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Re: Do Stoicism and Christianity Conflict?

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  • Amos
    Grant: Although I m sure that you can reconcile Christianity and Stoicism, at first view they do seem to be radically different. In fact, Christianity,
    Message 1 of 12 , Jan 10, 2011
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      Grant:

      Although I'm sure that you can reconcile Christianity and Stoicism, at first view they do seem to be radically different.

      In fact, Christianity, with its emphasis on the afterlife as a reward for virtue, seems to contradict almost all forms of Greek ethics: Socrates of the Apology and the other so-called Socratic dialogues, Aristotle, Epicurus, and the Stoics, all of who seem to believe that virtue is its own reward (Aristotle says that virtue is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for happiness on earth). Plato in the Republic and other so-called later dialogues seems closer to Christianity.

      What's more, the Christian concept of original sin is, as far I know, found nowhere in ancient Greek philosophy. Wouldn't the idea that the Sage is possible contradict the idea of original sin?
      That is, if human perfection, the Sage, can exist, what need is there of Christ on the cross?

      Best, Amos

      --- In stoic-christian@yahoogroups.com, Grant Sterling <fccmoose@...> wrote:
      >
      > All:
      >
      > The following issue is one on which I have strong opinions, but I thought the List might want something new to talk about.
      >
      > Christianity is often depicted, both by defenders and by critics, as a religion that focuses on the afterlife. Marx and Nietzsche, for example, regard Christianity as bad because they think it causes the believer to lose track of the things that are important in this life while placing all hope in a life to come (which they think never does come). Many Christian authors, on the other hand, emphasize the impossibility of peace or happiness in this "vale of tears" ruled by the "Prince of Darkness".
      >
      > "When the shadows of this life have grown,
      > I'll fly away;
      > Like a bird from prison bars has flown,
      > I'll fly away."
      >
      >
      > Stoicism, on the other hand, claims that not only is complete happiness (eudaimonia) possible in this life, nothing can prevent us from achieving it if we follow Stoic principles.
      >
      > So, what does everyone think--can Christianity be compatible with Stoicism, if the two theories diverge on this key issue? Or is the divergence only apparent, or only the result of a misunderstanding?
      >
      > Regards,
      > Grant
      >
    • Kevin
      The Kingdom of God is at hand and will come; this is the eschatology which is presented in the New Testament by my lights. Eschatology is the study of the
      Message 2 of 12 , Jan 10, 2011
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        The Kingdom of God is "at hand" and will come; this is the eschatology which is presented in the New Testament by my lights. Eschatology is the study of the end, and this can be the end of the world or it is also used in the sense as the end or telos, to use a Greek notion, of a believer. The word "eschatology"  isn't found in the NT; it is used to talk about certain subjects discussed in the NT. Jesus discussed the Kingdom of God in a couple of ways, one was now and by now I mean in the world of men which we live in and he lived in and the other... in the age to come.
         
        If we compare these two aspects to Stoicism clearly only one aspect deals with the same subject that is the one "at hand." What is the Kingdom of God_ at hand_ like? Volumes have been written on this and it is difficult to separate doctrine ( a subsequent synthesis of New Testament writings)  and what the documents actually say. I would prefer to narrow the scope of my comments. In the New Testament Matthew chapters 5 -7 are ethics that Jesus taught; they are in my view the road map for the Kingdom of God at hand (all references are in Matthew.) It is amazing when you look at how many words we have which are actually attributed to Jesus...  there aren't very many.

           To enter the Kingdom you must repent,4:17. Does this contradict Stoicism? No Epictetus says the same for philosophy.

            In 5:1-12 the "beatitudes" or the disposition a believer must have. lets see, he is humble, mournful, gentle, desires righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, a peace-maker, persecuted and rejoicing because he has a great reward in heaven. Do these contradict Stoicism? The last one probably does since it isn't clear that Stoics believed much in an after life, but I remember reading sections from Marcus where he longed to put off his weight of flesh and be joined with the Divine. "Mournful" could also be a contradiction unless you confined it to your own failings in which case that too Epictetus talked about.
         
             In 5:13 -20 We read that Jesus said a disciple is one of utmost personal conviction who holds his role as a moral example for all men and dutiful servant who obeys God in all things as his chief concern. Does this contradict Epictetus? Hardly, he proclaimed that singing the praises of God as his post which he would never forsake.
         
        I'm running out of energy here, but let me finish by saying that If one were to follow all of Epictetus' advice it would help a person fulfill all of the teachings Jesus gave on the sermon on the mount. And one would go a long way towards being in the first category Jesus gave  "...everyone who hears these words of mine and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house upon a rock, and the rain descended and the floods came , and the winds blew and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock." 7:24
         
        So  I do not believe Christian ethics conflict with Stoic ethics. In the Gospel of John Jesus after talking about cleansing of believers through teaching said: "Just as my father has loved me I have also loved you; Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments you will abide in my love just as I have kept my father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken unto you that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full." 15: 9-11. Clearly if a believer applies the teachings of Jesus he said they would be stable and able to bear with the difficulties of life, and be loving, kind and  joyful.
         
        So many Christians are grieved and vexed with passion, in the Stoic sense, but they don't get this way by following the teachings of Christ. Someday a good teacher will help Christians see that there is a vast treasure of ethical knowledge implied in the metaphors and analogies of the NT...I hope.
         
        Regards
        Kevin
         



        --- On Mon, 1/10/11, Grant Sterling <fccmoose@...> wrote:


        From: Grant Sterling <fccmoose@...>
        Subject: [stoic-christian] Do Stoicism and Christianity Conflict?
        To: stoic-christian@yahoogroups.com
        Date: Monday, January 10, 2011, 4:28 PM


         



        All:

        The following issue is one on which I have strong opinions, but I thought the List might want something new to talk about.

        Christianity is often depicted, both by defenders and by critics, as a religion that focuses on the afterlife. Marx and Nietzsche, for example, regard Christianity as bad because they think it causes the believer to lose track of the things that are important in this life while placing all hope in a life to come (which they think never does come). Many Christian authors, on the other hand, emphasize the impossibility of peace or happiness in this "vale of tears" ruled by the "Prince of Darkness".

        "When the shadows of this life have grown,
        I'll fly away;
        Like a bird from prison bars has flown,
        I'll fly away."

        Stoicism, on the other hand, claims that not only is complete happiness (eudaimonia) possible in this life, nothing can prevent us from achieving it if we
        follow Stoic principles.

        So, what does everyone think--can Christianity be compatible with Stoicism, if the two theories diverge on this key issue? Or is the divergence only apparent, or only the result of a misunderstanding?

        Regards,
        Grant









      • Dave Kelly
        George Long (note 4) quotes the opinion of Elizabeth Carter with regard to the Stoic goal, stated in _Discourses_ 4.4, of avoiding desire and aversion to
        Message 3 of 12 , Apr 14, 2011
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          George Long (note 4) quotes the opinion of Elizabeth Carter with
          regard to the Stoic goal, stated in _Discourses_ 4.4, of avoiding
          desire and aversion to externals. Her conclusion: “virtue can not be
          maintained in the world without the hope of a future reward.” In my
          despair, I fear that this is true.

          _Discourses_ 4.4 (part):

          “But a tranquil and happy life contains nothing so sure as continuity
          and freedom from obstacle. Now I am called to do something: I will go
          then with the purpose of observing the measures (rules) which I must
          keep,3 of acting with modesty, steadiness, without desire and aversion
          to things external;4 and then that I may attend to men, what they say,
          how they are moved;5 and this not with any bad disposition, or that I
          may have something to blame or to ridicule; but I turn to myself, and
          ask if I also commit the same faults. How then shall I cease to commit
          them? Formerly I also acted wrong, but now I do not: thanks to God.”

          “4 ' The readers perhaps may grow tired with being so often told what
          they will find it very difficult to believe, That because externals
          are not in our power, they are nothing to us. But in excuse for this
          frequent repetition, it must be considered that the Stoics had reduced
          themselves to a necessity of dwelling on this consequence, extravagant
          as it is, by rejecting stronger aids. One cannot indeed avoid highly
          admiring the very few. who attempted to amend and exalt themselves on
          this foundation. No one perhaps ever carried the attempt so far in
          practice, and no one ever spoke so well in support of the argument as
          Epictetus. Yet, notwithstanding his great abilities and the force of
          his example, one finds him strongly complaining of the want of
          success; and one sees from this circumstance as well as from others in
          the Stoic writings, That virtue can not be maintained in the world
          without the hope of a future reward.' Mrs. Carter.”

          Best wishes,
          Dave

          On Mon, Jan 10, 2011 at 3:28 PM, Grant Sterling <fccmoose@...> wrote:
          >
          >
          >
          > All:
          >
          > The following issue is one on which I have strong opinions, but I thought the List might want something new to talk about.
          >
          > Christianity is often depicted, both by defenders and by critics, as a religion that focuses on the afterlife. Marx and Nietzsche, for example, regard Christianity as bad because they think it causes the believer to lose track of the things that are important in this life while placing all hope in a life to come (which they think never does come). Many Christian authors, on the other hand, emphasize the impossibility of peace or happiness in this "vale of tears" ruled by the "Prince of Darkness".
          >
          > "When the shadows of this life have grown,
          > I'll fly away;
          > Like a bird from prison bars has flown,
          > I'll fly away."
          >
          > Stoicism, on the other hand, claims that not only is complete happiness (eudaimonia) possible in this life, nothing can prevent us from achieving it if we follow Stoic principles.
          >
          > So, what does everyone think--can Christianity be compatible with Stoicism, if the two theories diverge on this key issue? Or is the divergence only apparent, or only the result of a misunderstanding?
          >
          > Regards,
          > Grant
          >
          >


          --
          PTypes Personality Types
          http://www.ptypes.com/
        • Greg Geis
          Dear All I m glad someone responded to Grant s original post. I had wondered if anyone would rise to the occasion and had even attempted to draft my own
          Message 4 of 12 , Apr 18, 2011
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            Dear All

            I'm glad someone responded to Grant's original post. I had wondered if anyone would rise to the occasion and had even attempted to draft my own response, but in the end I chickened out. However, I think Grant's question is so well framed that it deserves further consideration. Also, Dave's post helped me work up the courage to respond. If nothing else it will give me the opportunity to hone my apologetic skills., 

            So here goes.

            I think the differences between Stoicism and Christianity are not only considerable, but unbridgeable--at least from the Stoic side.  Christianity depends on grace. Stoicism does not. Their is no place for "other power" in the Stoic schema. Their views of human nature are oppositional. Without overgeneralizing about the nature of original sin, the Christian view of human nature is that it is fallen. If we are not helpless sinners why would we need a Savior? The Stoic view of human perfectibility and philosophical regeneration does not require grace. It requires human effort alone. The Christian view of Nature is also very different. Creation groans; it does not open itself to holistic reductions. The law of God may be written in our hearts and Pascal took the "view from above"  and it frightened him. The Stoic view, both of human nature and Nature in general [they would probably not separate the two] is what I would call "This is it". 

            I think Christianity is oriented both towards the present and the eschaton; it is a paradoxical, perhaps inscrutable, blend of both "now" and "not yet" I think that non-Christians often use the "afterlife" as a straw dog to frame a Christian world view that simply does not exist and which smells very suspiciously like a reworking of the lazy man argument .I love it when Marxists lecture Christians about eschatology. Marx would make even the most ardent post-millenialist blush.  Furthermore, it seems to me there is confusion over the difference between the eschaton [the end of historical time and the present world] and the so-called  "after life". That is a discussion in itself and beyond my theological capabilities. In any case, I do not believe that "Heaven" is a reward for being virtuous. If it were, I greatly fear it would be very underpopulated. Heaven is "where" [I am using a spatial metaphor] we stand before God on the merits of a work done on our behalf. What Christians are saved from is sin, not cognitive shortcomings . Simply put, Christianity acknowledges the need a Savior. Stoicism does not; it depends on self power; Christianity is about "other power". Christianity has a very different view of human nature than Stoicism. Wherever one stands on the nature/grace divide, grace is still part of the overall Christian picture. It is not part of Stoicism. 

            It's true, Stoicism has a now; but its "not yet" is basically a repeat of now. The Christian life is very present oriented. Jesus' parables are strong exhortations to act now.  Some Christians [and I am not one of them] do believe in "Entire Sanctification" or perfection in this life. It is a strong minority opinion held by conservative Wesleyans, Nazarenes and various Holiness groups. There is no Christian sage; Christians have wisdom made man, not a man becoming wise.

            --- On Thu, 4/14/11, Dave Kelly <ptypes@...> wrote:

            From: Dave Kelly <ptypes@...>
            Subject: Re: [stoic-christian] Do Stoicism and Christianity Conflict?
            To: stoic-christian@yahoogroups.com
            Date: Thursday, April 14, 2011, 11:24 AM

            George Long (note 4) quotes the opinion of Elizabeth Carter with
            regard to the Stoic goal, stated in _Discourses_ 4.4, of avoiding
            desire and aversion to externals. Her conclusion: “virtue can not be
            maintained in the world without the hope of a future reward.” In my
            despair, I fear that this is true.

            _Discourses_ 4.4 (part):

            “But a tranquil and happy life contains nothing so sure as continuity
            and freedom from obstacle. Now I am called to do something: I will go
            then with the purpose of observing the measures (rules) which I must
            keep,3 of acting with modesty, steadiness, without desire and aversion
            to things external;4 and then that I may attend to men, what they say,
            how they are moved;5 and this not with any bad disposition, or that I
            may have something to blame or to ridicule; but I turn to myself, and
            ask if I also commit the same faults. How then shall I cease to commit
            them? Formerly I also acted wrong, but now I do not: thanks to God.”

            “4 ' The readers perhaps may grow tired with being so often told what
            they will find it very difficult to believe, That because externals
            are not in our power, they are nothing to us. But in excuse for this
            frequent repetition, it must be considered that the Stoics had reduced
            themselves to a necessity of dwelling on this consequence, extravagant
            as it is, by rejecting stronger aids. One cannot indeed avoid highly
            admiring the very few. who attempted to amend and exalt themselves on
            this foundation. No one perhaps ever carried the attempt so far in
            practice, and no one ever spoke so well in support of the argument as
            Epictetus. Yet, notwithstanding his great abilities and the force of
            his example, one finds him strongly complaining of the want of
            success; and one sees from this circumstance as well as from others in
            the Stoic writings, That virtue can not be maintained in the world
            without the hope of a future reward.' Mrs. Carter.”

            Best wishes,
            Dave

            On Mon, Jan 10, 2011 at 3:28 PM, Grant Sterling <fccmoose@...> wrote:
            >
            >
            >
            > All:
            >
            > The following issue is one on which I have strong opinions, but I thought the List might want something new to talk about.
            >
            > Christianity is often depicted, both by defenders and by critics, as a religion that focuses on the afterlife. Marx and Nietzsche, for example, regard Christianity as bad because they think it causes the believer to lose track of the things that are important in this life while placing all hope in a life to come (which they think never does come). Many Christian authors, on the other hand, emphasize the impossibility of peace or happiness in this "vale of tears" ruled by the "Prince of Darkness".
            >
            > "When the shadows of this life have grown,
            > I'll fly away;
            > Like a bird from prison bars has flown,
            > I'll fly away."
            >
            > Stoicism, on the other hand, claims that not only is complete happiness (eudaimonia) possible in this life, nothing can prevent us from achieving it if we follow Stoic principles.
            >
            > So, what does everyone think--can Christianity be compatible with Stoicism, if the two theories diverge on this key issue? Or is the divergence only apparent, or only the result of a misunderstanding?
            >
            > Regards,
            > Grant
            >
            >


            --
            PTypes Personality Types
            http://www.ptypes.com/


            ------------------------------------

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          • Greg Geis
            Apologia. I sent this post before I had finished it. Please disregard. ________________________________ From: Greg Geis To:
            Message 5 of 12 , Apr 18, 2011
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              Apologia. I sent this post before I had finished it. Please disregard.


              From: Greg Geis <brainlocked@...>
              To: "stoic-christian@yahoogroups.com" <stoic-christian@yahoogroups.com>
              Sent: Monday, April 18, 2011 1:32 PM
              Subject: Re: [stoic-christian] Do Stoicism and Christianity Conflict?

               


              Dear All

              I'm glad someone responded to Grant's original post. I had wondered if anyone would rise to the occasion and had even attempted to draft my own response, but in the end I chickened out. However, I think Grant's question is so well framed that it deserves further consideration. Also, Dave's post helped me work up the courage to respond. If nothing else it will give me the opportunity to hone my apologetic skills., 

              So here goes.

              I think the differences between Stoicism and Christianity are not only considerable, but unbridgeable--at least from the Stoic side.  Christianity depends on grace. Stoicism does not. Their is no place for "other power" in the Stoic schema. Their views of human nature are oppositional. Without overgeneralizing about the nature of original sin, the Christian view of human nature is that it is fallen. If we are not helpless sinners why would we need a Savior? The Stoic view of human perfectibility and philosophical regeneration does not require grace. It requires human effort alone. The Christian view of Nature is also very different. Creation groans; it does not open itself to holistic reductions. The law of God may be written in our hearts and Pascal took the "view from above"  and it frightened him. The Stoic view, both of human nature and Nature in general [they would probably not separate the two] is what I would call "This is it". 

              I think Christianity is oriented both towards the present and the eschaton; it is a paradoxical, perhaps inscrutable, blend of both "now" and "not yet" I think that non-Christians often use the "afterlife" as a straw dog to frame a Christian world view that simply does not exist and which smells very suspiciously like a reworking of the lazy man argument .I love it when Marxists lecture Christians about eschatology. Marx would make even the most ardent post-millenialist blush.  Furthermore, it seems to me there is confusion over the difference between the eschaton [the end of historical time and the present world] and the so-called  "after life". That is a discussion in itself and beyond my theological capabilities. In any case, I do not believe that "Heaven" is a reward for being virtuous. If it were, I greatly fear it would be very underpopulated. Heaven is "where" [I am using a spatial metaphor] we stand before God on the merits of a work done on our behalf. What Christians are saved from is sin, not cognitive shortcomings . Simply put, Christianity acknowledges the need a Savior. Stoicism does not; it depends on self power; Christianity is about "other power". Christianity has a very different view of human nature than Stoicism. Wherever one stands on the nature/grace divide, grace is still part of the overall Christian picture. It is not part of Stoicism. 

              It's true, Stoicism has a now; but its "not yet" is basically a repeat of now. The Christian life is very present oriented. Jesus' parables are strong exhortations to act now.  Some Christians [and I am not one of them] do believe in "Entire Sanctification" or perfection in this life. It is a strong minority opinion held by conservative Wesleyans, Nazarenes and various Holiness groups. There is no Christian sage; Christians have wisdom made man, not a man becoming wise.

              --- On Thu, 4/14/11, Dave Kelly <ptypes@...> wrote:

              From: Dave Kelly <ptypes@...>
              Subject: Re: [stoic-christian] Do Stoicism and Christianity Conflict?
              To: stoic-christian@yahoogroups.com
              Date: Thursday, April 14, 2011, 11:24 AM

              George Long (note 4) quotes the opinion of Elizabeth Carter with
              regard to the Stoic goal, stated in _Discourses_ 4.4, of avoiding
              desire and aversion to externals. Her conclusion: “virtue can not be
              maintained in the world without the hope of a future reward.” In my
              despair, I fear that this is true.

              _Discourses_ 4.4 (part):

              “But a tranquil and happy life contains nothing so sure as continuity
              and freedom from obstacle. Now I am called to do something: I will go
              then with the purpose of observing the measures (rules) which I must
              keep,3 of acting with modesty, steadiness, without desire and aversion
              to things external;4 and then that I may attend to men, what they say,
              how they are moved;5 and this not with any bad disposition, or that I
              may have something to blame or to ridicule; but I turn to myself, and
              ask if I also commit the same faults. How then shall I cease to commit
              them? Formerly I also acted wrong, but now I do not: thanks to God.”

              “4 ' The readers perhaps may grow tired with being so often told what
              they will find it very difficult to believe, That because externals
              are not in our power, they are nothing to us. But in excuse for this
              frequent repetition, it must be considered that the Stoics had reduced
              themselves to a necessity of dwelling on this consequence, extravagant
              as it is, by rejecting stronger aids. One cannot indeed avoid highly
              admiring the very few. who attempted to amend and exalt themselves on
              this foundation. No one perhaps ever carried the attempt so far in
              practice, and no one ever spoke so well in support of the argument as
              Epictetus. Yet, notwithstanding his great abilities and the force of
              his example, one finds him strongly complaining of the want of
              success; and one sees from this circumstance as well as from others in
              the Stoic writings, That virtue can not be maintained in the world
              without the hope of a future reward.' Mrs. Carter.”

              Best wishes,
              Dave

              On Mon, Jan 10, 2011 at 3:28 PM, Grant Sterling <fccmoose@...> wrote:
              >
              >
              >
              > All:
              >
              > The following issue is one on which I have strong opinions, but I thought the List might want something new to talk about.
              >
              > Christianity is often depicted, both by defenders and by critics, as a religion that focuses on the afterlife. Marx and Nietzsche, for example, regard Christianity as bad because they think it causes the believer to lose track of the things that are important in this life while placing all hope in a life to come (which they think never does come). Many Christian authors, on the other hand, emphasize the impossibility of peace or happiness in this "vale of tears" ruled by the "Prince of Darkness".
              >
              > "When the shadows of this life have grown,
              > I'll fly away;
              > Like a bird from prison bars has flown,
              > I'll fly away."
              >
              > Stoicism, on the other hand, claims that not only is complete happiness (eudaimonia) possible in this life, nothing can prevent us from achieving it if we follow Stoic principles.
              >
              > So, what does everyone think--can Christianity be compatible with Stoicism, if the two theories diverge on this key issue? Or is the divergence only apparent, or only the result of a misunderstanding?
              >
              > Regards,
              > Grant
              >
              >


              --
              PTypes Personality Types
              http://www.ptypes.com/


              ------------------------------------

              Yahoo! Groups Links

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            • Dave
              Hi Greg, I can t do justice to your fine post, but I will briefly outline my personal solution to one of the problems which you discuss that I have faced in
              Message 6 of 12 , May 30, 2011
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                Hi Greg,

                I can't do justice to your fine post, but I will briefly outline my personal solution to one of the problems which you discuss that I have faced in melding Christianity with Stoicism.

                --- In stoic-christian@yahoogroups.com, Greg Geis <brainlocked@...> wrote:

                > I think the differences between Stoicism and Christianity are not only considerable, but unbridgeable--at least from the Stoic side.  Christianity depends on grace. Stoicism does not. Their is no place for "other power" in the Stoic schema. Their views of human nature are oppositional. Without overgeneralizing about the nature of original sin, the Christian view of human nature is that it is fallen. If we are not helpless sinners why would we need a Savior? The Stoic view of human perfectibility and philosophical regeneration does not require grace. It requires human effort alone.
                >

                [snip]

                >Simply put, Christianity acknowledges the need a Savior. Stoicism does not; it depends on self power; Christianity is about "other power". Christianity has a very different view of human nature than Stoicism. Wherever one stands on the nature/grace divide, grace is still part of the overall Christian picture. It is not part of Stoicism.
                >

                I aim to be both a Stoic and a Christian. Christianity requires a radical dependence on grace. I agree with the Christian appraisal of man's fallen nature and will. I need God's grace to be able to do myself any good. I believe that I can make proper use of impressions only by the grace of God.

                If that violates Stoic doctrine, then I'll have to be unorthodox there. But I can still hold and try to fully assimilate the fundamental ethical truths discovered by Stoics. And if I truly trust God and rely on his grace, I may then have the ability to assimilate and apply those truths.

                The Sage makes proper use of impressions only by the grace of God.

                Best wishes,
                Dave
              • Greg Geis
                Dave I never got around to completing the post, but where I was heading to ultimately [I think!] was Alexandria and the Catechetical school.. I  believe it is
                Message 7 of 12 , May 30, 2011
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                  Dave

                  I never got around to completing the post, but where I was heading to ultimately [I think!] was Alexandria and the Catechetical school.. I  believe it is possible to be both a Christian and a Stoic in the same sense St. Clement and Origen were Platonists.  I think the relationship between Christianity and Stoicism, indeed all of Greek paideia, is complex and not easily reducible.."Healing" for both Stoic and Christian was a participation in the life of God [variously defined] .  But for Christians that therapeia is available only through the life and work of Jesus Christ, a "healing" received by faith through grace. Still, Christianity would not be Christianity without Greek philosophy. Even the Judaism of Jesus' day was a Hellenized Judaism. Moreover, like St. Clement, I believe that Greek philosophy [especially Platonism and Stoicism]  stand in the same relationship to Christianity as Christianity does to Judaism and the law. Philosophy can "convict" in this sense, but it cannot "save". To quote Wittgenstein: "What has to be overcome is a difficulty having to do with the will rather than the intellect." Philosophy shows me where I need to be. It can even describe in some regards how I should be. But it does not have the power to enable me to be.  I find a great deal of congruity between Christian and Stoic truth. But from the perspective of  a catholic [small "c"] Christian, the truth is the truth wherever you find it. I think the relationship between revelation and reason is not oppositional but complementary. William James was right. Reasonableness is a settled temperament and that "reasonableness" [i.e. peace] comes from resting in Christ.  When I can grab more time  I'd like to get back to Grant's original  question.

                  Warmest regards


                  Greg


                  From: Dave <ptypes@...>
                  To: stoic-christian@yahoogroups.com
                  Sent: Monday, May 30, 2011 3:00 PM
                  Subject: [stoic-christian] Re: Mea culpa

                   
                  Hi Greg,

                  I can't do justice to your fine post, but I will briefly outline my personal solution to one of the problems which you discuss that I have faced in melding Christianity with Stoicism.

                  --- In stoic-christian@yahoogroups.com, Greg Geis <brainlocked@...> wrote:

                  > I think the differences between Stoicism and Christianity are not only considerable, but unbridgeable--at least from the Stoic side.  Christianity depends on grace. Stoicism does not. Their is no place for "other power" in the Stoic schema. Their views of human nature are oppositional. Without overgeneralizing about the nature of original sin, the Christian view of human nature is that it is fallen. If we are not helpless sinners why would we need a Savior? The Stoic view of human perfectibility and philosophical regeneration does not require grace. It requires human effort alone.
                  >

                  [snip]

                  >Simply put, Christianity acknowledges the need a Savior. Stoicism does not; it depends on self power; Christianity is about "other power". Christianity has a very different view of human nature than Stoicism. Wherever one stands on the nature/grace divide, grace is still part of the overall Christian picture. It is not part of Stoicism.
                  >

                  I aim to be both a Stoic and a Christian. Christianity requires a radical dependence on grace. I agree with the Christian appraisal of man's fallen nature and will. I need God's grace to be able to do myself any good. I believe that I can make proper use of impressions only by the grace of God.

                  If that violates Stoic doctrine, then I'll have to be unorthodox there. But I can still hold and try to fully assimilate the fundamental ethical truths discovered by Stoics. And if I truly trust God and rely on his grace, I may then have the ability to assimilate and apply those truths.

                  The Sage makes proper use of impressions only by the grace of God.

                  Best wishes,
                  Dave



                • Grant Sterling
                  Two separate issues: 1) I think the reconciliation proposed here can indeed work.  One can hold that the ability to correctly assent to impressions is
                  Message 8 of 12 , Aug 16 9:14 AM
                  • 0 Attachment
                    Two separate issues:

                    1) I think the reconciliation proposed here can indeed work.  One can hold that the ability to
                    correctly assent to impressions is possible only through the grace of God (and connect this
                    to our fallen nature, etc.), and thereby be a Stoic and a Christian in fairly orthodox senses
                    of both terms.  It is true that the classical Stoics did not in fact endorse such a view of the
                    divine-human relationship, but their view was not really _so_ different.  After all, the classical
                    deterministic Stoics held that we are able to deal correctly with impressions only if our
                    character were in fact causally produced in such a way as to do so (and there's no reason
                    why divine causation would be excluded), and in any case the Stoics always held that our
                    reason operates only as a fragment of Zeus or a divine spark in our character, and the
                    distance from there to a theory of divine grace is a short step.

                    2) However, I personally am uncomfortable with this approach, since I'm an indeterminist
                    and incompatibilist.  But I can do this, I think, without abandoning either Stoicism or
                    Christianity (unless you wish to say that this smacks of Pelgianism, and you wish to deny
                    the Pelagians the title of "Christian"--that's your call):

                       "The Stoic view of human perfectibility and philosophical regeneration does not require grace. It
                    requires human effort alone."  Fair enough, let us begin there.  But note that this speaks only of
                    perfect_ability_.  The Sage, we may think, can reconcile himself to God, to the perfect and
                    eternal Reasoner.  But the Sage is as rare as the Phoenix--what about all the rest of us, even
                    those of us who are Stoics-making-progress?  Epictetus says that piety requires that we
                    accept the events that occur--if we are upset about something that occurs, we accuse God
                    by implication of having failed to do His job correctly--we imply that we ourselves know
                    how to run a universe better than He does.  This, it seems to me, is precisely parallel to the
                    Christian notion of sin as rebellion against God's rightful authority.  If all of us non-Sages are
                    in rebellion against God (as even Epictetus suggests we are), then how could we be
                    reconciled to God without God's own merciful forgiveness? 

                         So I think the Christian themes of sin, rebellion, and forgiveness can be maintained even
                    while holding to the classical Stoic view that humans are capable of moral perfection under
                    their own power.

                                        Regards,
                                                    Grant


                    From: Dave <ptypes@...>
                    To: stoic-christian@yahoogroups.com
                    Sent: Monday, May 30, 2011 3:00 PM
                    Subject: [stoic-christian] Re: Mea culpa

                     
                    Hi Greg,

                    I can't do justice to your fine post, but I will briefly outline my personal solution to one of the problems which you discuss that I have faced in melding Christianity with Stoicism.

                    --- In stoic-christian@yahoogroups.com, Greg Geis <brainlocked@...> wrote:

                    > I think the differences between Stoicism and Christianity are not only considerable, but unbridgeable--at least from the Stoic side.  Christianity depends on grace. Stoicism does not. Their is no place for "other power" in the Stoic schema. Their views of human nature are oppositional. Without overgeneralizing about the nature of original sin, the Christian view of human nature is that it is fallen. If we are not helpless sinners why would we need a Savior? The Stoic view of human perfectibility and philosophical regeneration does not require grace. It requires human effort alone.
                    >

                    [snip]

                    >Simply put, Christianity acknowledges the need a Savior. Stoicism does not; it depends on self power; Christianity is about "other power". Christianity has a very different view of human nature than Stoicism. Wherever one stands on the nature/grace divide, grace is still part of the overall Christian picture. It is not part of Stoicism.
                    >

                    I aim to be both a Stoic and a Christian. Christianity requires a radical dependence on grace. I agree with the Christian appraisal of man's fallen nature and will. I need God's grace to be able to do myself any good. I believe that I can make proper use of impressions only by the grace of God.

                    If that violates Stoic doctrine, then I'll have to be unorthodox there. But I can still hold and try to fully assimilate the fundamental ethical truths discovered by Stoics. And if I truly trust God and rely on his grace, I may then have the ability to assimilate and apply those truths.

                    The Sage makes proper use of impressions only by the grace of God.

                    Best wishes,
                    Dave



                  • Kevin
                    Grant, et, al. In Chapter 7 of Romans we find the most explicit statements concerning this issue, I think, and the sentences below probably  captures the
                    Message 9 of 12 , Aug 16 10:44 AM
                    • 0 Attachment
                       
                      Grant, et, al.
                       
                      In Chapter 7 of Romans we find the most explicit statements concerning this issue, I think, and the sentences below probably  captures the thoughts most concisely.
                       
                      " 20...But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
                       21 I find then the [n]principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God [o]in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in [p]the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner [q]of the law of sin which is in my members."
                       
                       
                      Paul uses a lot of metphorical language, which leaves some room for questioning what he really meant, but when I read it I have the picture in my mind that a person _ the_ person is like a prisoner in a cage. Inside the cage_he_ can see and understand and desire to be consistent with God. But a principle or law or sometimes anthropomorphically described as "Sin" prevents him from living out his assents and desires. This "sin principle" operates in at least two ways underlined below:
                       
                      Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in [c]the members of our body to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the [d]Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.
                       ... Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except [e]through the Law; for I would not have known about [f]coveting if the Law had not said, “YOU SHALL NOT [g]COVET.” 8 But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me [h]coveting of every kind; for apart [i]from the Law sin is dead. 9 I was once alive apart [j]from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; 10 and this commandment, which was [k]to result in life, proved [l]to result in death for me; 11 for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
                       
                      So, it seems to me that Paul taught that our minds are free to acknowledge true things and we can even desire true things,  in Paul's' mind this probably was enabled by  the scripture, but we were unable to actually do those things. I'm guessing here he means to do those things without fail. It seems " sin"  whether by overpowering passions or deception prevents this from occurring. In some sense, which I don't pretend to understand the scope, he even absolves the agent of guilt! Paul clearly here seats this rebellious principle in our "flesh." Which seems similar to the Gnostic's to me. This principle is broken and rendered powerless by the cross of Christ (Romans 8). The agent is free from the bars_ able_ now to do good things. Clearly there are significant difference between Stoic psychology and this little bit we have here about Christian psychology in the mind of Paul. But Christian scriptures are in no-way as thorough on this subject, though people like to act as if they are, to the harm of both  religion and philosophy  IMO. Probably the greatest difference is that all passions are a result of false value judgments or Vice for the Stoics, and for Paul here at least some of them are forced on us by a rebellious principle. Similar between the two I think is the freedom of the agent or "inner man." For Paul however it was an ineffective freedom apart from Christ.
                       
                      I'd be interested in comments. I'm trying to express what the sentences say, but sometimes I can go wrong.
                       
                      Regards
                      Kevin
                       
                       
                       
                       
                       
                       

                      From: Grant Sterling <fccmoose@...>
                      To: "stoic-christian@yahoogroups.com" <stoic-christian@yahoogroups.com>
                      Sent: Tuesday, August 16, 2011 12:14 PM
                      Subject: Re: [stoic-christian] Re: Mea culpa

                       
                      Two separate issues:

                      1) I think the reconciliation proposed here can indeed work.  One can hold that the ability to
                      correctly assent to impressions is possible only through the grace of God (and connect this
                      to our fallen nature, etc.), and thereby be a Stoic and a Christian in fairly orthodox senses
                      of both terms.  It is true that the classical Stoics did not in fact endorse such a view of the
                      divine-human relationship, but their view was not really _so_ different.  After all, the classical
                      deterministic Stoics held that we are able to deal correctly with impressions only if our
                      character were in fact causally produced in such a way as to do so (and there's no reason
                      why divine causation would be excluded), and in any case the Stoics always held that our
                      reason operates only as a fragment of Zeus or a divine spark in our character, and the
                      distance from there to a theory of divine grace is a short step.

                      2) However, I personally am uncomfortable with this approach, since I'm an indeterminist
                      and incompatibilist.  But I can do this, I think, without abandoning either Stoicism or
                      Christianity (unless you wish to say that this smacks of Pelgianism, and you wish to deny
                      the Pelagians the title of "Christian"--that's your call):

                         "The Stoic view of human perfectibility and philosophical regeneration does not require grace. It
                      requires human effort alone."  Fair enough, let us begin there.  But note that this speaks only of
                      perfect_ability_.  The Sage, we may think, can reconcile himself to God, to the perfect and
                      eternal Reasoner.  But the Sage is as rare as the Phoenix--what about all the rest of us, even
                      those of us who are Stoics-making-progress?  Epictetus says that piety requires that we
                      accept the events that occur--if we are upset about something that occurs, we accuse God
                      by implication of having failed to do His job correctly--we imply that we ourselves know
                      how to run a universe better than He does.  This, it seems to me, is precisely parallel to the
                      Christian notion of sin as rebellion against God's rightful authority.  If all of us non-Sages are
                      in rebellion against God (as even Epictetus suggests we are), then how could we be
                      reconciled to God without God's own merciful forgiveness? 

                           So I think the Christian themes of sin, rebellion, and forgiveness can be maintained even
                      while holding to the classical Stoic view that humans are capable of moral perfection under
                      their own power.

                                          Regards,
                                                      Grant

                      From: Dave <ptypes@...>
                      To: stoic-christian@yahoogroups.com
                      Sent: Monday, May 30, 2011 3:00 PM
                      Subject: [stoic-christian] Re: Mea culpa

                       
                      Hi Greg,

                      I can't do justice to your fine post, but I will briefly outline my personal solution to one of the problems which you discuss that I have faced in melding Christianity with Stoicism.

                      --- In stoic-christian@yahoogroups.com, Greg Geis <brainlocked@...> wrote:

                      > I think the differences between Stoicism and Christianity are not only considerable, but unbridgeable--at least from the Stoic side.  Christianity depends on grace. Stoicism does not. Their is no place for "other power" in the Stoic schema. Their views of human nature are oppositional. Without overgeneralizing about the nature of original sin, the Christian view of human nature is that it is fallen. If we are not helpless sinners why would we need a Savior? The Stoic view of human perfectibility and philosophical regeneration does not require grace. It requires human effort alone.
                      >

                      [snip]

                      >Simply put, Christianity acknowledges the need a Savior. Stoicism does not; it depends on self power; Christianity is about "other power". Christianity has a very different view of human nature than Stoicism. Wherever one stands on the nature/grace divide, grace is still part of the overall Christian picture. It is not part of Stoicism.
                      >

                      I aim to be both a Stoic and a Christian. Christianity requires a radical dependence on grace. I agree with the Christian appraisal of man's fallen nature and will. I need God's grace to be able to do myself any good. I believe that I can make proper use of impressions only by the grace of God.

                      If that violates Stoic doctrine, then I'll have to be unorthodox there. But I can still hold and try to fully assimilate the fundamental ethical truths discovered by Stoics. And if I truly trust God and rely on his grace, I may then have the ability to assimilate and apply those truths.

                      The Sage makes proper use of impressions only by the grace of God.

                      Best wishes,
                      Dave





                    • Kevin
                      BTW this post may seem to  contradict  previous posts where I said I did not believe in the doctrine of original sin. I don t believe in that doctrine which
                      Message 10 of 12 , Aug 16 4:32 PM
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                        BTW this post may seem to  contradict  previous posts where I said I did not believe in the doctrine of original sin. I don't believe in that doctrine which seems to me to teach a fundamental corruption of man's will. I think everyone does sin, but even in the case below not every passion or deception is effective and if it isn't effective one time I see no reason why it is necessarily effective anytime. And knowledge of God's will does change the character of man's heart. Whether that knowledge came from the scriptures for the Hebrews or from Nature for the Greeks. Paul did teach that gentiles could learn the ways of God from nature. I think he had in mind pious Stoics which he may have known. But here he lumped these men together with the Jews who had the scriptures but failed to obey them. Whether the law of Moses or that of Nature Paul declared all of them fell short of it.
                         
                         
                        It is true here and I think fundamentally in Pauline doctrine there is a principle or tendency to sometimes _at least once_fail and break the Law. I don't understand the mechanism he had in mind. And I confess I find Stoic thought more understandable or at least it is more explicit.  Epictetus said it wasn't practical to think any of us would ever to be a Sage, but I'm sure he would say it would be stupid not to try; Paul would say to not go on and live righteously would be to ignore the sacrifice of Jesus.
                         
                        Kevin
                         

                        From: Kevin <kevin11_c@...>
                        To: "stoic-christian@yahoogroups.com" <stoic-christian@yahoogroups.com>
                        Sent: Tuesday, August 16, 2011 1:44 PM
                        Subject: Re: [stoic-christian] Re: Mea culpa

                         
                         
                        Grant, et, al.
                         
                        In Chapter 7 of Romans we find the most explicit statements concerning this issue, I think, and the sentences below probably  captures the thoughts most concisely.
                         
                        " 20...But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
                         21 I find then the [n]principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God [o]in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in [p]the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner [q]of the law of sin which is in my members."
                         
                         
                        Paul uses a lot of metphorical language, which leaves some room for questioning what he really meant, but when I read it I have the picture in my mind that a person _ the_ person is like a prisoner in a cage. Inside the cage_he_ can see and understand and desire to be consistent with God. But a principle or law or sometimes anthropomorphically described as "Sin" prevents him from living out his assents and desires. This "sin principle" operates in at least two ways underlined below:
                         
                        Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in [c]the members of our body to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the [d]Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.
                         ... Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except [e]through the Law; for I would not have known about [f]coveting if the Law had not said, “YOU SHALL NOT [g]COVET.” 8 But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me [h]coveting of every kind; for apart [i]from the Law sin is dead. 9 I was once alive apart [j]from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; 10 and this commandment, which was [k]to result in life, proved [l]to result in death for me; 11 for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
                         
                        So, it seems to me that Paul taught that our minds are free to acknowledge true things and we can even desire true things,  in Paul's' mind this probably was enabled by  the scripture, but we were unable to actually do those things. I'm guessing here he means to do those things without fail. It seems " sin"  whether by overpowering passions or deception prevents this from occurring. In some sense, which I don't pretend to understand the scope, he even absolves the agent of guilt! Paul clearly here seats this rebellious principle in our "flesh." Which seems similar to the Gnostic's to me. This principle is broken and rendered powerless by the cross of Christ (Romans 8). The agent is free from the bars_ able_ now to do good things. Clearly there are significant difference between Stoic psychology and this little bit we have here about Christian psychology in the mind of Paul. But Christian scriptures are in no-way as thorough on this subject, though people like to act as if they are, to the harm of both  religion and philosophy  IMO. Probably the greatest difference is that all passions are a result of false value judgments or Vice for the Stoics, and for Paul here at least some of them are forced on us by a rebellious principle. Similar between the two I think is the freedom of the agent or "inner man." For Paul however it was an ineffective freedom apart from Christ.
                         
                        I'd be interested in comments. I'm trying to express what the sentences say, but sometimes I can go wrong.
                         
                        Regards
                        Kevin
                         
                         
                         
                         
                         
                         

                        From: Grant Sterling <fccmoose@...>
                        To: "stoic-christian@yahoogroups.com" <stoic-christian@yahoogroups.com>
                        Sent: Tuesday, August 16, 2011 12:14 PM
                        Subject: Re: [stoic-christian] Re: Mea culpa

                         
                        Two separate issues:

                        1) I think the reconciliation proposed here can indeed work.  One can hold that the ability to
                        correctly assent to impressions is possible only through the grace of God (and connect this
                        to our fallen nature, etc.), and thereby be a Stoic and a Christian in fairly orthodox senses
                        of both terms.  It is true that the classical Stoics did not in fact endorse such a view of the
                        divine-human relationship, but their view was not really _so_ different.  After all, the classical
                        deterministic Stoics held that we are able to deal correctly with impressions only if our
                        character were in fact causally produced in such a way as to do so (and there's no reason
                        why divine causation would be excluded), and in any case the Stoics always held that our
                        reason operates only as a fragment of Zeus or a divine spark in our character, and the
                        distance from there to a theory of divine grace is a short step.

                        2) However, I personally am uncomfortable with this approach, since I'm an indeterminist
                        and incompatibilist.  But I can do this, I think, without abandoning either Stoicism or
                        Christianity (unless you wish to say that this smacks of Pelgianism, and you wish to deny
                        the Pelagians the title of "Christian"--that's your call):

                           "The Stoic view of human perfectibility and philosophical regeneration does not require grace. It
                        requires human effort alone."  Fair enough, let us begin there.  But note that this speaks only of
                        perfect_ability_.  The Sage, we may think, can reconcile himself to God, to the perfect and
                        eternal Reasoner.  But the Sage is as rare as the Phoenix--what about all the rest of us, even
                        those of us who are Stoics-making-progress?  Epictetus says that piety requires that we
                        accept the events that occur--if we are upset about something that occurs, we accuse God
                        by implication of having failed to do His job correctly--we imply that we ourselves know
                        how to run a universe better than He does.  This, it seems to me, is precisely parallel to the
                        Christian notion of sin as rebellion against God's rightful authority.  If all of us non-Sages are
                        in rebellion against God (as even Epictetus suggests we are), then how could we be
                        reconciled to God without God's own merciful forgiveness? 

                             So I think the Christian themes of sin, rebellion, and forgiveness can be maintained even
                        while holding to the classical Stoic view that humans are capable of moral perfection under
                        their own power.

                                            Regards,
                                                        Grant

                        From: Dave <ptypes@...>
                        To: stoic-christian@yahoogroups.com
                        Sent: Monday, May 30, 2011 3:00 PM
                        Subject: [stoic-christian] Re: Mea culpa

                         
                        Hi Greg,

                        I can't do justice to your fine post, but I will briefly outline my personal solution to one of the problems which you discuss that I have faced in melding Christianity with Stoicism.

                        --- In stoic-christian@yahoogroups.com, Greg Geis <brainlocked@...> wrote:

                        > I think the differences between Stoicism and Christianity are not only considerable, but unbridgeable--at least from the Stoic side.  Christianity depends on grace. Stoicism does not. Their is no place for "other power" in the Stoic schema. Their views of human nature are oppositional. Without overgeneralizing about the nature of original sin, the Christian view of human nature is that it is fallen. If we are not helpless sinners why would we need a Savior? The Stoic view of human perfectibility and philosophical regeneration does not require grace. It requires human effort alone.
                        >

                        [snip]

                        >Simply put, Christianity acknowledges the need a Savior. Stoicism does not; it depends on self power; Christianity is about "other power". Christianity has a very different view of human nature than Stoicism. Wherever one stands on the nature/grace divide, grace is still part of the overall Christian picture. It is not part of Stoicism.
                        >

                        I aim to be both a Stoic and a Christian. Christianity requires a radical dependence on grace. I agree with the Christian appraisal of man's fallen nature and will. I need God's grace to be able to do myself any good. I believe that I can make proper use of impressions only by the grace of God.

                        If that violates Stoic doctrine, then I'll have to be unorthodox there. But I can still hold and try to fully assimilate the fundamental ethical truths discovered by Stoics. And if I truly trust God and rely on his grace, I may then have the ability to assimilate and apply those truths.

                        The Sage makes proper use of impressions only by the grace of God.

                        Best wishes,
                        Dave







                      • Greg Geis
                        Grant I wrestle with some of  the same questions. I find that the Christian doctrine of theimago dei helps provide balance, and for me, a bridge [however
                        Message 11 of 12 , Aug 17 7:57 PM
                        • 0 Attachment
                          Grant

                          I wrestle with some of  the same questions. I find that the Christian doctrine of the imago dei helps provide balance, and for me, a bridge [however rickety at times] between Stoic and Christian anthropologies. There is something in all of us that is reflective of  the divine nature. It may be [self] distorted, but it is there. And it is a natural gift.

                          Also, quite frankly, I believe that God respects those who sincerely seek--whatever their religious or philosophical orientation. In my case,  sincerity requires a primary [though not necessarily exclusive] commitment to a singular tradition.  I suppose that makes me a Traditionalist, but a very modest and hopefully moderate one.. Some of the same issues  you raise about "divine causation", divine sovereignty and human volition re-emerge post Reformation in disputes between Arminian and Reformed theologians. And of course there is  always St. Augustine. I am only vaguely acquainted with process theology but I think the process theologians have a more developed view of indeterminism, but if I remember correctly they are compatibilists. Similar questions frame the theology of Open Theism.  I don't think views of human perfectibility necessarily involve grace. I  don't think they even necessarily involve religion.  I am even less certain that a sanctified and regenerate Christian believer is necessarily a more virtuous person than a philosophically regenerate Stoic.  If Christianity were only about being "good" it would be far simpler. IMHO what separates Christianity and Stoicism has more to do with questions involving the person and work of Christ rather than shared philosophical concerns. Having said that, I do not believe that Christian theology would be possible without Greek philosophy and that for many of us--including myself--philosophy is a 
                          praeparatio evangelica. At some point the mind stops. Philosophers too need a "sabbath rest". As Wittgenstein put it: "Thoughts that are at peace. That's what someone who philosophizes yearns for."  My heart tells me LW was right. Or as Epictetus would have it, "We know it is true by the peace it brings us."

                          Self-perfectibility is a basic premise of many secular therapeutic, philosophical and religious systems. It is probably the basis for every view of personal and historical progress that reason has dreamed.   IMHO, however, the Stoic view does not account for a self at war with itself. It does however describe very clearly what idiots human beings can become. Stoic psychology is not dualistic. Most Christian anthropologies are premised on the existence of a person [i.e a self] that is estranged from both itself and God. Admittedly, if I stretch this the right way [Epictetus' way] I think I can make the same claim of Stoicism.  Granted, Pelagius is a "ringer".  He had very strong views about "perfect-ability" [I love that turn of phrase!]. For Pelagians, as for Stoics, the will was not impaired. Christianity, it seems, on the whole, has opined differently. The ghost of Augustine [holy or otherwise]  still haunts Christian theology, whether we are dealing with questions like divine causation or "original sin". If only St. Clement of Alexandria had been a better writer! In any case,  I think Christian views [and descriptions] of fallenness  vary so  widely, it is difficult to talk about things like sanctification or perfectibility with any certainty that we are talking about the same thing.  Christianity manages to encompass a plethora of theological schemes, from the total depravity of Calvinism and Jansenism to the complete sanctification of the Orthodox [i.e. theosis]  and Wesleyans. Luther's view of the psychology of redeemed man  [simul justus et peccator ] seems more descriptive of my own experience, but then so does the atheist John Gray's notion that free will is a trick of perspective. In the end, though, I have to acknowledge that whatever I may believe, I invariably act as if I had free will. I believe we are hard-wired this way. On the other hand, perhaps I am overly fond of William James.  In any case, I have great difficulty embracing Stoic monism.  Whether that makes me a pluralist I leave to the judgement of the good Lord. If I have colored outside the lines, I know He will forgive me,.

                          The ancient Greek philosophers had a practical aim--peace of mind. Christianity promises peace with God. Peace of mind is a collateral benefit. Nonetheless, I believe that Christianity also appeals to self-interest. Jesus certainly did. His parables speak of little else. It is a good starting point for evangelism.  People generally begin their spiritual search motivated by self-regard. Where else would they begin? They have no idea where their real good lies.

                          Self-interest:  so here is another Christian/Stoic contiguity. Yet many Christians find homiletic and apologetic appeals to self-interest grossly offensive. Pascalian apologetics is a superb example of  the use of self-interest in evangelical reasoning. With the Stoics it seems [my interpretation?] that right action comes from a clear view of the situation--i.e. dealing correctly with impressions. Common sense tells me this is true. Common sense also tells me that doing this habitually develops not only insight but character. Pascal, for instance, believed that faith rests on force of habit. "Fake it until you make it" is a strategy that actually makes a great deal of sense. Continue a spiritual practice until it bears fruit. Faith, after all is the substance of things not seen, i.e. not yet realized..

                          As a possible resolution, I think point 1 is well argued [it's the same argument I'd make!], though I'm not certain how we can get from divine spark to grace. Usually traffic runs the other way! [i.e. Emerson] Something that is a natural gift surely remains natural. Or so the School Men tell us. On the other hand, the realization that the natural gift is ours may rely on something outside ourselves. The grace is what helps us realize what we have already been given. Divine causation might factor in here, but in the end, like you,  I remain unconvinced.

                          On point 2, I don't think either indeterminism or incompatibilism are at all incongruent with Christianity. Though  I would probably say the same for determinism and compatibilism.    I suppose I am some very nebulous specie of compatabilist, but only because I think the distinction between free will and determinism is more apparent than real.  Ditto for the distinction between reason and revelation.  Perhaps it is my Stoic [or Socratic]  side, but I truly believe that reason is divine.  But in the end, these are not questions that particularly trouble me. Unfortunately,  I am troubled by much more trivial questions!  I think you are right about the rarity of the sage. But again, this is a point on which Christianity and Stoicism agree. When Jesus says "No one is good except God alone" or St. Paul avers that "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God", I think a tacit acknowledgement is being made that Christians cannot arrive at  moral perfection.  We strive; but we do not arrive. Even Roman Catholics do not make living men "saints"! The emphasis then becomes forgiveness for what has not been [and never can be] humanly achieved. Wittgenstein once said that "People are religious to the extent that they believe themselves to be not so much imperfect as ill."  It is a desire to cure the soul, to be healed, that brings us where we are. When Christ says "Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect" I see more of Marcus Aurelius observing that if we are to follow nature we must learn to be as indifferent as nature is. When Christ reminds us that His Father's eye is on the sparrow when it falls, he nowhere makes a claim that sparrows don't fall! He simply reminds us that this is part of God's world and part of God's plan.. Somewhere I think Nietzsche made a very similar claim about nature and indifference. [At least I think I remember quoting him in a paper many years ago!] God's "moral" perfection is very different from our notion of perfection.

                          Everything you have to say about rebellion against God's authority rings painfully true, especially your point about we "rascally sinners" thinking we can do a better job of running things. Indeed, that is a perfect summation of the problem, and IMHO one of the best entry points for a Christian understanding of not only human psychology but history. Look around. We've done a lousy job of running things.  But that doesn't mean the world is broken. It means that we are.   Which brings me to your very fruitful observation that: "If all of us non-Sages are in rebellion against God (as even Epictetus suggests we are), then how could we be reconciled to God without God's own merciful forgiveness?"
                          To which I say: "Amen".

                          Greg 
                           
                           
                          ******************************************************************************
                          D.G. Geis

                          “No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.”
                          --Voltaire


                          From: Grant Sterling <fccmoose@...>
                          To: "stoic-christian@yahoogroups.com" <stoic-christian@yahoogroups.com>
                          Sent: Tuesday, August 16, 2011 11:14 AM
                          Subject: Re: [stoic-christian] Re: Mea culpa

                           
                          Two separate issues:

                          1) I think the reconciliation proposed here can indeed work.  One can hold that the ability to
                          correctly assent to impressions is possible only through the grace of God (and connect this
                          to our fallen nature, etc.), and thereby be a Stoic and a Christian in fairly orthodox senses
                          of both terms.  It is true that the classical Stoics did not in fact endorse such a view of the
                          divine-human relationship, but their view was not really _so_ different.  After all, the classical
                          deterministic Stoics held that we are able to deal correctly with impressions only if our
                          character were in fact causally produced in such a way as to do so (and there's no reason
                          why divine causation would be excluded), and in any case the Stoics always held that our
                          reason operates only as a fragment of Zeus or a divine spark in our character, and the
                          distance from there to a theory of divine grace is a short step.

                          2) However, I personally am uncomfortable with this approach, since I'm an indeterminist
                          and incompatibilist.  But I can do this, I think, without abandoning either Stoicism or
                          Christianity (unless you wish to say that this smacks of Pelgianism, and you wish to deny
                          the Pelagians the title of "Christian"--that's your call):

                             "The Stoic view of human perfectibility and philosophical regeneration does not require grace. It
                          requires human effort alone."  Fair enough, let us begin there.  But note that this speaks only of
                          perfect_ability_.  The Sage, we may think, can reconcile himself to God, to the perfect and
                          eternal Reasoner.  But the Sage is as rare as the Phoenix--what about all the rest of us, even
                          those of us who are Stoics-making-progress?  Epictetus says that piety requires that we
                          accept the events that occur--if we are upset about something that occurs, we accuse God
                          by implication of having failed to do His job correctly--we imply that we ourselves know
                          how to run a universe better than He does.  This, it seems to me, is precisely parallel to the
                          Christian notion of sin as rebellion against God's rightful authority.  If all of us non-Sages are
                          in rebellion against God (as even Epictetus suggests we are), then how could we be
                          reconciled to God without God's own merciful forgiveness? 

                               So I think the Christian themes of sin, rebellion, and forgiveness can be maintained even
                          while holding to the classical Stoic view that humans are capable of moral perfection under
                          their own power.

                                              Regards,
                                                          Grant


                          From: Dave <ptypes@...>
                          To: stoic-christian@yahoogroups.com
                          Sent: Monday, May 30, 2011 3:00 PM
                          Subject: [stoic-christian] Re: Mea culpa

                           
                          Hi Greg,

                          I can't do justice to your fine post, but I will briefly outline my personal solution to one of the problems which you discuss that I have faced in melding Christianity with Stoicism.

                          --- In stoic-christian@yahoogroups.com, Greg Geis <brainlocked@...> wrote:

                          > I think the differences between Stoicism and Christianity are not only considerable, but unbridgeable--at least from the Stoic side.  Christianity depends on grace. Stoicism does not. Their is no place for "other power" in the Stoic schema. Their views of human nature are oppositional. Without overgeneralizing about the nature of original sin, the Christian view of human nature is that it is fallen. If we are not helpless sinners why would we need a Savior? The Stoic view of human perfectibility and philosophical regeneration does not require grace. It requires human effort alone.
                          >

                          [snip]

                          >Simply put, Christianity acknowledges the need a Savior. Stoicism does not; it depends on self power; Christianity is about "other power". Christianity has a very different view of human nature than Stoicism. Wherever one stands on the nature/grace divide, grace is still part of the overall Christian picture. It is not part of Stoicism.
                          >

                          I aim to be both a Stoic and a Christian. Christianity requires a radical dependence on grace. I agree with the Christian appraisal of man's fallen nature and will. I need God's grace to be able to do myself any good. I believe that I can make proper use of impressions only by the grace of God.

                          If that violates Stoic doctrine, then I'll have to be unorthodox there. But I can still hold and try to fully assimilate the fundamental ethical truths discovered by Stoics. And if I truly trust God and rely on his grace, I may then have the ability to assimilate and apply those truths.

                          The Sage makes proper use of impressions only by the grace of God.

                          Best wishes,
                          Dave





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