Dostoevsky And His Theology -- By: James A. Townsend

Journal: Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Volume: JOTGES 10:2 (Autumn 1997)
Article: Dostoevsky And His Theology
Author: James A. Townsend


Dostoevsky And His Theology

James A. Townsend

Bible Editor
Cook Communications
Elgin, IL

I. Introduction

Alfred Einstein stated: “Dostoevsky gives me more than any other thinker.”1 Nicholas Berdyaev was professor of philosophy at the University of Moscow until he was expelled by the Communist regime in 1922. Berdyaev testified that Dostoevsky “stirred and lifted up my soul more than any other writer or philosopher has done…when I turned to Jesus Christ for the first time.2 Some would assert that either The Brothers Karamazov [pronounced kare-uh-MAHT-tsov] or Crime and Punishment is the greatest novel ever written. Some thinkers within the Christian camp would claim Dostoevsky as one of our own, thereby lending added value to such a study as this.

II. A Brief Biography

Fyodor Dostoevsky3 (1821–1881) was the son of an ultra-strict Russian Orthodox father who was a medical doctor. He would call his sons names (e.g., stupid) when they got their recitations wrong. He compelled his sons to stand at attention when they spoke to him. Thus, the young Dostoevsky did not receive a very accurate mirror image of God the Father from his harsh human father.

When Dostoevsky was 18 years old, one of the most formative events of his life occurred. His severe father was brutally murdered by his own Russian serfs. The corpse lay out in the field for two days, and the

police never conducted an investigation or made any arrest. There is evidence that young Dostoevsky felt something of a guilty complicity in this murder—if only, perhaps, as a death-wish. All four of Dostoevsky’s major novels revolve around a murder, and The Brothers Karamazov is constructed around parricide.

Dostoevsky hit the jackpot with his first novel, Poor Folk. Russia’s leading literary critic, Belinsky, announced a new star had arisen on the literary horizon. However, because Dostoevsky’s following works were more personally psychological than social commentaries, the radical Belinsky and other Russian writers began to be more severe in their criticism.

Eventually Dostoevsky became involved in the sociopolitical ferment of his era. He joined a group known as the Petrashevsky circle, which contained atheists and revolutionaries (during this pre-Communist period). They planned to publish anti-government propaganda on a secret printing press. Then the police stepped in. Dostoevsky was impri...

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