Clement of Alexandria -- By: James Lindsay

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 072:286 (Apr 1915)
Article: Clement of Alexandria
Author: James Lindsay


Clement of Alexandria

James Lindsay, D.D.

Clement of Alexandria will surely come to his own. Messrs. Williams and Norgate issued last spring the two-volumed work on Clement by Rev. R. B. Tollinton, B.D., Rector of Tendring, as “a Study in Christian Liberalism.” The work deals with Clement, his times and contemporaries; with his views on Paganism, Marriage, and Property; on the Logos, the Incarnation, and Gnosticism; on the Church, the Sacraments, and the Scriptures. Messrs. Blackwood and Sons have now issued a volume on “Clement of Alexandria,” by Professor John Patrick, which will be useful to students who have made no study of this great Alexandrine Father.1 My remarks in this paper must be confined to the work of Dr. Patrick alone. Dr. Patrick has done well to issue this work, for his career, so far as authorship is concerned, has fallen greatly short of expectations. It is the only piece of work he has published since he became a professor in 1898; in theological literature, as represented in Journals, his name is absolutely unknown. A good deal of industry and scholarship — the latter at times too much of the mechanical order — have gone to the making of the work. Dr. Patrick shares the common weakness of the monographist, that of

magnifying the subject because he has taken it up, and of interpreting everything relative to it in the most favorable light possible. But Clement has always stood out as a noble and attractive figure, and, as such, has no need of exaggeration. One of the serious mistakes of Professor Patrick’s work is the tendency to overrate the importance of Clement. He allows himself to forget, in taking Clement so seriously as the mouthpiece of Greek thought, that Origen and Athanasius followed. What great meaning or sense is there in Dr. Patrick’s insistences that the Church of to-day should look back to Clement for principles and guidance, when he was only one of the earlier Greek Fathers, with no thought-out theory of the Trinity, or of the Person of Christ, or of the Atonement? Dr. Patrick himself admits that Clement did not find it “necessary to formulate any theory of the Atonement” (p. 119), nor any “consistent and harmonious” doctrine of the Person and Work of Christ (p. 99). The Church of today is to get her light from a writer whose mind was in a state of theological crudeness or fluidity or inchoateness! Dr. Patrick has evidently been led to an undue magnifying of Clement by the influence of writers like Professor Allen, whose “Continuity of Christian Thought” is among his authorities. But he should have perceived that Allen’s work is — not at this point alone — one-sided, though able, and, indeed, on Clement...

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