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Keywords:

  • Stoicism;
  • Christianity;
  • retrieval;
  • comparison;
  • God;
  • sense impressions;
  • nature;
  • cosmology;
  • anthropology;
  • traditions;
  • parallels

ABSTRACT

This essay argues that retrieving insights from the ancient Stoic philosophers for Christian ethics is much more difficult than is often assumed and, further, that the “ethics of retrieval” is itself something worth prolonged reflection. The central problem is that in their ancient sense both Christianity and Stoicism are practically dense patterns of reasoning and mutually incompatible forms of life. Coming to see this clearly requires the realization that the encounter between Stoicism and Christianity is a conflict of lived traditions. Precisely because we cannot simply extract Stoic insights from the lives in which they belong, the task of determining how Stoicism is useful for Christianity is exceptionally challenging. Indeed, doing justice to the Stoics has more to do with facing an alternative to Christianity than it does with appropriating insights for our own use. These points are developed in conversation with Elizabeth Agnew Cochran's recent article on the Stoic influence upon Jonathan Edwards.