Friday, January 31, 2014

Know yourself - The Instructor on True Beauty

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 then, as appears, the greatest of all lessons to know one’s self. For if one knows himself, he will know God; and knowing God, he will be made like God, not by wearing gold or long robes, but by well-doing, and by requiring as few things as possible. Now, God alone is in need of nothing, and rejoices most when He sees us bright with the ornament of intelligence; and then, too, rejoices in him who is arrayed in chastity, the sacred stole of the body." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 1)
It seems strange that one must be told to know themselves for doesn't everyone know themselves? However, we need to come to know ourselves in light of God who created us. We must come to understand firstly our value to God, secondly that He created us with meaning and purpose, and lastly that we were created to bear His image. When we come to know these things about ourselves then our heart will naturally turn to know the one who created us, who loves us, and who has a plan for our lives. Finally, in knowing Him we will seek to conform our lives into His image and nature; becoming like Him.

To be like God is to be in want of nothing. The man who needs "stuff" to feel fulfilled has not yet come to know himself and even less to know God. We were never created to become consumers and hoarders of "stuff." We may use "stuff" in the course of our lives, but we were created to one day leave it all behind and to enjoy eternity in heave with God. We must learn to judge ourselves not by what we have gained in life but by who we have become and by who's image we bear. Our goal should be to grow in our inner man, what Clement names "intelligence," and to discipline our flesh towards chastity. These qualities should be the ornaments of our lives. These are the qualities that God is looking for in us.
"Since then the soul consists of three divisions; the intellect, which is called the reasoning faculty, is the inner man, which is the ruler of this man that is seen. And that one, in another respect, God guides. But the irascible part, being brutal, dwells near to insanity. And appetite, which is the third department, is many-shaped above Proteus, the varying sea-god, who changed himself now into one shape, now into another; and it allures to adulteries, to licentiousness, to seductions." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 1)
Many have sought to divide a person into distinct facets. Paul refereed to the inner and outer man, John to the body, soul, and Spirit, and Jesus to the heart, soul, mind, and strength. However, here Clement is subdividing the inner-man, what we may call the Psyche of a man. The inner-man is pulled in three different directions. First, and most nobly, by reason. Jesus is the Logos, or reason, of God and when we order our lives by reason we share in His nature. It is this reasoning part of our inner-man that hears and responds to God. It is what allows us to receive His word and to assert discipline in applying it to our lives.

The irascible part is that part that is prone to anger, wrath, and heated emotions. It is a raging fire ready to consume itself and others who might cross its way. It is a heavy burden on the backs of those who must carry its outburst. Anger sits next to insanity because it ignores reason to give full vent to its emotions.

Finally there is appetite. This is not just physical appetite but represents the desires and wants of the soul. It represents the things we lust for and seek after. Appetites, when set free from reason, will always take us where we do not want to go. Appetite turns us into blind beasts that are forever pursuing that which will never satisfy. In the end, our life is left empty and our soul wearied.

The goal of our lives should be to surrender our anger and appetite to the control of reason. To live our lives by what we know to be right not by our lusts or emotions. To know ourselves is to know God and to know God is to be like God. If we understand who we are and how we are made, the multifaceted nature of our soul, then we must learn to rule over our soul by our reason rather than letting the baser parts of our soul lead us into corruption. Let us be rational and intellectual men and women rather than angry and hungry beasts.

David Robison

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Killing love -The Instructor on having children

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 introductionto this series. You may also want to read the introduction to Book 2 of The Instructor as it give advice on how to understand Clement and his writings. Finally, it may be helpful to review my first post on this chapter as it gives a good introduction into Clement's basic philosophy on sexuality.
"Love, which tends toward sexual relations by its very nature, is in full bloom only for a time, then grows old with the body; but sometimes, if immoral pleasure mars the chastity of the marriage bed, desire becomes insipid and love ages before the body does. The hearts of lovers have wings; affection can be quenched by a change of heart, and love can turn into hate if there creep in too many grounds for loss of respect. We should not even mention the names of impurity: ribald speech, indecent behavior, sensuous love affairs and all such immoralities. Rather, let us-obey the Apostle, who tells us explicitly: 'But all fornication and uncleanness and covetousness, let it not so much as be named among you, as becometh saints.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 10)
The love between a husband and a wife, and their desire for sexual intimacy, is natural and is blessed by God in marriage. Marital love and affection are built upon the foundation of respect, kindess, and fidelity. The violation of these virtues can affect the love and affection in a marriage and can even turn love into hatred. Indecency in speech or behavior can, over time, diminish love and extinguish affection. Worse yet is the heart that wanders outside the marriage, either through lust or action, because it has the power to bring death to love and to the marriage. Love and affection must be cultivated and nurtured just as character and holiness must also be cultivated and nurtured. Love does not just happen, it must be grown and protected.
"For such as these, darkness is a veil to conceal their passion. Yet, he who seeks only sexual pleasure turns his marriage into fornication. He forgets the words of the Educator: 'Every man that passeth beyond his own bed, who says in his soul: Who seeth me? Darkness compasseth me about, and the walls cover me, and no man seeth my sins: whom do I fear? The Most High will not remember.' Such a man is most wretched, for he fears only the eyes of men, and thinks to hide from God... A light that can be seen by the senses may pass unnoticed, but that which illumines the mind cannot be ignored... Scripture calls the reason of a good man a lamp which cannot be extinguished.' In fact, the very attempt to cover over what one is doing is a sign that the man is knowingly committing sin." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 10)
Someone once said that no one knows what happens behind closed doors, and it is true, yet God knows. When we feel that we must hide what we are doing then it is a clear sign that what we are doing is sin. That which is done in darkness, which we fear to bring into the light, is born of darkness and is devoid of the light of truth. We must always judge our actions by the light of day, knowing that God is always watching. If we can be confident in the knowledge that God is watching, then we can be confident in our actions. Live like everyone is watching because the most important one of alll is!
"Anyone who does sin, for example by fornication, wrongs not so much his neighbor as himself by the very act of fornicating; he decidedly becomes more immoral and loses the right to respect. The sinner becomes more immoral and loses the right to respect which he had before, to the extent that he sins; yet, Lord knows, immorality is already present when a man gives in to base pleasure. (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 10)
Respect breads love. We cannot love someone we do not respect. However, respect must be earned and earning respect is done primarily by the manor in which we live and relate to others. One who lives a life of selfishness and immorality forfeits his right to be respected by others. However, those who live lives of love and righteousness will be respected even by those who do not believe. Some of us are good at putting on fronts and hiding who we really are, but our wives see us in our totality; the good, the bad, and the ugly. To earn the love and affection of our wives we must learn to live godly lives before them; lives of virtue, self-control, and purity. These are the characters that engender respect and lead to love.

David Robison 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Wantonness and Marriage - The Instructor on having children

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 introductionto this series. You may also want to read the introduction to Book 2 of The Instructor as it give advice on how to understand Clement and his writings. Finally, it may be helpful to review my first post on this chapter as it gives a good introduction into Clement's basic philosophy on sexuality.
"He discouraged the ancient Jews, also, from having relations with a wife already with child.' Pleasure sought for its own sake, even within the marriage bonds, is a sin and contrary both to law and to reason. Moses cautioned them, then, to keep away from their pregnant wives until they be delivered... The womb welcomes the seed when it yearns for procreation, but it refuses the seed when intercourse is contrary to nature; that is, once impregnated... All its instincts, up to now aroused by loving intercourse, begin to be directed differently, absorbed in the development of the child within, cooperating with the Creator. It is wrong, indeed, to interfere with the workings of nature by indulging in the extravagances of wantonness." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 10)
To the best of my recollection, I don't remember any specific injunctions by Moses regarding sexual relations during a pregnancy. It appears that Clement's believe that Moses "discouraged" intercourse at this time is because there is no record to the contrary in Moses' teaching or any instance of such relations contained in the history of the Jews. Some commentators cite Book 3 of Clement's "Stromata" for this believe. However and unfortunately, this book has also been left in its original Latin. Be that as it may, Clement's main point, that pleasure for its own sake is sin, is worth reflecting on. When we do something to please ourselves without any regard for others, including God, then we are not operating according to the laws of love and have entered into sin. Sexual intercourse is a relating between two individuals. When one seeks to exploit it for their own self pleasure then they violate love towards the other. Whether God intended to prohibit sex during pregnancy may be debated, but there are certain to be times when the pregnant one is not ready for sex and to force oneself on them for your own pleasure is not love but mere selfishness.
"Wantonness has many names and is of many kinds. When it centers about sexual pleasure in a disorientated way, it is called lewdness, something vulgar and common and very impure, and, as its name suggests, preoccupied with coition. As this vice increases, a great swarm of diseases flows from it: gourmandizing, drunkenness, lust, and particularly dissipation and every sort of craze for pleasure in which lust plays the tyrant. A thousand-and-one like vices join the company and aid in effecting a thoroughly dissolute character." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 10)
When Clement refers to seeking sexual pleasures in a "disoriented" way, he is not thinking about sexual "orientation" as we might. He is referring to one who pursues sexual pleasures without restraint. When we give way to pleasure we open ourselves to all kinds of evil influences. A life lived for pleasure is a life lived in decay; progressing further and further into sin and darkness. Unrestrained pleasure is like a cancer that eats our soul from the inside out.
"In my treatise on continence, I have discussed in a general way the question whether we should marry or not (and this is the point of our investigation) . Now, if we have to consider whether we may marry at all, then how can we possibly permit ourselves to indulge in intercourse each time without restraint, as we would food, as if it were a necessity?... Yet, marriage in itself merits esteem and the highest approval, for the Lord wished men to 'be fruitful and multiply.' He did not tell them, however, to act like libertines, nor did He intend them to surrender themselves to pleasure as though born only to indulge in sexual relations." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 10)
The very fact that marriage is an option teaches us that sexual intercourse is an option and not a necessity of life. However, to live as if it were a necessity is to live in wantonness. Anything that is not a necessity is something that we must exerciser control and restraint over. Even for necessary things we exercise self-control, such as eating only till we are full, how much more shall we exercise restraint over those things for which we have discretion? We must control our sexual desires rather than being controlled by them.
"The attempt to procreate children is marriage, but the promiscuous scattering of seed contrary to law and to reason definitely is not. If we should but control our lusts at the start and if we would not kill off the human race born and developing according to the divine plan, then our whole lives would be lived according to nature. But women who resort to some sort of deadly abortion drug kill not only the embryo but, along with it, all human kindness." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 10)
The issue of abortion is not new to our age. The first and second century church also had to deal with the issue of abortion. Without going into a lengthy discussion on the subject, Clement's reminds us that children are the natural consequences of sexual intercourse and to kill them as an unwanted side affect of our sexual lust is wrong and its impact is felt by the entire human race. If we choose to have sex then we must also assume the responsibility to care for the children that might be brought into this world by our actions. What better definition of wantonness is there than to be willing to extinguish a life that we might not be hindered in our pursuit of sexual pleasures?

David Robison

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Guest Post - Tiffany Dawn

This is my 10th year blogging and I wanted to do something a bit different this year. I want to highlight a few of the ministries of friends of mine. I plan to do this as a series of guest posts in the form of an interview. Today is the first of these guest posts and I would like to introduce Tiffany Dawn to my reading audience.

Hello Tiffany, can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about yourself?

Hi blogger friends! My name is Tiffany Dawn, and I live in the capital of winter: upstate New York. At 27-years-old, I have a not-so-secret love affair with raspberry chai, long walks, and being recruited to the CIA. (Hey, a girl can dream!) Oh yes! And the reason for this blog post: I'm about to embark on my second cross-country tour! (The pit of my stomach is currently feeling a strange combination of terrified and ecstatic.) You see, I wrote a book called "The Insatiable Quest for Beauty" and am working on my second: "Boycrazy: And how I ended up single and mostly sane." A year and a half ago I started traveling full-time, speaking on girls' issues, and was amazed at the response. So now? It's become my job. Best. Job. Ever.

Your name name sounds familiar, do we know each other?

Your name sounds familiar too! Let me think...oh wait! Are you my uncle?? :) Yes, Dave Robison is my dad's brother. And he's pretty awesome, if I do say so myself. I got to stay with him and his family during my last tour, and enjoyed many nights of NCIS, froyo, musicals, and beach expeditions.

You mention in your book that you were "boy crazy" growing up. Can you tell us about this time in your life?

I suppose "boy crazy" is an understatement. The only way I can accurately describe this time in my life is through my most embarrassing moment. (Let me preface this by saying: This happened a LONG time ago. I promise.) Growing up I was both obsessed with boys and also extremely dramatic, a frightening combination. Well one day I read a book in which the heroine fainted and six guys rushed to catch her. Inspiration dawned on me. There it was! The solution to my constant wondering as to whether a guy liked me! All I had to do was faint, and if a guy caught me, he liked me. Simple enough. So one day I put this to the test. (A long time ago. Like I said.) I was in the middle of a soccer game, with my crush standing right behind me, when the other team got the ball. Surely this was the perfect fainting moment! Ever so gracefully I put my hand on my forehead, crying "they got the ball!" just before swooning. Falling, falling, it never crossed my mind that he might not catch me...or that this was just weird!! When I hit the ground, I figured my crush must have walked away. Oh no! He was standing right there, staring down at me and rolling his eyes. My first heart break at 11 years old. Ah well, it was his loss. He could have had the chance of a lifetime with this girl! All he had to do was catch me.

When did you first realize that you had an obsession with wanting to look beautiful and what turned it around for you?

When I got to college, I met the guy of my dreams. We started courting and became way too serious, way too fast. On the surface he seemed perfect -- a Christian, worship leader, youth leader, and quite attractive -- but quickly warning signs surfaced. He compared me with his ex-girlfriends, saying I wasn't as pretty or thin as them. He tried to shape me into the woman he wanted me to be -- quiet and timid. He even had a certain way he wanted me to dress and do my hair. Yet I pushed every warning sign into my subconscious, because I so badly wanted to have a boyfriend and get married. During that relationship, the typical teenage struggles I'd had with body image deepened. Pretty soon I equated being "good enough" with being "pretty enough" and "thin enough" -- yet never felt I was. I began struggling with disordered eating and obsession over my appearance, a battle that consumed several years of my life. There was no single moment that changed everything for me, rather it was a journey over several college and post-college years. Funny, as much as I hate journeys, God seems to love them, because it's along the journey that I come closer to Him and discover an intimacy I wouldn't know as fully through an instant miracle.

What did God teach you through this time in your life?

One of the main lessons God taught me during that time was this: "God doesn't love me because I'm good enough, but because I'm His daughter." One day I was moping around my parents' house when my dad noticed something was wrong. I said, "Dad, I feel like I've let you and mom down so much that I can never please you again." He walked over and took me in his arms, saying, "Tiffany, I don't love you because you're good enough. I love you because you're my daughter. Yeah you've made some stupid mistakes, but that doesn't change a thing. I love you because you're my daughter." In that moment I realized my heavenly Father was saying the same thing to me. It was like He was saying: "Tiffany, all your life you've tried to be good enough, to prove yourself to Me, but you can never be good enough. All your best deeds are still like filthy rags, and yet I died for you anyway. I chose you before you ever loved Me. You can never earn My love, but I've given it to you anyway." Slowly He taught me that life is not about being good enough; it's about staying close enough to Him. I'd always been an overachieving perfectionist, thinking I had to prove myself to everyone, including God. My "quest for beauty" was just another way of proving myself. Learning the delight of my heavenly Father, and that He simply wanted me to be near Him, changed everything.

Last year you release your first book, tell us about it.

Well, I started writing my first book when I was 19 -- right smack dab in the middle of all my struggles with body image and disordered eating! One day I was pulling into my parents' driveway, turned off my car, and felt in my heart like God was telling me, "Now's the time to write that book you always wanted to write about beauty." It was the weirdest time to start writing while still struggling, but it captured all the raw emotions I would have lost otherwise. The book is called "The Insatiable Quest for Beauty" and shares my journey through coffee dates (aka chapters) that contain my journal entries, struggles, and the practical steps God taught me to walk in freedom as a daughter of the King. Six years later, at age 25, I released the book. The boxes arrived just before a conference I was speaking at that night, where I sold nearly all of my order. Shortly after that, my dad suggested I quit my job and try speaking and promoting my book full-time. It was one of the most nerve-racking decisions I've ever made, and yet one of the most amazing adventures I've ever experienced!

You are about to start your second speaking tour. What will you be doing and where will you be going?

Yes, Tour #2 begins in TWO DAYS. Oh man! I'm so nervous, to be honest, but also very excited. I'll be trundling cross-country in my two-door Honda Civic brimming with books, CDs, coffee mugs, suitcases, a guitar, and me and my intern. We'll be traveling to approximately 25 states in three months. I'll be speaking at churches, colleges, and high schools, sharing "The Insatiable Quest for Beauty Seminar," which incorporates storytelling, preaching, and songs I wrote along my journey. On this tour we're hitting up the south and west coasts during the cold months, then heading to the north and midwest during April.

How can people get in touch with you or find out more about your web site, book, tour, or other resources?

Absolutely! I would love to hear from each of you! You can reach me by email at, or visit my website ( to find my books, CD, and more resources.

Thanks so much Uncle Dave for having me on your blog! And thank you to each of you blogger friends for spending this time with me!

Thanks Tiffany for your time and we will be praying for you as you start your tour. I hope you make it out here to Virginia again soon as we all miss you very much. Blessings, Uncle David

Monday, January 27, 2014

Prohibitions in Sex - The Instructor on having children

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 introductionto this series. You may also want to read the introduction to Book 2 of The Instructor as it give advice on how to understand Clement and his writings. Finally, it may be helpful to review my first post on this chapter as it gives a good introduction into Clement's basic philosophy on sexuality.
"We should consider boys as our sons, and the wives of other men as our daughters. We must keep a firm control over the pleasures of the stomach, and an absolutely uncompromising control over the organs beneath the stomach. If, as the Stoics teach, we should not move even a finger on mere impulse, how much more necessary is it that they who seek wisdom control the organ of intercourse? I feel that the reason this organ is also called the private part is that we are to treat it with privacy and modesty more than we do any other member." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 10)
We are not to be like animals of which Jeremiah describes, "A wild donkey accustomed to the wilderness, that sniffs the wind in her passion. in the time of her heat who can turn her away? All who seek her will not become weary; in her month they will find her." (Jeremiah 2:24) Sex must not drive us nor should we look at others as objects of sexual conquest. Clement is reminding us not to objectify others as sexual objects, but to see them as human beings under our own care; as our own children. This we cannot do if we give full vent to every sexual impulse that impresses itself upon our soul. We are not to be controlled by sex, rather we are to control ourselves and our response to the sexual urges within us.
"In lawful wedlock, as with eating, nature permits whatever is conformable to nature and helpful and decent; it allows us to desire the act of procreation. However, whoever is guilty of excess sins against nature and, by violating the laws regulating intercourse, harms himself." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 10)
There is a place for the fulfillment of sexual desires and it is in marriage. However, even here decency must reign. Marriage is not a license for "anything goes." Decency, mutual love, and a respect for the bound of nature must still be practiced even by those who are married. Clement reminds us that those who participate in excessive or unnatural sex, even in marriage, harm themselves and, often, their partners.
"First of all, it is decidedly wrong ever to touch youths in any sexual way as though they were girls. The philosopher who learned from Moses taught: 'Do not sow seeds on rocks and stones, on which they will never take root.' The Word, too, commands emphatically, through Moses: 'Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind, for it is an abomination.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 10)
Clement begins to lay down some prohibitions as they relate to sexual behavior. The first of all prohibitions is for the protection of youths. When Clement speaks of sexual touching he is speaking of more than just the touch but also the intent. One may lust for boys and girls but true love compels us not to violate their innocence and purity. Sexual orientation and desire is never sufficient to justify sexual contact nor should we ever justify harms against love because of our lustful desires.
"Again, further on, noble Plato advises: 'Abstain from every female field of increase,' because it does not belong to you. (He had read this in the holy Scripture and from it had taken the Law: 'Thou shalt not give the coition of thy seed to thy neighbor's wife, to be defiled because of her.' Then he goes on to say: 'Do not sow the unconsecrated and bastard seed with concubines, where you would not want what is sown to grow?' In fact, he says: 'Do not touch anyone, except your wedded wife,' because she is the only one with whom it is lawful to enjoy the pleasures of the flesh for the purpose of begetting lawful heirs. This is to share in God's own work of creation, and in such a work the seed ought not be wasted nor scattered thoughtlessly nor sown in a way it cannot grow." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 10)
Clement second prohibition relates to other men's wives. Clement has already stated that we should view other men's wives as our own daughters and to treat them with all purity just as we would our own children. Clement puts forth a unique test for judging the appropriateness of our sexual relations: If you don't want to have a child with someone, don't have sex with them! If you don't want to have a public child by your private adulterous affair, then stop the affair. If you don't want a child as the result of your fornication, then stop fornicating. If you are participating in sexual relations where the result can never be a child (such as homosexual relations) or where you desperately do not want to have a child (such as in an affair) then you should stop to consider the appropriateness of your sexual adventures and what God has to say about the nature and limitations of sex. The sexual act is never neutral and it is always irreversible. It is the proverbial bell that can never be unrung. To find the blessing and fulfillment that God designed in sex we must always enter into it according to His wisdom and prescription. Everything else will be but a beggarly imitation of God's true blessing.

David Robison

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Wontonness - The Instructor on having children

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 introductionto this series. You may also want to read the introduction to Book 2 of The Instructor as it give advice on how to understand Clement and his writings. Finally, it may be helpful to review my first post on this chapter as it gives a good introduction into Clement's basic philosophy on sexuality.
"Again, Moses issued a prohibition against eating the hare. The hare is forever mounting the female, leaping upon her crouching form from behind... She conceives and begets, and as soon as she gives birth is fertilized again by the first hare she meets. Not satisfied with one mate, she conceives again, although she is still nursing... So the mysterious prohibition [of Moses] in reality is but counsel to restrain violent sexual impulses, and intercourse in too frequent succession, relations with a pregnant woman, pederasty, adultery, and lewdness." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 10)
Along with the hyena, Moses also prohibited the eating of the hare. Clement understands this prohibition not only in its literal understanding of not eating them but also with a spiritual understanding that we should not be like them. In this case, we should not behave sexually after the manor of the hare or the hyena. Sexual desires are common to both men and women but we must not give ourselves over to every violent sexual impulse that wages war upon our soul. We are sexual creatures but we are not to be lead or ruled by our sexual desires or impulses. We are first rational beings, rational because we were created in the image of God, and secondly sexual beings in that we cooperate with God in the regeneration of the human race. We must by all means conquer our impulses that we might regulate our lives by reason rather than passion.
"Moses forbade, too, in clear language and with his head uncovered, no longer under a figure: 'Thou shalt not fornicate, nor commit adultery, nor corrupt children." This is the command of the Word; it must be obeyed with all our strength and not transgressed in any way; His commandments may not be set aside. Evil lust bears the name wantonness; Plato, for example, calls the horse representing lust 'wanton' when he writes: 'You have become in my eyes horses mad for the female.' The angels who visited Sodom reveal the punishment of wantonness. They struck down with fire those who attempted to dishonor them, and their city along with them." Such a deed demonstrates clearly that fire is the reward of wantonness. As we have already said, the calamities that befell the ancients are described for our instruction that we may not imitate their example and merit the same punishment." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 10)
We cannot disregard or set aside the clear injunctions of scripture without reaping the just reward for our actions. Moses was clear; the law received from God is clear; its regulations upon our sexual behavior is clear; and it is up to us to choose whether to obey or disobey the law of God. Wantonness is the complete lack of self-control and then absence of any care for the safety, feelings, or rights of others. Wantonness in sex is a life that is given over to sexual activity without any care for themselves or others. Such behavior is the antithesis of love and the epitome of selfishness. We cannot live a wanton life without reaping the judgments of wantonness. Whether such judgement comes in this life or the life to come, we will certainly be judged for our actions. Paul warns us, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life." (Galatians 6:7-8) Sexual sin is serious and its consequences can be eternal. What God has declared in His wisdom we cannot simply sweep aside with impunity. What God spoke He spoke to all. It now remains to us to choose how we shall respond and the manor of life we shall live.

David Robison

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Men with Men - The Instructor on having children

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 introductionto this series. You may also want to read the introduction to Book 2 of The Instructor as it give advice on how to understand Clement and his writings. Finally, it may be helpful to review my first post on this chapter as it gives a good introduction into Clement's basic philosophy on sexuality.
"This is characteristic of both male and female hyena, because of hyperactive abnormal sexuality; the male lies with the male so that it rarely approaches the female. For that reason, births are infrequent among hyenas, because they so freely sow their seed contrary to nature." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 10)
Clement begins his discussion on sexual intercourse between men with other men and men with boys by introducing us to the odd sexual behavior of hyenas. It was at one time believed that hyenas regularly changed their sex from male to female and vise versa thus accommodating the apparent homosexual nature of hyenas. Clement understands this "science"to be incorrect and details certain anatomical features of hyenas that assist in sexual acts between males and other males. However, knowing of this behavior among hyenas, Clement understands it to be "contrary to nature" as the purpose of the sexual organs, as created by God, were primary for the regeneration of life and all other uses, or the sowing of seed in a manor that could never support this goal, was therefore contrary to nature.
"This is the reason, I believe, that Plato, in excoriating pederasty in Phaedrus, terms it bestiality and says that these libertines who have so surrendered to pleasure, 'taking the bit in their own mouths, like brutish beasts rush on to enjoy and beget?' Such godless people 'God has given over,' the Apostle says, 'to shameful lusts. For the women change their natural use to that which is against nature, and in like manner the men, also, having abandoned the natural use of the women, have burned in their lusts one towards another, men with men doing shameful things, and receiving in themselves the fitting recompense of their perversity?'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 10)
Plato's morals were greatly influenced by Moses. Plato studied the writings of Moses and much of his philosophy can still be traced back to the basic laws and commands of God. In Clement's day it was fashionable, and even expected, for men of power and position to have their boy companions with them to meet their sexual desires. However, Clement, appealing to Plato and the Apostles, denounces pederasty and homosexuality as being against nature. It is interesting to note here that Clement is denouncing all sexual acts that are contrary to nature rather than judging sexual desires as being either in conformance or opposition to nature. Man was created for sexual acts but it is in his soul where his sexual desires are formed. Nature refers to design, the design of our body and the assigned functions and purposes of our organs, while desires and passions are formed; they are not part of nature but rather part of the soul. A man may burn with passion for another man or for a woman, but what matters is how they respond to those desires; whether they allow their desires to lead them into behavior that is in harmony with the designed of nature as created by God or into behavior that is contrary. The moral issue is not what a man feels but what he does.
"Yet, nature has not allowed even the most sensual of beasts to sexually misuse the passage made for excrement. Urine she gathers into the bladder; undigested food in the intestines; tears in the eyes; blood in the veins; wax in the ear, and mucous in the nose; so, too, there is a passage connected to the end of the intestines by means of which excrement is passed off. In the case of hyenas, nature, in her diversity, has added this additional organ to accommodate their excessive sexual activity. Therefore, it is large enough for the service of the lusting organs, but its opening is obstructed within. In short, it is not made to serve any purpose in generation: The clear conclusion that we must draw, then, is that we must condemn sodomy, all fruitless sowing of seed, any unnatural methods of holding intercourse and the reversal of the sexual role in intercourse. We must rather follow the guidance of nature, which obviously disapproves of such practices from the very way she has fashioned the male organ, adapted not for receiving the seed, but for implanting it." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 10)
Again, Clement is speaking of sexual behavior not sexual orientation. Men were created by design to implant seed and women to receive it, not vice versa. This is the natural order as created by God and all attempts to modify this, or deviate from it, are contrary to the design and commandments of God. All such contrary sexual behavior Clement holds as sin. We must reject all desires and lusts within our souls that run contrary to nature and, even those that are in conformance with nature, we must hold in check so that our actions are regulated by reason and not passion. This is the path of maturity, to live by reason, even the reason (Logos) of God, and to not be ruled by our passions, especially when it comes to our sexuality.

David Robison

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sowing the Human Race - The Instructor on having children

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 introductionto this series. You may also want to read the introduction to Book 2 of The Instructor as it give advice on how to understand Clement and his writings.

For those astute readers of mine, you probably already noticed that I skipped Chapter 10 of Book 2 in the normal order of my blogging. This is because the editors of the 1885 release of the English translations of Clement's works felt the nature of the topic in Chapter 10 may have been too sensitive for the readers of that day. For that reason they left the chapter in its original Latin language, a language I am unable to read and understand. I scoured the Internet looking for an English translation of this chapter to no avail. I would like to acknowledge and thank Dr. André Villeneuve, Assistant Professor of Theology, at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver CO for assisting me in my search and providing me with this English translation.
"It remains for us now to consider the restriction of sexual intercourse to those who are joined in wedlock. Begetting children is the goal of those who wed, and the fulfillment of that goal is a large family, just as hope of a crop drives the farmer to sow his seed, while the fulfillment of his hope is the actual harvesting of the crop. But he who sows in a living soil is far superior, for the one tills the land to provide food only for a season, the other to secure the preservation of the whole human race; the one tends his crop for himself, the other, for God. We have received the command: 'Be fruitful,' and we must obey. In this role man becomes like God, because he cooperates, in his human way, in the birth of another man." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 10)
Clement outlines his basic beliefs in marriage, family, and sexual relationships. From the beginning, God created man and woman and gave them this command: "be fruitful and multiply." In doing so, God created man and woman as sexual beings and bid them to cooperate with God in the procreation of the human race. Mankind was created to produce mankind, just as every other species of animal was created to be fruitful and to multiple, "each according to its kind." (Genesis 1:24 NKJV) Marriage was created by God to, among other reasons, ensure the preservation and expansion of the human race though the producing of offspring. What makes marriage singular among all the other forms of social relationships is the blessing of sexual intercourse and the possibility or bearing children. All other benefits of marriage, such as companionship and mutual help and aid, can be provided through various forms of social arraignments, but God has relegated and sanctioned sexual relations and the raising of a family to those bound in a covenant of marriage.

Clement likens the process of procreation through sexual intercourse to that of sowing seed. The farmer sows his seed in the Earth looking forward to a harvest. The married man sows his seed through sexual intercourse as the couple looks forward to a harvest of children and the grow of their family. This analogy and comparison forms the basis of much of Clement's discussion on sexual relationships.
"Now, not every land is suited to the reception of seed, and, even if it were, not at the hands of the same farmer. Seed should not be sown on rocky ground nor scattered every-where, for it is the primary substance of generation and contains imbedded in itself the principle of nature. It is undeniably godless, then, to dishonor principles of nature by wasting them on unnatural resting places. " (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 10)
Clement's discussion on the appropriateness of various sexual relationships is based on the idea of a farmer sowing seed in the proper soil. A wise farmer does not sow seed in someone else's field nor does he sow seed where he does not wish to reap a return. This would be analogous to a married man lying with another man's wife or a man lying with a woman in fornication. One sowing his seed where he has not right and the other sowing where he does not want any return, such as unwanted children. Such an analogy would also apply to homosexual intercourse where seed is sown where it can never bring a return, as a farmer sowing among the rocks. In all these analogies, Clement reasserts his belief that the sexual act is primarily the sowing of seed while pleasure in it is secondary.
"A nature can never be made to change; what has been once formed in it cannot be reformed by any sort of change. Change does not involve the nature itself; it necessarily modifies, but does not transform the structure. For instance, although many birds are said to change their color and their voice according to the season... even so, their nature itself is not so affected that a male becomes female." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 10)
We are created sexual beings as much as we are created male and female. As such, our nature has fashioned us with pudenda necessary to perform sexual intercourse for the reproducing of the human race. Such the construction of our natural bodies and the purpose of these organs is what Clement assigns to "nature." Any use of these organs that are contrary to their created nature is deviant as it is against "nature." This is what Paul meant when he spoke of the sexual culture in Rome, "Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful." (Romans 1:27 NKJV) While we may desire and lust after many things, nature is immutable. Our desires do not change our nature nor can we redefine what God has made. It is a combination of his belief in God, our created nature, and the special place that sexual intercourse has in marriage that will form much of Clement has yet to say about sex.

David Robison

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Economy of beauty - The Instructor on fondness of jewles

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 introductionto this series. You may also want to read the introduction to Book 2 of The Instructor as it give advice on how to understand Clement and his writings.
"Resigning, therefore, these baubles to the wicked master of cunning himself, let us not take part in this meretricious adornment, nor commit idolatry through a specious pretext. Most admirably, therefore, the blessed Peter says, 'In like manner also, that women adorn themselves not with braids, or gold, or costly array, but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works' ... For, granting that they are beautiful, nature suffices. Let not art contend against nature; that is, let not falsehood strive with truth. And if they are by nature ugly, they are convicted, by the things they apply to themselves, of what they do not possess." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 13)
Clement calls us to abandon all external trapping by which we try to make ourselves beautiful. All such attempts at external beauty are, at best, a distraction and, at worst, a doorway to sensuality and licentiousness. If a woman is beautiful, let her natural beauty suffice. If she is ugly, let her realize that true beauty and ugliness comes from within not without. True beauty will always shine forth regardless of how plane the frame may be. A woman who is beautiful inside will always shine forth as being beautiful in appearance as well. To try and dress up the body that we might "feel beautiful" is a dead end and quite like chasing a moving target. In the end, we will be exhausted and no closer to true beauty. However, if we realize that what makes a person beautiful is a beautiful soul, and apply our efforts there, then we will in increasing measure posses an eternal beauty that can never be taken away.
"It is suitable, therefore, for women who serve Christ to adopt simplicity. For in reality simplicity provides for sanctity, by reducing redundancies to equality, and by furnishing from whatever is at hand the enjoyment sought from superfluities. For simplicity, as the name shows, is not conspicuous, is not inflated or puffed up in aught, but is altogether even, and gentle, and equal, and free of excess, and so is sufficient. And sufficiency is a condition which reaches its proper end without excess or defect. The mother of these is Justice, and their nurse “Independence;” and this is a condition which is satisfied with what is necessary, and by itself furnishes what contributes to the blessed life." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 13)
Many believers are weighed down in their journey towards eternal life by the encumbrances of this world. Their material possessions, their pursuits for worldly things, all hinder them in following Jesus. Worse yet, it hardens their heart towards their fellow man as they compete with each other to be the most beautiful, most successful, and richest among them. How much simpler would our life in Christ be if we were not burdened with the cares and possessions of this world! The path to simplicity will require both justice and independence. Justice to realize that we are called to care for our fellow man. It is God who grants us wealth yet He never intended for us to spend it all upon our own selves. God makes rich that we might not only care for our own needs but that we might have excess to help others who are in need. Our journey towards simplicity will also require independence. We cannot follow after the world and expect to end up in the Kingdom of God. How can we don the image of Christ when we are so committed to following the behavior and actions of others? Choosing simplicity will require us to choose to separate ourselves from our culture and may, at times, put us at odds with those around us. However, we were not called to be like the world but rather to be transformed that we might become "the light of the world. A city set on a hill" that cannot be hidden. (Matthew 5:14)
"Let there, then, be in the fruits of thy hands, sacred order, liberal communication, and acts of economy. 'For he that giveth to the poor, lendeth to God.' 'And the hands of the manly shall be enriched.' Manly He calls those who despise wealth, and are free in bestowing it. And on your feet let active readiness to well-doing appear, and a journeying to righteousness. Modesty and chastity are collars and necklaces; such are the chains which God forges." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 13)
Let us participate in God's economy by sharing what we have with others, thus beautifying our own souls though obedience to His word. This is not a call for the weak and self-absorbed, and it will take courage and independence on our part, but those who find this path will find themselves working with God; participating in God's economy. How great are the rewards to be found in the economy of God!

David Robison

Monday, January 20, 2014

Beauty and Ugliness - The Instructor on fondness of jewels

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 introductionto this series. You may also want to read the introduction to Book 2 of The Instructor as it give advice on how to understand Clement and his writings.
"In fine, they must accordingly utterly cast off ornaments as girls' gewgaws, rejecting adornment itself entirely. For they ought to be adorned within, and show the inner woman beautiful. For in the soul alone are beauty and deformity shown. Wherefore also only the virtuous man is really beautiful and good. And it is laid down as a dogma, that only the beautiful is good. And excellence alone appears through the beautiful body, and blossoms out in the flesh, exhibiting the amiable comeliness of self-control, whenever the character like a beam of light gleams in the form. For the beauty of each plant and animal consists in its individual excellence. And the excellence of man is righteousness, and temperance, and manliness, and godliness. The beautiful man is, then, he who is just, temperate, and in a word, good, not he who is rich." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 13)
Clement lays down the dogma that "only the beautiful is good," thus conversely, that which is good must also be beautiful. Unfortunately, our concepts of beauty have become corrupted along with our culture to the point where not only do we no longer recognize true beauty but we have also failed to recognize that which is good. True beauty, and for that matter, true ugliness, is not external but it is found in the soul. A woman should not be judged as beautiful based on the clothes and jewels she wears, yet this is precisely what is paraded before us at one of those Hollywood events where each one tries to out do the other in dress and jewelry. True excellence, which is the expression of beauty, is the outward expressions of a hidden beauty of the soul; self-control, gentleness, righteousness, kindness, truth and the like are the marks of excellence from an inward beauty. To be beautiful is not the same as to be rich.
"But the love of ornament, which is far from caring for virtue, but claims the body for itself, when the love of the beautiful has changed to empty show, is to be utterly expelled. For applying things unsuitable to the body, as if they were suitable, begets a practice of lying and a habit of falsehood; and shows not what is decorous, simple, and truly childlike, but what is pompous, luxurious, and effeminate. But these women obscure true beauty, shading it with gold. And they know not how great is their transgression... O foolish trouble! O silly craze for display! They squander meretriciously wealth on what is disgraceful; and in their love for ostentation disfigure God’s gifts, emulating the art of the evil one." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 13)
Sometimes we don clothes and accessories as a form of costume to hide the image of the person inside. This is either because we fail to understand the true value of who we are or, upon recognizing the ugliness of our souls, we are want to know how to transform the ugly duckling into a beautiful swan. However, no amount of clothes, gold, or jewelry can make an ugly soul beautiful, that is something only God can do. Fortunately, God has given us His promise and sent His Son for this very purpose. "Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the children of Zion be joyful in their King... For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation." (Psalms 149:2,3 NKJV) Jesus came to make us beautiful once again. It is only as we allow God to work in our soul, to conform it to His very image, that we will find true beauty; a beauty that is not dependent on what we wear because it comes from who we are.
"Apelles, the painter, seeing one of his pupils painting a figure loaded with gold colour to represent Helen, said to him, 'Boy, being incapable of painting her beautiful, you have made her rich.' Such Helens are the ladies of the present day, not truly beautiful, but richly got up. To these the Spirit prophesies by Zephaniah: 'And their silver and their gold shall not be able to deliver them in the day of the Lord’s anger.' But for those women who have been trained under Christ, it is suitable to adorn themselves not with gold, but with the Word, through whom alone the gold comes to light." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 13)
Let us no longer confuse riches for beauty and show for truth. What matters is not how people esteem us but who we are in truth. For even if people should reject us and count us among the unbeautiful, it cannot change who we are in truth inside. Their blindness can never diminish the beauty of salvation that God has worked into our soul. Others may not see it, but we do and God does. In the end, it will be as Paul said, "The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after." (1 Timothy 5:24) For some, their beauty precedes them, yet even for those whose beauty is not now recognized by the world, in then end, even that too will be revealed. For as Jesus said, "For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it would come to light." (Mark 4:22)

David Robison

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Jewels over people - The Instructor on fondness of jewels

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 introductionto this series. You may also want to read the introduction to Book 2 of The Instructor as it give advice on how to understand Clement and his writings.
"It is childish to admire excessively dark or green stones, and things cast out by the sea on foreign shores, particles of the earth. For to rush after stones that are pellucid and of peculiar colours, and stained glass, is only characteristic of silly people, who are attracted by things that have a striking show. Thus children, on seeing the fire, rush to it, attracted by its brightness; not understanding through senselessness the danger of touching it. Such is the case with the stones which silly women wear fastened to chains and set in necklaces, amethysts, ceraunites, jaspers, topaz, and the Milesian 'Emerald, most precious ware.' And the highly prized pearl has invaded the woman’s apartments to an extravagant extent." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 13)
When we live for show, everything becomes a snare. Clement likens it to children who, out of fascination for fire, run towards it not knowing its real danger. In the same way, those who pursue material possessions, out of their fascination for them, seek for and rush after them not knowing the danger they are bringing upon themselves. They are pursuing worldly possessions that have no eternal value at the expense of obtaining eternal riches that will last forever.
"But these women... gape all they can for jewels, adducing the astounding apology, 'Why may I not use what God hath exhibited?' and, 'I have it by me, why may I not enjoy it?' and, 'For whom were these things made, then, if not for us?' Such are the utterances of those who are totally ignorant of the will of God. For first necessaries, such as water and air, He supplies free to all; and what is not necessary He has hid in the earth and water. Wherefore ants dig, and griffins guard gold, and the sea hides the pearl-stone. But ye busy yourselves about what you need not. Behold, the whole heaven is lighted up, and ye seek not God; but gold which is hidden, and jewels, are dug up by those among us who are condemned to death." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 13)
We must remember that most of these early converts in Alexandria had no prior training in either Judaism or Christianity. All they knew of were their Greek gods and the literature that surrounded and supported them. However, they quickly learned how to invoke God in their defense of their customs and behavior that they brought with them into their new life in Christ. While pretending dependence on God's will they betrayed their true motives, motives directed towards self rather than towards God and others.

Clement was not only trained in the Greek philosophy and literature but also in the scriptures and the writings of the apostles. However, he was also trained in natural philosophy, which today we call, Earth Science. In discussing the use of jewelry, instead of appealing to the scriptures, he appeals to nature. Believing that God had created both the world and us, he notices that everything needed for necessity was provided all around us and was provided freely. Those things that pertained to excess were the thing hidden, such as jewels and pearls. Tremendous effort is required to find and harvest such hidden treasures while the beauty of God's creation lays all around us and is on show for free. Instead of putting forth the effort to mine gold, should we not rather just simply enjoy the beauty of a sunset? Can gold ever compare to the beauty of nature all around us? Should we not cease from pursuing what is hidden and rather enjoy what is provided in simplicity and thankfulness?
"God brought our race into communion by first imparting what was His own, when He gave His own Word, common to all, and made all things for all. All things therefore are common, and not for the rich to appropriate an undue share. That expression, therefore, 'I possess, and possess in abundance: why then should I not enjoy?' is suitable neither to the man, nor to society. But more worthy of love is that: 'I have: why should I not give to those who need?' For such an one—one who fulfils the command, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself'—is perfect. For this is the true luxury—the treasured wealth." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 13)
Clement's understanding of material possessions runs so contrary to our modem culture that it can be hard for us to grasp it or to accept it as our own. However, this was the standing culture of the church throughout the first several centuries. Luke tells us of the church in Jerusalem, "all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need." (Acts 2:44-45) Almost two hundred years later, Turtullian wrote of the church in his day, "One in mind and soul, we do not hesitate to share our earthly goods with one another. All things are common among us but our wives." (Turtullian, Apology, Chapter 39) To believe that God has given us riches to spend them on our own selfish interests run contrary to right reason and to the understanding of all good people and societies. Love compels us to see our material possessions as not the means to our own pleasure but as the resources needed to help others in their time of need. To ask, "How shall I spend what God has given me on my own wants?" is the height of selfishness while love asks, "How can I use what God has given me to ease the needs of others?"
"But that which is squandered on foolish lusts is to be reckoned waste, not expenditure. For God has given to us, I know well, the liberty of use, but only so far as necessary; and He has determined that the use should be common. And it is monstrous for one to live in luxury, while many are in want. How much more glorious is it to do good to many, than to live sumptuously! How much wiser to spend money on human being, than on jewels and gold! How much more useful to acquire decorous friends, than lifeless ornaments! Whom have lands ever benefited so much as conferring favours has? It remainsfor us, therefore, to do away with this allegation: Who, then, will have the more sumptuous things, if all select the simpler? Men, I would say, if they make use of them impartially and indifferently. But if it be impossible for all to exercise self-restraint, yet, with a view to the use of what is necessary, we must seek after what can be most readily procured, bidding a long farewell to these superfluities." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 13)
To spend wealth on ourselves is a waste of what God has given us. While it may provide for momentary pleasure, it is deplete of any eternal rewards and advantages. When we spend wealth on ourselves we are not benefited, but when we become the benefactors of others, we reap rewards from God. When gold, silver, and precious stones become our wealth, how truly poor we are. However, when we make people our true possessions and wealth, then we are rich indeed. Our new expensive things are destined to become our old expensive things over the course of time, but relationships formed by helping and supporting others will last for eternity. True wealth is found in people, not things. So what should be our attitude towards wealth if we possess it and how shall we use our wealth? By having an attitude of indifference towards it. It should make little concern to us if we keep it or sell it for the needs of others. Our wealth should be inconsequential to our life as we are indifferent to its keeping or giving. Only then will we be truly free from the snares of wealth and become possessors of what it of true value, the souls and love of others.

David Robison

Thursday, January 16, 2014

And shoes too - The Instructor on shoes

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. You may also want to read the introduction to Book 2 of The Instructor as it give advice on how to understand Clement and his writings.

I dedicate this post to my daughter whose motto is, "If the shoe fits, buy one in every color!"
"Women fond of display act in the same manner with regard to shoes, showing also in this matter great luxuriousness. Base, in truth, are those sandals on which golden ornaments are fastened; but they are thought worth having nails driven into the soles in winding rows. Many, too, carve on them amorous embraces, as if they would by their walk communicate to the earth harmonious movement, and impress on it the wantonness of their spirit. Farewell, therefore, must be bidden to gold-plated and jewelled mischievous devices of sandals... and setting before us the right aim, as is the habit with our truth, we are bound to select what is in accordance with nature. For the use of shoes is partly for covering, partly for defence in case of stumbling against objects, and for saving the sole of the foot from the roughness of hilly paths." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 12)
Clement applies his same manor of reason towards clothes to that of shoes, namely that excesses for the sake of show are to be avoided. Clement views clothes and shoes, as well as other forms of external necessities, as existing to serve the needs of the body. They are meant to serve the necessities of the body and therefore all excesses and superfluidity in them is both unnecessary and a snare. Those who try to attach greater significance and value to such external trappings, such as beauty and status, show forth an inward need and lack that is meant only to be fulfilled in the Lord. Shoes are meant to cover and protect, not to show how beautiful, rich, or graceful we are.
"To go with bare feet is most suitable for exercise, and best adapted for health and ease, unless where necessity prevents. But if we are not on a journey, and cannot endure bare feet, we may use slippers or white shoes; dusty-foots the Attics called them, on account of their bringing the feet near the dust, as I think. As a witness for simplicity in shoes let John suffice, who avowed that 'he was not worthy to unloose the latchet of the Lord’s shoes.' For he who exhibited to the Hebrews the type of the true philosophy wore no elaborate shoes." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 12)
It is interesting to note Clement's preference for going barefooted as he obviously lived in a climate well suited for that. However, Clement also reminds us, from the words of John the Baptist, that even Jesus wore simple shoes. Jesus was not given to ostentatious displays in dress or shoes, rather He employed simple dress and shoes as supplying His bodily necessities. If Jesus was content with simple shoes, shouldn't we be too? Jesus was the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, yet He didn't feel compelled to dress like it. He knew who He was, where He was from, and where He was going and He didn't need outward extravagances to convince others of it. There were no hidden doubts or emotional needs for which to compensate by outward dress and appearances. Let the same be true of us. Let us come to know and believe the love of God and then we too will have no need of show.

David Robison

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Economy in dress - The Instructor on Clothes

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. You may also want to read the introduction to Book 2 of The Instructor as it give advice on how to understand Clement and his writings.
"And if such must be woven for the women, let us weave apparel pleasant and soft to the touch, not flowered, like pictures, to delight the eye. For the picture fades in course of time, and the washing and steeping in the medicated juices of the dye wear away the wool, and render the fabrics of the garments weak; and this is not favourable to economy." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 11)
Not all clothes are of the same workmanship or quality and innovation in clothing is not to be strictly rejected, but it should be that which tends to wearability and durability of the clothes rather than merely their appearance which offers little to them as covering. How many clothes are discarded by our western culture because they have simply become faded although they still provide adequate covering and protection? We have become, in many ways, a society that appreciates what things look like more than how they are made. We buy clothes not because they fit and are well made but because they look good and conform to the latest "fashion." Then, when they fade or the fashions change, we simply discard them for something else.

God is not concerned solely with out modesty in clothing but also our economy of clothing. King Solomon once said, "Furthermore, as for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, He has also empowered him to eat from them and to receive his reward and rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God." (Ecclesiastics 5:19) Wealth is a gift from God, but so also is the ability to know how to rightly use that wealth given to us. If our wealth comes from the Lord then shouldn't we use that wealth in a way that is in accordance with wisdom and right counsel? Solomon said of wisdom, "I walk in the way of righteousness, In the midst of the paths of justice, to endow those who love me with wealth, that I may fill their treasuries." (Proverbs 8:20-21) Wisdom build wealth and by wisdom one learns to use wealth. On the issue of clothes one must ask the wisdom of buying that which serves the eye at the sacrifice of the body; looking good but wearing out and failing to cover and protect the body.
"For as well-nurtured bodies, when stripped, show their vigour more manifestly, so also beauty of character shows its magnanimity, when not involved in ostentatious fooleries... The covering ought, in my judgment, to show that which is covered to be better than itself, as the image is superior to the temple, the soul to the body, and the body to the clothes. But now, quite the contrary, the body of these ladies, if sold, would never fetch a thousand Attic drachms. Buying, as they do, a single dress at the price of ten thousand talents, they prove themselves to be of less use and less value than cloth. Why in the world do you seek after what is rare and costly, in preference to what is at hand and cheap? It is because you know not what is really beautiful, what is really good?" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 11)
What is of greater value, the clothes that cover the body or the body that is covered? This question is at the heart of our choices in clothing and hits deep to our understanding of what it means to be beautiful. Some will dress up the body to portray an image of what they secretly feel they lack in reality. The want to look beautiful because they don't feel beautiful inside. Unfortunately, external beauty fades and we are constantly searching for that latest outfit that will replace the fading beauty of our present outfit so that no one will notice what we perceive as our inward unattractiveness. The real issue is not the dress but the heart. We seek for beauty externally that we might feel beautiful inside, and all the time we fail to see that our God who created us already finds us beautiful. "Listen, O daughter, give attention and incline your ear: forget your people and your father's house; then the King will desire your beauty. Because He is your Lord, bow down to Him." (Psalm 45:10-11) It is only when we stop chasing after external things, things that are fading away, and come to know the God who created us that we can really begin to understand who we are and discover the true beauty that is within us. To truly understand beauty, we need to know the King!.

David Robison

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Fashion in dress - The Instructors on Clothes

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. You may also want to read the introduction to Book 2 of The Instructor as it give advice on how to understand Clement and his writings.
"And our life ought to be anything rather than a pageant. Therefore the dye of Sardis, and another of olive, and another green, a rose-coloured, and scarlet, and ten thousand other dyes, have been invented with much trouble for mischievous voluptuousness. Such clothing is for looking at, not for covering... The Instructor expressly admonishes, 'Boast not of the clothing of your garment, and be not elated on account of any glory, as it is unlawful.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 11)
Do we dress to be covered or to be noticed and, if so, by whom? Our lives should not be spent to be noticed by men, but by God. Jesus did say, "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16) However, the purpose for being seen by men is that God would get noticed not ourselves. When we live to be noticed by men we loose sight of God and our entire spiritual focus is turned downward rather than upwards. "How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?" (John 5:44) Fashion is one way we can live to be noticed by men and to receive glory from them.
"Accordingly, deriding those who are clothed in luxurious garments, He says in the Gospel: 'Lo, they who live in gorgeous apparel and luxury are in earthly palaces.' He says in perishable palaces, where are love of display, love of popularity, and flattery and deceit. But those that wait at the court of heaven around the King of all, are sanctified in the immortal vesture of the Spirit, that is, the flesh, and so put on incorruptibility." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 11)
Our choice of outward dress can often reflect and inward reality. If our outward dress is simple and modest then we show forth our inward confidence in our own value and standing with God. We no longer need outward pretentiousness to recommend ourselves to others because we are already approved by God. Our inward beauty satisfies us and we no longer need to live for the praise and glory of men. However, those who excel in fashion often reflect an inward need to be seen as beautiful, to be popular, to be loved, and to be desired. Their outward extravagances is an expression of their inward need. However, such appealing to men (and women) can never earn us what we truly desire: true and sincere love. Such love can only be found in a relationship with God and with His Son and is something that expensive clothing and dress can ever provide.
"As therefore she who is unmarried devotes herself to God alone, and her care is not divided, but the chaste married woman divides her life between God and her husband, while she who is otherwise disposed is devoted entirely to marriage, that is, to passion: in the same way I think the chaste wife, when she devotes herself to her husband, sincerely serves God; but when she becomes fond of finery, she falls away from God and from chaste wedlock, exchanging her husband for the world, after the fashion of that Argive courtesan, I mean Eriphyle,— 'Who received gold prized above her dear husband.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 11)
Clothing is not a sin, but it can be a snare. Clement introduces us to three type of women, although the same can be said of men. There is the celibate woman who lives to please God. Her life is focused upward and her life is spent in devotion to God. Then there is the chaste woman who loves God and loves her husband. Her life is divided between upward and horizontal relationships. She lives a life to please God and to please her husband. However, even in her devotion to her husband she is pleasing to God and God accepts her marital devotion as devotion to Him. Finally there is the woman of passion who lives to please herself. Her life is spent on pleasure and her every thought is for herself. While the two married women may perform the same acts, one does so out of love and the other out of passion and selfishness.Therefore, one's love is blessed by God and the other's passion demonstrates that she "is dead even while she lives." (1 Timothy 5:6) Clothing, along with other worldly possessions, can be a snare to our life with Christ and our relationships with others. When we love and live for fine expensive things then we demonstrate our love for self as being greater than our love for others. Materialism and the love of "things" will choke out all other loves in our lives and will render our relationships subservient to our possessions.

David Robison

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Put some clothes on - The Instructor on Clothes

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. You may also want to read the introduction to Book 2 of The Instructor as it give advice on how to understand Clement and his writings.
"I say, then, that man requires clothes for nothing else than the covering of the body, for defence against excess of cold and intensity of heat, lest the inclemency of the air injure us. And if this is the object of clothing, see that one kind be not assigned to men and another to women. For it is common to both to be covered, as it is to eat and drink. The necessity, then, being common, we judge that the provision ought to be similar. For as it is common to both to require things to cover them, so also their coverings ought to be similar;" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 11)
Clement contends that the basic purpose of clothes is to protect us. In one case to protect the sight of our body from prying eyes and the other to protect our bodies from the harshness of the elements. As I am writing this, it is about twenty degrees Fahrenheit outside and I will definitely be wearing a sufficient amount of clothes to protect myself from the freezing weather. However, we also wear clothes to cover our naked form; to give discretion to the less presentable parts of our body. "On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it." (1 Corinthians 12:22-24) Here, Paul is making a comparison between how we cloth our natural body, to hide and protect some members, with how God clothes His spiritual body, the church.

It is interesting to note that Clement believes that men and women's dress should be similar. It is odd that we would have one code of dress for men and one for women; for example, requiring women to wear skirts and men slacks. If the purpose is for cover and protection then our expectations should be similar regardless of whether a person is male or female. It is my belief that, most of the time, especially in Christian settings, when our expectation of dress for men and women are different, that it is as a result of our culture and not the Word of God. Perhaps we need to rethink our standards in light of God's word and reason rather than the prevailing culture.
"For if the female sex, on account of their weakness, desire more, we ought to blame the habit of that evil training, by which often men reared up in bad habits become more effeminate than women. But this must not be yielded to. And if some accommodation is to be made, they may be permitted to use softer clothes, provided they put out of the way fabrics foolishly thin, and of curious texture in weaving; bidding farewell to embroidery of gold and Indian silks and elaborate Bombyces (silks)... For these superfluous and diaphanous materials are the proof of a weak mind, covering as they do the shame of the body with a slender veil. For luxurious clothing, which cannot conceal the shape of the body, is no more a covering. For such clothing, falling close to the body, takes its form more easily, and adhering as it were to the flesh, receives its shape, and marks out the woman’s figure, so that the whole make of the body is visible to spectators, though not seeing the body itself." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 11)
While, since men and women's need for covering are the same, and therefore their dress should be similar, Clement does recognize that the sexes are different; allowing women to wear softer clothes then men as their skin is often softer then their counterparts. However, it makes no sense to wear clothes that are revealing, provocative, or clingy to the form leaving little to the imagination. If we dress to clothe our naked body then why would we select clothes that reveal it or show off its form? Just as we wouldn't go outside in the freezing weather in short pants and a T-shirt, why would we go outside in clothes that reveal and not cover?
"Dyeing of clothes is also to be rejected. For it is remote both from necessity and truth, in addition to the fact that reproach in manners spring from it. For the use of colours is not beneficial, for they are of no service against cold; nor has it anything for covering more than other clothing, except the opprobrium alone. And the agreeableness of the colour afflicts greedy eyes, inflaming them to senseless blindness. But for those who are white and unstained within, it is most suitable to use white and simple garments... But garments which are like flowers are to be abandoned to Bacchic fooleries, and to those of the rites of initiation, along with purple and silver plate, as the comic poet says:— 'Useful for tragedians, not far life.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 11)
Clement's aversion to colorful dress is two fold. First, he views the care and pursuit of such things to be misguided and a distraction from our care and pursuit of God and His Kingdom. Dress is a necessity and any excess or pursuit beyond what is necessary serves only our vanity or our sensual desires for what the world calls "beauty." Secondly, our dress often indicates our desire to be like the world; to look like them, talk like them, act like them, and be like them. However, we are called to be different; we are called to be, "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light." (1 Peter 2:9 KJV) How can we be a peculiar people if we are mere carbon-copies of those around us? Let us not let our culture think for us but look to God and His Word. Let us consider what is necessary and pursue that while leaving all other excesses behind. If we are clothed and protected by our dress, let that satisfy us as we pursue the Kingdom of God.

David Robison

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Dreaming of beauty - The Instructor on Clothes

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. You may also want to read the introduction to Book 2 of The Instructor as it give advice on how to understand Clement and his writings.
"If, then, He takes away anxious care for clothes and food, and superfluities in general, as unnecessary; what are we to imagine ought to be said of love of ornament, and dyeing of wool, and variety of colours, and fastidiousness about gems, and exquisite working of gold, and still more, of artificial hair and wreathed curls; and furthermore, of staining the eyes, and plucking out hairs, and painting with rouge and white lead, and dyeing of the hair, and the wicked arts that are employed in such deceptions?" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 11)
This world will not last forever. John reminds us that, "The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever." (1 John 2:17) All the things that are external to our inner and outer man are on track for destruction and one day will be completely done away with. Jesus was very clear that we should not be anxious or give care for seeking after the external things of life. Our Father already knows we need them. Rather that we should, "seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:33) External things may be of necessity for this life, such as food, clothing, and shelter, but our use of them must be governed by moderation, temperance, and frugality. Paul reminds us that we should be people who use the things of this world, "as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away." (1 Corinthians 7:31) All such cares for the external and temporal things of life are misdirected cares; cares spent after those things which are fading away rather than the Kingdom which is growing ever brighter.
"I admire that ancient city of the Lacedæmonians which permitted harlots alone to wear flowered clothes, and ornaments of gold, interdicting respectable women from love of ornament, and allowing courtesans alone to deck themselves. On the other hand, the archons of the Athenians, who affected a polished mode of life, forgetting their manhood, wore tunics reaching to the feet, and had on the crobulus—a kind of knot of the hair—adorned with a fastening of gold grasshoppers, to show their origin from the soil, forsooth, in the ostentation of licentiousness." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 11)
Far too often we allow our culture to deceive us into believing that our way of life is the normal way of life. Our manor of dress, our social and political organizations, and even they way we interact with others are often formed by our culture to the point where we believe that all these things are "normal." However, just because our culture teaches one way of living that does not mean that it is the right way of living. Just because something is normal doesn't mean that it is best. Here, Clement contrasts the two different cultures of the Lacedaemonians and the Athenians, each with their own since of "normal" when it comes to dress and fashion. When we look at other cultures and contrast them with ours we often find ways where our culture falls short and anther excels. However, for the believer, the goal is not to compare our culture with others to find whose is best, but rather to compare our culture with he culture of Heaven to find that which is true and eternal. In discussing our standard, or culture, of dress, our comparison should not be the nations around us but the Kingdom of God. We must look for wisdom from God and His Word to guide us in developing a Kingdom culture in our life, a culture based on truth and real beauty.
"Those, therefore, who are devoted to the image of the beautiful, that is, love of finery, not the beautiful itself, and who under a fair name again practice idolatry, are to be banished far from the truth, as those who by opinion, not knowledge, dream of the nature of the beautiful; and so life here is to them only a deep sleep of ignorance; from which it becomes us to rouse ourselves and haste to that which is truly beautiful and comely, and desire to grasp this alone, leaving the ornaments of earth to the world, and bidding them farewell before we fall quite asleep." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 11)
There is a vast difference between beautiful things and true beauty. Some people desire beautiful things that they might appear beautiful, but true beauty does not come from external things but from within. Dressing up and adorning the body of an ugly soul will not make the person any more beautiful than they already are. Conversely, simple dress of a truly beautiful soul can never hide the beauty that lies hidden within them. Clement warns us of dreaming of beauty as if it was a thing, for true beauty is not a thing, it is a person. By allowing Jesus to increase His image within us, to allow Him to progressively conforms our lives to His image and nature, we will be ever increasing in true beauty; a beauty that never fades away, the beauty of a soul that bears the image of God.

David Robison

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Superfluity in Dress - The Instructor on Clothes

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. You may also want to read the introduction to Book 2 of The Instructor as it give advice on how to understand Clement and his writings.
"Wherefore neither are we to provide for ourselves costly clothing any more than variety of food. The Lord Himself, therefore, dividing His precepts into what relates to the body, the soul, and thirdly, external things, counsels us to provide external things on account of the body; and manages the body by the soul (ψυκή), and disciplines the soul, saying, 'Take no thought for your life what ye shall eat; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on; for the life is more than meat, and the body more than raiment.' And He adds a plain example of instruction: 'Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them. Are ye not better than the fowls?' Thus far as to food. Similarly He enjoins with respect to clothing, which belongs to the third division, that of things external, saying, 'Consider the lilies, how they spin not, nor weave. But I say unto you, that not even Solomon was arrayed as one of these.' And Solomon the king plumed himself exceedingly on his riches." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 11)
God cares for the who person. First for the soul where our desires, dreams, thoughts, and reasons live. God came to make us alive in our souls that we might know God and become conformed into His image. It is primarily here where God's saving grace continues to work in the lives of those who believe in Him. "obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls." (1 Peter 1:9) God also cares for our bodies as they are the temple of His Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). We have previously discussed God's wisdom for the health of our bodies including Clement's advice on eating and sleeping. One day Jesus will returned to redeem even our bodies and to transform them into ones like His own. "waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body." (Romans 8:23) Finally, God cares for those things external to us that we use in our day-to-day lives as we live by faith with God. In this category would include our dress. Dress is a necessity and, as such, one that should be used with regard to modesty, temperance, and frugality. Our goal should be for our covering, protection, and warmth. We should use dress as needed but not as pursuing luxury or for the inducement of affections.
"For this is shown from the Scripture, 'Take no thought what things ye shall eat, or what things ye shall drink.' For to take thought of these things argues greed and luxury. Now eating, considered merely by itself, is the sign of necessity; repletion, as we have said, of want. Whatever is beyond that, is the sign of superfluity. And what is superfluous, Scripture declares to be of the devil... Now pride and luxury make men waverers (or raise them aloft) from the truth; and the voluptuousness, which indulges in superfluities, leads away from the truth. Wherefore He says very beautifully, 'And all these things do the nations of the world seek after.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 11)
Jesus specifically warned us about being anxious as to what we should eat or what we should wear; reminding us that the Father knows of our needs and will care for them Himself. In saying this He warns us not to pursue these things for the sake of luxury, fashion, or vanity. In speaking of food, which could as easily be said of dress, Clement warns us that everything beyond what is necessary is extravagance and extravagance has the power to distract us from the way of truth; to focus our lives of the unimportant rather than on the eternal.
"And if, in a word, we are naturally given to seeking, let us not destroy the faculty of seeking by directing it to luxury, but let us excite it to the discovery of truth. For He says, 'Seek ye the kingdom of God, and the materials of sustenance shall be added to you.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 2, Chapter 11)
There is something innate in each one of us that seeks for something to fill our lives; something to being us fulfillment, joy, peace, and satisfaction. We are all seekers, the question is, what are we seeking for? Are we seeking for the things of this life, for the things that are passing away, or are we seeking for the Kingdom of God and for those things that are true and eternal? How can the things of this world ever satisfy the longing in our heart for something true and eternal? When we give ourselves to seeking external things such as clothes, houses, and material possessions we oppress our natural inner desire for God and our pursuits leave us hollow. However, when we pursue God and His Kingdom we find the things that truly satisfy and that make for live abundant. We seek for God and find God and He provides all we need for our soul, body, and external existence. Let us not pursue external things but rather hone our seeking skills to seek for and to find God.

David Robison