Hey Mr. Jeffrey,
I have this book on stoicism, and some of the principles in it teach things such as: Don't become so overly worried with things outside of your control (such as the weather, traffic, others opinions, etc. ) and also speaks about how my judgment on an event could be totally different than another person who experienced the same event, such as if I burned my hand, I may view it as terrible, but another person who once had less feeling in his hand, might find the burn less of a discomfort.
My question is: is it sinful to read things like that and to adopt certain principles, as long as they don't contradict the teaching of the Lord?
"See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ" (Colossians 2:8).
Philosophy is "the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence." Based on why the person believes certain things exist, guidance is derived to deal with issues in life. The problem is that since these are man-made observations, they can be subtly and fundamentally flawed. Conclusions drawn from this flawed foundation could be internally consistent and yet contrary to true reality.
Let's take Stoicism as an example, since you brought it up. Stoicism "holds that becoming a clear and unbiased thinker allows one to understand the universal reason." Thus, it is concluded that emotions are detrimental to reasoning and should be avoided. People should "be free from anger, envy, and jealousy." This sounds good on the surface. Christianity teaches that we are to be self-controlled (I Corinthians 9:24-27). But the idea of being unemotional would then condemn Jesus. Twice he was so angry that he threw the money changers out of the temple and once we are told that he wept by Lazarus' grave. We see God being described as grieved, pleased, angry, jealous, loving, etc. Do we accept a philosophical system that condemns God or do we realize that something is fundamentally flawed if its application is contrary to what we know is right?
It is good to understand the various ways people think and approach the world, but it always has to be checked against the reality of God's teachings. "Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar" (Romans 3:4).
- Quotes found in a Wikipedia article on Stoicism.