Notes of Grace from the Underground

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Against a backdrop of evil, Fëdor Dostoevsky identified Christ as the way to freedom.

“ ‘Two times two makes five’ is sometimes a most delightful little thing.”

Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground

Few writers have proved as mysterious and at the same time as fascinating as Fëdor Dostoevsky. A nineteenth-century genius, he now belongs to the ages.

Since his death in January 1881, he has been subjected to innumerable literary studies. The Soviet Union has resurrected him from the grave as a genuine Socialist and Communist—ideologies that he detested. Sigmund Freud tried and failed to make Dostoevsky a classic illustration of his psychoanalytic theory. And evangelical seminaries like to quote his “Legend of the Grand Inquisitor” (in The Brothers Karamazov) as proof of the basic error of Roman Catholicism.

William Hamilton, a protagonist of the unlamented “God-is-dead” movement, assured us that Dostoevsky was an atheist at heart. Yet the writer’s daughter, Lyubov (Aimée), tells us that on his deathbed Dostoevsky read to his children the parable of the Prodigal Son from Luke 15, and told them, “Children, preserve an unbounded faith in the Lord and never despair of his forgiveness. I love you dearly, but my love is nothing to the Lord’s infinite love for all men whom he has created.”

With new biographies of the man appearing regularly, the time has come to examine afresh the question: If Dostoevsky was indeed a Christian, why was he (to quote his own words) “consciously or unconsciously tormented all my life” by “the existence of God”? Why did he sometimes describe the monks of the Russian Orthodox Church, which ...

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