Fyodor Dostoyevsky, the philosophically and theologically insightful Russian author, underwent two defining life events in November. The first was his birth (November 11, 1821), and the second was a stunning near-death experience (November 16, 1849).
Dostoyevsky’s close encounter with death occurred after he was sentenced to face a shooting squad for supposedly engaging in “antigovernment activities.” Fortunately, he was spared at the last minute. Christianity Today summarizes the dramatic event:
The sentence of death had been read, last rites offered. Fyodor Dostoyevksy, 29, watched as fellow prisoners were tied to a stake, readied to be shot. Then a messenger burst upon this scene, saying the Tsar had decided to spare their lives (as it turned out, the mock execution had been part of his punishment).
Dostoyevsky still served four years in a labor camp. But fortunately for fans of classic fiction, he lived on to write some of the most famous works in Western Literature. His deeply thoughtful and best-known novels Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov remain pillars of literary genius.
Throughout his life, Dostoyevsky struggled to maintain his faith. He remained a devoted follower of Jesus Christ despite grappling with doubts. It almost seems that he used the process of writing to think through his own beliefs. His ideas about God and religion emerged both in his writing – both his personal letters and works of fiction – particularly in The Brothers Karamazov.
The result of Dostoyevsky pondering eternal truth resulted in deeply profound statements. Here are ten quotes from Dostoyevsky about God, Christianity, and faith:
(1) “To love someone means to see them as God intended them.” (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
(2) “All writers, not ours alone but foreigners also, who have sought to represent Absolute Beauty, were unequal to the task, for it is an infinitely difficult one. … There is in the world only one figure of absolute beauty: Christ. That infinitely lovely figure is, as a matter of course, an infinite marvel.” (Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Letter to niece Sofia Alexandrovna)
(3) “It is not as a child that I believe and confess Jesus Christ. My hosanna is born of a furnace of doubt.” (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
(4) “My friends, God is necessary for me if only because he is the one being who can be loved eternally.” (Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Demons)
(5) “How dreadfully has it tormented me (and torments me even now) this longing for faith, which is all the stronger for the proofs I have against it. And yet God gives me sometimes moments of perfect peace; in such moments I love and believe that I am loved; in such moments I have formulated my creed, wherein all is clear and holy to me.” (Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Letter to Mme. N. D. Fonvisin)
(6) “God has such gladness every time he sees from heaven that a sinner is praying to Him with all his heart, as a mother has when she sees the first smile on her baby’s face.” (Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Idiot)
(7) “If it were not for Christ’s Church, indeed there would be no restraint on the criminal in his evildoing… If anything protects society even in our time, and even reforms the criminal himself and transforms him into a different person, again it is Christ’s law alone, which manifests itself in the acknowledgement of one’s own conscience.” (Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov)
(8) “There is no sin, and there can be no sin on all the earth, which the Lord will not forgive to the truly repentant! Man cannot commit a sin so great as to exhaust the infinite love of God. Can there be a sin which could exceed the love of God?” (Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov)
(9) “So long as man remains free he strives for nothing so incessantly and so painfully as to find someone to worship.” (Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov)
(10) “The awful thing is that beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and the devil are fighting there and the battlefield is the heart of man.” (Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov)