“Let us remove the ignorance and darkness that spreads like a mist over our sight, and let us get a vision of the true God.” –Clement of Alexandria (source at the end)
Clement was a 2nd-3rd Century theologian and philosopher, and I'm fairly certain that his particular Alexandria was the one in Egypt. That's actually one of the hardest parts of history for me, thanks to Alexander the Great: way too many Alexandrias. And thanks to AtG's Hellenization efforts (spreading Greek language and culture) too many Philadelphias! Philadelphia meaning "City of Brotherly Love" in Koine Greek, there's dozens of those too. It's a stretch, but it seems that every major city in the Mediterranean region, except Rome and Athens, had those names at one point.
Enough ranting about conquerors and such. Let's look at Clement's statement.
Remove the ignorance and darkness: While originally, Clement is addressing shifting from paganism to a faith that views the One True God, I see his words as valid for us today in the Church. Why? We've developed a troubling tendency to ignorance and darkness.
1. We are ignorant of the world around us: our society in general is mired in a mediocrity of education. There are teachers that try, students that try, and parents that try. Unfortunately, we've allowed students who claim the name of Christ to accept it, rather than honoring Christ with their minds. The end result? Ignorance. We must not continue in that.
Special note to my fellow homeschoolers: YES! Homeschooling is often more effective than government schooling. HOWEVER: making that choice is only the first step in a good direction. YOU are RESPONSIBLE to construct, administer, and expect excellence from your students. End of story: the standard is not "better than (fill-in-the-blank)." As Christian homeschoolers, the standard is "Fully honoring Christ with our efforts." Anything less is sin.
2. We have allowed ignorance to be a hallmark of our churches. Yes, we have. How? Where to start? We've allowed youth ministries to run for years without the Bible. We eat donuts and drink coffee and call it Bible Study. We hope that in a 20-minute sermon the preacher will give us everything we need. Ask the average church leader in a Southern Baptist Church for a brief outline of Scripture. Ask about church history. And don't get me started on misspelling things for advertising efforts. Really? Praise. Kids. Youth.
We celebrate ignorance when we start saying "I don't need doctrine, I just need Jesus." Sure, it sounds good on Twitter, but what does it mean? Too often, it means that we ignorantly blunder through our faith without any consideration of what we're talking about.
Special note to my fellow pastors: Guess what? If you want your church members to be ignorant because, hey, they've got you, then you are not mature enough for the pulpit. Resign. This week. Grow up. Come back. Moreover, if you think you are the only source they have to overcome ignorance, you're too arrogant for the pulpit. Resign. McDonald's is hiring. If you humbly think that you are there to help, to be a personally available teacher of the Word, you're in the right place. Now, do we all have days that we're not fit? Sure. But if you're whole attitude is that, get out.
Those are just 2 thoughts on this. What to do? The first is easier to address than the second.
We need to seek God, even just a snapshot of who He is, what Majesty and Glory and Splendor really are like when they are nouns of Him and not mere adjectives of the earthly.
We need to be in the Word of God. We need to seek Him above all other things.
In turn, we need to allow that passion for the One who became less for us to drive us to become more for Him. We ought to be more than ignorant. As the mists clear, we'll see Him. Science shows His handiwork, history His providence, music His beauty, math His wisdom, and language His grace, His willingness to communicate with us.
None of us will master these things, but we ought not neglect being the best we can with the abilities God has given us.
Mark Galli and Ted Olsen, 131 Christians Everyone Should Know (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 52.
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