Thursday, September 14, 2017

A Brief, Biblical Response to the Stoicism of Tim Ferriss

Stoicism does nothing for a person in the next life. Indeed, Stoicism denies the existence of a life beyond this world. But God has put eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We don’t want this life to be all there is, and intuitively we sense that we were meant for something more than eventual meaninglessness and imminent annihilation.


Tim Ferriss seems like a very likable guy; the kind of guy who, if you met him and didn’t know he was famous, you’d still want to get to know. He is very personable in his podcasts. I enjoy listening to him.

Who Is Tim Ferriss?

I have profited from several things in Tim’s books, most notably his first book, The 4-Hour Workweek. This #1 New York Times bestseller catapulted Ferriss to fame in 2007. He followed this with three other books (each of which also became a #1 New York Times bestseller), including his most recent, Tools of Titans: the Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers

In addition to his writing and associated public speaking, Tim has enjoyed wide influence as an investor (especially to start-ups), an advisor to companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and Evernote, and as a philanthropist.

But Ferriss may be best known through his weekly podcast, The Tim Ferris Show. With more than 150 million downloads, the podcast was chosen as “iTunes Best of 2014,” and again in 2015 and 2016, as measured by “most downloaded.” The success of his books and podcast is truly remarkable.

I’ve listened to dozens of his podcast interviews, and have benefited from many of these conversations. Almost every guest proves to be fascinating, and in no small part to Tim’s excellent interviewing skills.

The Conversation I’d Love to Have with Tim

In fact, when hearing his podcasts, I have sometimes prayed that I would find myself seated on a plane next to Tim (after I received a complimentary first-class upgrade, of course). This is probably the only way I would ever be able to get to chat with him.

If I were privileged to have a conversation with Tim, there’s so much I’d like to ask him. Most importantly, I’d like to find out if he’s ever heard a clear presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. My guess is, that like most Americans, he has not. Also like many Americans, Tim may believe he has heard the biblical Gospel. But my hunch is that, as I believe to be true even among a large percentage of American churchgoers, he would struggle to clearly articulate the essence of the Gospel. What a privilege it would be to share the good news of this message with Tim.

After all, I would think that even a person who is skeptical about the message of Christianity (as they currently understand it) but who loves to learn would be interested to know the essential message of the most famous person in the history of the world. (And by the way, it isn’t something like, “Live a good life and you’ll go to Heaven when you die.”) My experience is that even most who don’t consider themselves religious believe it benefits their understanding of the world to hear a concise presentation of the main message of the largest religion on the planet. Tim is a voracious learner, and I think he would willingly listen to a three-minute, conversational summary of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Tim and Stoicism

In the last few years, Tim has become a devotee of Stoicism. His April, 2017, TED talk on the subject garnered well over two million viewers in the first three months. By this, as well through his podcast and other means, Tim makes clear that he has found—as have a rapidly increasing number of others—a lot of intellectual satisfaction in Stoicism.

I really appreciate the fact that although Tim lives on the cutting edge of technology and culture, he seeks wisdom from old paths. In the long run, however, I believe Stoicism will greatly disappoint him. I’d love to tell Tim that there is another ancient path that welcomes those who, like Tim, search for truth. It’s footing is much more sure, and it leads to a destination infinitely more glorious than that of Stoicism.

After watching his TED talk, I’ve become concerned enough for Tim (and those he has influenced) to write a brief, biblical response to his Stoicism. Although I am an academic*, this isn’t an academic response. Rather this is more of a pastoral response**, which is what I think would best serve most readers of this blog.

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