We Are Not Epicureans
Epicurus was a Greek philosopher who lived in the third century BC. His philosophical construct was Grecian and polytheistic but can be summed up in the idea that the gods "do not interfere in human life or reward or punish men in any way."1 Thus, according to Epicurus, there should be a sharp divide between one's religious practice and the rest of life. Indeed, Epicurus considered the normal religious activities of his day nothing more than superstition based upon an erroneous understanding of the gods and their involvement in this world.
The philosophy of Epicurus was lost to the world until rediscovered in the 15th century through the recovered works of Luvretius, a roman philosopher and poet who lived about a century before the time of Christ. The Epicurean view of a sharp division between things religious and things secular appealed to the philosophers of the age and later became a major characteristic of Enlightenment thinking. Sadly, most philosophical and theological inquiry today is influenced by the Enlightenment embrace of Epicurean thought.
In the modern Christian church, Epicurean thinking filtered through the Enlightenment is seen in the (deistic) belief that the kingdom of God will not be actualized in this age but will only be realized through the second coming of Jesus Christ. In this worldview, Jesus is a distant God having little to do with this present life. This point of view believes Satan is the ruler of the world and that Jesus' only real contribution to the day-to-day life of his people is found in the personal piety of church attendance, prayer, Bible reading and a "smiley face" engagement with popular culture. While every Bible believing Christian strongly opposes abortion, for instance, they draw the line at the suggestion that the Bible provides comprehensive principles of conduct for civil government - indeed for all of life.
The truth is, Jesus Christ came to earth to bring to completion God's plan for creation. This is the reason Jesus over and over again referred to himself as the "Son of Man." It is the reason Paul calls Jesus the "eschaton Adam." Jesus came to establish - to redeem - a new race of humanity, a race of Mankind that would accomplish what the old Adamic race failed to do. Jesus provided an emphatic "yes" to all of God's promises and showed - to any who would care to pay attention - how God's rule is realized on this Earth. In short, the calling of Adam is fulfilled in Jesus, the author of the new creation. Therefore the followers of Jesus Christ should not believe they are destined to merely "enjoy a relaxing endless vacation in a place called heaven, but that they are designed to be God stewards, ruling over the whole creation with healing and restorative justice and love."2 Thus, Christians must understand that the philosophy of Epicurus is completely foreign to the Bible.
Instead, followers of Jesus Christ are called to implement God's victory in the world. They do so by bringing their life and arena of activity under the lordship of Jesus (Philippians 2:12-13). As a result, Christians participate in bringing the Creator's "wise ordering into the world, thus enabling the world and its various parts to flourish, to be more gloriously what they truly are, and to bring praise to their Creator."3 None of this negates the truth that Jesus Christs saves us from our sins through his death on the cross. None of this nullifies the fact of salvation is in Christ alone. It does, however, demand an understanding of the comprehensive nature of salvation and an acknowledgement that the living God "is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers" (1 Timothy 4:10).
1.Gordon H. Clark, Thales To Dewy, (1957, Jefferson, MD: The Trinity Foundation, 1985), 154.
2. N. T. Wright, Surprised by Scripture: Engaging Contemporary Issues, (New York, NY: HarperOne, 2014), 88.
3. Wright, 146.
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