Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol.
It seems to me that Dostoevsky knew
enough about man's sin nature to long for atonement, but never heard or
understood the true gospel -- the good news of redemption through the
"Nor had his religious ideas as yet taken the
extreme form that provoked Turgenev to declare that Dostoevsky was "the most
malignant Christian" he had ever met. On the contrary, writing.... in 1854
to a woman correspondent, he confessed that he was "a child of my age, a
child of unbelief and doubt, and I remain to this very day and [I know that]
I shall remain so to my very grave." "You cannot imagine," he went on, the
terrible torment the desire to believe has caused and still causes me, for
it is a desire that grows all the stronger in my heart the more arguments I
have against it."
He still harped on his religious doubts ten
years later. "The main questions that will be dealt with in all the
parts [of his proposed novel... 'The life of a Great Sinner']," he wrote to
the poet Appolon Maikov, "will be the same as those which consciously and
unconsciously tormented me all my life--the existence of God." It is a
question that also tormented heroes of his great novels who, like himself,
have the worm of doubt buried in their breasts.
In his view Russia and the Orthodox church
were alone destined to lead the nations of Europe and, indeed , the world,
into the paths of righteousness. As for the problem of evil in genera,
"it is clear," he wrote.... "that evil is buried more deeply in humanity
than the cure-all socialist think, that evil cannot be avoided in any
organization of society, that a man's soul will remain the same, that it is
from a man's soul alone that abnormality and sin arise, and that, finally,
the laws that govern man's spirit are still so unknown, so uncertain and so
mysterious that there are not and cannot be any physicians or even judges to
give a definite cure or decision, but that there is only He who says,
Vengeance is mind, I will repay." This, in fact, is the creed that inspired
all Dostoevsky's great novels.
Dostoyevsky's lifelong struggles illustrate
what happens among unregenerate "Christians" everywhere. Either they excuse
sin (as did many Gnostics) or they face a futile struggle (in the flesh)
against sin without ever knowing the victory of the cross. A true Christian
will glory in the cross by which he was crucified with Christ and set free
from the torments of guilt and bondage to sin.