If I say “epicurean,” what do you think?
Is it, as the OED’s second definition reads, someone “devoted to the pursuit of pleasure; hence, luxurious, sensual, gluttonous,” or someone “devoted to refined and tasteful sensuous enjoyment,” or, in a simple equation, does epicureanism = hedonism?
As I discovered in my January 11th lecture on Biblical and Classical backgrounds to English Literature, the philosophy of Epicurus (341-270 BC) was an argument for a life of balance. His was a ‘common sense’ philosophy of moderation that avoided extremes of pain and pleasure. It’s a little similar to Eastern religions that say it is inherently bad for people to strive for any fame, power, or wealth.
There are sinful desires, and then there is trying to not desire anything, and then there’s desiring God.
Given that Lucretius, some Roman philosopher-poet I have to read for this class, presents epicurean philosophy in a work written half a century before Christ, this contrasting worldview of epicurean moderation is probably relevant to the people who wrote the Bible. Which reminds me of that ‘lukewarm’ verse in Revelations chapter 3:
15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”
This is why the title of pastor John Piper’s book, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, makes sense. It can be read online here.
So if Christians are not called to live lives of moderation and balance – how so?
I should probably go back to studying viciously now. and you can consider that question.