Monday, August 11, 2008

St. Clement of Rome's Epistle to the Corinthians pt.1




I have begun to try to study the works of the Apostolic fathers. Today I read the first 23 chapters of St. Clement's letter to the Corinthians. I went to see whether Protestantism was completely foreign to them, or which side of the justification debate they found themselves on. Now obviously it is anachronist to try reading an ancient source in order to answer a debate occuring some 13 centuries later, however it gives me a glimpse. Thus far I see Clement as supporting Luther/not teaching sanctification as a necessary part of salvation.


Interesting excerpts:

"Let us look steadfastly to the blood of Christ, and see how precious that blood is to God which, having been shed for our salvation, has set the grace of repentance before the whole world. Let us turn to every age that has passed, and learn that, from generation to generation, the Lord has granted a place of repentance to all such as would be converted unto Him. Noah preached repentance, and as many as listened to him were saved. Jonah proclaimed destruction to the Ninevites; (Jonah iii) but they, repenting of their sins, propitiated God by prayer, and obtained salvation, although they were aliens [to the covenant] of God." (Ch7)


"Abraham, styled the friend, was found faithful, inasmuch as he rendered obedience to the words of God. He, in the exercise of obedience, went out from his own country, and from his kindred, and from his father's house, in order that, by forsaking a small territory, and a weak family, and an insignificant house, he might inherit the promises of God. (Ch10)"


"Abram believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. On account of his faith and hospitality, a son was given him in his old age; and in the exercise of obedience, he offered him as a sacrifice to God (Ch10)"


Another person not putting the dicotemy between Abraham's faith and works - I really wish Clement would pick a side, we're at doctrinal war here people. In the first part he says obedience, then he says faith.


"On account of his hospitality and godliness, Lot was saved" (Ch11)


"On account of her faith and hospitality, Rahab the harlot was saved" (Ch12)


"Moreover, they gave her [Rahab] a sign to this effect, that she should hang forth from her house a scarlet thread. And thus they made it manifest that redemption should flow through the blood of the Lord to all them that believe and hope in God. You see, beloved, that there was not only faith, but prophecy, in this woman." (Ch12)


"For Christ is of those who are humble-minded, and not of those who exalt themselves over His flock. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Sceptre of the majesty of God, did not come in the pomp of pride or arrogance, although He might have done so, but in a lowly condition, as the Holy Spirit had declared regarding Him [he then quotes Isaiah 53]." (Ch15)


Ouch Renaissance Popes.


"let us look steadfastly to the Father and Creator of the universe, and cleave to His mighty and surpassingly great gifts and benefactions of peace. Let us contemplate Him with our understanding, and look with the eyes of our soul to His long-suffering will. Let us reflect how free from the wrath He is towards all His creation." (Ch19)


"Let us reverence the Lord Jesus Christ, whose blood was given for us" (Ch21)


"All these, therefore, were highly honoured, and made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will. And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen (Ch32)"


Soteriology: The Blood of Christ


All in all Clement's Soteriology seems to be the same as St. Paul's in Romans, have faith in God and Christ's sacrifice, you will then be saved, and will be rewarded for good works. This is the Protestant interpretation basically, though nothing St. Clement says contradicts Catholicism. He also doesn't mention anything about being a Pope which probably would've helped him have alot more influence. Mary didn't get any shout-outs either. It reaffirms my beliefs that early Christianity was not distinctly anything other than Christian, they were worried about getting people to still believe in Christ and his sacrifice, rather than argue about Purgatory which I'm 95% sure would have been a foreign concept to them. Though I haven't studied it in-depth and can't be sure.

He continually mentions the Blood of Christ, as our propitiation. This reminds me of my Baptist days and the old Hymn 'Nothing but the Blood of Jesus'.


Providence:

St. Clement like St. Paul (in Ephesians 2:10) says that we are to trust in God's providence. We are saved "through the operation of his will". It's this idea that I see as being alot more of a core Christian doctrine. It's as though we are to trust in God's providence and unchangeable will that we will be saved and we will rise again like Christ. Whereas I see the Lutheran doctrine of single unconditional predestination/election at work in this letter and in Ephesians. As oppossed to St. Thomas Aquinas' view of Election. I've never like Aquinas' one theory that God has predestined some to be saved and then lose their salvation. That always turned me off, and that's why I mention the Lutheran doctrine of predestination as - in my opinion - being closer to what Paul and Clement had in mind.


Scripture / Old Testament

The letter uses probably 90% Old Testament quotes and examples to prove his point. Many strange metaphorical interpretation of verses / taking verses out of context, like Paul and other New Testament writers. I'm not saying 'out of context' as meaning 'wrong' just that they must be read 'metaphorically' or anachronistically to be about what is currently happening.


An interesting thing I note is that repeatedly St. Clement says "the Holy Ghost says" and then quotes the Old Testament or New Testament, or writes 'as the Spirit proclaims:' and then quotes the bible. This shows immediately the recognition of certain Scripture as God the Holy Ghost speaking Himself, meaning it is by nature infallible (as God cannot lie). This proves quite useful in establishing the doctrine of the Authority and Inspiration of the Bible.


As well like every other theologian and Christian writer I've seen up until even past the Reformation, he quotes the Apocrypha alongside Scripture making no seperation between the two. However this is not proof it is scripture, after all St. Paul quotes Cretian poets, and I believe it was Justin Martyr who quoted in one text I read, almost exclusively from different plays and dramas of the ancient world. I guess you just use what you got. Make lemonade out of whatever resembles lemons.



Conclusion

All in all I enjoy St. Clement, he reminds me alot of Paul who apparently mentions him in his epistles according to Jared's blog - from which I stole alot of information. It is good to read the Church Fathers - especially the Apostolic Fathers, as I constantly hear from Catholics 'show me one Protestant idea in them' - which I now can. And I have found them truly uninvolved in later debates. No matter what Christian Tradition you are in, Clement's letter reminds us of the importance of unity, faith, and a working love for God.

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