Cynicism Topical Study

<p><strong><span class="heading-lg">Cynicism in Scripture</span></strong></p><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><strong><span class="heading-sm">Ancient Definition of Cynicism</span></strong></span></p><ul><li><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Psalm 62:10</a>, &quot;Do not put confidence in extortion, and set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, do not set your heart on them.&quot;</span></span></li><li><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Proverbs 23:4</a>, &quot;Do not wear yourself out to get rich; be wise enough to desist.&quot;</span></span></li><li><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Matthew 19:21</a>, if you wish to be perfect. . .</span></span></li><li><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Mark 10:25</a>, a camel and the eye of a needle</span></span></li><li><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Acts 2:42-47</a>, they devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles</span></span></li><li><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Philippians 4:11-13</a>, learning to be content with what we have</span></span></li><li><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Hebrews 13:5</a>, be content with what you have</span></span></li></ul><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><span class="heading-sm"><strong>Modern Definition of Cynicism</strong></span></span></p><ul><li><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Exodus 14:11-12</a>, complaints from the Israelites after escaping Egypt</span></span></li><li><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Job 10:18</a>, &quot;Why did you bring me forth from the womb? Would that I had died before any eye had seen me.&quot;</span></span></li><li><span style="font-size: 16px;"><a href="">Ecclesiastes 9:11</a>, the race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong</span></li><li><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Matthew 17:19-20</a>, faith the size of a mustard seed</span></span></li><li><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Luke 17:3-6</a>, the apostles beg the Lord to increase their faith</span></span></li></ul><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><strong><span class="heading-lg">Reflections about Cynicism</span></strong></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><strong><span class="heading-sm">Ancient verse&nbsp;Modern Cynicism</span></strong></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><span class="body-copy">The difference in attitude toward ancient and modern understandings of cynicism in Scripture is stark. Much of Scripture aligns with the classical philosophical school of thought of the Cynics. Jesus, in particular, frequently teaches that we should hold loosely to our material possessions. Scripture reinforces the idea that material possessions should be offered in service of the pursuit of virtue. At the same time, Scripture has little patience for the pessimistic attitude of modern cynicism. Christians are called to be people of hope, people who live within the reality of Jesus&#39; resurrection. While we recognize the reality of sin in the world, we cannot fall into the helpless, hopeless attitude of cynicism.</span></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><span class="body-copy">Many parishioners are unfamiliar with the classical understanding of cynicism and will be unaware that its meaning has changed only in the last 200 years. Yet some will know the difference. Pastors do well to be aware of linguistic shifts that can happen, especially when considering its place in Scripture.</span></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><strong><span class="heading-sm">Jesus a cynic?</span></strong> </span></p><p><span style="font-size: 16px;"><span class="body-copy">Some scholars, particularly those associated with the Jesus Seminar, have argued that Jesus&#39; ministry should be understood as that of a travelling Cynic philosopher. The merits of this hypothesis are debatable, but we must be aware that the earliest church was preaching the Gospel in the midst of a cultural milieu. Some Christian teachings have particular resonance with pre-existing ideas found in Greek philosophy. The church was unafraid of these resonances. Yet, early Christians did not offer wholesale endorsement of these philosophical schools. Christians have always been called to &quot;test the spirits&quot; (1 John 4:1), no matter our time period.</span></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><strong><span class="heading-sm">Skepticism verses Cynicism</span></strong></span></p><p><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><span class="body-copy"><span class="body-copy">Many people inadvertently confuse cynicism with skepticism. Skepticism is not necessarily the opposite of faith (though it can be). More frequently, the lack of faith discouraged in Scripture is an unhealthy pessimism that aligns more closely with modern understandings of cynicism than of skepticism. When pastors blur the distinction between these two ideas, it can be particularly challenging for those trained in the modern sciences whose daily work requires skepticism. The doubt associated with skepticism can be (and often is) a healthy sense of curiosity or patient expectation. This is distinct from a cynical attitude that assumes the worst out of people and the world.</span></span> </span></p><p><span class="body-copy" style=""><font color="#00244d"><span style="font-size: 20px;"><b>Our Awareness of Sin</b></span></font></span></p><p><span class="body-copy" style=""><span style="font-size: 13.008px;"><span class="body-copy">The Reformed tradition teaches the doctrine of total depravity, recognizing that the reality of sin permeates every aspect of our life and world. Nothing is free from the pollution of sin. No institution is free from the stain of sin because institutions are comprised of fallen human beings. Therefore, we should not be surprised when things are not as they should be in the world. Yet our awareness of the reality of sin cannot give way to the hopelessness of cynicism. As followers of the resurrected Jesus, we are to live with the hopefulness of the redemptive work of Christ and the promise that one day all things will be set right.</span></span></span></p>