Monday, May 17, 2010

Clement of Alexandria's "Exhoration to the Heathen" and Man, God’s Vice-Regent on Earth (part 2)

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, ESV).

Clement of Alexandria was not a spectacular theologian and has been the object of as much adulation as criticism. He has quoted extensively from the both Old and New Testaments in his writings and his primary work was in laying the foundations for catechism for new believers. His predecessor at the Alexandrian school was a philosopher and Clement was not lacking in the area of study himself. Reading Clement leaves one with the feeling of eavesdropping, as oftentimes he engages authors in a conversation, allowing his readers to hear.

Clement often dialogued with Plato in his writings, which lead many to conclude that Clement favored Plato to the point of allowing his philosophy to influence his theology. This writer is not prepared to comment on this possibility; however, one cannot miss a kind of urgency for Plato (nearly 200 years dead from Clement) to move from philosophy into theology:

“How, then, is God to be searched out, O Plato? ‘For both to find the Father and Maker of this universe is a work of difficulty; and having found Him, to declare Him fully, is impossible.’ Why so? By Himself, I beseech you! For He can by no means be expressed. Well done, Plato! Thou hast touched on the truth. But do not flag. Undertake with me the inquiry respecting the Good.”

Clement’s attitude should be those of our own, to encourage those who have touched to truth to come along further and apprehend truth. This requires a shift in worldview and can be a humbling experience. Consider the experience of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., who said, “Young man, the secret of my success is that at an early age I discovered I was not God.” We must be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit in our conversations. One need not be a philosopher or a pagan to reach the conclusion that God exists — the evidence is right in our eyes, under our noses, even our very feet. The Goodness of God is everywhere. Furthermore, the proof extends into the law, and man carries it out socially and adapts it culturally. These same evidences also points out that man is Titanically sinking into the cold grips of death, against which philosophy and paganism can only react as no solutions are found there.

Man, as already stated in the previous post, is not caught in the middle of creation but is the crown of it. Earth swirls through space with man clinging to it face. If the earth were merely a pale blue dot, man is without meaning and as far as death is concerned, there is nothing to be done. We live out Sam Beckett’s “End Game.” The biblical worldview explains that man does have meaning. Man is God’s vice-regent on earth, all things are in subjection under our feet. In other words, man is given by God the administration of the Universe. Those who reject God reject this privilege and become servant to that which he was intended to administer. Man wants to rule the Universe, but man does not want to rule the Universe as God gave him administration.

Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’" (Genesis 1:26-28)

The biblical worldview is that God, in His goodness has given man the highest position possible on the earth and in the Universe. The unbiblical worldview says, “No thanks, we’d rather evolve to that position (hopefully);” or “no thanks, we’d rather think or realize ourselves to that position.” Even the proponents of worldviews that do not distinguish between man from the Universe (that we are all “one”) still treat their children better than rocks. These still hold that lying and stealing (regardless of the reason) is wrong. Here are God’s laws at work in the Universe!

All is not well between man and God, so God stepped into time and space as a man in order to restore the relationship between God and man. The Creator took on Himself the form of an Ambassador of creation. “But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.” (Hebrews 2:9-10)

Faithful obedience to Christ is the means by which we fully obey God’s intention for us as His vice-regent. His salvific work sets the repentant man free from death, free from the one who holds the power of death (Satan). The repentant man is free to do everything he should as representing God on this earth. Whether we work at the microscopic or macroscopic level, in Christ, we are able to fully accomplish the task as God intended.

Clement’s backward challenge to Plato is a forward challenge to us, today. “Undertake with me the inquiry respecting the Good.” One writer stated that, “only a Christian is in a position fully to articulate a worldview that can be pleasing to God and in accord with truth.” This is an agreeable statement, for when we understand that God is good, man sees he is not and is near the place of receiving God’s love in Christ when he repents.

The Lord Jesus Christ is ready to help man achieve what the Father has planned for him. Meditate on this amazing truth, that God does not help angels, but man:

For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:16-17)

Divine help is extended to man because the Lord Jesus Christ, as a merciful and faithful high priest, satisfied justice and paid the penalty for sin in His blood.

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