Tag Archives: Gospel of John

The Good Shepherd: Clement and Christus Victor

I have mentioned briefly on here the work of Gustav Aulen, and while I concede he needed more biblical exegesis for his case for Christus Victor, and a tighter grip on Church history, overall, I think he was right. Right smack dab in the middle of Christus Victor: An Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Idea of Atonement, Aulen only briefly mentions the image of God as the Good Shepherd rescuing the sheep from the three big bad wolves named Sin, Death, and Satan. At the same time, Aulen dismisses Clement of Alexandria as a theologian who dwelled too much on philosophy and not enough on atonement. This is why Aulen stakes his claims with Athanasius of Alexandria.

This may have been an error on Aulen’s part because the prevailing metaphor for Clement when it comes to the LORD’s sacrifice for us is the biblical image of The Good Shepherd.  For example:

“But it has been God’s fixed and constant purpose to save the flock of men: for this end the good God sent the good Shepherd.  And the Word, having unfolded the truth to men the height of salvation, that either repenting they might be saved, or refusing to obey, they might be judged.  this is the proclamation of righteousness: to those that obey, glad tidings; to those that disobey, judgment.  The loud trumpet, when sounded, collects soldiers, and proclaims war.  And shall not Christ, breathing a strain of peace to the ends of the earth, gather together His own soldiers, the soldiers of peace? He has gathered the bloodless host of peace, and assigned to them the kingdom of heaven.  The trumpet of  Christ is His Gospel.”

– Clement of Alexandria, Sermon to the Greeks, Chapter 11

Or consider this other example:

” ‘All Wisdom is from the Lord, and with Him forevermore’;—with authority of utterance, for He is God and Creator: ‘For all things were made by Him, and without Him not anything made [John 1:3]–and with benevolence, for He alone Himself a sacrifice for us; ‘For the Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep;'[John 10:11] and He has so given it.  Now, benevolence is nothing but wishing to  do good to one’s neighbor for his sake. “

-Clement of Alexandria, The Pedagogue (The Instructor/Educator), Book 1, Chapter 11

Now, there are well-meaning Christians who remain skeptical about Christus Victor because of the little work done on it, plus its rise in popularity.  If something seems like it’s new or something ancient that is recovered, I would say there should be criticism, especially with very few works that focus on Scripture and Christus Victor atonement. The thing about Penal substitution is not that it is violent in God’s wrath towards us, but that it makes our human depravity the center of the doctrine rather than God’s goodness.  PSA translates very well into US American Christianity and our self-centered individualism.  What I am seeing in Clement of Alexandria’s atonement theology is that the doctrine that is founded on God’s benevolence, and making our Good Lord Jesus Christ the Center.

“As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.”

– Ezekiel 34:12 (NRSV)

Aquaman Vol. #2 – The Trench, Oceanography, and Theology – Ode to #Sharkweek!

“Take heart, for I have overcome the ocean”


                In Vol. #2 of Geoff John’s New 52 Aquaman , we see our hero getting more and more intimate with his sea maiden – Mera. As Arthur digs deeper and deeper into his albums of shots with his dad and other shady characters , Mera’s curiosity heightens more and more. While this is all happening, however, there is a whole legion (that we saw at the end of the last volume) of blood-sucking, alien-like monsters emanating from the deep, dark trench!


                As in the last volume, we saw them initially confronting a group of fisherman on a boat. One of the unfortunate fisherman who had cast this line ended up getting pulled into the water  only to leave his blood floating to the surface- paralyzing his mates with fear! But little did they know…they’d be next…


                Back ashore, while Arthur and Mera are oogling over pictures, they hear a swift knock on the door. It’s a police officer to alert him of the imminent danger of these gruesome trench creatures as their advancing front moves upon shore.  There’s a massive scene involving the entirety of constables as they gaze out into the blackness of the night and the oceanic depths.

It makes for a great story and certainly gives Aquaman the kick he needs in his “bada$$ meter”  to at least give him a fighting chance when compared to Superman or Batman, but it’s comforting to know that the oceanic depths that blanket ¾ of our planet aren’t quite as horrifying as Geoff Johns is illustrating- or ARE they!? A while back, Buzzfeed posted an article entitled, “Why No One Should Mess  With the Oceans” – and it makes quite the compelling case. I’ll post a few of the highlight reasons here: ( the following images are from Buzzfeed – here’s the original article: http://www.buzzfeed.com/erinchack/why-no-one-should-mess-with-the-ocean)


First of all, the ocean is deep as fuck.

2. This is what most of the ocean looks like:

This is what most of the ocean looks like:

3. It’s probability to our own benefit that it’s so dark, because these are some of the friendly faces we’d see:

4. Scientists estimate that up to 80% of all living things live in the ocean!

Why No One Should Mess With The Ocean

5.  No sunlight = no plants, which = nearly everything these preying on FLESH!

Why No One Should Mess With The Ocean

6. There are vents shooting out boiling-hot water with sulfuric acid – would take your face clean off of your skull!

It's a frickin' hellscape down there. There are vents of boiling-hot sulfuric acid that would take your face clean off your skull.


The worst part is we've only explored less than 5% of the ocean.


Good googly-moogly – how could God have wrought such terrifying creation!?! Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, for sure… but as bad and hellacious as the oceans seem, I believe the most terrifying showcase of creation is right on dry land – and even looks a bit like you and I! Earlier this week, GreenPeace had shared an image on facebook ( that I in turned shared) that seemed to really resonate with quite a bit of people.

Photo: More people die every year from falling coconuts than from shark attacks. But thanks to humans many species of sharks endangered.</p><br /><br /><br />
<p>Text SHARK to 877877 to get daily shark facts and ways to help protect them every day of #Sharkweek!

John 16:33 ” I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.

In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

When we look at the horrifying images of the deep sea and all the seemingly unknown, there’s a sense of queeziness that might come over us simply because it’s all so unfamiliar – did Jesus really overcome ALL the world? One of the most interesting questions I have been asked is “Do animals have a religion?”  – was there, in fact, an Incarnation not only for humanity but for sharks,  dolphins, and deer? It’s a little hilarious to entertain such a thought, but I believe that the above passage kind of answers the question – because Christ came to reconcile MANKIND, He OVERCAME the world! As vicious as the natural world seems, mankind’s evil is unmatched. What’s most interesting about that assertion, especially in view of the Greenpeace graphic, is that environmentalism (even the most atheistic brand) affirms this  – MAN is to blame! Sure grizzlies will sever your appendages and pythons may strangle- but it isn’t the savagery of the animal kingdom that the narrative of contemporary environmentalism is so concerned with – it is the savagery of man! Environmentalism is concerned, ultimately with man’s ego and finding ways to reconcile it for the sake of ecological welfare.

We can say, then, that maybe the scariest thing about the alien-like creatures from the trench of Aquaman isn’t so much that they represent our fear of ocean creatures ( though the artist did a good job making them look plenty gruesome – and they DO seem to operate like deep-sea leeches) – but because they’re anthropomorphic – in a way , we see the worst side of humanity in them!

P.S. Oceanography pretty much empirically proves that Aquaman is the best D.C. hero 😉


Clement of Alexandria's Influence On The Cappadocians

Last week, Roland Boer wrote on From Transcendence To Transgression and once more thinking about Transcendence, I got to thinking about my friend Clement of Alexandria. I think I am the only person alive who’s a fanboy of his, his writings as they are. On the Theology Studio Facebook group, we had a short discussion on what was transcendence, where can one find it, especially in Christian thought. I still see transcendence as praxis, God’s doing better than us in the world, going before us, fighting our battles like in the Old Testament imagery of the Angel YHWH. With Clement and James Cone, I maintain that transcendence has the restart button set on history as we as humans are enlightened to reimagine what transcendence looks like when it is reconciled with immanence.

One of my pet peeves is when scholars tie Clement and Origen together, if they weren’t 2 separate people living in 2 separate times. If Origen believes this, than so must Clement. This could not be further from the truth. I maintain my resistance I made everyone aware in Liberating Clement: No Origen does not perfect Clement’s teaching. It was Clement’s own fault that he was not a systematic think, really random and practical at times, and very Greek and Platonist at others. Apparently, I am not alone in my assessment of CoA and OoA. I am re-reading Henny Fisk Hagg’s Clement of Alexandria and the beginnings of Christian apophaticism. Hagg regrets the reception of Clement in modern studies, much like I, and unlike me who believes hesitantly that Clement exiled himself to Athens, Hagg claims that CoA wound up somewhere in modern-day Turkey (Cappodocia). There’s very little evidence for either of our positions, but Hagg contends that Clement’s, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Philo’s shared exegesis of Exodus 19, YHWH wrapping Godself in darkness with God displaying divine inapproachableness and universality. Origen, on the other hand, believes quite the opposite, that the darkness refers to human ignorance, and that we only need to be enlightened to see God ever-present.

Jesus as the Light takes on a different meaning, then, in John 1. With Origen’s interpretation lies a history of colonial enlightenment being brought from the colonizer to the colonial subject. With Clement, Jesus, who is the Power of this God of Cloudy Darkness who becomes like light. God is everywhere, and can choose to appear anywhere God wishes, as well as to choose to depart from any place, and this is why human language is unable to capture fully this Most Moved Mover. I don’t think it’s a stretch that the writer of John’s Gospel namedrops Moses, in the passages following the Word not being overcome by the darkness. Is the darkness human sinfulness, or is it divine transcendence, YHWH as Moses encountered? I am starting to believe the latter.

If Haag is right (and my guesstimations are wrong, which I am open) and Gregory of Nazianzus read Clement’s work at Caesarea Maritima, with us not knowing the extent of Clement’s reach in the 3rd century C.E., then the fact of Gregory of Nanzianus and his opposition to slavery become a little more relevant to Clementine studies. Just as Gregory’s understanding of the darkness of the LORD, the Owner of all things, a concept he may have learned from Clement is a subversive theology, transcendence remains a divine praxis, something that Christians gain greater understanding of in the Incarnation.

Enhanced by Zemanta