Skip to main content

Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

See other formats

The Egyptian Contribution to Christianity 303
at Alexandria, or at any rate of certain sections of that Church.
We note that Clement writes for a public which is plainly in
possession of some wealth and leisure and of a not inconsiderable
measure of mental cultivation.1 To present the Christian faith
in relation to the thinkers of the age is a paramount necessity
if it is to hold its own in the society amid which Clement lives
and moves. His own Christianity is sincere and deep; he is a
convinced believer in the Church's rule of faith, and he
appeals continuously to the Scriptures both of the Old and the
New Testament. But he is so far influenced by the great Gnostic
teachers, who in the earlier part of the second century had
grafted upon the common Christianity of the multitude an
esoteric doctrine of redemption, that he, too, made a distinction
between the simple believers who were the body of the Church
and those fully enlightened Christians who for him. were the
true Gnostics. Clement's Gnostic is not less truly a believer in
the common faith than others, but he has learned to advance
from mere faith to a higher stage in the knowledge of God in
virtue of which he and his like constitute the Church's soul.
This exaltation of Gnosis, 'knowledge', combined with a rejec-
tion of the heretical tendencies of the older teachers, gives
Clement's teaching its distinctive character.
It had been Clement's aim to crown his writings on Christian
education and Christian ethics, the Paedagogus and the Stroma-
tiis, with a systematic exposition of the deeper principles of
the true Gnosis. This aim he never attained. His mind was too
little disciplined and too weak in constructive ability to allow
of his achieving a coherent doctrinal expression of the faith that
was in him. Where Clement was weak his successor Origen was
strong. Origen had studied systematically the Platonism which
was the chief intellectual force of his age, and he had imbibed
the genuine Greek spirit of philosophical inquiry. He is never
the mere dogmatist. He follows reason whither it leads and
1 See, e.g., Quis Dives^ cxi et passim.