Stoicism, which flourished in Greece around 250 years on either side of Christ’s birth, taught that the highest good for humans is to be ultimately happy. This happiness, though, is far different from our culture’s notion that happiness is equal to personal pleasure; instead, Stoicism held, true ultimate happiness can be experienced only through the practice of virtue – especially the virtues of courage, wisdom, justice and moderation.

This has been seen by many to be a welcome alternative to our culture’s current credo of “do what feels good,” and to the extent that Stoicism functions as a critique of our hedonism, Christianity welcomes it. But there are several aspects of the human condition and experience that Stoicism fails to address.

First, because Stoicism held to a classic pantheistic view of God – that the divine is equal with the lived-in universe – it was largely incapable of dealing with the problem of evil. After all, if God is in everything and every experience, then everything must be the way it’s supposed to be; in other words, Stoics are unable to critique evil events as evil and insist that evil must be met with cosmic justice, but must be content with trying to bear up under the evil as best as possible.

Christianity, however, while teaching joy and patience in suffering, insists that it is only possible if one believes in a personal God who is putting things to right and will eventually address and crush all evil. And second, Stoicism insists that humans have within us the power for virtuous living, but Christianity insists that virtuous living can only be accomplished by Jesus and by his gracious acting on our behalf to work his virtuosity our in our own lives.


Aaron Mueller
Chuck Rathert