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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Stoic Christianity

Is it possible to wade through this life without being affected by the situations that we find ourselves in, or at least surrounded by every day? Many people, Christians especially, seem to think that it is & not only that, but to truly BE a Christian, some would almost say that it is a necessity to live above it all, without letting oneself be touched by all the trouble & turmoil that we witness on a daily basis. If only we could live above it all & let the chips fall where they may ( so to speak ), THEN we could truly be happy & content, THEN we could truly live the Life of a Good Christian, without all the sadness & suffering that plagues the world around us!

According to Dictionary.com, Stoicism is based on the philosophy 'that people should be free from passion, unmoved by joy or grief, and submit without complaint to unavoidable necessity', in other words, that one should be able to live in peace, not being affected by all that is wrong with the world! In Christ, most Christians believe, this can be done, but is this really the way that Jesus lived? Are we really supposed to go through life with emotional blinders on, not having empathy for the suffering, though maybe well-deserved, that surrounds us?

The Stoics, as a good friend has pointed out recently, espoused many good virtues; in fact, the apostle Paul taught as necessary many of the same virtues ( Philippians 4:8 )! The difference, my friend tells us, is that Paul knew the Way to keep those virtues intact: he found that the only way to BE virtuous rather than just claiming them is through the Spirit Within. Without a redeeming knowledge of the Messiah of Israel, those philosophers, then & now, have found it impossible to practice the very virtues they espouse. In today's day & age, we find this to be true in many Christians as well; though they tend to blame it on their sin nature, many Christians have been found guilty of flouting these virtues in their own lives!

Much of the blame for this can be placed at the feet of a very faulty & weak eschatology, but the larger part must rest with something related to this  ( eschatology ), the fact that many Christians seem to have forgotten that THEY are the Church, not just on Sundays, or whenever they meet for a special purpose! 'Sunday Christians' have become a by-word to many these days, because a large part of Christendom seems to believe that we can leave Church, that we only go there for worship on Sunday ( or whenever we go ) & then the rest of the week is ours to do with as we will! To be fair, this is not always the case, but even though not all Christians have adopted this sort of life-style, some who worship the Creator in their Life are prone to view Sunday worship as a necessity to the Christian Life!

This is not an argument that we should NOT attend Sunday services, nor is it an argument that we should let our passions or emotions rule us! It is good to gather with other Christians for the purpose of fellowship & corporate worship; this strengthens our resolve & helps us to build each other up in the Faith of Christ! It is NOT good, however, to believe that, in order to be a Good Christian, one must deaden his or her sensibilities to the joy & grief, grief mostly, that we are faced with on a daily basis, something that many so-called Christians seem to think is a necessity!

The utopian dream that most Christians seem to see painted in the Scriptures ( Isaiah 65, etc. ) is based on the false eschatology that was referred to earlier! Most Christians seem to think that, in order for this dream to come true, Jesus, the selfsame One that rose from the grave ( death ), must come down from someplace in the sky called 'Heaven' & restore order to that of Eden, where there is no more pain or suffering or dying, where all things will have been made new!

All things have been made new! These same Christians espouse these virtues & seem to live them, at least on Sundays, or when they're in 'church', but once they leave those hallowed walls, all bets are off! Again, not ALL Christians live this way, but many seem to have adopted the policies of the Stoics in hoping for the day when we will no longer be affected by suffering, pain & the weakness of the flesh!

May we realize the glorious truth that all things having been made new means that we as the Body of Christ, while we DO, in a sense, live above it all, are not without passions or emotions! Rather than letting these passions or emotions rule our lives, all the while blaming it on our fallen flesh, we should instead, use these passions & emotions empathetically to help others rise above it all, to do our best to use the pain, suffering & grief in our own lives so that we can better help others to do the same!

To this End,
Charles Haddon Shank


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