Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Calvinism and Stoicism (And Why They Are Not the Same Thing)

Re-Posted from "Meditations of a Charismatic Calvinist Who Does Not Speak in Tongues"

Calvinism and Stoicism are not the same, but they are often confused. Even by Calvinists.  Stoicism is the idea that all things are fated by God (not the Christian God, but a pantheistic sum of all things), and therefore we should face them with resignation.  The idea is that God wants His people to be tough and sends hard circumstances so they will be strong and self-contained and able to face hardship.  This is not the Calvinist position.

Quite the opposite.  Scripture teaches us that God sends adversity so we may learn we cannot handle it ourselves, but must trust God through it (Proverbs 3:5,6; Psalms 46:1-11; Isaiah 40:29-31).  These two approaches can end up having the opposite effects.  The correct approach leads to humility, and the opposite can build pride, which is a real spiritual danger (Proverbs 16:18; Luke 14:7-11; 1 John 2:16).  Yet I know for myself how easy it can be to slip from trusting God to trusting in myself and my inner strength.  Let us watch ourselves in this regard.

It is easy to get two similar ideas confused, but in this case we need to be clear on the difference.  The difference is the fall and redemption. The Stoic believes the world is how God intended it to be and we need to be tough to fit in to it.  The Bible says the world is a fallen one in rebellion against God and we, as part of it, are sinners (Romans 8:19-23; 1 John 2:15-17; Isaiah 64:6) and God has rescued us from it (Romans 5:6-8; 1 Peter 2:24-25; 2 Corinthians 5:21).  So we must trust the One who has rescued us from sin and death to bring us through the difficulties of life (Philippians 4:6,7; Matthew 6:33; Romans 8:18). This makes a fundamental difference in how we look at the trials we face.

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