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

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