Did you know there’s a difference?
I recently read a book by Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye about the Doctor and Historian Luke. It was a work of fiction and assumed that Luke was a Stoic before Christ found him.
Most people don’t even know what a Stoic is; however, after getting to know Stoicism a bit better, I’ve come to the conclusion many people who call themselves Christian are truly Stoic.
Wikipedia says Stocism is “predominantly a philosophy of personal ethics informed by its system of logic and its views on the natural world. According to its teachings, as social beings, the path to happiness for humans is found in accepting this moment as it presents itself, by not allowing ourselves to be controlled by our desire for pleasure or our fear of pain, by using our minds to understand the world around us and to do our part in nature’s plan, and by working together and treating others fairly and justly.”
Stoicism is being accepting of everyone just they way they are (a very Christian principle). Stoics respect creation and want to be fair and just. If you looked at a stoic’s life, you might assume they were Christian. The values and lifestyle seem very similar.
But it’s the heart of the two that separate them.
You see, at the heart of Stoicism is self. A Stoic works hard to make himself a better person. His lifestyle is all about self-denial and self-control. While noble and commendable, it’s nearly impossible. One of the greatest problems in the whole lifestyle is the lack of joy. The process of becoming “good” doesn’t bring happiness. In fact it’s more likely to create inner turmoil because as hard as we try to live this lofty life, we’re likely to have thoughts that don’t line up with our Stoic views. For a true Stoic the selfish thoughts cause him to question himself. There is no peace, just hard work to be a great person. Oh, there will be some who will succeed because their personality just lends itself to Stoicism, but those who are more realistic than altruistic will fail almost every time.
On the other hand at the heart of Christianity is Christ. True Christianity is based on the Holy Spirit doing all the work, cleaning, changing, transforming. The person doesn’t have to do the work, just be willing to allow the Spirit to do the work. Most things that don’t change in the Christian are because she didn’t really want to change that aspect, or she was trying to do it on her own. When we allow Christ’s Spirit to do the work, there is peace and freedom. No rules. A life for Christ does the right thing out of love for a Savior, not out of regulations or self-discipline.
The Christian bases his goodness on the righteousness of Christ and allows the Spirit to do the work, there is no self involved. The Stoic strives her whole life to be good on her own, an impossible task.
I hope this short article will encourage you to look at your life and decide if you’re truly a Christian or really a Stoic. While Stoic’s are tremendously good people, they’re missing out on the best part of Christianity. And at the end of this life, they’ll live eternally in Hell. I don’t want that for you.
As a Christian I have admitted I am not good enough for heaven. It just can’t happen. I have accepted that Jesus Christ made the sacrifice to make me good enough and taken His righteousness as my own. And finally, I have invited the Holy Spirit to change me. It’s a slow process. It doesn’t happen overnight, but I am free from guilt and shame, and I have peace while the change is happening. I delight in Christ and am blessed because my Father in Heaven Loves ME!