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Dostoevsky, a Christian teacher


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Diario de Navarra

Pablo Blanco Sarto

Lecturer at School of Theology and of the Master in Christianity and Contemporary Culture at the University of Navarra.

Dostoevsky, a Christian teacher

Now that there is tension between Eastern and Western Europe, we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Russian writer, who can continue to teach us a lesson in humanity. "Dostoevsky's novels are pure Philosophy", said the Italian existentialist philosopher Luigi Pareyson, who defined Dostoevsky as a master. He considered Dostoevsky's work "as Philosophy does not detract from its artistic value". His characters have the dual and yet unique function of being figures of art and philosophical ideas. Dostoevsky is considered one of the summits of the contemporary Philosophy and an obligatory point of reference letter in the current speculative discussion : he is not only a great "psychologist" -as Nietzsche said-, but an "anthropologist".

His thought is -without a doubt- profoundly Christian, and in this sense it has a vital importance when it comes to recovering Christianity: no one can be a Christian today without taking into account Dostoevsky and Kierkegaard. God is the central topic of the Russian writer's thought, for it is not only a theoretical problem but above all a vital problem. This God of Dostoevsky will be a mysterious God: being love, he makes his Son die; a God who reveals himself and hides himself, who humbles himself and magnifies himself, who dies and rises again.

Perhaps no modern author has known how to present the problem of God as well as Dostoevsky, in which divinity will be "the obligatory reference letter point. If man accepts the problem of God, he elevates and ennobles himself; if he rejects it, he destroys himself. Atheists and indifferent people pretend to affirm themselves by denying God, to become supermen or "God-men". However, since the measure of man cannot be changed, in reality they do nothing but degrade others and degrade themselves by becoming "sub-men" (the case of old Karamazov being an example of the latter).

For the Russian novelist-philosopher, God's presence in people's lives will not be a consoling presence - as in Poor Folks ( 1846) - but a tragic one, as in Crime and Punishment (1866), The Idiot (1869) or The Brothers Karamazov (1880). God waits for man in a corner of life, ready to surprise him at the most unexpected moment. Dostoevsky's God is a father who is more demanding than understanding. From this tormented and astonished vision of God, Dostoevsky - by means of the visible and everyday reality - speaks to us of the "hidden man" and interior, of that which is less visible, of the human dramas and the secret tragedies of man.

The core topic of each person's existence is God, but the drama of his life will be his own freedom. This presents us with its two faces, and from here the tragedy of man is born. On the one hand, freedom is obedience to being; on the other, it is rebellion against God, a struggle against eternity. In other words, we find the "the truth will set you free" (Jn 8:33) of Christ, of the God-man, against the "you will be like gods" (Gen 3:4) of the Antichrist, of the God-man. In this ambiguity of freedom the whole human drama is presented. That is why the Russian master wrote: "Good and evil are constantly fighting and the battlefield is the heart of man".

These and other questions related to the challenges of today's world are addressed at Master's Degree in Christianity and Contemporary Culture.