Clement of AlexandriaClement advocated for visual aids in worship and argued vehemently for equality of sexes in the church.
Like all of the cool ancient figures, much of Clement of Alexandria’s life is shrouded in mystery. He was born sometime around 150 A.D. Legend says he was born in Athens, but others say Alexandria. Here’s what we do know:
He was born to pagan parents around 150 A.D. However, as he grew up, he rejected his pagan upbringing because of the moral corruption that was pervasive and encouraged by the society around him. This led good ole Clem on a journey of religious discovery, traveling all over the known-Roman world at the time. He visited Greece, Syria, Asia Minor, Palestine and Egypt, studying under the most learned and accomplished teachers of the day. It had a profound impact on him, and history as a whole.
As he weighed logic and the early writings and teachings of the Church, Clement became more and more convinced that the Christian God was the true God. He was baptized into the church and quickly became one of the most respected theologians and teachers. He started his own school that taught the tenets of the faith, and deeper theological truths and understandings.
He wrote a book that he titled “Exhortation to the Greeks.” He wrote it in the style of the Greeks, outlining in a very logical, step-by-step philosophical process how one must come to the conclusion that there is a God and his moral character is perfect. He understood that to reach the unconverted, you must evangelize in a form they understand.
“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9 NIV). Upon examination of Clement’s life, you would be hard-pressed to find an argument against it. Many of the issues he preached against in the second century are still affecting the Church in the modern day.
Clement advocated for visual aids in worship. Many people did not want to use any type of visual, because it could easily be mistaken for idolatry. Clem, however, felt visuals such as paintings of a dove, a fisherman or a musical instrument were appropriate. In other words, what the painting is depicting is the real concern, not the painting itself. Sound familiar? Clement argued vehemently for equality of sexes in the church. On the grounds that salvation is extended to all mankind equally, there was no reason why women should be inferior to men in the Church. I’m telling ya, there’s nothing new! We’re still fighting the same fights the church was fighting two millennia ago!
Clement took an intellectual approach to his faith, and evangelized the same way. Over the centuries, different people have responded to the gospel through different means. For some it’s a logical conclusion, for others it’s an emotional one. What stirs your soul? Could you talk about Jesus the same way? Could you teach the gospel in a different way?