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

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