Saturday, 11 April 2015

Peter Widdicombe: Clement of Alexandria and the Fatherhood of God

The word Father is a commonplace of Clement’s theological vocabulary and it occurs in a variety of contexts. But what status did he attribute to the word Father? And why did he think it appropriate to use it of God? Although he nowhere engages in a self-conscious discussion of what he thought the word indicated about the nature of God, it nevertheless is possible to perceive patterns in his usage. These suggest that he took the word Father as an indication that God was the ultimate source of existence and that God, through the Logos, exercised providential care over humankind, a providential care oriented to the adoption of human beings as children of God. In this paper, I shall look particularly at how Clement uses the word Father in his discussions of the divine nature. However often he uses the word and however theologically important it seemingly was for him, he was also at pains to stress the ineffability of God. While the word Father plays a critical role in his arguments for the transcendence of God, he is careful to avoid any suggestion that the word directly tells us anything about the being of God, and on one occasion at least, he appears to have been prepared to subordinate it to others of the traditional descriptions of God, namely, those of God as God and as good.

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