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In the articles of Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria it is found that both men adhere to the Christian religion but disagree about the essence of Greek philosophy and learning in accordance to Christianity. Tertullian was a native to Carthage and therefore probably exposed to many Greek teachings. He became a Christian and openly opposed pagans and sophists (or “heretics”) as well as emphasized the “sacredness of life and the Christian abhorrence of violence.” He believed Greek philosophy was essentially nonsense and led people only to question the Christian religion. Clement of Alexandria was a Greek Christian theologian who combined Christianity with Platonism. He credited Greek teachings to be the foundation of Christianity, acting as a “schoolmaster” for the Greeks, preparing them for Christianity.
Tertullian was very familiar with Greek philosophy and teachings growing up in Carthage. When he became a Christian he was probably in the midst of Greek philosophers questioning all aspects of the faith, using their techniques to dissect it and make it logical. Tertullian was frustrated by this and felt that Greek philosophy held them back from believing and basically adhered to the “blind faith” approach. In the article he spoke of Aristotle who taught the “art of dialectic” and followed by saying, “the art which destroys as much as it builds.” Tertullian also followed with more condemnations of what he considered to be intellectual redundancy and nonsense of Greek philosophy. Tertullian was blatantly frustrated with the sophists for questioning and not blindly adhering to the Christian religion.
Conversely, Clement of Alexandria, who successfully combined Christianity with Platonism, defended Greek learning while remaining a Christian theologian. Clement says that philosophy is the “clear image of the truth” and that “philosophy acted as a schoolmaster to the Greeks, preparing them for Christ, as the laws of the Jews prepared them for Christ.” To him, Greek philosophy merely paved the way for God’s teachings, “molding character, and fitting him who believes in Providence for the reception of truth.” He further added that by studying Greek teachings, with their emphasis on geometry, music, grammar, and philosophy, Christians could wisely advocate their faith as well as protect it from assault. Unlike Tertullian, when Clement of Alexandria became a Christian he did not feel the need to renounce the Greek teachings and rather used them in support of the Christian religion.
This difference in thought and belief between Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria could have been due to their location and the time of which they wrote the articles. Tertullian may have been surrounded by patronizing and ominous philosophers at the time the article was written. Tertullian’s article seems like it was written in haste and frustration; frustration that was obviously provoked by the sophists. In the article Clement of Alexandria wrote, one gets the sense of comfort and wisdom. He seemed to have written this after much contemplation and observation. Clement may not have been surrounded by non-believing, overbearing sophists.
There could be numerous explanations as to why Tertullian rejected Greek teachings whereas Clement of Alexandria upheld them. They both, however, were believers in Christianity during a time when the religion was young and the doctrine of belief was still being shaped.
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