Christianity and the Classical Mind

You hear a lot about Tertullian’s outcry: “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” Less commonly heard are these words from Clement of Alexandria, perhaps because, like Tertullian, Clement went to some extremes. Like Tertullian. Anyway:

Before the Lord’s coming, philosophy was an essential guide to righteousness for the Greeks. At the present time, it is a useful guide towards reverence for God. It is a kind of preliminary education for those who are trying to gather faith through demonstration. “Your foot will not stumble,” says Scripture, if you attribute good things, whether Greek or Christian, to Providence. God is responsible for all good things: of some, like the blessings of the Old and New Covenants, directly; of others, like the riches of philosophy, indirectly. Perhaps philosophy too was a direct gift of God to the Greeks before the Lord extended his appeal to the Greeks. For philosophy was to the Greek world what the Law was to the Hebrews, a tutor escorting them to Christ. So philosophy is a preparatory process; it opens the road for the person whom Christ brings to his final goal. Solomon says, “Surround Wisdom with a stockade, and she will exalt you; she will shiled you with a rich crown,” since once you have fortifed her with a fence by means of the true riches of philosophy, you will keep her inaccesible to the sophists….

Every line makes for a good and profitable discussion.

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