the Word, the Father’s breasts of love supply milk." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
In our hunger and need for food, true food, let us return to the Father, who lovingly feeds and nourishes us, and to the Son, who is our nourishment, that we might be strengthened and grow in all things pertaining to life.

David Robison

Sunday, October 20, 2013

On theories of milk - 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.
"Elsewhere the Lord, in the Gospel according to John, brought this out by symbols, when He said: 'Eat ye my flesh, and drink my blood;' describing distinctly by metaphor the drinkable properties of faith and the promise, by means of which the Church, like a human being consisting of many members, is refreshed and grows, is welded together and compacted of both,—of faith, which is the body, and of hope, which is the soul; as also the Lord of flesh and blood. For in reality the blood of faith is hope, in which faith is held as by a vital principle. And when hope expires, it is as if blood flowed forth; and the vitality of faith is destroyed." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
In describing our universal nourishment by milk and meat, Clement next turns to the metaphorical expressions of eating Christ's flesh and drinking His blood. Clement did not in anyway expect us to actually be eating His literal flesh and drinking His literal blood, but saw then as metaphors of our nourishment in Christ. What is interesting, as a side note, is the connection Clement sees between hope and faith. Hope is the blood that gives rise to the flesh of faith; you cannot have faith if you lack hope; and hope, once extinguished, also extinguishes the faith within us. We can see why Paul names faith and hope as two of the three external virtues of mankind, since one cannot exist without the other. This also reminds us how important it is to give hope to others, even to a dying world. Without hope, even those aware of their own lost condition will not believe, for why believe for what one does not hope for? Hope of salvation leads to faith for salvation that leads to actual salvation.

Clement sees our nourishment on milk and meat the same as our drinking Christ's blood and eating His flesh. Clement teaches us the latest science of his day and its understanding on the relationship between blood and milk.
"For the blood is found to be an original product in man, and some have consequently ventured to call it the substance of the soul. And this blood, transmuted by a natural process of assimilation in the pregnancy of the mother, through the sympathy of parental affection, effloresces and grows old, in order that there may be no fear for the child. Blood, too, is the moister part of flesh, being a kind of liquid flesh; and milk is the sweeter and finer part of blood. For whether it be the blood supplied to the foetus, and sent through the navel of the mother, or whether it be the menses themselves shut out from their proper passage, and by a natural diffusion, bidden by the all-nourishing and creating God, proceed to the already swelling breasts, and by the heat of the spirits transmuted, [whether it be the one or the other] that is formed into food desirable for the babe, that which is changed is the blood." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
The men of science, in Clement's day, believed milk to be a transmuted form of blood; consistent in essence while differing in form and appearance. Scientists also derived multiple theories on how such a change occurred.
"For of all the members, the breasts have the most sympathy with the womb. When there is parturition, the vessel by which blood was conveyed to the foetus is cut off: there is an obstruction of the flow, and the blood receives an impulse towards the breasts; and on a considerable rush taking place, they are distended, and change the blood to milk in a manner analogous to the change of blood into pus in ulceration. Or if, on the other hand, the blood from the veins in the vicinity of the breasts, which have been opened in pregnancy, is poured into the natural hollows of the breasts; and the spirit discharged from the neighbouring arteries being mixed with it, the substance of the blood, still remaining pure, it becomes white by being agitated like a wave; and by an interruption such as this is changed by frothing it, like what takes place with the sea, which at the assaults of the winds, the poets say, “spits forth briny foam.” Yet still the essence is supplied by the blood." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
As very modern people of the twenty first century, we may find such ideas odd, comical, and even reproachful, but there are several things we must remind ourselves of as we continue to read and understand Clement's writings. First, throughout the rest of chapter six, Clement will use this assumed relationship between milk and blood to draw allegorical understandings from the scripture. As we read his conclusions we must not be quick to discount them because we no longer agree with his science. In his writings, Clement is not contending for the scientific equality between blood and milk, rather he is trying to show us that, of all the nourishments mentioned in the scriptures, that they are all found in the Person of Christ. Furthermore, there is not one nourishment for children in the faith and one for adults in the faith. In his day there were those who tough one thing to new converts while the hidden truths were reserved for those who had progressed up the ladder of spirituality and enlightenment. Not so in the Kingdom of God.

Secondly, it can be tempting to view Clement and the men of his age as men of small minds, limited understanding, and, in many ways, as inferior to us. Clement represents some of the brightest and most highly trained people of his day. He was a scholar and extensively trained in science, philosophy, morality, and ethics. He lived in a culture that was well-developed and that contributed much of its thinking and ideas to our culture today. Clement, and men like him, were not some kind of prehistoric caveman with funny ideas and ways, they were, in may respects, men just like us and, in other ways, even more advanced than us; people we could learn a lot from.

Finally, Clement's theories on milk should caution us about basing our faith and our understanding of God on the teachings of science. We can be quick to point out the false teachings of science of old, but often fail to consider that many of our current teachings of science may later prove to be false teachings by the science of the future. If science has taught us anything it is that those teachings that we cherish as "truths" often turn out be be the same teachings that are laughed at by those in the future. We laugh at the idea that the world is flat, or that milk is really frothed blood, but two thousand years from now will people laugh at our ideas of evolution or of the Earth really being billions and billions of years old? To build faith upon science is like building a house on shifting sand.

David Robison

Saturday, October 19, 2013

From milk to meat - 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.
"Having reached this point, we must defend our childhood. And we have still to explain what is said by the apostle: 'I have fed you with milk (as children in Christ), not with meat; for ye were not able, neither yet are ye now able.' For it does not appear to me that the expression is to be taken in a Jewish sense; for I shall oppose to it also that Scripture, 'I will bring you into that good land which flows with milk and honey.' A very great difficulty arises in reference to the comparison of these Scriptures, when we consider." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
Clement continues his defense for our continued childhood in God and our continued need for an Instructor. Here he is taking up the words of the apostle and the words of the scripture; one seeming to indicate that milk is only for the young and the other indicating that milk was to be part of our rest in the promise land, a rest that accompanies arrival, perfection, and maturity.
"For if the infancy which is characterized by the milk is the beginning of faith in Christ, then it is disparaged as childish and imperfect. How is the rest that comes after the meat, the rest of the man who is perfect and endowed with knowledge, again distinguished by infant milk? Does not this, as explaining a parable, mean something like this, and is not the expression to be read somewhat to the following effect: 'I have fed you with milk in Christ;' and after a slight stop, let us add, 'as children,' that by separating the words in reading we may make out some such sense as this: I have instructed you in Christ with simple, true, and natural nourishment,—namely, that which is spiritual: for such is the nourishing substance of milk swelling out from breasts of love." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
Clement's contention is that milk, while appropriate for children, is is also useful for adults; milk simply referring to that which is simple, pure, and spiritual not that which is only for infants. While we grow up on the "pure milk of the word" (1 Peter 2:2) we never grow out of our need of it or for its regenerative properties in our lives. Even as adults, we all need milk along with meat. Thus milk to to be part of our diet no matter how long we walk with the Lord.
"Thus, then, the milk which is perfect is perfect nourishment, and brings to that consummation which cannot cease. Wherefore also the same milk and honey were promised in the rest. Rightly, therefore, the Lord again promises milk to the righteous, that the Word may be clearly shown to be both, 'the Alpha and Omega, beginning and end;' the Word being figuratively represented as milk." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
However, Paul's words to the Corinthians that they could not eat meat but only drink milk was not because they remained children and had not grown into manhood but was because they were still acting carnal and not spiritual.
"so that the carnal may be understood as those recently instructed, and still babes in Christ. For he called those who had already believed on the Holy Spirit spiritual, and those newly instructed and not yet purified carnal; whom with justice he calls still carnal, as minding equally with the heathen the things of the flesh" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
Clement also reminds us that Paul says that he gave them milk to "drink" while infants "suck." Here obviously not separating milk for infants and meat for grownups.
"In saying, therefore, 'I have given you milk to drink,' has he not indicated the knowledge of the truth, the perfect gladness in the Word, who is the milk? And what follows next, 'not meat, for ye were not able,' may indicate the clear revelation in the future world, like food, face to face. “For now we see as through a glass,” the same apostle says, 'but then face to face.' Wherefore also he has added, 'neither yet are ye now able, for ye are still carnal,' minding the things of the flesh,—desiring, loving, feeling jealousy, wrath, envy." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
So what distinguishes milk from meat? Clement believes that the milk and the meat of the Word do not differ in substance, but in their administration and application to our life.
"regarding the meat not as something different from the milk, but the same in substance. For the very same Word is fluid and mild as milk, or solid and compact as meat. And entertaining this view, we may regard the proclamation of the Gospel, which is universally diffused, as milk; and as meat, faith, which from instruction is compacted into a foundation, which, being more substantial than hearing, is likened to meat, and assimilates to the soul itself nourishment of this kind." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
Both milk and meat represent the Word of God and both are valuable in our lives. It is the milk that grows us up in Christ and the meat, along with the milk, that sustains us in our walk with the Lord. Milk is applicable for everyone, but as we learn to discern the Lord's voice and discipline our lives in obedience to that "milk", we grow in our ability to eat and assimilate meat. Milk is for everyone, but meat is only beneficial to the trained.

David Robison

Friday, October 18, 2013

When I was a child - 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.
"Wherefore those things which have been concealed from the wise and prudent of this present world have been revealed to babes. Truly, then, are we the children of God, who have put aside the old man, and stripped off the garment of wickedness, and put on the immortality of Christ; that we may become a new, holy people by regeneration, and may keep the man undefiled. And a babe, as God’s little one, is cleansed from fornication and wickedness." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
Clement contends that all who have fled from wickedness to righteousness, from death to immortality, from the old man to the new man in Christ, are children of God. As children, we are in need of an instructor and we have found one in Christ. However, if we are all children, then what does it mean when Paul said, "When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things." (1 Corinthians 13:11) Is our childhood in God and our need for an Instructor something that we should seek to outgrow? Is our need for an instructor to be seen as something lacking in ourselves or as a sign of immaturity? This is how Clement understands this saying by Paul.
"And the expression, 'When I was a child, I thought as a child, I spake as a child,' points out his mode of life according to the law, according to which, thinking childish things, he persecuted, and speaking childish things he blasphemed the Word, not as having yet attained to the simplicity of childhood, but as being in its folly... 'When I became a man,' again Paul says, 'I put away childish things.' It is not incomplete size of stature, nor a definite measure of time, nor additional secret teachings in things that are manly and more perfect, that the apostle, who himself professes to be a preacher of childishness, alludes to when he sends it, as it were, into banishment; but he applies the name 'children' to those who are under the law, who are terrified by fear as children are by bugbears; and 'men' to us who are obedient to the Word and masters of ourselves, who have believed, and are saved by voluntary choice, and are rationally, not irrationally, frightened by terror." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
When Paul was referring to his time as a child he was referring to his time under the law; trying to live by the law yet still blaspheming and persecuting the truth. However, when the truth of God came into his life he put away his life under the law and gave himself to more manly pursuits such as the obedience to the Word and mastery over himself.

One of the key difference between life under the law and life in Christ is the connection to terror. There is a fear that produces awe and a fear that produces terror. Those under the law live in terror of the law and the judgment that it demands upon its transgressors. However, those who live in Christ live in peace and in awe of God. The love of God has replaced the terror of the law as John said, "By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love." (1 John 4:17-18)

Thus Clement interprets this saying of Paul's as,
"Wherefore the expression, When I was a child,' may be elegantly expounded thus: that is, when I was a Jew (for he was a Hebrew by extraction) I thought as a child, when I followed the law; but after becoming a man, I no longer entertain the sentiments of a child, that is, of the law, but of a man, that is, of Christ, whom alone the Scripture calls man, as we have said before. 'I put away childish things.' But the childhood which is in Christ is maturity, as compared with the law." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
One is our childhood in relationship to our Instructor and the other of our manhood in relationship to the Law; one who has matured in Christ and no longer needs the tutelage of the Law. One having escaped sin and found righteousness in God and one having escaped the law and found freedom in Christ.

David Robison

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The illumination of knowledge - 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.
"As, then, inexperience comes to an end by experience, and perplexity by finding a clear outlet, so by illumination must darkness disappear. The darkness is ignorance, through which we fall into sins, purblind as to the truth. Knowledge, then, is the illumination we receive, which makes ignorance disappear, and endows us with clear vision. Further, the abandonment of what is bad is the adopting of what is better. For what ignorance has bound ill, is by knowledge loosed well; those bonds are with all speed slackened by human faith and divine grace, our transgressions being taken away by one Poeonian medicine, the baptism of the Word. We are washed from all our sins, and are no longer entangled in evil." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
Paul, writing of our past sins says, "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent." (Acts 17:30) Clement describes the darkness that is in us, a darkness that is due to ignorance; ignorance as to who God is, ignorance of His love for us, ignorance of His will and plan for our lives. It is in this ignorance of the truth that we stumble along in sin, transgressing the good way of God, and straying on a path of our own making. As our sin flows out of our ignorance, the remedy of sin is not to try and repress sin but rather to correct our ignorance with truth. There is one remedy for this ignorance and it is the baptism of the Word. Here Clement is not referring to water baptism or the baptism by which we join the church, but a baptism into God's Word and that Word is Jesus Christ.
"This is the one grace of illumination, that our characters are not the same as before our washing. And since knowledge springs up with illumination, shedding its beams around the mind, the moment we hear, we who were untaught become disciples... For that faith is the one universal salvation of humanity, and that there is the same equality before the righteous and loving God, and the same fellowship between Him and all." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
There is one faith that leads to salvation, one illumination of the soul that cleanses it from darkness, and one regeneration that changes us from the inside out. It is this transformation that unites us all as believers. It is our common participation in faith, illumination, and regeneration that makes us one. 
"Then he subjoined the utterance, clear of all partiality: 'For ye are all the children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.' There are not, then, in the same Word some 'illuminated (gnostics); and some animal (or natural) men;' but all who have abandoned the desires of the flesh are equal and spiritual before the Lord. And again he writes in another place: 'For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free, and we have all drunk of one cup.'"  (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
In Clement's day there were several who attempted to make distinctions between those who thought themselves spiritual. For example, the Marcionites believed themselves to be of a higher enlightenment than others; they had obtained a higher knowledge and understanding that made themselves spiritual while all other men were animal. There were also the Montanist who claimed to be filled with and submitted to the Paraclete (the Holy Spirit). They believed themselves to be the truly spiritual believers while all other believers were "Psychics" or carnal Christians. In our day, during the Charismatic renewal, I saw the same distinctions being drawn. There were those who were "filled with the Spirit" and there was everyone else. The truth is, however, for all who have been illuminated by the Word of God, they have become spiritual. No longer living by the light of human wisdom and understanding, but living by a divine Word and revelation. It is the receiving of this Light that makes us spiritual and makes us one as believers.
"therefore, we also, repenting of our sins, renouncing our iniquities, purified by baptism, speed back to the eternal light, children to the Father. Jesus therefore, rejoicing in the spirit, said: 'I thank Thee, O Father, God of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to babes;' the Master and Teacher applying the name babes to us, who are readier to embrace salvation than the wise in the world, who, thinking themselves wise, are inflated with pride." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
Those who seek to make distinctions among believers often see themselves as being superior in some way; by some special knowledge, some extraordinary experience, or some powerful endowment. Such people would often cringe at the thought of being referred to as "babes" by the scriptures. However, what makes us special to God is not the degree of our knowledge, the depth of our experience, or the rarity of our endowments, but our eagerness and readiness to return to our Father and to embrace His salvation over our lives; it is our child-like faith that drawing us back to Him, reaching up to Him for His light, love, and salvation.

David Robison

Monday, October 14, 2013

Now and then - 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.
"As, then, those who have shaken off sleep forthwith become all awake within; or rather, as those who try to remove a film that is over the eyes, do not supply to them from without the light which they do not possess, but removing the obstacle from the eyes, leave the pupil free; thus also we who are baptized, having wiped off the sins which obscure the light of the Divine Spirit, have the eye of the spirit free, unimpeded, and full of light, by which alone we contemplate the Divine, the Holy Spirit flowing down to us from above. This is the eternal adjustment of the vision, which is able to see the eternal light, since like loves like" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
Clement understands that the power of water baptism is not in forgiveness of sins, but in washing them away. Paul had received the Lord and had been converted while on his way to Damascus to persecute the church. However, that encounter had left him blind. He journeyed till he met a believer named Ananias. After praying for Paul's healing he said to Paul, "The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will and to see the Righteous One and to hear an utterance from His mouth. For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard. Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name." (Acts 22:14-16) Ananias implored Paul to baptism, not for his forgiveness, but for the washing away of the sins of his past; that being baptized he might rise to "walk in newness of life." (Romans 6:4)

Beyond his understanding of baptism, Clement is counseling us that, should we find ourselves in darkness, rather than trying to grasp the light that lies beyond our sight, we should rather seek to remove the impediments to sight so that the true light might freely flow into our previously darkened eyes. Our job is not to try and grasp or pull in light, for God is more than willing to shine His light upon us, rather our job is to offer clean and clear eyes to God for His illumination of our souls. What is needed is not more effort in receiving light but rather an adjustment to light's receptors. There are many types of veils that cover our eyes and prevent us from see light. One is sin, which Clement identifies here. Another is religion that equally veils our eyes. "[we] are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away." (2 Corinthians 3:13-16) To be illuminated with divine light we must remove all the veils that darken our sight.
"But he has not yet received, say they, the perfect gift. I also assent to this; but he is in the light, and the darkness comprehendeth him not. There is nothing intermediate between light and darkness. But the end is reserved till the resurrection of those who believe; and it is not the reception of some other thing, but the obtaining of the promise previously made. For we do not say that both take place together at the same time—both the arrival at the end, and the anticipation of that arrival. For eternity and time are not the same, neither is the attempt and the final result; but both have reference to the same thing, and one and the same person is concerned in both." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
In returning to those who sought to criticize Christians as not being as mature as they were, Clement answers their question. The questions was that, having stated that our salvation was perfect, how is it that we have yet to receive that perfection and all the things associated with it? While agreeing with this augment, Clement reminds us that, in our resurrection we will not be receiving something new, some new facet of salvation, but simply receiving what is already ours. We shall receive that which we have already obtained in our perfect salvation; that which is reserved and waiting for us in heaven. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again... to an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you. " (1 Peter 1:3-4) Here is where faith comes in.
"Faith, so to speak, is the attempt generated in time; the final result is the attainment of the promise, secured for eternity. Now the Lord Himself has most clearly revealed the equality of salvation, when He said: 'For this is the will of my Father, that every one that seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, should have everlasting life; and I will raise him up in the last day.' As far as possible in this world, which is what he means by the last day, and which is preserved till the time that it shall end, we believe that we are made perfect. Wherefore He says, 'He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.' If, then, those who have believed have life, what remains beyond the possession of eternal life?" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
Faith is our tether to the things that are ours but that remain for us to receive in our resurrection. However, just because something is yet to be possessed in our resurrection does not mean that something is lacking in our salvation. As soon as we are saved we are given an inheritance. Faith convinces us of its reality, that it is already ours, and that one day we shall obtain that which which has already been granted and promised. All that remains is our possession of it. Our salvation is perfect, and in this, we can find confidence and rest.
"Nothing is wanting to faith, as it is perfect and complete in itself. If aught is wanting to it, it is not wholly perfect. But faith is not lame in any respect; nor after our departure from this world does it make us who have believed, and received without distinction the earnest of future good, wait; but having in anticipation grasped by faith that which is future, after the resurrection we receive it as present, in order that that may be fulfilled which was spoken, 'Be it according to thy faith.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
Some see our faith as weakness and others as a crutch for those of week minds and wills, but for us faith is our strength and our promise of future good. Faith is not wishful thinking, it is more than hoping for a better future, and it is not a self-delusion that things are as they are not. The writer of Hebrews says, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1) Faith is our assurance, our evidence, and that which unites us with that which is ours being held in reserve for us in our resurrection. Faith sustains us through life, delivers us to our inheritance, and grants us rest in our possessing the things which are promised.
"And where faith is, there is the promise; and the consummation of the promise is rest. So that in illumination what we receive is knowledge, and the end of knowledge is rest—the last thing conceived as the object of aspiration." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
David Robison

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The beginning of salvation - 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.
"Further release from evils is the beginning of salvation. We then alone, who first havetouched the confines of life, are already perfect; and we already live who are separated from death. Salvation, accordingly, is the following of Christ." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
Clement continues his refutation against those who accused Christians of being childish and infantile in their thought and education. Clement asserts that the work of salvation is a perfect work; we are not saved by degrees but we are saved in whole at our conversion from death into life. It would be ridiculous to consider one saved halfway from death and delivered halfway to life. Prior to our conversion we were dead, even as we lived, now we have eternal life, even if we should die. John wrote, "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life." (1 John 5:13) Not that we might have eternal life but that we might know that we already have eternal life.

However, although our salvation is perfect, its out-working in our lives is a process. When we are saved, we are completely saved, however this is just the beginning. It still remains for us to bring our lives into conformance with that perfect salvation. Paul wrote, "work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." (Philippians 2:12-13) There is a difference between coming to Christ and following Christ. We come to Christ and are transformed into new creatures in Christ; we walk with Christ and our New Man is renewed into His image. This working out of our salvation is a process that Clement calls regeneration.
"Thus believing alone, and regeneration, is perfection in life; for God is never weak. For as His will is work, and this is named the world; so also His counsel is the salvation of men, and this has been called the church. He knows, therefore, whom He has called, and whom He has saved; and at one and the same time He called and saved them." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
Clement knew of no other conditions for salvation other than believing and regeneration. One being our introduction to Christ and the other our walk with Christ. Clement reminds us that God is not weak so as to call men to salvation and then fail to save them completely. God does not call us and then only save us in part. For just as God worked according to His will and created this world, so He saves according to His own wisdom and counsel and had brought forth His church. God not only has both will and wisdom but also the power to bring forth what He has willed and counseled. Isaiah spoke of God saying, "Behold, the Lord's hand is not so short that it cannot save." (Isaiah 59:1)
"'For ye are,' says the apostle, 'taught of God.' It is not then allowable to think of what is taught by Him as imperfect; and what is learned from Him is the eternal salvation of the eternal Saviour, to whom be thanks for ever and ever. Amen. And he who is only regenerated—as the name necessarily indicates—and is enlightened, is delivered forthwith from darkness, and on the instant receives the light." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
What makes not only our salvation but also our knowledge and understanding perfect is that it comes directly from God. In Clement's day there were many philosophers and religious people who gained their knowledge and understanding from men. They were men taught by men. However, Paul tells us that we are taught by God. John goes even further saying, "As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him." (1 John 2:27) We are not as those who are taught by men whose knowledge and understanding is imperfect, but we are taught directly by God whose knowledge is complete and impeachable, How can that which is taught by God be imperfect? His instruction is perfect and delivers the soul from darkness by the light of its truth. It is our directly relationship with God that sets us apart from those in the world and makes us special, even children of God.

David Robison

Friday, October 11, 2013

The mature child - 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.
"We have ample means of encountering those who are given to carping. For we are not termed children and infants with reference to the childish and contemptible character of our education, as those who are inflated on account of knowledge have calumniously alleged." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
There were those in Clement's day, as there are today, that ridiculed Christians as being of small mind; being simpletons, naive, and foolish; not understanding the greater issues of the day, too simplistic in their "god" approach to life, failing to understand and accept the wisdom, knowledge, and science of men. Clement rightly identifies us as children, even God's children, but that doesn't mean that we are infantile or childish in our knowledge or education, especially as it relates to things of eternal value and purpose. In these things, Christians are perfect while it is those in the world that are infantile. Often, in the writing of the apostles the term for a perfect man or woman is the same as for a mature man or woman. We are perfect children in that we are mature children.
"Straightway, on our regeneration, we attained that perfection after which we aspired. For we were illuminated, which is to know God. He is not then imperfect who knows what is perfect. And do not reprehend me when I profess to know God; for so it was deemed right to speak to the Word, and He is free." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
While we were made children of God, our transfiguration onto such children was perfect and complete. We are not half-way made Christians, we are perfectly made and formed Christians and children of God. We were made perfect and united with that which is perfect; with God. To persuade us that this is true, Clement recalls the day when Jesus was "begotten."
"For at the moment of the Lord’s baptism there sounded a voice from heaven, as a testimony to the Beloved, “Thou art My beloved Son, today have I begotten Thee.” Let us then ask the wise, Is Christ, begotten to-day, already perfect, or—what were most monstrous—imperfect?" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
In quoting this scripture, Clement unites two scriptures together to yield insight on what was happening. When Jesus was baptized, a voice sounded from heaven saying, "You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased." (Luke 3:22) The Father was openly declaring Jesus to be the Son of His love; the one and only begotten Son of the unbegotten Father. This event, this voice, was prophesied of many years before:  "I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to Me, 'You are My Son, today I have begotten You.'" (Psalm 2:7) That day Jesus was "begotten" in that He was declared by the Father to be His Son. Clement asks, how was Jesus begotten? As imperfect or as perfect? If perfect, then how was He made perfect in that He gained nothing new from the Father's declaration over him?
"And if He was perfect, why was He, the perfect one, baptized? It was necessary, they say, to fulfil the profession that pertained to humanity. Most excellent. Well, I assert, simultaneously with His baptism by John, He becomes perfect? Manifestly. He did not then learn anything more from him? Certainly not. But He is perfected by the washing—of baptism—alone, and is sanctified by the descent of the Spirit? Such is the case." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
He was begotten to perfection through His baptism alone and, if this was the case for Jesus, then so is it for us as well. We too, though our baptism, are begotten perfect as sons and daughters of God. We too, by believing and being baptized are remade perfect as newly created eternal beings in Christ. And what is the nature of this perfection?
"The same also takes place in our case, whose exemplar Christ became. Being baptized, we are illuminated; illuminated, we become sons; being made sons, we are made perfect; being made perfect, we are made immortal... This work is variously called grace, and illumination, and perfection, and washing: washing, by which we cleanse away our sins; grace, by which the penalties accruing to transgressions are remitted; and illumination, by which that holy light of salvation is beheld, that is, by which we see God clearly. Now we call that perfect which wants nothing. For what is yet wanting to him who knows God?" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 6)
This transformation to perfection accompanies the whole person, not in stages, but all at once, in one gracious act of rebirth. It involves not only the forgiveness of our sins but the washing away of sins and their stain, as Ananias said to Paul, "Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name." (Acts 22:16) This also involves our illumination into the knowledge of God and His holy Kingdom. Thus freeing us from human reasoning and wisdom as Paul states, "But we have the mind of Christ." (1 Corinthians 2:16) All this God has done and He has done it perfectly. What more remains? What more could He have done? All that He could do He has already done. We may be children but we are perfect children for we know Him that is perfect.

David Robison

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

The joy of youth - 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 word Isaac I also connect with child. Isaac means laughter. He was seen sporting with his wife and helpmeet Rebecca by the prying king. The king, whose name was Abimelech, appears to me to represent a supramundane wisdom contemplating the mystery of sport." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 5)
Her we are presented with another wonderful example of the allegorical bent of the oriental mind. I remind my western readers not to too quickly dismiss Clement's allegorical interpretation of the scriptures as being foreign to our understanding, for our didactic understanding of scriptures would have also been equally foreign to him.

Abraham was the first to meet Abimelech. On his trip to Gerar, Abraham said of Sarah, "She is my sister" (Genesis 20:2) because he "thought, surely there is no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife." (Genesis 20:11) Years later, Abraham's son Issac also journeyed into Gerar and he too said of his wife, "'She is my sister,' for he was afraid to say, 'my wife,' thinking, 'the men of the place might kill me on account of Rebekah, for she is beautiful.'" (Genesis 26:7) However, one day King Abimelech was looking out the window "and behold, Isaac was caressing his wife Rebekah. Then Abimelech called Isaac and said, 'Behold, certainly she is your wife! How then did you say, "She is my sister'?"'" (Genesis 26:8-9) The Hebrew word used here means to "to laugh, to sport, and to play." Clement interprets this scripture as follows.
"They interpret Rebecca to mean endurance. O wise sport, laughter also assisted by endurance, and the king as spectator! The spirit of those that are children in Christ, whose lives are ordered in endurance, rejoice. And this is the divine sport... For what other employment is seemly for a wise and perfect man, than to sport and be glad in the endurance of what is good—and, in the administration of what is good, holding festival with God?" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 5)
We are like Rebecca when, in our endurance, we find rejoicing. When, in our perpetual youth as believers in God, we find divine sport in the things of God. When we are always rejoicing, always sporting, and always holding festival with God. Unfortunately, for some, their life in the kingdom has ceased to be sport and has instead become contest, not contest against sin, but contest against one another. Paul, speaking to those who had taken up contesting over the commands of God, such as, should you eat or should you abstain, said, "the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." (Romans 14:17) The Kingdom of God is not found in the debate over what you can and cannot eat, but it is found in the reality it offers to our daily lives, even righteousness, peace, and joy. If the Kingdom of God has ceased to be sport for us, then maybe we have lost our focus and have drifted back towards contests that are of no consequence in the Kingdom.
"That which is signified by the prophet may be interpreted differently,—namely, of our rejoicing for salvation, as Isaac. He also, delivered from death, laughed, sporting and rejoicing with his spouse, who was the type of the Helper of our salvation, the Church, to whom the stable name of endurance is given; for this cause surely, because she alone remains to all generations, rejoicing ever, subsisting as she does by the endurance of us believers, who are the members of Christ. And the witness of those that have endured to the end, and the rejoicing on their account, is the mystic sport, and the salvation accompanied with decorous solace which brings us aid." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 5)
Clement also compares us to Issac in that we rejoice in our salvation; Jesus being our ram caught in the thicket, found to take our place upon the alter. Clement also likens our Issac's relationship with Rebecca with our relationship to the church. For some, the church has become a duty; a weekly obligation to be served not enjoyed. For others, church has become a place to be avoided; a place filled with past hurts and offenses. Still for some the church has become a social place; a substitute community albeit devoid of any real spiritual life. However, God intended the church to be a place of love, care, and rejoicing. A place where we can learn to grow along side of our fellow children of God. Paul put it this way, "But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it." (1 Corinthians 12:24-26) The church is meant to be a place of "decorous solace" where we can find aid to help and joy to lighten our loads.
"The King, then, who is Christ, beholds from above our laughter, and looking through the window, as the Scripture says, views the thanksgiving, and the blessing, and the rejoicing, and the gladness, and furthermore the endurance which works together with them and their embrace: views His Church, showing only His face, which was wanting to the Church, which is made perfect by her royal Head. And where, then, was the door by which the Lord showed Himself? The flesh by which He was manifested. He is Isaac (for the narrative may be interpreted otherwise), who is a type of the Lord, a child as a son; for he was the son of Abraham, as Christ the Son of God, and a sacrifice as the Lord, but he was not immolated as the Lord." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 5)
Finally, Clement identifies the king as our Lord, who watches over all our salvation and activity, and Issac as Jesus, who really did die for us upon that altar. In this one simple story Clement sees all of salvation and our life in Christ today. The Father watching on, Jesus yielding up His life for our sins, us rejoicing in the youth of our salvation, and the church lending support and fellowship in our daily walks. In all this, the central theme is the joy of youth. May we never loose that joy no matter how long we live and serve our Lord.

David Robison

Monday, October 07, 2013

How to be children - 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.
"He does not then use the appellation of children on account of their very limited amount of understanding from their age, as some have thought. Nor, if He says, 'Except ye become as these children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of God,' are His words to be understood as meaning 'without learning.' We, then, who are infants, no longer roll on the ground, nor creep on the earth like serpents as before, crawling with the whole body about senseless lusts; but, stretching upwards in soul, loosed from the world and our sins, touching the earth on tiptoe so as to appear to be in the world, we pursue holy wisdom, although this seems folly to those whose wits are whetted for wickedness. Rightly, then, are those called children who know Him who is God alone as their Father, who are simple, and infants, and guileless." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 5)
While the scriptures speak of us a children, it does not speak of us as being childish or infantile, rather as toddlers who have learned to reach upwards towards their Father. We are children because we have a Father; a Father who seeks our best and desires to raise us up into His own nature and image. It is those who reach upwards who are the children of God. Thus being the children of God, the scriptures speak to us of how we ought to live; how we ought to live as children.
"But if the new man in Scripture is represented by the ass, this ass is also a colt. 'And he bound,' it is said, 'the colt to the vine,' having bound this simple and childlike people to the word, whom He figuratively represents as a vine. For the vine produces wine, as the Word produces blood, and both drink for health to men—wine for the body, blood for the spirit." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 5)
As children, we should live in communion with the Word of God; both the Word that became flesh and the written word of His revelation among men and through out history. Our Instructor leads us to the Word from which we can harvest understanding, knowledge, instruction, and guidance. John wrote to young men and women because, "you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one." (1 John 2:14) I believe the abiding word within them is what made them strong and able to overcome the evil one. As children, we need the word of God to train us and make us strong that we might overcome all things.
"To those, therefore, that have made progress in the word, He has proclaimed this utterance, bidding them dismiss anxious care of the things of this world, and exhorting them to adhere to the Father alone, in imitation of children. Wherefore also in what follows He says: 'Take no anxious thought for the morrow; sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.' Thus He enjoins them to lay aside the cares of this life, and depend on the Father alone. And he who fulfils this commandment is in reality a child and a son to God and to the world,—to the one as deceived, to the other as beloved." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 5)
Cares of this life can tare at our relationship with God. Jesus warned us of the seed that was sowed among the thorns, "And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful." (Matthew 13:22) The cares of this life can lead us to unfruitfulness, both in our personal lives and in our service to God. Our Instructor would have us to cast our cares upon Him in wholly trusting Him for our needs and our lives "because He cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7) We must learn to trust Him more than we trust ourselves, even as a child trusts his or her parents for all they need.
"The mother draws the children to herself; and we seek our mother the Church. Whatever is feeble and tender, as needing help on account of its feebleness, is kindly looked on, and is sweet and pleasant, anger changing into help in the case of such: for thus horses’ colts, and the little calves of cows, and the lion’s whelp, and the stag’s fawn, and the child of man, are looked upon with pleasure by their fathers and mothers. Thus also the Father of the universe cherishes affection towards those who have fled to Him; and having begotten them again by His Spirit to the adoption of children, knows them as gentle, and loves those alone, and aids and fights for them; and therefore He bestows on them the name of child." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 5)
Just as the Father looks kindly upon us, so does our mother. Early christian writers often wrote of the church as our mother; as a place of being tenderly cared for and nurtured into the things of God. A place where we could find fellowship with our fellow children of God as together we receive the nurturing and training the church provides. For the early believer there was no separating their relationship with the Father from their relationship with the church their mother. We need each other and we need the church. The writer of Hebrews warns us, "not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near." (Hebrews 10:25) Being a child also means being a part of a family. Let us not forsake the Body of Christ which is His church and our mother.

David Robison

Saturday, October 05, 2013

We are children - 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.
"That, then, Pædagogy is the training of children, is clear from the word itself. It remains for us to consider the children whom Scripture points to; then to give the pædagogue charge of them. We are the children. In many ways Scripture celebrates us, and describes us in manifold figures of speech, giving variety to the simplicity of the faith by diverse names." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 5)
Regardless of how old we are or how long we have walked with Jesus, we are still children in His sight and, as His children, He takes upon Himself the role of our Pedagogy, or teacher. The scriptures refer to us in many different ways, and in many of them we are addressed by terms that remind us of the simplicity of our faith in Christ. Paul warns us that we should be on our guard lest the devil, or anyone else, should lead us, "astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ." (2 Corinthians 11:3) Along with being called children, we are also called by the names of young animals, such as lambs, suckling calves, doves, turtle doves, and colts. In all these similes, He alludes to a nature that is
"the simple children... tenderness and simplicity of disposition in men which constitutes innocence... harmlessness and innocence and placable nature... unyoked to vice, not broken in by wickedness; but simple, and bounding joyously to the Father alone... free and new-born, jubilant by means of faith, ready to run to the truth, swift to speed to salvation, that tread and stamp under foot the things of the world." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 5)
These similes depict our childhood with God, our eternal youth, as opposed to being men and women of the world.
"And if we have one Master in heaven, as the Scripture says, then by common consent those on the earth will be rightly called disciples. For so is the truth, that perfection is with the Lord, who is always teaching, and infancy and childishness with us, who are always learning. Thus prophecy hath honoured perfection, by applying to it the appellation man. For instance, by David, He says of the devil: 'The Lord abhors the man of blood;' he calls him man, as perfect in wickedness. And the Lord is called man, because He is perfect in righteousness." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 5)
Compared to our Lord, who is perfect in righteousness, we will always be children, always learning, always growing, always being guided and disciples into the things and ways of God. As our Father, God also discipline us for our good that we might grow in righteousness. The writer of Hebrews says, "It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons." (Hebrews 12:7-8) Clement put it this way,
"And we also in truth, honouring the fairest and most perfect objects in life with an appellation derived from the word child, have named training and discipline [from that same word]. Discipline we declare to be right guiding from childhood to virtue." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 5)
It is the work of our Instructor, the very Son of God, to guides us from childishness to virtue; to leads us from selfishness to god-likeness, to lead us from being infantile to of full stature. Jesus is our instructor, our teacher, and our guide. Let us give ourselves to His gentle hand and His gentle ways that we might grow up to be like Him. "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (Matthew 11:29-30)

David Robison

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

The equality of women - 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.
"Let us, then, embracing more and more this good obedience, give ourselves to the Lord; clinging to what is surest, the cable of faith in Him, and understanding that the virtue of man and woman is the same." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 4)
The goal of our Instructor is to bring about the same virtue of behavior for both men and women. There is not one standard of virtue for men and one for women. Women are not considered "second-class citizens" with extra "virtues" assigned to them to keep them "in their place." Women are equal before God. This does not mean that there are no differences within the church based on authority, order, and function, nor does it mean that there are not any differences in our Instructor's instructions; for He instructs each sex as is appropriate to each sex. For example, Paul says, "Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness." (1 Timothy 2:9-10) Such a command would equally be applied to a man who similarly was given to excess in dress, appearance, and hair, activities more typically particular to women then to men. Paul further instructs fathers, "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger." (Ephesians 6:4) And while mothers can do this too, it is more typical that fathers exacerbate and mothers smother. The point is, there is one and the same call to virtue for both men and women.
"For if the God of both is one, the master of both is also one; one church, one temperance, one modesty; their food is common, marriage an equal yoke; respiration, sight, hearing, knowledge, hope, obedience, love all alike. And those whose life is common, have common graces and a common salvation; common to them are love and training." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 4)
While there are two sexes, there is one God, one church, one mode of behavior, and one life. Furthermore, Clement says that there is one bond in marriage equally binding the man and the woman together. Our expectations for love, respect, and fidelity in marriage should equal be expected of both sexes, not just one. This oneness we share in life is evidence that we also share in the common grace and salvation of God and, in sharing the benefits of the Kingdom, we also share in our responsibilities to the common love and training of God, that is, to love Him in response and to yield to and obey His training. All these things we, as men and women, have in common.
"There the rewards of this social and holy life, which is based on conjugal union, are laid up, not for male and female, but for man, the sexual desire which divides humanity being removed. Common therefore, too, to men and women, is the name of man." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 4)
Furthermore, Clement reminds us that the distinction of sex is not an eternal distinction. Jesus told us that, "For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven." (Matthew 22:30) In the resurrection we shall be like the angels for who no distinction of sex has ever been mentioned. Whether we are presently men or women, then we shall all be called "man."
"Now the Lord Himself will feed us as His flock forever. Amen. But without a sheperd, neither can sheep nor any other animal live, nor children without a tutor, nor domestics without a master." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 1, Chapter 4)
Having said all this, Clement wants us to understand that what he has to say, he says to all, even to both men and women. We are all the same, we all need an instructor, we all need a tutor, and we all need a master.

David Robison