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Lewis and Dostoevsky

The man. The myth.

Lewis and Dostoevsky

Postby mgton » 25 Mar 2008, 14:22

Does Lewis discuss Dostoevsky anywhere? I can't remember any mention of him, but Lewis' professional work on literature, and his essays that are strictly on literature, are the ones that I have read the least. :think:
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Postby Tuke » 25 Mar 2008, 21:42

Nowhere in his literary criticism (most of which I have). If he mentions Dostoevsky elsewhere, it would be as a passing allusion not the main subject of an essay.
I only found one reference, in the personal Letters Of CS Lewis to his brother Warnie on 12/25/31:
"I have bought The Brothers Karamazov but not yet read it with the exception of some special detachable pieces (of which there are many). Thus read it is certainly a great religious and poetical work: whether, as a whole, it will turn out a good, or even a tolerable novel I don't know."
I can't recall if Lewis and Arthur Greeves discuss Dostoevsky in their collected letters They Stand Together. Novels are the special purview of their correspondence, so it may be worth checking your local library or even online.
Lewis had more to say about Tolstoy, "another great favourite of mine." Again from the Letters: "War & Peace is in my opinion the best novel - the only one which makes a novel really comparable to epic. I have read it about three times."
"The 'great golden chain of Concord' has united the whole of Edmund Spenser's world.... Nothing is repressed; nothing is insubordinate. To read him is to grow in mental health." The Allegory Of Love (Faerie Queene)

2 Corinthians IV.17 The Weight of Glory
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Postby rusmeister » 26 Mar 2008, 03:44

That's a pity.
It's worth noting that Dostoyevsky became and remained Christian, whereas Tolstoy rejected Christianity in his later years.
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Postby mgton » 26 Mar 2008, 19:58

Thanks for that info. It doesn't surprise me that there's no memorable talk of dostoevsky from Lewis. I remember hearing Peter Kreeft say once that Lewis didn't like Kierkegaard, that he thought Kierkegaard was "pathological." I can't imagine Lewis reading "notes from underground" with delight. But Maybe I be wrong. :smile:
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Postby Tuke » 26 Mar 2008, 21:23

rusmeister wrote:.... Tolstoy rejected Christianity in his later years.
I don't think I've heard this before. Are you equating rejection of the organized Church with rejecting Christianity? He was excommunicated by the Orthodox Church because he denied the authority of the Church and was somewhat unorthodox.
I believe it is critically important to be submitted to a pastor; however, I find no evidence that Tolstoy ever ceased striving to resist sin and perfect his faith. I think all of his publications since his 1879 conversion reflect his faith in Christianity. His biographers still list him as Christian, albeit unorthodox.
"The 'great golden chain of Concord' has united the whole of Edmund Spenser's world.... Nothing is repressed; nothing is insubordinate. To read him is to grow in mental health." The Allegory Of Love (Faerie Queene)

2 Corinthians IV.17 The Weight of Glory
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Postby rusmeister » 27 Mar 2008, 02:17

Tuke wrote:
rusmeister wrote:.... Tolstoy rejected Christianity in his later years.
I don't think I've heard this before. Are you equating rejection of the organized Church with rejecting Christianity? He was excommunicated by the Orthodox Church because he denied the authority of the Church and was somewhat unorthodox.
I believe it is critically important to be submitted to a pastor; however, I find no evidence that Tolstoy ever ceased striving to resist sin and perfect his faith. I think all of his publications since his 1879 conversion reflect his faith in Christianity. His biographers still list him as Christian, albeit unorthodox.

Tolstoy denied Christ's divinity and the doctrine of the Trinity. I'd say that effectively ends his connection to Christianity. The Church could hardly be sharing the Eucharist (the Body and Blood of Christ) with someone who says it's not. That's what's primarily meant by what the Church "did" to Tolstoy. It's something he actually did to himself. Even Lewis would have challenged Tolstoy, as an unbeliever, with the Trilemma.
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Postby greg544 » 29 Mar 2008, 21:47

rusmeister wrote:Tolstoy denied Christ's divinity and the doctrine of the Trinity. I'd say that effectively ends his connection to Christianity. The Church could hardly be sharing the Eucharist (the Body and Blood of Christ) with someone who says it's not. That's what's primarily meant by what the Church "did" to Tolstoy. It's something he actually did to himself. Even Lewis would have challenged Tolstoy, as an unbeliever, with the Trilemma.



Where could I find this documented?
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Postby rusmeister » 30 Mar 2008, 02:43

greg544 wrote:
rusmeister wrote:Tolstoy denied Christ's divinity and the doctrine of the Trinity. I'd say that effectively ends his connection to Christianity. The Church could hardly be sharing the Eucharist (the Body and Blood of Christ) with someone who says it's not. That's what's primarily meant by what the Church "did" to Tolstoy. It's something he actually did to himself. Even Lewis would have challenged Tolstoy, as an unbeliever, with the Trilemma.



Where could I find this documented?


Just read the man and let his own words speak for himself. He documented it.

What I came up with online in 10 minutes or so (hardly an exhaustive search):

“It is true, I deny the incomprehensible Trinity, and the fable regarding the fall of man, which is absurd in our day. It is true, I deny the sacrilegious story of a God born of a virgin to redeem the race.”


No; my book ("What I Believe" - ed)
received precisely the same treatment as all the attacks upon the
teachers of the Church for their defection from the Law of Christ
of which history from the days of Constantine is full.

A very great deal was said in connection with my book of my having
incorrectly interpreted this and other passages of the Gospel, of
my being in error in not recognizing the Trinity, the redemption,
and the immortality of the soul.


making the book of Acts out to be nonsense:
One can see by the Gospels, the Acts, and the Epistles how from
the earliest times the non-comprehension of the doctrine called
forth the need for proofs through the miraculous and
incomprehensible.

The first example in the book of Acts is the assembly which
gathered together in Jerusalem to decide the question which had
arisen, whether to baptize or not the uncircumcised and those who
had eaten of food sacrificed to idols.

The very fact of this question being raised showed that
those who discussed it did not understand the teaching of Christ,
who rejected all outward observances--ablutions, purifications,
fasts, and sabbaths. It was plainly said, "Not that which goeth
into a man's mouth, but that which cometh out of a man's mouth,
defileth him," and therefore the question of baptizing the
uncircumcised could only have arisen among men who, though they
loved their Master and dimly felt the grandeur of his teaching,
still did not understand the teaching itself very clearly. And
this was the fact.

Just in proportion to the failure of the members of the assembly
to understand the doctrine was their need of external confirmation
of their incomplete interpretation of it. And then to settle this
question, the very asking of which proved their misunderstanding
of the doctrine, there was uttered in this assembly, as is
described in the Acts, that strange phrase, which was for the
first time found necessary to give external confirmation to
certain assertions, and which has been productive of so much evil.

That is, it was asserted that the correctness of what they had
decided was guaranteed by the miraculous participation of the Holy
Ghost, that is, of God, in their decision. But the assertion that
the Holy Ghost, that is, God, spoke through the Apostles, in its
turn wanted proof. And thus it was necessary, to confirm this,
that the Holy Ghost should descend at Pentecost in tongues of fire
upon those who made this assertion. (In the account of it, the
descent of the Holy Ghost precedes the assembly, but the book of
Acts was written much later than both events.) But the descent of
the Holy Ghost too had to be proved for those who had not seen the
tongues of fire (though it is not easy to understand why a tongue
of fire burning above a man's head should prove that what that man
is going to say will be infallibly the truth). And so arose the
necessity for still more miracles and changes, raisings of the
dead to life, and strikings of the living dead, and all those
marvels which have been a stumbling-block to men, of which the
Acts is full, and which, far from ever convincing one of the truth
of the Christian doctrine, can only repel men from it. The result
of such a means of confirming the truth was that the more these
confirmations of truth by tales of miracles were heaped up one
after another, the more the doctrine was distorted from its
original meaning, aid the more incomprehensible it became.



...and lots more...

http://www.online-literature.com/tolsto ... om-of-god/

http://www.nonresistance.org/docs_htm/~ ... intro.html

You have to wade through all of his talk about non-resistance to evil - where he took one of Christ's teachings and made that into his entire gospel. For him, everything else was pretty much made up by the Church, which he also denied.
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Tolstoy

Postby arthur111 » 01 Apr 2008, 18:28

Tolstoy was important to me when I first began to think that maybe this material world was not all there was, and maybe life could be lived another way. He seemed an idealist who could actually try to forgo some of the temptations of life. In other words he went through a conversion process. He was very helpful to me as I struggled to get out of the mire. I haven't read him in a long time (20 years). When I did read him, I wasn't looking for doctrinual nuances, but a sighting of another kind of life, which maybe young people need these days. I need to go back and read him again.
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Re: Tolstoy

Postby rusmeister » 02 Apr 2008, 01:00

arthur111 wrote:Tolstoy was important to me when I first began to think that maybe this material world was not all there was, and maybe life could be lived another way. He seemed an idealist who could actually try to forgo some of the temptations of life. In other words he went through a conversion process. He was very helpful to me as I struggled to get out of the mire. I haven't read him in a long time (20 years). When I did read him, I wasn't looking for doctrinual nuances, but a sighting of another kind of life, which maybe young people need these days. I need to go back and read him again.


Actually, you should read the Gospels again AND the rest of the New Testament and notice how much of it he denies. He probably had a hard time explaining away the money-changers-in-the-temple scene, for example, or anywhere where Christ DID resist evil. Anyone can take one little principle and set it up, in Lewis's words, 'as a blind little Oyarsa', mistaking it for the whole Truth. This is a massive problem with people interpreting Scripture on their own without the Church - who could have the wisdom and knowledge (something requiring many lifetimes) to do it?

For Tolstoy, Christ was a really smart and admirable teacher - but not the Son of God.
"Before Abraham was, I AM".
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Re: Tolstoy

Postby Dan65802 » 02 Apr 2008, 18:53

rusmeister wrote:This is a massive problem with people interpreting Scripture on their own without the Church - who could have the wisdom and knowledge (something requiring many lifetimes) to do it?


One studeous Christian plus the Person of the Holy Spirit.

- Dan -
"Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." - Martin Luther King
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Postby arthur111 » 02 Apr 2008, 20:06

I don't know what "little principal" you are referring to, but maybe Lewis and certainly myself was impressed by Tolstoy's actions ,his denying himself many things (money, power, egotism). In other words, Tolstoy"s works combined and flowing from faith. I feel that Lewis was much in the same vein. Anyway, Lewis thought Tolstoy was the best writer around, and that is sufficient for me. I certainly agree with you that I should read the Gospels And the rest of the New Testament again...and again...and again..etc. I only wish that I could act on them as Lewis and Tolstoy did. Maybe that is One of the main differences between Jesus and the Pharasees.
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Postby repectabiggle » 02 Apr 2008, 21:23

Anyway, Lewis thought Tolstoy was the best writer around,


Lewis said Tolstoy wrote the best novel. That is, he said that at one point. I certainly don't think that means Lewis thought Tolstoy was the best writer. If I had to guess, I'd say he would give that honor to a poet, possibly Spenser or Dante.
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Postby arthur111 » 02 Apr 2008, 23:26

Lewis said Tolstoy wrote the best novel. That is, he said that at one point. I certainly don't think that means Lewis thought Tolstoy was the best writer. If I had to guess, I'd say he would give that honor to a poet, possibly Spenser or Dante.[/quote]

I stand corrected. Thank you. I was playing a little fast and loose. But I would also nominate Milton. I can't remember where in Lewis' works, but he seemed to me to be greatly influenced by Milton. I I think I read somewhere that Milton's theology was not considered "orthodox" by many. Although Marvel praised him in his introductory poem to Paradise Lost. And of course, Lewis wrote a preface to "Paradise Lost".
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Postby repectabiggle » 03 Apr 2008, 01:15

Oh, absolutely agree about Milton. Lewis was certainly enamored of that poet's work all of his life (and rightly so, I think!). :toothy-grin:
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