Stoic Theism and Religious Truth

I have further thoughts closer to Epictetus’s social critique in Discourses III.1.  His sexism, homophobia and aversion to concern about physical appearance can be subsumed under his apparent dualism.  I don’t need to get into whether ψυχη is “mind” (Hard) or “soul” (Oldfather) to state that Epictetus sides with it versus the body.

I agree with Epictetus that moral choice, the rational faculty and only what is within my power should be ranked on the side of the Good — hence I place myself firmly within the ranks of those who condemn the modern turn to the body and material preoccupations.

I believe that mind-over-matter is more than a smart coping strategy.

I believe that caring for one’s physical health attains its greater purpose as a support to mental health.

I believe that mental health is ultimately a matter of spiritual health.

I believe that what matters most (perhaps the only thing that matters) lies beyond appearances.  

I believe in transcendence.

I disagree with those modern Stoics who argue that the ancient Stoics were pure materialists, believing that only matter is real.  I believe their use of the terms πνευμα and  λογος was not just metaphoric, and is better understood by comparing them to the Gospel of John.

It is obvious that Epictetus (especially; but also Marcus Aurelius) had a belief in a conscious God beyond mere matter.

I believe that the modern alliance between “progressive” politicians and religion to focus on people’s physical well-being as an end in itself is a debasement of humanity.  Religion must not become the handmaiden of bodily needs.  One way or another, it needs to save men’s souls.

I had an important realization when I tried to do the fourth year of EFM.  I learned a five level classification of theologies.  At one extreme (say level 1) was a parody of fundamentalist doctrinal positions.  At the other extreme (level 5) is a progressive ideal whereby religions are judged according to their support for particular social ideals (e.g. relieving poverty, respect for political rights etc.).  My own belief (level 2) is that religions must be judged according to an objective standard of properly religious truth, including the authenticity of their devotion to God — this reverses the priority of level 5 — the validity of social ideals must be assessed according to their compatibility with authentic religion.

How do I identify religious truth?  I’m not sure, but I think Epictetus and St. Augustine are good places to start.

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