Comparing Christianity and Stoicism

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Over the course of human history every society, even the most culturally isolated of civilizations, has developed some form of faith-system for interpreting and understanding the spiritual and material worlds. Thousands of such systems have existed over the centuries, and as tribes and cultures expanded, these faith-systems inevitably met each other face-to-face and clashed. Two thousand years ago there was a particularly important collision; one between the Roman stoic and the gentile Christian. At this time in Western civilization, Christianity was just planting its seeds and beginning to grow, whereas stoicism was already legitimate in its foundation and strong in its following (Stavrianos 100). One might wonder how Christianity ultimately replaced stoicism as the prominent and official religion in Rome. There are a few particular political and historical events that tell us exactly when and how it happened, but the curious man is more concerned with the psychology behind the transition. In other words, why would men tend to prefer one over the other?

Before one can explain this, it is necessary to understand fully the particulars of each system. In general, most faith systems can be understood in three parts: logic, physics, and ethics. There is a famous garden metaphor for understanding the relationship among the three. One should imagine a walled garden where inside there grows a single plant. This plant produces a fruit. Metaphorically, the wall symbolizes logic, the plant represents physics and the fruit symbolizes ethics. Accordingly, the wall of logic protects physics and ethics. Ethics is the fruit that results from studying physics, which is the cosmic order of things. Ethic...

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...erer from sin while stoicism offered man an internal battle against himself. It should come as no surprise that Christianity prevailed.

Works Cited

Alighieri, Dante. The Divine Comedy. Translation and Introduction by Mark Musa. New York: Penguin, 1995.

Barker, Kenneth. The NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995.

Clarke, M.L. The Roman Mind. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1960.

Metzger, Bruce M. The Oxford Companion to the Bible. 1993.

Murray, Gilbert. Stoic, Christian and Humanist. London: C.A. Watts, 1940.

Seneca, Lucius Annaeus. Letters From a Stoic. Translation and Introduction by Robin Campbell. New York: Penguin, 1969.

Stavrianos, L.S. A Global History: From Prehistory to the Present. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1988.

Wenley, T.M. Stoicism and its Influences. New York: Cooper Square Publishers, 1963.
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