Stoicism and Christianity

A world view that seems to be increasing in popularity, particularly among contemporary libertarian-leaning secularists, is Stoicism.

That Stoicism says much that is important and true seems obvious to me, and reading people like Epictetus or Aurelius is probably well worth many people’s time.

Christianity says much that Stoicism says. For examples, focusing on what is the ‘good life’, cultivating inner peace, practicing non-attachment towards ‘things’ (i.e., skepticism about materialism or hedonism), self-discipline, letting go of anger or negative emotions, and so on.

In a way, Stoicism is a tradition which captures much of Christian practices, without invoking the figure of Jesus of Nazareth (and so making tendentious historical claims) or bringing in the theological or creedal add-ons that organized Christianity tends to focus on.

It is obvious why, if someone is living in what is basically an existential vacuum of post-Christian thought, such a tradition might be found to have potentially significant value.

2 thoughts on “Stoicism and Christianity

  1. Bruce Charlton

    John C Wright has written very well on Stoicism

    http://www.scifiwright.com/?s=stoicism&submit=Go

    My summary view is that while it is understandable that a person is a Stoic, I cannot understand why anyone would *want* to be a Stoic – especially not in preference to Christianity, It is only because Christianity has not been understood that the Stoic is able to reject it in the way he typically does – if he understood Christianity, then he would spend great efforts, probably lifelong, checking whether it might be true.

    The only coherent reason for a Stoic to reject Christianity is that he believes it is utterly false – and that can only be a matter of judgment, which would need revisiting. Pascal understood this perfectly; as did the ancient pagans including Stoics, who converted to Christianity so readily once they understood it.

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  2. admin Post author

    “It is only because Christianity has not been understood that the Stoic is able to reject it in the way he typically does”

    Yes, I think for many contemporary libertarian-leaning secularists, Christianity looks not just false but a non-starter – not even remotely plausibly true.

    I think this is because they confuse certain creeds, doctrines, and theological views for the core of Christianity.

    These sorts of things make it difficult for them to begin to see the overlap between what they find interesting or useful in Stoicism, on one hand, and aspects of Christianity, on the other – they are unable to even get to that point of considering the practices and views that overlap.

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