CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA 150-215
- Titus Flavius Clemens. Born possibly at Athens, and after studying in different cities,
came to the School at Alexandria (probably between 185-195), where he studied under the
headmaster, Pantaenus, a converted Stoic. He was ordained a priest, and succeeded
Pantaenus as headmaster in 200. He fled to Caesarea in Cappadocia during the persecution
of Septimus Severus in 202, and died by 215. Like the Catechetical School at Alexandria in
general, Clement sought to develop a systematic presentation of Christian wisdom.
- Clement wrote Exhortation to the Greeks, a work less intended to defend the
Christian faith, than to teach it to unbelievers, or at least persuade them to accept it.
- In the Stromateis (Miscellanies in Latin), Clement argues that philosophy
is in itself a good, one of the works of God. Against the objection that philosophy must
be bad because God has replaced it with faith, Clement argues that the correct historical
understanding of philosophy is the help God sent the Greeks, to prepare them to receive
Christianity. The philosophers have been the prophets for the natural reason, and
philosophy itself a praeparatio evangelicapreparation for the Gospel.
- Philosophy remains useful for Christians, provided they keep it in its proper place.
philosophy co-operates for the acquisition of wisdom. For philosophy is the
study of wisdom, and wisdom is the knowledge of things divine and human, and of their
causes. Wisdom therefore sways philosophy, as philosophy sways preparatory intellectual
culture." Implicit in Clements work is the view that we believe first, in order
to move to understanding. Credo ut intelligam. Explicit is the belief that
philosophy is necessary for Christians, an aid to understanding Christianity. Christians
are to advance to knowledge from faith. Blind faith, passive acceptance, is not an
ideal for Clement. He sought a Christian Gnosis: the Christian faith becoming
intellectual knowledge, men learning the meaning of the faith they have accepted.
- Clement believed that philosophers had broken up the natural unity of truth. Philosophy
itself is that body of truths that are not particular to any one school, but found in all.
The Christian philosopher must reunite philosophy, by eliminating all that is false (for
example, the completely "useless" Epicureans), and singling out the truth.
- Rejected any real positive knowledge of Godwe can only truly know what God is not,
because God is beyond all our experience or conceivability. We can truly say God possesses
perfections, but we must understand that these "names" of God are inadequate and