In which is Clement of Alexandria, and real or borrowed faith

by Craig on August 15, 2012

The words of the Apostolic Church Fathers are like footprints from the early church.

The words of the Apostolic Church Fathers are like footprints from early church. source

We know the biblical church from the NT letters…
but what about that next generation in the 100’s AD?

We all have to learn our own faith lessons…
obtain our own wisdom…
foster our own relationship with God.

I remember how the Israelites, who had gained first-hand experience of walking with God, got lost for a while in the period of the Judges, as they took possession of the Promised Land – and then kept messing up again and again.

Maybe they were trying to live by second hand faith…
since those who experienced the Exodus were gone…
maybe they thought the faith of Moses would get them through.

Maybe they weren’t living their own faith…but instead, living on borrowed faith.

Believers in the 100’s were second and even third generation believers.
There were people who knew people who knew Our Lord…
but no one who actually did know him during his earthly ministry.

They could have lived on borrowed faith, but they didn’t.

Maybe it was because of the persecution they experienced.
Why is it that we lean closer to God in times of trial and trouble?

Persecution was actually easy to avoid…
just admit to believing in the gods…
then worship secretly as you wished.


But guys like Polycarp and Ignatius believed it wasn’t a choice for them.

Later, other leaders would take this option…
and huge problems and rifts would ensue.

Today’s Apostolic Father, Clement of Alexandria, taught the faith all through the 2nd century before he crossed swords with Rome.

I used to think it strange that an Apostolic Father would be from Egypt.
I didn’t know then that all of North Africa was at one time firmly Christian.

Clement was a thinker who followed a few paths before he got to Christianity.
He lived in Alexandria, where all the cool philosophers and religious teachers hung out.

But there is one thing about mingling so much with intellectuals and nonbelievers. I know from experience that it can place your head knowledge before your heart knowledge, and lead to importing too many things from outside our faith, into our faith.

Without head knowledge we’re prone to error.
Without heart knowledge we don’t apply the head knowledge.
And extra-biblical wisdom is fine, but must always yield to Scripture.

Sometimes Clement, like his student Origen, stepped a little outside the bounds of the Bible.

But it’s like this in life too. No?

We believe for a while…
we add and subtract to or from that faith…
and if we aren’t careful, our patch-worked faith can become all mixed up.

 if we aren’t careful, our patch-worked faith can become all mixed up. source

For the most part, though, Clement didn’t stray…
giving us his brand of inspiring and intelligent words.

So next time…nothing but those words.

Please come back.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Martha Orlando August 16, 2012 at 10:52 am

I like what you said, Craig, that our so-called wisdom must always yield to Scriptures. That’s something each one of us needs to remember.
I’m looking forward to the quotes of Clement.
Blessings to you!


Craig August 17, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Martha, that is THE difference between Protestants and Catholics – Catholic doctrine does not yield to Scripture – all Protestant doctrine must. Not everything that every church father said holds up against Scripture – so we need to be careful – if we’re Protestant – if were Catholic – a whole different set of rules applies because church tradition is equal to Scripture. Martha – this life of mine which absolutely disintegrated in the last three months leaves me surrounded in rubble – but also some diamonds and rubies – some friends who have stayed the whole time. Thank you for being one of them. Blessings to you too!


Sylvia R August 16, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Great post! It makes me glad that though I went through a period of agnosticism before I came to the Truth in Christ, I didn’t live on “borrowed faith.” I don’t know if I’d ever heard or considered the idea that maybe the first Judges generation went astray because they did, but I think that may very well have been the reason. Thanks for the good insights. God bless.


Craig August 17, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Sylvia, thank you my friend. And one more thing about borrowed faith – sometimes we can borrow it from ourselves – we can live on our former spiritual growth, or former spiritual experiences, without realizing we haven’t had any new growth or new experiences – so we live on our own “borrowed faith” – even though our original faith wasn’t borrowed – it always has to be growing. No?

God bless you, and thank you again Sylvia!


Debbie August 18, 2012 at 9:16 pm

What great insight about faith and how we can add to it from outside the Bible. And I loved your comment back to Sylvia too . . about how we can live on our own borrowed faith, from an earlier time . . and so not growing and experiencing new things in Him. I like learning here, Craig! God bless you as you continue this journey with the Apostolic Fathers! Thank you for taking us along!


Craig August 22, 2012 at 5:34 pm

you DO know of course, Debbie, that you’re the only one who reads me who read me BEFORE the blogs were even up. You have such a special place in my bloggy heart – hope you know that. Thank you.

And borrowed faith? I know I’ve lived on it before – we need to keep growing all the time – faith is never static – it’s always active. And the apostolic fathers are just a little side trip because in the middle of my other series I lost my computer – so I’ll hang out with these guys for a little bit – then I’ll finished that series – then after that I still have my best Bible verse ever tournament series which I left hanging – Lord knows I’m a great series starter – and not a very good series finisher. ツ anyway – God bless and keep you my friend!


Katie August 21, 2012 at 10:48 pm

Borrowed faith………. is quite Biblical. Hebrews 11 often inspires me from the stories of faith of others in the Old Testament. Sometimes seeing where God has been in my life and how he has changed and grown me then keeps me going when I don’t think I am currently connecting with him. (Which is ME not him). I read other Christian literature that is published now………. I test everything against the Bible. The current things others experience in their own stories often inspire me to keep going also. God’s story is told the ours and others stories.


Craig August 22, 2012 at 5:36 pm

amen Katie, I’ve often thought that our personal histories with God – if we keep them – and we write them down – or at least remember them – they’re kind of like personal Scripture that God writes in our lives – we need to remember what he has done or we forget what he will do. I am the biggest culprit of this mistake of all. God bless you Katie!


ryan July 5, 2013 at 10:46 am



A. April 14, 2015 at 10:24 am

Craig, I have recently begun reading the Didache and other early Christians’ writings. It is fascinating, yet, I agree with what you say about not substituting others’ experiences for developing our own walk with Christ. At the same time, how true it is that heart experience alone can lead to error. If we are truly sensitive to the Spirit, and walking closely with Him, I don’t think we are in as much likelihood of falling into error, but that takes diligence and close guarding of our thoughts. Learning how to stay in close communion with the Spirit while pursuing academic learning is a post in itself.


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