Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Name that Church Leader....

As just one example of the teachings that get us Latter-day Saints condemned as non-Christians and cultists by other Christians, consider this passage from an early Church leader, which I admit is radically out of harmony with modern mainstream Christianity:
It [the knowledge of the Gospel] leads us to the endless and perfect end, teaching us beforehand the future life that we shall lead, according to God, and with gods; after we are freed from all punishment and penalty which we undergo, in consequence of our sins, for salutary discipline. After which redemption the reward and the honors are assigned to those who have become perfect; when they have got done with perfection, and ceased from all service, though it be holy service, and among saints. They become pure in heart, and near to the Lord, there awaits their restoration to everlasting contemplation; and they are called by the appellation of gods, being destined to sit on thrones with the other gods that have been first put in their places by the Savior.
This early leader taught the concepts of eternal progression, of the need for obedience on our part to access the gift of grace from Christ, and of the exaltation of the righteous to be "gods" among other "gods" who will be with God (the God of all), thanks to the gift of eternal life made available to us by Christ.

Can you guess which leader this was? Brigham Young, perhaps? No, try again. Joseph Smith? Heber G. Grant? Hyrum Smith? No, no, no. . . .

Answer: this early leader of the Church was a leader in the original Church of Jesus Christ (more precisely, its second-century descendant). The passage comes from Saint Clement of Alexandria, one of the famous early Christian Fathers who wrote in the late second century, recognized as an authentic early Christian leader and defender of the faith. The quotation is from his Stromata 7:10. You can find this passage yourself on the page of Stromata 7 of Clement at EarlyChristianWritings.com, about halfway down the page, or read it on a similar page in Vol. 2 of the Ante-Nicene Fathers collection at the incredible Christian Classics Ethereal Library at Calvin College.

I hope those who condemn us for teaching such doctrines will be a little more consistent with their condemnation, and be sure to inform their congregations that the early Christian Fathers, as well as the Apostles and even Christ Himself (see John 10:34-35, for example), just don't qualify as Christians according to their standard of what "historic Christianity" is all about. As for us, well, it's nice to be in the company of such fellow "non-Christians."

Thanks to John Tvedtnes for calling attention to the interesting passage from Clement of Alexandria.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

You have quoted a mqn without giving any of your readers any knowledge about the man himself. Saint Clement was a Gnostic. In one of his first paragraphs of this quoted speach he says "It is, then, our purpose to prove that the Gnostic alone is holy and pious." Mormons are far from gnosticism, so why quote one hoping to prove your point of view? You failed to mention that Saint Clement didn't believe that Jesus had a body! This sharply contrasts Mormon belief! Also, sitting on thrones with other gods does nothing to imply that one will take on the powers of Elohim... Just another case of Mormon's misquoting and misrepresenting the facts.

Mormanity said...

Care to provide some documentation? Clement is widely recognized as an authentic Christian. In fact, he attacked the group of doctrines called Gnosticism and is regarded as orthodox. As for the few who have called him a "Gnostic," that word (which simply means one who seeks knowledge - gnosis = knowledge) covers a huge scope and is almost a meaningless label to dismiss this early Christian leader.

It is true that by his time the Apostasy was well underway and Platonic thought, with its rejection of a corporeal God, was being incorporated into the Gospel due to the strong influence of Hellenism and its pagan religion and philosophy. Misunderstanding the physical nature of God and Christ is a natural and understandable result of the Hellenism of Christianity after the rejection of the Apostles and the loss of revelation through inspired, authorized leaders. The fact that Clement did not have all the doctrines of original Christianity in his day does not take away the fact that what he did believe and teach on theosis - the divine potential of man - was obviously much closer to restored LDS doctrine than it is to mainstream Christian doctrine. He is one of MANY early Christians who taught that biblical doctrine. Raising the vague epithet of "Gnostic" is an inappropriate ad hominem attack in a vain effort to ignore what this highly respect Christian taught, a man who was long venerated as a Saint by other Christians.

Regarding the charge of gnosticism and his position in Christianity, may I refer you to the encyclopedia's information on Clement at Answers.com? Here is the entry:

"Clement of Alexandria (Titus Flavius Clemens), d. c.215, Greek theologian. Born in Athens, he traveled widely and was converted to Christianity. He studied and taught at the catechetical school in Alexandria until the persecution of 202. Origen was his pupil there. He probably died in Caesarea, Cappadocia. Clement was one of the first to attempt a synthesis of Platonic and Christian thought; in this his successors in the Alexandrian school were more successful. Only a few works survive. The Address to the Greeks (Protrepticus) sets forth the inferiority of Greek thought to Christianity. Appended to the Tutor (Pedagogus) are two hymns, among the earliest Christian poems. His homily, Who Is the Rich Man? Who Is Saved? is a well-written fragment. The Miscellanies (Stromateis) is a collection of notes on Gnosticism. He attacked Gnosticism, but he himself has been called a Christian Gnostic. Although Clement remained entirely orthodox, in his writing he strove to state the faith in terms of contemporary thought. He was long venerated as a saint, but Photius, in the 9th cent., regarded Clement as a heretic. Because of Photius's contentions the name of Clement was removed from the Roman martyrology."

Well, as for misrepresenting the doctrines of early Christianity, can you provide any support for your dismissal of Clement? Are you suggesting that theosis was not a widespread and authentic early Christian doctrine that has since been lost by an even further Hellenized Christianity? I look forward to seeing your documentation.

Click on the "gods" hyperlink in my post to see further documentation about the authentic nature of theosis as an important doctrine in early Christianity.

Mormanity said...

Some information about the later rejection of Clement by Photius from http://www.stathanasius.miss.on.coptorthodox.ca/Menu/Patrology/SchoolOfAlexandria/DeansClement.htm:

"2. Outlines or Sketches (Hypotyposeis )

[Clement's] most important lost work is his allegorical interpretations and sketches of the writings of both the Old and New Testament, including even all the disputed books. Photius was still able to read a complete text of Clement's Hypotyposeis, written between the years 190 and 210 A. D. The work was in eight books, but has survived only in a few short Greek excerpts, preserved mostly by Eusebius. Other excerpts exist in the Pratum spiritual of John Moschus and in a Latin translation which goes back to the time of Cassiodorus (c. 540). Photius passed very severe judgment on the work, citing its many rank heresies: "Correct doctrine is held firmly in some places but in other places he is carried away by odd and impious notions. He maintains the eternity of matter, produces a theory of ideas from the words of Holy Scripture, and reduces the Son to a mere creature. He relates incredible stories of metempsychosis and of many worlds before Adam. His teaching on the formation of Eve from Adam is blasphemous and scurrilous - and anti-Scriptural. He imagines that the angels had intercourse with women and begot children with them. He also writes that the Logos did not become man in reality but only in appearance. He has, it would appear, a fantastic idea of two Logoi of the Father, of which the inferior one appeared to men." Clement of Alexandria had a good reputation in Byzantium and for that reason St. Photius' conclusion is that the work is not authentically that of Clement.

Since we have only a few fragments, and since there is no reason to doubt their authenticity, no judgment can safely be rendered on Photius' remarks. "