alien righteousness

Stoics & Epicureans

Stoicism

They taught that all of reality is one, everything and every one is nothing other than a modification of the all. So they were pantheist. Active matter which is fate, animates brute matter which is sluggish. The soul is material, and upon death the soul is absorbed as a flame, the seminal reason (logos) or the seed of reason that is implanted in everything.

So whatever happens is necessary, it could not be otherwise.

Fate governs all things. And the sooner you accept that the happier you will be. It is an attempt to detach yourself from everything external, like Buddha-like serenity.

Go with the flow and grain of nature, and live as much as you can in fraternity with people. The life of virtue is its own reward, you don’t do anything because you want anything out of it-if you do than you’ll be needy. Stoics don’t need anyone or anything, they are totally self-satisfied and self sufficient.

When the stoic obtains that inner calm then all that preservation of outward circumstances will not affect you, they will just role over you.

Evidently practical, Stoicism was the favored philosophy of the Roman emperors all the way to Marcellus Aurelius and Roman thinkers like Cicero, Seneca, and Epictetus.

As Epictetus expressed the stoic ethic: “Freedom is secured not by fulfilling men’s desire, but by the removal of desire altogether.”

You could see already at many points that Christianity was not going to appeal to the stoics, which promised the fulfillment of desire not the abolition of desire.

Epicureanism

We see this opposition in Athens in Acts 17, where Luke indicates that the two major schools in the Areopagus were the Epicureans and the Stoics. The only thing that could possibly bring them together in agreement was that they did not like Apostle Paul. What is this madman talking about?

Instead of stressing the unity of reality as the Stoics did, Epicureans were autonomic materialist. They were closer to your typical atheistic, naturalist scientists today, think Richard Dawkins.

Happiness is pleasure which is a moderating ones desires. Not extinguishing ones desires altogether, but moderating them.

The Epicureans were not self-indulgent, but on the contrary, they believed that only by moderating your desires could you really find pleasure. If you drink too much then your health will deteriorate. If you have too much fun then you will have a hang over in the morning. So the best thing to do is to moderate your desire—that was the Epicurean philosophy.

Reality consists of randomly swerving atoms. If the gods do exist then they don’t care about you, they are irrelevant to your existence. They are blissfully ignorant. This is why Luther calls Erasmus an Epicurean. He says, “Your God is in a sink, you are doing everything by your free will while God is off in a Epicurean feast.”

It was that Epicurean view also of God as a remote, distant, impersonal and uncaring God that was held also by the cynics, the stoics and even Plato.

Aristotle wrote, “One who is sufficient is in no need of service from others nor of their affection, nor of social life since he’s capable of living alone.” He sounds like a bachelor philosopher. “This is especially in the case of God,” Aristotle says. “Clearly since he is in need of nothing, God cannot have any friends or will he have any.” And so the assumption that everybody had was that the ultimate is impersonal and therefore indifferent to or even unaware of the world and its inhabitants.

Michael Horton,  Modern Mind Lecture, Escondido, CA, 2016.

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