Thursday, May 9, 2013
Clem: paranesis and predestination
I took a class on Paul's letters ages ago. I don't remember much about his basic template, but I remember the word "paranesis." After the main purpose of his letter had been said, he closed with bits of instruction for his intended audience.
I feel like most of Clement's letter to the Corinthians is paranesis. He starts addressing their dilemma, he gives sympathy, then he goes into church history a la Hebrews. But he goes on and on about instructions to be humble and holy. Notice all the lettuce. I guess that this book did not end up in the Bible because of its long paranesis and small theology (good theology but small). An undiscerning reader would thing his solution to the Corinthian abusers was good works. It was just nothing unique, but his letter changes in chapters 28-32
"All things seen and heard by God, Let us fear him." Quoting Psalm 139, he shows how God's presence is everywhere. We can't escape it so we should fear him.
"Let us draw near to him with holiness of spirit...from that nation will come the Most Holy." And Christ did come from Israel which later became the Church. Christ identifies with us. We must remember to be holy with fear and trembling as we are not worthy to carry his name.
Clem calls us the portion of the Holy One, showing that the Church and Christ really are to be married and to become one flesh. "Let us do all things which pertain to holiness...Let us cleave to those whom grace has been given by God...Let us clothe ourselves with concord and humility...Let our praise be in God" and not of ourselves, "Let testimony to our good deeds be borne by others. This bit from chapter 30 amazes me. It is true Reformed theology, yes Calvinistic theology, long before Augustine was even born. He uses phrases like "those whom grace has been given" and "those accursed of God." This grace happened to the former and not to the latter. The grace to the chosen causes them to follow holiness, to cling to other saints, and to walk in humility and agreement. They do not seek praise, but praise comes to them from others. The accursed do not know such freedom.
But because the church in Corinth has this blessing, "Let us cleave to his blessing." "Let us think over the things which have taken place from the beginning." From the beginning = predestined. God has planned all history for his glory.
Once again, he gives Abraham and Jacob's story. God chose those guys to be the ancestors of priests, kings, tribes, and even Jesus. Abraham was "made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness he wrought, but through the operation of his will." They were blessed because God wanted to bless them. All people destined for salvation are also blessed with that gift because it pleases God to do so. He did not have to save anyone, but he saved somebody. These somebodies should live through tough times carried along by their security in God.Clem