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CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Chapter XI.—What is the Philosophy Which the Apostle Bids Us Shun?
Chapter XI.—What is the Philosophy Which the Apostle Bids Us Shun?
This, then, “the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God,” and of those who are “the wise the Lord knoweth their thoughts that they are vain.” 1915 Let no man therefore glory on account of pre-eminence in human thought. For it is written well in Jeremiah, “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, and let not the mighty man glory in his might, and let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth that I am the Lord, that executeth mercy and judgment and righteousness upon the earth: for in these things is my delight, saith the Lord.” 1916 “That we should trust not in ourselves, but in God who raiseth the dead,” says the apostle, “who delivered us from so great a death, that our faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” “For the spiritual man judgeth all things, but he himself is judged of no man.” 1917 I hear also those words of his, “And these things I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words, or one should enter in to spoil you.” 1918 And again, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ;” 1919 branding not all philosophy, but the Epicurean, which Paul mentions in the Acts of the Apostles, 1920 which abolishes providence and deifies pleasure, and whatever other philosophy honours the elements, but places not over them the efficient cause, nor apprehends the Creator. 1921
The Stoics also, whom he mentions too, say not well that the Deity, being a body, pervades the vilest matter. He calls the jugglery of logic “the tradition of men.” Wherefore also he adds, “Avoid juvenile 1922 questions. For such contentions are puerile.” “But virtue is no lover of boys,” says the philosopher Plato. And our struggle, according to Gorgias Leontinus, requires two virtues—boldness and wisdom,—boldness to undergo danger, and wisdom to understand the enigma. For the Word, like the Olympian p. 312 proclamation, calls him who is willing, and crowns him who is able to continue unmoved as far as the truth is concerned. And, in truth, the Word does not wish him who has believed to be idle. For He says, “Seek, and ye shall find.” 1923 But seeking ends in finding, driving out the empty trifling, and approving of the contemplation which confirms our faith. “And this I say, lest any man beguile you with enticing words,” 1924 says the apostle, evidently as having learned to distinguish what was said by him, and as being taught to meet objections. “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him, and stablished in the faith.” 1925 Now persuasion is [the means of] being established in the faith. “Beware lest any man spoil you of faith in Christ by philosophy and vain deceit,” which does away with providence, “after the tradition of men;” for the philosophy which is in accordance with divine tradition establishes and confirms providence, which, being done away with, the economy of the Saviour appears a myth, while we are influenced “after the elements of the world, and not after Christ.” 1926 For the teaching which is agreeable to Christ deifies the Creator, and traces providence in particular events, 1927 and knows the nature of the elements to be capable of change and production, and teaches that we ought to aim at rising up to the power which assimilates to God, and to prefer the dispensation 1928 as holding the first rank and superior to all training.
The elements are worshipped,—the air by Diogenes, the water by Thales, the fire by Hippasus; and by those who suppose atoms to be the first principles of things, arrogating the name of philosophers, being wretched creatures devoted to pleasure. 1929 “Wherefore I pray,” says the apostle, “that your love may abound yet more and more, in knowledge and in all judgment, that ye may approve things that are excellent.” 1930 “Since, when we were children,” says the same apostle, “we were kept in bondage under the rudiments of the world. And the child, though heir, differeth nothing from a servant, till the time appointed of the father.” 1931 Philosophers, then, are children, unless they have been made men by Christ. “For if the son of the bond woman shall not be heir with the son of the free,” 1932 at least he is the seed of Abraham, though not of promise, receiving what belongs to him by free gift. “But strong meat belongeth to those that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” 1933 “For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness; for he is a babe,” 1934 and not yet acquainted with the word, according to which he has believed and works, and not able to give a reason in himself. “Prove all things,” the apostle says, “and hold fast that which is good,” 1935 speaking to spiritual men, who judge what is said according to truth, whether it seems or truly holds by the truth. “He who is not corrected by discipline errs, and stripes and reproofs give the discipline of wisdom,” the reproofs manifestly that are with love. “For the right heart seeketh knowledge.” 1936 “For he that seeketh the Lord shall find knowledge with righteousness; and they who have sought it rightly have found peace.” 1937 “And I will know,” it is said, “not the speech of those which are puffed up, but the power.” In rebuke of those who are wise in appearance, and think themselves wise, but are not in reality wise, he writes: “For the kingdom of God is not in word.” 1938 It is not in that which is not true, but which is only probable according to opinion; but he said “in power,” for the truth alone is powerful. And again: “If any man thinketh that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.” For truth is never mere opinion. But the “supposition of knowledge inflates,” and fills with pride; “but charity edifieth,” which deals not in supposition, but in truth. Whence it is said, “If any man loves, he is known.” 1939
1 Cor. 3:19, 20.311:1916
Jer. 9:23, 24.311:1917
2 Cor. 1:9, 10; 1 Cor. 2:5, 15.311:1918
Col. 2:4, 8.311:1919
Col. ii. 8.311:1920
Acts xvii. 18.311:1921
[Revived by some “scientists” of our days.]311:1922
The apostle says “foolish,” 2 Tim. ii. 23.312:1923
Matt. vii. 7.312:1924
Col. ii. 4.312:1925
Col. 2:6, 7.312:1926
Col. ii. 8.312:1927
[A special Providence notably recognised as a Christian truth.]312:1928
i.e., of the Gospel.312:1929
[The Epicureans whom he censures just before.]312:1930
Phil. 1:9, 10.312:1931
Gal. 4:1, 2, 3.312:1932
Gen. xxi. 10; Gal. iv. 30.312:1933
Heb. v. 14.312:1934
Heb. v. 13.312:1935
1 Thess. v. 21.312:1936
Prov. xv. 14.312:1937
The substance of these remarks is found in Prov. ii.312:1938
1 Cor. 4:19, 20.312:1939
1 Cor. 8:1, 2, 3.
Next: Chapter XII.—The Mysteries of the Faith Not to Be Divulged to All.
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