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Chapter 3 - The Advantage of Virtue
Christianity is often dismissed because it is just a bunch of rules that stop one from enjoying life. In all fairness some Christians attempt to live the Christian life by rule following in spite of what Paul says in his letter to the Galatians. Sadly those who follow this path often end up in the same place as the Pharisees with a high opinion of their own accomplishments.
One can understand that those without God may come to see their best advantage is to get as much pleasure for themselves while they can.
1Co 15:32 If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.
One can appreciate that those without God might give themselves over completely to whatever pleasures can be gotten. However, even in a such and environment the advantages of moderation even leading to virtue can be observed. There were three Greek philosophies that can be illustrative;
1. Hedonism - Get as much pleasure as you can as fast as you can.
2. Epicureanism - Moderate your pleasures so they last longer.
3. Stoicism - Use your strength to achieve virtue.
Even the Greeks, who knew not God, saw in man the possibility of virtue struggling against the desires of the flesh. This might simply be the civilized equivalent of a tribal young man attempting to prove his mettle in combat. However, there may be more than just seeking the admiration of others. It was seen as including the four cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance.
Just as painful experience might motivate one to abandon hedonism for epicureanism, logic was seen to drive stoicism. One can apply logic to the ten commandments and see the rational that if you steal from your neighbor or kill him, you create not only injustice but turmoil that often harms yourself. In a similar way the logic of Stoicism was apparent to many.
Stoicism was the pursuit of happiness more than simple pleasure. I worked on a crisis hotline for several years and talked with thousands of people about a wide variety of problems. I tried to summarize some of my observations so that people who found themselves in some of life’s difficulties might have a way to more easily resolve them.
One observation was that one could make a spectrum of life with pain and suffering at one end and happiness at the other. In the middle would be boredom. People (often in pursuit of pleasure) would often find themselves experiencing pain. If they took corrective steps they would advance to boredom. Often at this point they would return to the pursuit of pleasures that would bring them back to pain. I observed that they key to breaking through boredom into the realm of happiness, it was essential to let go of selfishness.
Christianity not only points the way to happiness through selflessness, it supplies the means to do so. My parents had no idea about this as their church would do little more than admonish them to “Beeee Gooood” like in the movie E.T. This poverty of information for those who claim to speak for God is inexcusable.
Information about Christianity and the Christian life.
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