Monday, March 31, 2014

The Goal of Instruction - 1st Timothy 1:3-7

"As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions." (1 Timothy 1:3-7)
Some have believed that Timothy served as a local pastor in Ephesus. However, I find no evidence in the scriptures or the early Christian writings that would suggest this. Everything we know of Timothy is in relation to his serving with Paul in his apostolic ministry. Here, when Paul urges Timothy to remain behind in Ephesus, there is nothing to indicate that he became a pastor or elder of the church, simply he continued on as an extension of Paul's ministry to correct some faulty teaching that was in the church that Paul had planted.

It is unclear exactly what heresy was being propagated throughout Ephesus. I used to think Paul was referring to Judaism because of the importance genealogies served in proving which tribe you descended from, but Ephesus was not a Jewish center. It is more likely that Paul was referring to one of the Gnostic heresies of the day. These heresies had developed an idea of layer upon layer of gods, each one begetting the next layer and so on. There was also a competition among the gnostics to try and out do each other by coming up with new and more expansive layers of gods, each according to the speculations of their own minds. It was an endless and fruitless pursuit that only led to arguing. Worse of all, such pursuits help no one to grow in regards to God or His Kingdom. Turtullian wrote of such Gnostic sects saying,
"This is rather the glory which they catch at, to compass the fall of those who stand, not the raising of those who are down. Accordingly, since the very work which they purpose to themselves comes not from the building up of their own society, but from the demolition of the truth, they undermine our edifices, that they may erect their own. Only deprive them of the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the divinity of the Creator, and they have not another objection to talk about. The consequence is, that they more easily accomplish the ruin of standing houses than the erection of fallen ruins. It is only when they have such objects in view that they show themselves humble and bland and respectful. Otherwise they know no respect even for their own leaders." (Turtullian, The Prescription Against Heretics, Chapter 42)
All they had was the destruction of what already existed. They had no word or message that could serve to build anyone up, only tear down. There is so much "noise" today even in Christian circles; some of it maybe helpful but some of it only serves to unsettle and distract. It seems that some exist only to tell us what we aught not to believe and to convince us of how we are doing it wrong as they are the purveyors of how to "get it right." However, the administration of God is by faith. Our teaching and communication should be to encourage one another's faith, not bring it into question. We should seek to promote what is right, not simply point out what is wrong. We should aim to build up, not always tearing down. Our ministry should exist to serve the faith of others, not as a means of hocking our own brand of belief or, as more often the case, unbelief.

The goal of the Father is that we might "become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren." (Romans 8:29) This should be our goal too; not that people might become like us but that they may become like Christ. Far too often, those who teach a "law" teach a "law" that is conformed to them; a law that is patterned after their own behavior; condemning what they do not do and excusing what they do do. The goal of their "law" is to make people like them. Their "law" serves as an external means to coerce the conformance of others that they might not themselves feel condemned. Paul writes of those who were insisting on keeping the laws of Moses saying, "For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh." (Galatians 6:13) When someone can force us to keep their "law" it reinforces to them that they are right and assuages them of any sense of guilt for not keeping God's "law". However, in the end, often both are harmed. One by not repenting and the other by succumbing to the deception of the first.

God has not called us to conform others to our own doctrines and laws, but to help others to know God and to grow closer to Him that they may become conformed to His image, not our own.

David Robison

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Greetings - 1st Timothy 1:1-2

"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope, To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord." (1 Timothy 1:1-2)
We never read Paul referring to himself as the "Apostle Paul" but always as "Paul, an apostle." Paul always referred to himself by his function within the body and never by title. Titles imply our position over the body while our function defines our relationship to the body. What is important is how we related to the body (what our function is) more than our position over the body (what our office is).

Jesus warned us of our use of titles when He commanded us, "But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ." (Matthew 23:8-10) Titles can be dangerous and can separate us from others in the body. Jesus warned us about giving titles to others and receiving titles for our self. Titles tend to lift up some over the body as if they were separate and above the body, obscuring the truth that we are all brothers and sisters. We should always endeavor to be no more than brothers and sisters to each other. Whenever we feel the necessity to give titles to others or require titles for ourselves we break down the bonds of brotherhood and set ourselves apart; which is a dangerous place to be.

Paul writes to Timothy as his "true son" using a particular Greek word that references one who was actually born of him rather than one who was adopted. In the book of Acts, we learn of when Paul first met Timothy, "Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek, and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted this man to go with him..." (Acts 16:1-3) We know little of Timothy's natural father other than he was a Greek and an unbeliever. Paul took Timothy and raised him up in the things of God as if he was his own natural born son. Their relationship was special and transformative in Timothy's life. Latter on, Paul would write of Timothy, "But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare." (Philippians 2:19-20) Paul's relationship with Timothy resulted in Paul's spirit being reproduced in Timothy. Timothy had become like Paul in his spirit, caring for others more than he cared for himself.

There are many today while having earthly fathers, lack fathers who can and will lead them into the things of God. This is not to condemn their earthly fathers, for many of them are doing the best they can, but one cannot lead another into what they themselves have not ventured into. It is important for mature men and women to help their younger brothers and sisters in their progress in the things of God; becoming mothers and fathers to those who need spiritual guidance and parenting; reproducing the good things of the Kingdom of God into the next generation of believers. You may not be a Paul and you may not have a Timothy, but you can still encourage, admonish, and lead others into all God has for them.

David Robison

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Prayer to the Paedagogus - The Instructor in final

This is the conclusion 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.

Clement is now finished and he leaves us with the following prayer to the Paedagogus, or to the Instructor. In it he ask God to grant us grace that we might 1) become like His, 2) might find peace and calm in our lives, and 3) may be able to rightly praise and thank Him for his works in our lives.
"Be gracious, O Instructor, to us Thy children, Father, Charioteer of Israel, Son and Father, both in One, O Lord. Grant to us who obey Thy precepts, that we may perfect the likeness of the image, and with all our power know Him who is the good God and not a harsh judge. And do Thou Thyself cause that all of us who have our conversation in Thy peace, who have been translated into Thy commonwealth, having sailed tranquilly over the billows of sin, may be wafted in calm by Thy Holy Spirit, by the ineffable wisdom, by night and day to the perfect day; and giving thanks may praise, and praising thank the Alone Father and Son, Son and Father, the Son, Instructor and Teacher, with the Holy Spirit, all in One, in whom is all, for whom all is One, for whom is eternity, whose members we all are, whose glory the æons are; for the All-good, All-lovely, All-wise, All-just One. To whom be glory both now and for ever. Amen." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
Finally, Clement leaves us with the following hymn to the Instructor which he himself composed. It is unfortunate that we must read it in English for I am sure it looses much of its original beauty from the original Latin. Yet, nonetheless, you can still hear his love and thanksgiving for his Instructor and ours.

1) Bridle of colts untamed, Over our wills presiding; Wing of unwandering birds, Our flight securely guiding. Rudder of youth unbending, Firm against adverse shock; Shepherd, with wisdom tending, Lambs of the royal flock: Thy simple children bring, In one, that they may sing, In solemn lays, Their hymns of praise, With guileless lips to Christ their King. 
2) King of saints, almighty, Word Of the Father highest Lord; Wisdom’s head and chief; Assuagement of all grief; Lord of all time and space, Jesus, Saviour of our race; Shepherd, who dost us keep; Husbandman, who tillest, Bit to restrain us, Rudder To guide us as Thou willest; Of the all-holy flock celestial wing; Fisher of men, whom Thou to life dost bring; From evil sea of sin, And from the billowy strife, Gathering pure fishes in, Caught with sweet bait of life: Lead us, Shepherd of the sheep, Reason-gifted, holy One; King of youths, whom Thou dost keep, So that they pollution shun: Steps of Christ, celestial Way; Word eternal, Age unending; Life that never can decay; Fount of mercy, virtue-sending; Life august of those who raise, Unto God their hymn of praise, Jesus Christ! 
3) Nourished by the milk of heaven, To our tender palates given; Milk of wisdom from the breast, Of that bride of grace exprest; By a dewy spirit filled, From fair Reason’s breast distilled; Let us sucklings join to raise, With pure lips our hymns of praise As our grateful offering, Clean and pure, to Christ our King. Let us, with hearts undefiled, Celebrate the mighty Child. We, Christ-born, the choir of peace; We, the people of His love, Let us sing, nor ever cease, To the God of peace above.

David Robison

Monday, March 24, 2014

It is the Word - The Instructor and the Compendious Word of Scripture

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.
"O nurslings of His blessed training! let us complete the fair face of the church; and let us run as children to our good mother. And if we become listeners to the Word, let us glorify the blessed dispensation by which man is trained and sanctified as a child of God, and has his conversation in heaven, being trained from earth, and there receives the Father, whom he learns to know on earth. The Word both does and teaches all things, and trains in all things." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 12)
The Word is both the written word and Jesus who is the Word made flesh. It is the Word that calls us together with other believers to worship and adore Him. It is the word that trains us and cleanses us that we might be holy separated unto Him. It is through the Word that we come to know the Father whom one day we will stand before in heaven. It is the word that dispenses the glories and blessing of heaven upon us all. All this and more we have through His word.
"A horse is guided by a bit, and a bull is guided by a yoke, and a wild beast is caught in a noose. But man is transformed by the Word, by whom wild beasts are tamed, and fishes caught, and birds drawn down... O divine works! O divine commands! ... 'When I want to form man, I want matter, and have matter in the elements. I dwell with what I have formed. If you know me, the fire will be your slave.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 12)
The Word of God transforms us. Paul tells us that transformation takes place in our mind. "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." (Romans 12:2) The word used here is to be metamorphosed, or to be completely changed; from one creature into another. This transformation happens first in our mind and then, like leaven, spreads to affect our entire being. The Word of God comes to change the way we think, the way we understand, and the way we view ourselves, God, and the world around us. It comes to completely change our world view and our paradigm on life. Such a radical change of mind can not help but influence the rest of our lives.
"Such is the Word, such is the Instructor, the Creator of the world and of man: and of Himself, now the world’s Instructor, by whose command we and the universe subsist, and await judgment. 'For it is not he who brings a stealthy vocal word to men,' as Bacchylidis says, 'who shall be the Word of Wisdom;' but 'the blameless, the pure, and faultless sons of God,' according to Paul, 'in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, to shine as lights in the world.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 12)
He is the Word, our creator, and our Instructor and He desires to make Himself and His wisdom known among men. However, how can those who are not enlightened see Him who is unseen? We are those who are to carry His wisdom and glory to a world seeking for truth and knowledge. We are to be the ones who give testimony in the natural of our Father who lives in the spiritual. We are to be His image and likeness upon this Earth for we are His sons and daughters. The Word of God desires to transform us and to release us into the world that others might come to know Him and be transformed by Him to join His beautiful bride upon the Earth.

David Robison

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Our turn to listen - The Instructor and the Compendious Word of Scripture

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.
"Such are a few injunctions out of many, for the sake of example, which the Instructor, running over the divine Scriptures, sets before His children; by which, so to speak, vice is cut up by the roots, and iniquity is circumscribed." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 12)
Having giving numerous examples from the Law, the prophets, Jesus, and the Apostles, Clement summaries the purpose and use of the commands of God; that we might root out all vice and iniquity from our lives and become clean within through His word. Jesus also spoke of the cleansing power of the Word when He said to His disciples, "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you." (John 15:3) The goal of the commandments of God is meant not only for our instruction but also for the cleansing of our soul; to rid us of sin and to establish righteousness within.
"Innumerable commands such as these are written in the holy Bible appertaining to chosen persons, some to presbyters, some to bishops, some to deacons, others to widows, of whom we shall have another opportunity of speaking. Many things spoken in enigmas, many in parables, may benefit such as fall in with them. But it is not my province, says the Instructor, to teach these any longer. But we need a Teacher of the exposition of those sacred words, to whom we must direct our steps." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 12)
Our Instructor comes to us, not to speak some new revelation, command, or riddle, but to explain what God has already written; to illuminate our minds to His word that we might grow up unto His by it. Jesus spoke of this ministry when He said, "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you." (John 14:26) It is our turn, not to receive the revelations of God, but to understand them and learn how to apply them to our lives. Jesus has come to open up the scriptures to us that we might both understand them and learn how to live them. To know the scriptures is of little value if we also lack the wisdom to walk in them. This is the ministry of our Instructor, to marry the two - knowledge and obedience.
"And now, in truth, it is time for me to cease from my instruction, and for you to listen to the Teacher. And He, receiving you who have been trained up in excellent discipline, will teach you the oracles. To noble purpose has the Church sung, and the Bridegroom also, the only Teacher, the good Counsel, of the good Father, the true Wisdom, the Sanctuary of knowledge. 'And He is the propitiation for our sins,' as John says; Jesus, who heals both our body and soul—which are the proper man." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 12)
Clement is coming to the end of his book. Now all that remains is for us to choose a relationship with our Instructor; to turn to Jesus that we might walk with Him and learn from Him. All we need in life we will learn from Him and in Him will be found the answer to all our questions and wondering. He is both good and true and in His love for us He will instruct us and lead us in the right way.

David Robison

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Commands of Wisdom - The Instructor and the Compendious Word of Scripture

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.
"Here is then a comprehensive precept, and an exhortation of life, allembracing: 'As ye would that men should do unto you, do ye likewise to, them.' We may comprehend the commandments in two, as the Lord says, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy strength; and thy neighbour as thyself.' Then from these He infers, 'on this hang the law and the prophets.'" (Clement of Alexandria, the Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 12)
As we read the Word of God, we find such broad and all-encompassing precepts that they can be applied to almost every area of our lives. They are precepts that are applicable to relationships on every level and to our behavior throughout every aspect of our lives. However, while such precepts are easy to comprehend and understand, they can often be more difficult to implement. How do we love our neighbor as ourselves? What does love for God and love for our fellowman means look like? How do we know if we are truly loving our neighbor?
Further, to him that asked, 'What good thing shall I do, that I may inherit eternal life?' He answered, 'Thou knowest the Commandments?' And on him replying Yea, He said, 'This do, and thou shalt be saved.' Especially conspicuous is the love of the Instructor set forth in various salutary commandments, in order that the discovery may be readier, from the abundance and arrangement of the Scriptures." (Clement of Alexandria, the Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 12)
The answer is found in the commands of God. The commandments of God show us what the precepts of God look like when lived out.
"We have the Decalogue given by Moses, which, indicating by an elementary principle, simple and of one kind, defines the designation of sins in a way conducive to salvation: 'Thou shall not commit adultery. Thou shall not worship idols. Thou shalt not corrupt boys. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shall not bear false witness. Honour thy father and thy mother.' And so forth. These things are to be observed, and whatever else is commanded in reading the Bible." (Clement of Alexandria, the Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 12)
By examining the commandments of God we learn what it means to both love God and love our neighbor. We learn what it looks like to love our parents. We learn what it looks like to love our neighbor in respect to his possessions and his wife. The precepts of God are defined and explained by the commandments of God.

Throughout this chapter, Clement sets forth many examples of how the commandments of God express His overarching precepts for mankind, more than can be cited here. However, here are but a few.
"And to householders: 'A possession which is acquired with iniquity becomes less.' Also of 'love.' 'Love,' He says, 'covers a multitude of sins.' And of civil government: 'Render to Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s; and unto God the things which are God’s.'" (Clement of Alexandria, the Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 12)
The commandments of God are like little packets of wisdom that help us understand the nature of God and who God has called us to be and how he has called us to walk. The commandments of God giving us bite-size understanding into the precepts of the Kingdom of God that we might grow step-wise into knowledge and understanding of His Kingdom. Often, when we face difficulties in our lives, we need simple and direct solutions to our problems; concrete ways we can appropriate the sometimes more theoretical precepts of God into our daily lives. In times like these, the commands of God can deliver the wisdom we seek.
"Such are the laws of the Word, the consolatory words not on tables of stone which were written by the finger of the Lord, but inscribed on men’s hearts, on which alone they can remain imperishable. Wherefore the tablets of those who had hearts of stone are broken, that the faith of the children may be impressed on softened hearts." (Clement of Alexandria, the Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 12)
However, it is not enough to know the words and commandments of God, we must also allow them to become internalized into our hearts; a process that is only done as we walk with our Instructor. Sometimes this requires breaking but always impartation from Him who's word and wisdom we seek. But if we will allow it, his gentle companionship will inscribe His words on our hearts that we might not only know them but also live them.

David Robison

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Liberating Free-will - The Instructor and the Compendious Word of Scripture

This is a continuation of my series on Clement of Alexandria and his book, "The Instructor." If you are new to this series or are unfamiliar with Clement and his book, you may want to first read the introduction to this series.
"What has to be observed at home, and how our life is to be regulated, the Instructor has abundantly declared. And the things which He is wont to say to children by the way, while He conducts them to the Master, these He suggests, and adduces the Scriptures themselves in a compendious form, setting forth bare injunctions, accommodating them to the period of guidance, and assigning the interpretation of them to the Master. For the intention of His law is to dissipate fear, emancipating free-will in order to faith. 'Hear,' He says, 'O child,' who art rightly instructed, the principal points of salvation. For I will disclose my ways, and lay before thee good commandments; by which thou wilt reach salvation. And I lead thee by the way of salvation. Depart from the paths of deceit." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 12)
The goal of God's Word is not our static obedience but rather our dynamic interaction with Him. The Word of God is not a checklist that, once checking of an area of compliance or conformity, we no longer have to return to it for wisdom. The Word of God is meant for our guidance and our guidance is needed day by day. Everyday we have need to return to God's Word for the guidance our lives need for that day. Each day, our Instructor accommodates the Word of God for our daily needs and in accordance to where we are in our walk with the Lord. For example, we start out with "Honor your mother and father," yet as we grow we learn to "love our neighbors as ourselves," and even later to "love our wives as Christ loves the church." A fit word for a fit point in time.

Jesus promised us, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." (John 8:31-32) The Word of God not only guides us but also sets us free; free from fear and free from our former manor of life. While it is true that we all have free-will, often our free-will has become enslaved to habits, patterns, and behaviors that have been "inherited from your forefathers." (1 Peter 1:18) We claim freedom but we are salves to our sin and our futile way of living. We need an instructor to liberate us, to free our free-will, from an empty and sinful life to a life of faith. This freedom comes "in order," step-by-step as our Instructor leads us through life. Each day, as our wisdom and revelation increase, so does our freedom.
"And the treasures of wisdom are unfailing, in admiration of which the apostle says, 'O the depth of the riches and the wisdom!” And by one God are many treasures dispensed; some disclosed by the law, others by the prophets; some to the divine mouth, and others to the heptad of the spirit singing accordant. And the Lord being one, is the same Instructor by all these." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 12)
God speaks to us in many ways: through His Law, His prophets, Jesus and His apostles, and even by His spirit. The "heptad of the spirit" refers to the seven spirits that are in heaven as John saw, "the seven Spirits who are before His throne." (Revelation 1:4) To each of us God speaks independently and in a distinctive manor. One day using His word, another speaking through a brother or sister in Christ, but what ever the mode it is the same God who is our instructor and desires to guide us into abundant life. All measures should be sought by us and none should be rejected. All modes of communication open, that in whatever form, we might hear God and, by hearing Him, might grow in God. We need our instructor for His words are life to us.

David Robison

Monday, March 17, 2014

Our Duty - The Instructor and the Compendious Word of Scripture

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.
"Knowing, then, the duty of each, 'pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: forasmuch as ye know that ye were not deemed with corruptible things, such as silver or gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.' 'For,' says Peter, 'the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 12)
Christ has come and made a way for us that we might be rescued "from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son." (Colossians 1:13) Our duty is to learn to walk away from the things of our past, from those things we did in ignorance, and to learn to fully enter into His Kingdom of love; to leave behind sin and lawlessness and to embrace righteousness and truth. Jesus did not come that we might become better religious people, He did not come that we might be corrected in our beliefs, He came that we might have a new life and that more abundantly. No amount of change can make us fit for what He has brought to us, we must learn to die to our old manor of life that we might live new in God's Kingdom.
"We have as a limit the cross of the Lord, by which we are fenced and hedged about from our former sins. Therefore, being regenerated, let us fix ourselves to it in truth, and return to sobriety, and sanctify ourselves; 'for the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayer; but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.' ... But the best training is good order, which is perfect decorum, and stable and orderly power, which in action maintains consistence in what it does." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 12)
The cross stands as a marker between our old life and our new one; showing us the way to blessing and joy in His Kingdom and warning us of past bondage should we desire to return to our old life. As we stand at the cross we have a choice to make: either to continue in our association with the world and its sin, or to sanctify ourselves for holiness and obedience to Him. To sanctify means to consecrate or to separate ourselves for one's service. We are no longer the world's that we might live for it, we are now God's possession, His children, that we light live for Him.

So the question remains, how does one learn to live anew in a new kingdom? How does one learn to forget their life of sin and learn a life of righteousness? It may seem rather nonspiritual, but Clement's belief is that the best trainer of our lives is a life of good order; a life of moderation, stability, and consistency. Such a life takes practice, both in wisdom and action, but it is a life that will bear dividends especially as we face the ups and downs of life. Some may see it as dull or boring, but how can a life consistently lived for God ever be such things?
"If these things have been adduced by me with too great asperity, in order to effect the salvation which follows from your correction; they have been spoken also, says the Instructor, by me: 'Since he who reproves with boldness is a peacemaker.' And if ye hear me, ye shall be saved. And if ye attend not to what is spoken, it is not my concern. And yet it is my concern thus: 'For he desires the repentance rather than the death of a sinner.' 'If ye shall hear me, ye shall eat the good of the land,' the Instructor again says, calling by the appellation 'the good of the land,' beauty, wealth, health, strength, sustenance. For those things which are really good, are what 'neither ear hath heard, not hath ever entered into the heart" respecting Him who is really King, and the realities truly good which await us." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 12)
Clement is nearing the end of his book and, to some, his words might appear harsh or extreme. Some may feel that his tutelage is to strict to be followed as they prefer a more liberal life. However, he warns us that even the scriptures can speak boldly towards us, not to inflict us pain, but to lead us to peace and safety. Clement's concern is not for whether we obey him or not, but his concern, as that of the scripture, is for our salvation and for the good things that await us in the Kingdom of God. Those who accept the boldness of the scriptures will find the good things it has to offer; things which have no comparison in this creation, such as heath, beauty, wealth, and strength. These things come down from above, not from this earth. If we will learn to listen to and obey the words of scripture, then we will be blessed and will possess eternal treasures.

David Robison

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Government of the eyes - The Instructor on a compendious view of the Christian life

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 my introduction to this chapter as it will help you understand his views in this area.
"But, above all, it seems right that we turn away from the sight of women. For it is sin not only to touch, but to look; and he who is rightly trained must especially avoid them. 'Let thine eyes look straight, and thine eyelids wink right.' For while it is possible for one who looks to remain stedfast; yet care must be taken against falling. For it is possible for one who looks to slip; but it is impossible for one, who looks not, to lust."(Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
How much do you hate sin and how desirous are you of of overcoming its clutches? To what degree would you voluntarily go to avoid sin, to escape its stain, and to live a holy life? If sin were a cliff, are you one who would walk its edges,claiming it not to be sin, or are you one who would walk ten feet away from the edges knowing it is safety? Some, who know they should not sin, flirt with it, unable to make a clean break from it. Others, desiring a new life, refuse to look at it any more, to give it any thought, choosing freedom rather than indulging on the pleasure of memories. Sometimes our treatment of sin must be radical, as Jesus said, "If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell." (Matthew 5:29 NKJV) I had a married friend who realized that the only reason he was frequenting the corner convenient store was because of a certain young woman who worked there. While he had done nothing inappropriate, he yet realized the threat his actions posed to his marriage and his walk with his Lord. That night he went back and shared the Gospel with her and then never returned to that store. He cut off the threat of sin and removed it from his life. A radical move for one wanting to live a radical life.
"For it is not enough for the chaste to be pure; but they must give all diligence, to be beyond the range of censure, shutting out all ground of suspicion, in order to the consummation of chastity; so that we may not only be faithful, but appear worthy of trust. For this is also consequently to be guarded against, as the apostle says, 'that no man should blame us; providing things honourable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.'"(Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
There is a difference, at least in the estimation of men, between being sinless and being holy. Some, being faithful to the commands of Christ demonstrate their rejection of this world and its sins. However, many have not yet learned the ways wisdom in submission to the teaching and counsels of Christ, not yet showing themselves as worthy of the Kingdom to which they have been called. It is not enough to avoid sin, but we must also embrace the wisdom and holiness of God. Someone once said that prudence is the knowledge to avoid sin while wisdom is the knowledge to do righteousness. Unfortunately, some stand in-between, avoiding sin but not yet producing righteousness.
"'But turn away thine eyes from a graceful woman, and contemplate not another’s beauty,' says the Scripture. And if you require the reason, it will further tell you, 'For by the beauty of woman many have gone astray, and at it affection blazes up like fire;' the affection which arises from the fire which we call love, leading to the fire which will never cease in consequence of sin."(Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
There are those who will look, believing they can stand, yet others who will not look, knowing that they will not stumble. Job put it this way, "I have made a covenant with my eyes; jow then could I gaze at a virgin?" (Job 31:1) How far do you want to leave sin behind? Far enough where you cannot touch it? Far enough where you no longer feel its lours? Or far enough where, in time, you will forget it? The choice is our and its consequences can be eternal. We all enjoy that rush of affection when gazing upon a pretty woman, but unjust love burns our soul and endangers us with a fire that will never be quenched. Far better to deny ourselves such illicit pleasures that to gain for ourselves the torments of judgment.

David Robison

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A holy kiss? - The Instructor on a compendious view of the Christian life

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 my introduction to this chapter as it will help you understand his views in this area.
"And if we are called to the kingdom of God, let us walk worthy of the kingdom, loving God and our neighbour. But love is not proved by a kiss, but by kindly feeling. But there are those, that do nothing but make the churches resound with a kiss, not having love itself within. For this very thing, the shameless use of a kiss, which ought to be mystic, occasions foul suspicions and evil reports. The apostle calls the kiss holy." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
We live in "in between" times; between when "The kingdom of God has come near to you." (Luke 10:9) and the time when the Kingdom of God will fully have come. In this time, God has called us to walk worthy of the Kingdom we are to inherit at Jesus' return. Paul put it this way, "walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called." (Ephesians 4:1) So what does this look like? Walking worthy looks like loving God and loving our neighbor. Jesus Himself said, "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 22:40)

Clement turns his attention to a habit in the churches of his day of greeting each other with a "holy kiss." For some, this practice had become rote and meaningless and their participation was without any genuine love inside for the other person. It had become a hollow practice with no love or meaning left behind it.
"When the kingdom is worthily tested, we dispense the affection of the soul by a chaste and closed mouth, by which chiefly gentle manners are expressed. But there is another unholy kiss, full of poison, counterfeiting sanctity. Do you not know that spiders, merely by touching the mouth, afflict men with pain? And often kisses inject the poison of licentiousness. It is then very manifest to us, that a kiss is not love. For the love meant is the love of God. “And this is the love of God,” says John, 'that we keep His commandments;' not that we stroke each other on the mouth." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
Worse yet, for some, they were giving and getting much more out of the kiss than just "kindly feelings." We are told many places to "Greet one another with a kiss of love." (1 Peter 5:14) However, the love that is meant is the love of God, not a sensual or amorous one. The love of God is tied to the commandments of God, meaning that the love of God will always be demonstrated in a manor consistent with the commandments of God. For example, Paul tells us that, "it is good for a man not to touch a woman." (1 Corinthians 7:1) Meaning to attach to, cling to, or be all over someone. There is a type of love that is characteristic of this behavior, but it is not the love of God. Our behavior with one another should flow out of the love of God within us and be molded by the commands of God that He has written on our hearts.
"But salutations of beloved ones in the ways, full as they are of foolish boldness, are characteristic of those who wish to be conspicuous to those without, and have not the least particle of grace." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
In our churches, when we participate in practices for show, to "impress" those outside the church, then we are at risk of wandering into error. Sometimes we do things to try and show the world that we are really nice and loving. As if believing that if they could see how wonderful we are then they would want to be like us. However, when such shows are done without the reality of heart inside, then they are empty, vain, and powerless. Let our love be real and demonstrated in a manor that is holy and worthy.

David Robison

Friday, March 14, 2014

Out of church - The Instructor on a compendious view of the Christian life

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 my introduction to this chapter as it will help you understand his views in this area.
"Such ought those who are consecrated to Christ appear, and frame themselves in their whole life, as they fashion themselves in the church for the sake of gravity; and to be, not to seem such—so meek, so pious, so loving. But now I know not how people change their fashions and manners with the place... so, laying aside the inspiration of the assembly, after their departure from it, they become like others with whom they associate. Nay, in laying aside the artificial mask of solemnity, they are proved to be what they secretly were. After having paid reverence to the discourse about God, they leave within [the church] what they have heard. And outside they foolishly amuse themselves with impious playing, and amatory quavering, occupied with flute-playing, and dancing, and intoxication, and all kinds of trash." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
It is not what we appear to be but who we truly are that matters to God. I think men are especially good at compartmentalizing their lives. We have our home life, work life, recreation life, and church life and we are often comfortable being different people in each compartment of our life. Yet God would will that we would be the same person in every area of our lives. What matters is not what we pretend or purport to be but who we are in reality. Jesus taught us, "every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit." (Matthew 7:17-18) If we go to church and worship God along with the brethren, then leave and once again become like those in the world, then we deceive ourselves and the truth lies, not in our worship, but in our conformity to the world. The truth of who we are is the truth we live out in our daily life, not that which we pretend during a couple hours of worship. For those who live a cameleon life, Clement continues,
"The apostle very firmly assails them. 'Be not deceived; neither adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor railers,' and whatever else he adds to these, 'shall inherit the kingdom of God.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
John put it this way, "Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning." (1 John 3:7-8) We may fool ourselves and our neighbor, but there is no fooling God. We must look beyond mere appearances and feigned behavior to the heart where the real issues of life spring from. A transformed life can only be achieved through a transformed heart. Let us not be like those whom Isaiah prophesied of saying, "this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote." (Isaiah 29:13) Rather let us be like those whose heart and actions are in harmony with each other and with the character and nature of God.

David Robison

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Going to church - The Instructor on a compendious view of the Christian life

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 my introduction to this chapter as it will help you understand his views in this area.
"Woman and man are to go to church decently attired, with natural step, embracing silence, possessing unfeigned love, pure in body, pure in heart, fit to pray to God." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
Here, Clement's prescription on how we should prepare ourselves for church is focused on the purpose for which we are preparing ourselves; the purpose of prayer. God, speaking of those He would gather to Himself said, "Even those I will bring to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples." (Isaiah 56:7) The church of the Holy God should be a house of prayer for all people. Prayers were always part of why the early church meet. Justin Martyr provided this description of weekly worship during the early part of the second century,
"And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need." (Justin Martyr, The First Apology, Chapter 67)
The point of Clement's appeal is that we should prepare our hearts for worship, prayer, and teaching. This preparation takes place before we get to church. It starts when we rise up and dress and as we walk (or travel) on our way to church. It is a preparation that prepares our heart for relating to God and to His people.
"Let the woman observe this, further. Let her be entirely covered, unless she happen to be at home. For that style of dress is grave, and protects from being gazed at. And she will never fall, who puts before her eyes modesty, and her shawl; nor will she invite another to fall into sin by uncovering her face. For this is the wish of the Word, since it is becoming for her to pray veiled." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
If we come together to worship God, then our attitude should be not to distract others away from God by our dress, speech, or behavior. I remember one Sunday morning when the worship leader wore her dress so short that one could only worship with their eyes closed. Some women dress in ignorance, not realizing how their dress can be distracting to others trying to worship, others, however, do it on purpose. Either way, we should chose dress that is decent and modest, not that we are approved or condemned by our dress, but so as not to be a distraction to those around us.

David Robison

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Religion in Ordinary Life - The Instructor on a compendious view of the Christian life

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 my introduction to this chapter as it will help you understand his views in this area.
"But it is said we do not all philosophize. Do we not all, then, follow after life? What sayest thou? How hast thou believed? How, pray, dost thou love God and thy neighbour, if thou dost not philosophize? And how dost thou love thyself, if thou dost not love life?" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
Originally, philosophy was the domain of what we would today call Natural Science. Its goal was to uncover the natural laws and rhythms of life in an attempt to understand and explain the world around us. Starting with Aristotle and Plato, however, this began to change. The goal of philosophy became the search for the ultimate good in the universe and, having found it, the search to obtain and hold on to it. We all philosophize about our lives, what we desire and what we need to do to achieve our desires. But we must go beyond this to conciser what is the ultimate "good" in life and to seek after wisdom to find and obtain that ultimate good. This ultimate good is God, and the wisdom to find and receive Him is found in His word. Paul spoke of Timothy saying, "from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." (2 Timothy 3:15) Poor is the man who goes through life without taking the time to consider his live, his relationship to God, and how that relationship aught to change his life.
"It is said, I have not learned letters; but if thou hast not learned to read, thou canst not excuse thyself in the case of hearing, for it is not taught. And faith is the possession not of the wise according to the world, but of those according to God; and it is taught without letters; and its handbook, at once rude and divine, is called love—a spiritual book. It is in your power to listen to divine wisdom, ay, and to frame your life in accordance with it. Nay, you are not prohibited from conducting affairs in the world decorously according to God." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
The wisdom that leads to life is not beyond reach of any of us, nor are any of us in such a condition that we cannot learn and respond to God's wisdom. Even the illiterate and untaught can still listen to receive wisdom that they might contemplate it within themselves. King Solomon said, "A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel." (Proverbs 1:5) While we may not all be a voracious reader, understand many languages, and be acquainted with the most eminent philosophers we can still listen to wise men and gain knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. However, in our pursuit of wisdom, we must understand that not all who teach, teach the wisdom of God. Clement tells us that true wisdom from God is taught from a spiritual book called "love." This book can be rude, in that it offends are carnal hearts, but it is also divine in that its source if from God. We must be careful to whom we listen to. Jesus warns us, "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits." (Matthew 7:15-16) The fruits by which we will know those who teach the true wisdom of God are the fruits of love.
"Let not him who sells or buys aught name two prices for what he buys or sells; but stating the net price, and studying to speak the truth, if he get not his price, he gets the truth, and is rich in the possession of rectitude. But, above all, let an oath on account of what is sold be far from you; and let swearing, too, on account of other things be banished. And in this way those who frequent the market-place and the shop philosophize. 'For thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
Finally, Clement gives us an example of what it means to philosophize in our ordinary life. Knowing that we are to speak the truth in all things, when we buy or sell we should state our price and let the price we state be the price we charge or offer. Also, knowing that we are not to take the Lord's name in vain and that Jesus taught us not to swear, we must refrain from all oaths when conducting business in the market place. There are many more examples that we could come up with, but the point is that the wisdom of God should permeate ever aspect of our lives and be the controlling factor in the conversation of our daily lives.

David Robison

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Public Spectacles - The Instructor on a compendious view of the Christian life

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 my introduction to this chapter as it will help you understand his views in this area.
"The Instructor will not then bring us to public spectacles; nor inappropriately might one call the racecourse and the theatre 'the seat of plagues;' for there is evil counsel as against the Just One, and therefore the assembly against Him is execrated. These assemblies, indeed, are full of confusion and iniquity; and these pretexts for assembling are the cause of disorder—men and women assembling promiscuously if for the sight of one another." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
Some of the "public spectacles" in Clement's day included sporting events, public games, and the theater. What was of concern to Clement was first that these events were conducted in opposition to God. These events were often dedicated to some false god or daemon and, in the case of the theater, were even considered as being religious in honoring of their daemon gods. In the theater they reenacted some of the more licentious behaviors of their immoral gods in an attempt to honor them and teach their stories to men. Why would God want us to be partakers of that which is in opposition to Him. For example, why would God want us to attend a concert where the songs are sung in opposition to God and are full of licentiousness, lewdness, violence, and immorality? Certainly, the Instructor who loves and cares for us would not lead us there.
In this respect the assembly has already shown itself bad: for when the eye is lascivious, the desires grow warm; and the eyes that are accustomed to look impudently at one’s neighbours during the leisure granted to them, inflame the amatory desires. Let spectacles, therefore, and plays that are full of scurrility and of abundant gossip, be forbidden. For what base action is it that is not exhibited in the theatres? And what shameless saying is it that is not brought forward by the buffoons? And those who enjoy the evil that is in them, stamp the clear images of it at home. And, on the other hand, those that are proof against these things, and unimpressible, will never make a stumble in regard to luxurious pleasures." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
Furthermore, why should we go where the desires of our flesh are aroused by what we see? For example, subjecting ourselves to the inciting sights at a movie where nudity and immorality are graphically shown on the big screen? Or why should we attend a "party" where people are dressed to such an immodest degree that our illicit desires are "warmed"? Clement warns that those who partake of such affronts to the eyes and soul will bear their stamp and image at home. We cannot take in such images and not remain unchanged.
"For if people shall say that they betake themselves to the spectacles as a pastime for  recreation, I should say that the cities which make a serious business of pastime are not wise; for cruel contests for glory which have been so fatal are not sport. No more is senseless expenditure of money, nor are the riots that are occasioned by them sport. And ease of mind is not to be purchased by zealous pursuit of frivolities, for no one who has his senses will ever prefer what is pleasant to what is good." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
We all have times when we need to "unwind" and relax for a while, but we must not abandon reason and wisdom in seeking such relaxation. We must never trade what is good for what feels good; trading the temporal pleasures of sin for certain and eternal goods. There are many things that can relax and refuel our minds and bodies, but they are not the things that seek to inflame our soul. Let us use wisdom in choosing our relaxation and allow it to not only refresh our bodies but also our soul and our consciousness before God.

David Robison

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Ammusments and Associates - The Instructor on a compendious view of the Christian life

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 my introduction to this chapter as it will help you understand his views in this area.
"And let not men, therefore, spend their time in barbers’ shops and taverns, babbling nonsense; and let them give up hunting for the women who sit near, and ceaselessly talking slander against many to raise a laugh. The game of dice is to be prohibited, and the pursuit of gain, especially by dicing, which many keenly follow. Such things the prodigality of luxury invents for the idle. For the cause is idleness, and a love for frivolities apart from the truth. For it is not possible otherwise to obtain enjoyment without injury; and each man’s preference of a mode of life is a counterpart of his disposition." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
Clement warns men of the disposition of life they choose for themselves, for the disposition they choose will determine their mode of life. Those who choose well will find a good manor of life but those who choose foolishly choose a course leading to their injury.

There are entire industries created to cater to the idle; bars, whorehouses, gambling halls, and, in Clement's day, barber shops. It is to these businesses that the unwitting come to spend their idle money and await the injury that will eventually be theirs. Idleness is not a man's friend and the amusements and entertainments of idleness do not lead towards God nor to a good life.
"But, as appears, only intercourse with good men benefits; on the other hand, the allwise Instructor, by the mouth of Moses, recognising companionship with bad men as swinish, forbade the ancient people to partake of swine; to point out that those who call on God ought not to mingle with unclean men, who, like swine, delight in corporeal pleasures, in impure food, and in itching with filthy pruriency after the mischievous delights of lewdness." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
It is interesting to note how Clement understands God's laws of clean and unclean animals. He applies them to the type of people we should be and associate with. In this case,we should avoid "swinish" people who are given over to pleasure and filthiness of life. Little needs to be said of Paul's exhortation, "Do not be deceived: "Bad company corrupts good morals." (1 Corinthians 15:33) The people we hang around will be the people we become, for good or for evil. Hanging around those who take no care or notice for God will, in time, drag us away from God and from our disciplined lifestyle. However, hanging around Godly people will strengthen our faith and the discipline and temperance of our lives.
"With whom, then, are we to associate? With the righteous, He says again, speaking figuratively; for everything 'which parts the hoof and chews the cud is clean.' For the parting of the hoof indicates the equilibrium of righteousness, and ruminating points to the proper food of righteousness, the word, which enters from without, like food, by instruction, but is recalled from the mind, as from the stomach, to rational recollection. And the spiritual man, having the word in his mouth, ruminates the spiritual food; and righteousness parts the hoof rightly, because it sanctifies us in this life, and sends us on our way to the world to come." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
We need Godly companionship. We need to walk and talk with people who are more mature than us in the faith. We need the wisdom of those who have walked longer with their Lord than we have. And we need to imitate the examples of Godly people. Paul said, "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ." (1 Corinthians 11:1 NKJV) However, to imitate someone requires us to know them and to know them requires relationship. Godly relationships are essential to our growth in God. It is for this reason, after all, that Jesus left behind His church."And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:24-25 NKJV)

David Robison

Thursday, March 06, 2014

The Model Young Woman - The Instructor on a compendious view of the Christian life

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 my introduction to this chapter as it will help you understand his views in this area.
"Zeno the Cittiæan thought fit to represent the image of a young maid, and executed the statue thus: 'Let her face be clean, her eyebrows not let down, nor her eyelids open nor turned back. Let her neck not be stretched back, nor the members of her body be loose. But let the parts that hang from the body look as if they were well strung; let there be the keenness of a well-regulated mind for discourse, and retention of what has been rightly spoken; and let her attitudes and movements give no ground of hope to the licentious; but let there be the bloom of modesty, and an expression of firmness. But far from her be the wearisome trouble that comes from the shops of perfumers, and goldsmiths, and dealers in wool, and that which comes from the other shops where women, meretriciously dressed, pass whole days as if sitting in the stews.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
In this one-paragraph treatise on the subject, Clement quotes from the philosopher Zeno of Citium who lived and taught around 300 BC. Why would Clement, being a Christian man, teach the lessons of a Greek philosopher? First, Clement is not so much trying to define behavior that is lawful but behavior that is good and wise. He is not trying to lay down law but rather expose wisdom. Wisdom can be found in many places, even among some of the ancient Greek philosophers. Even Plato, while deviating from Christ's teachings in some regards, still understood and taught that there was one supreme God, them maker of all. Clement was not afraid to find wisdom where ever it may reside, provided it was in line with the scriptures he had received. Secondly, Clement was writing to Greeks who knew of these philosophers and many who had read them and understood their teachings. Many of these Greeks had never read the scriptures and had no background and training in the holy word of God. These were the men and teachings they knew, and Clement would make use of them, when appropriate, to drive home some point that the people could readily comprehend and understand.

Zeno describes a model young women in three parts. First, appearance. A young woman should present herself with confidence and dignity, not cowering or unbecomingly. Secondly, her mind. A young woman should be more than another pretty face, she should have a mind that is sharp and accustomed to reason and contemplation, specking the things that are right and wise. Finally, morals. A young woman should not act or dress in a way that would give anyone else the hope of licentiousness. She should not act or dress in a way as to purposefully arouse the lusts in others or to imply her willingness to yield to their lusts.

Zeno ends with a warning that a young women aught not to be addicted to shopping. Life is so much more than thing,s and the pursuits of life than the pursuit of things. A life spent in the shops is a life wasted on the unimportant. Shopping may be a necessity, but it should not be a lifestyle for the young woman.

David Robison

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Walking - The Instructor on a compendious view of the Christian life

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 my introduction to this chapter as it will help you understand his views in this area.
"Also we must abandon a furious mode of walking, and choose a grave and leisurely, but not a lingering step. Nor is one to swagger in the ways, nor throw back his head to look at those he meets, if they look at him, as if he were strutting on the stage, and pointed at with the finger. Nor, when pushing up hill, are they to be shoved up by their domestics, as we see those that are more luxurious, who appear strong, but are enfeebled by effeminacy of soul." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
Clement believed that our entire life should be disciplined, not only our mind and emotions, but the entire conversation of our life, including our manors and behaviors. As such, even our manor of walking should be disciplined towards moderation and to avoid extremes, such as, hurriedness and laziness.

Clement also, once again, shows his disdain for the theater of his day which was full of licentiousness and open displays of effeminacy and debauchery. Certainly not a place where someone carrying the hope of righteousness with in them would frequent.
"A true gentleman must have no mark of effeminacy visible on his face, or any other part of his body. Let no blot on his manliness, then, be ever found either in his movements or habits. Nor is a man in health to use his servants as horses to bear him. For as it is enjoined on them, 'to be subject to their masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward,' as Peter says; so fairness, and forbearance, and kindness, are what well becomes the masters. For he says: 'Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another; love as brethren, be pitiful, be humble,' and so forth, 'that ye may inherit a blessing,' excellent and desirable." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
Clement, as in all his writings, opposes all effeminacy in men, either in their thoughts or in their actions. Men were to be men in all aspects of their lives, and this even included their manor of walking. They were not to look like women and they were not to act like women. They were to be, through and through, men.

Given this, a true man does his own work. He carries his own load up the hill and he does not expect others to carry him around when he is perfectly able to do it himself. Very few of us today have domestics to help us with our work, but a true man is a gentleman and is kind to all who help him and does not expect them to do what he can do for himself. He is gentle and kind to all and attentive to the needs of others, not just his own.

David Robison

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Makeup (part 2) - The Instructor on a compendious view of the Christian life

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 my introduction to this chapter as it will help you understand his views in this area.
"But it is monstrous for those who are made in 'the image and likeness of God,' to dishonour the archetype by assuming a foreign ornament, preferring the mischievous contrivance of man to the divine creation.The Instructor orders them to go forth 'in becoming apparel, and adorn themselves with shamefacedness and sobriety,' 'subject to their own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; while they behold,' he says, 'your chaste conversation. Whose adorning, let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
Clement contrasts the path of the world with the path of God; what the world is calling women to be with what God is calling them to be. The world desires a woman's outward conformity, giving lessons on  how she should appear and dress, requiring her to employ whatever means neccessary to be outward conforming to their perception of beauty. While God, however, looks on the inward person, the person of the heart, giving lessons on how to conform one's soul into the image of God, into the image of the one who is most beautiful of all. To pursue the world and its ways is at best only temporal and a counterfeit fix, swapping true beauty for that which does not last nor hides the true nature of the heart inside. However, to pursue God and His ways is the path to true beauty, a beauty that can never be hidden and will never fade away.
"In brief, 'A store of excellence is a woman of worth, who eateth not the bread of idleness; and the laws of mercy are on her tongue; who openeth her mouth wisely and rightly; whose children rise up and call her blessed,' as the sacred Word says by Solomon: 'Her husband also, and he praiseth her. For a pious woman is blessed; and let her praise the fear of the Lord.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
In addition, a woman is not found beautiful merely by the condition of her soul but also by the manor of the conversation of her life. Beauty is not static but also dynamic. The beauty of the soul is often expressed through the beauty of our actions and behaviors as we live our lives day-to-day. As we live our lives as being truly free, with all holy dignity, and serving not only our own needs and also the needs of those near us, we display the same beauty that Jesus displayed as He lived among us as one who, "did not come to be served, but to serve." (Mark 10:45) A life that is lived beautifully is a life that is beautiful.
"And again, 'A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband.' They must, as far as possible, correct their gestures, looks, steps, and speech. For they must not do as some, who, imitating the acting of comedy, and practising the mincing motions of dancers, conduct themselves in society as if on the stage, with voluptuous movements, and gliding steps, and affected voices, casting languishing glances round, tricked out with the bait of pleasure." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
A life that is lived to be seen, as if "on the stage", is a life that is lived in pretend. It is a life that is lived in seeking to conform to the desires and expectations of others. It is a life that is captive to the notions of others and knows not its own nature, identity, or purpose. God has not called us to be what others want us to be but what He wants us to be. The sensual desires of men can be a cruel master to those who willing submit themselves to them as slaves. While one may win their approbation and adulation, it often comes at the cost of their soul.
"The eyes especially are to be sparingly used, since it is better to slip with the feet than with the eyes. Accordingly, the Lord very summarily cures this malady: 'If thine eye offend thee, cut it out,' He says, dragging lust up from the foundation. But languishing looks, and ogling, which is to wink with the eyes, is nothing else than to commit adultery with the eyes, lust skirmishing through them. For of the whole body, the eyes are first destroyed. 'The eye contemplating beautiful objects, gladdens the heart;' that is, the eye which has learned rightly to see, gladdens. 'Winking with the eye, with guile, heaps woes on men.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
Why should one seek to arouse a carnal response in another, such a response as they would likewise feel obliged to resist within themselves? Flattery is a dangerous art for it trades in illicit amorous desires; tempting one with what one should not desire to be tempted. For those who have purposed to live a life not living for the lusts of the flesh, it is not right that they should appear, dress, or behave in a way as to purposefully elicit such lust in others. As much as we desire to avoid such lust ourselves, we too should desire to not be a source of such lust in others.

David Robison

Monday, March 03, 2014

Makeup (part 1) - The Instructor on a compendious view of the Christian life

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 my introduction to this chapter as it will help you understand his views in this area.
"Nor are the women to smear their faces with the ensnaring devices of wily cunning. But let us show to them the decoration of sobriety. For, in the first place, the best beauty is that which is spiritual, as we have often pointed out. For when the soul is adorned by the Holy Spirit, and inspired with the radiant charms which proceed from Him,—righteousness, wisdom, fortitude, temperance, love of the good, modesty, than which no more blooming colour was ever seen" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
Beauty, first and foremost, is from within. If we desire to be beautiful, then we must first turn our attention to our inward person, to judge our true spiritual condition, and then to diligently apply ourselves to the things that make for real spiritual health. A woman who has joy, peace, generosity, and righteousness in her heart shines forth with a beauty that cannot be compared to in all of God's created world. While it is true, when compared to the Lilly's of the field, that "not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these." (Matthew 6:29) yet a woman who has the Kingdom of God shining through her is even more splendorous tan this for she shines with a beauty that is eternal and is from God.
"then let coporeal beauty be cultivated too, symmetry of limbs and members, with a fair complexion. The adornment of health is here in place, through which the transition of the artificial image to the truth, in accordance with the form which has been given by God, is effected. But temperance in drinks, and moderation in articles of food, are effectual in producing beauty according to nature; for not only does the body maintain its health from these, but they also make beauty to appear." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
Having extolled the superiority of inner beauty, Clement does not discount or disregard outward beauty as well. However, he begins with the premise that we have all been made beautiful since we have been made is God's image. God is beautiful, therefore all those created in His image are also beautiful. Given that we have all been created beautiful, such beauty of form is best seen when we are healthy and maintain healthy habits along with moderation and temperance. Temperance in food and drink is important, however, when taken to an extreme, where it begins to affect our health, it weakens the body and serves only to hide beauty not to accentuate it. There is a vast difference between temperance and eating disorders, one serving the health and, thus, the beauty of the body, and the other destroying the very thing it seeks to achieve.
"Beauty is the free flower of health; for the latter is produced within the body; while the former, blossoming out from the body, exhibits manifest beauty of complexion. Accordingly, these most decorous and healthful practices, by exercising the body, produce true and lasting beauty... For the labour of their own hands, above all, adds genuine beauty to women, exercising their bodies and adorning themselves by their own exertions." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
Along with moderation in food and drink, exercise is also important as it allows the true form of the body, as it was created by God, to be seen. It is important to note that Clement is not referring to hours spent in the Gym, rather often an active and productive lifestyle can contribute all the exercise required to maintain our health and beauty.

Exercise and healthy habits do not create beauty, but merely allow the beauty we have been created with to more accurately be seen. However, we must always remember that even bodily beauty will be deemed as nothing unless it is accompanied by inner beauty. James says, "the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body." (James 3:6) I have know beautiful women who suddenly turn ugly when they open their mouth! Outward beauty can only serve to complement inward beauty and can never compensate for an ugly heart. "First clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also." (Matthew 23:26) As with righteousness, so is beauty.

David Robison

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Hair - The Instructor on a compendious view of the Christian life

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 my introduction to this chapter as it will help you understand his views in this area.
"About the hair, the following seems right. Let the head of men be shaven, unless it has curly hair. But let the chin have the hair. But let not twisted locks hang far down from the head, gliding into womanish ringlets. For an ample beard suffices for men. And if one, too, shave a part of his beard, it must not be made entirely bare, for this is a disgraceful sight... Since cropping is to be adopted not for the sake of elegance, but on account of the necessity of the case; the hair of the head, that it may not grow so long as to come down and interfere with the eyes, and that of the moustache similarly, which is dirtied in eating, is to be cut round, not by the razor, for that were not well-bred, but by a pair of cropping scissors. But the hair on the chin is not to be disturbed, as it gives no trouble, and lends to the face dignity and paternal terror." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
It is interesting to note that Clement qualifies this section saying, "the following seems right." Based on what he has said to this point and the things he has adduced from the scriptures, the following admonition, at least in his mind, seem fair and right. It is also easy to see his biases when it comes to external appearances: Men should be manly and dress and grooming done to the extent of usefulness. The hair is to be trimmed as to not interfere with daily work and the mustache so that it does not interfere with eating. However, the beard is to be left alone for, among other reasons, dignity and "parental terror." Parents should look and act like parents and, for the father, a beard was a useful look.
"It is enough for women to protect their locks, and bind up their hair simply along the neck with a plain hair-pin, nourishing chaste locks with simple care to true beauty. For meretricious plaiting of the hair, and putting it up in tresses, contribute to make them look ugly, cutting the hair and plucking off it those treacherous braidings; on account of which they do not touch their head, being afraid of disordering their hair. Sleep, too, comes on, not without fear lest they pull down without knowing the shape of the braid." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
Similarly, Clement admonishes a women to dress and groom becomingly, but without the trappings of luxury or superfluity. Also, women should be free from any anxiety relating to their appearance or dress, such as afraid to sleep at night lest they mess up their hair. Jesus came to free our anxious heart. It is therefore dishonoring to God to voluntarily return to a manor of living where we are once again anxious about our looks and outward appearance.
"Consequently neither is the hair to be dyed, nor grey hair to have its colour changed. For neither are we allowed to diversify our dress. And above all, old age, which conciliates trust, is not to be concealed. But God’s mark of honour is to be shown in the light of day, to win the reverence of the young. For sometimes, when they have been behaving shamefully, the appearance of hoary hairs, arriving like an instructor, has changed them to sobriety, and paralyzed juvenile lust with the splendour of the sight." (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
Finally, we should not fear growing old, for there is honor in age. Sirach said, "Wisdom concealed, and treasure undiscovered, what use is either of these?" (Sirach 20:30) I understand people who are prematurely gray and want to cover it up, but there is also a dignity that comes with age and a wisdom that is needed by the young. There comes a time in our lives where we must set aside vanity and rejoice in our maturity and to delight in the years God has given us and in the days we have had to spend walking with Him. Being old is not something to be dreaded of hidden, especially if it is accompanied by wisdom. Do not fear to let others see your age. Perhaps they may find the boldness to seek from you the wisdom they need for their youth.

David Robison