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

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