Clement calls for his readers to meet Jesus as the “Word” and “Educator” that “forcibly” compels people from the “worldly way of life and educates them to the only true salvation: faith in God.” The Educator is the one “who leads the way” to “improve the soul” not just in knowledge but to guide in virtue. The Educator does not focus solely on knowledge, but leads his “children” toward a life of virtue. The “Word” perfects his disciples “in a way that leads progressively to salvation” through persuasion, education, and lastly, through teaching. The teaching of the Educator “educates” people in the “fear of God,” instructs in “the service of God” and provides “knowledge of truth” toward living the virtuous life which ensures salvation.
For Clement, “The education that God gives is the imparting of the truth that will guide us correctly to the contemplation of God, and a description of holy deeds that endure forever.” God and Jesus, the Word, have been guiding his children as revealed in scripture, as God’s guidance to Jacob, Moses, and the Israelites reveals. The Educator from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant teaches with love, but those under the old were “guided by fear,” while under the New the “Word has become flesh, [thus] fear has been turned into love” in Jesus. “Such, then, is the authority wielded by the Educator of children, awe-inspiring, consoling, leading to salvation.”
Given the role of the Educator, what role does philosophy have to play in the people’s education? Addressing the role of philosophy, Clement argues that it was “an essential guide to righteousness for the Greeks” and “at the present time, it is a useful guide towards reverence for God.” He asserts, “For philosophy was to the Greek world what the Law was to the Hebrews, a tutor escorting them to Christ. Philosophy is a preparatory process; it opens the road to the person who Christ brings to his final goal.” For Clement, philosophy, though imperfect, leads people toward virtue if one is willing.
“God has created us sociable and righteous by nature,” Clement announces. Therefore, when one pursues philosophy, “it makes it quicker and easier to track down virtue.” For Clement, a level of righteousness can be found outside of divine dispensation. “It follows that we may not say that righteousness appears simply by a divine dispensation. We are to understand that the good of creation is rekindled by the commandment, when the soul learns by instruction to be willing to choose the highest.”
Faith is best accompanied by reason as it will keep one from being led astray, so Clement argues, as opposed to those who would argue “it is not right to have anything to do with philosophy or dialectic,” even refusing to “engage in the consideration of the natural world at all.” In Clement’s perception, “The person who yearns to touch the fringes of God’s power must of necessity become a philosopher to have a proper conception about intellectual objects.” As with other Christian thinkers through the ages, Scripture itself is perceived as rational and supporting the dialectic action.
Clement sees the possible role that philosophy had in bringing the Greeks “to righteousness, though not to perfect righteousness.”The “perfect righteousness” comes through the education of the Son. He contends that philosophy “does not add more power to the truth; it reduces the power of the sophistic attack on it.” Philosophy is a defense for the “treacherous assaults on truth,” and thus is a “savory accompaniment or dessert” to the gospel.
Clement uses the apostle Paul in Act 17 quoting from Aratus’ Phaenomena as a Christian affirmation of even pagan philosophy having some element of truth. The degree to which philosophy has the capability of moving one toward apprehending truth depends on how well philosophy is practiced. For Clement, there are indeed true philosophers and “caricatures of philosophers.” True philosophers are those “whose joy is in the contemplation of truth.” For Clement, “Philosophy operates through knowledge of the good in its own being, and through the truth, which are not identical with the Good, but more like paths to it.” Drawing from none other than Socrates’s thoughts, philosophy “contributes to the soul’s awakening.” Philosophy can aide as it, “makes a contribution to grasping the truth–it is a search for the truth.” However, the ultimate discovery of the one truth “depends on the Son.” Clement emphasizes that “it is only this unreachable sovereign truth in which we are educated by God’s Son.”
Clement gives numerous insights into the way God may work in the world to draw people toward Himself as in the case of Greek philosophy. Clement argues that philosophy is a search for truth and is a path ultimately leading toward the one truth from God. Clement and the grand consensus of Christian thinkers affirm that Philosophy, in and of itself, is not complete without Jesus at the center as the “Educator” par excellence in leading to the truth and salvation. For Clement, the academy has a mission if rightly directed, not by “caricatures of philosophers” but by those who take authentic joy “in the contemplation of truth.”
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