Clement’s view of the roles of faith and knowledge
Clement attempted to mediate between the heretical Gnostics and the legalistic orthodox Christians by appropriating the term gnostic from the heretical groups and reinterpreting to meet the needs of both the uneducated orthodox stalwarts and the growing numbers of those educated in the Greek paideia who were enlisting in the Christian church. Gnōsis became, in Clement’s theology, a knowledge and aspect of faith; he viewed it as a personal service that “loves and teaches the ignorant and instructs the whole creation to honor God the Almighty” (Strōmateis). Thus, Clement’s Christian Gnostic—as opposed to the heretical Gnostic—witnessed to nonbelievers, to heretics, and to fellow believers, the educated and uneducated alike, by teaching new insights and by setting a lofty example in moral living. Like the pistic Christians (those who claimed that man was saved by faith, which was to be demonstrated in legalistic and moral terms), Clement held that faith was the basis of salvation; but, unlike them, he claimed that faith was also the basis of gnōsis, a spiritual and mystical knowledge. By distinguishing between two levels of believers—i.e., the pistic Christian, who responds through discipline and lives on the level of the law, and the Christian Gnostic, who responds through discipline and love and lives on the level of the gospel—Clement set the stage for the efflorescence of monasticism that began in Egypt about a half century after his death.