(1821–81), Russian novelist. Brought up in a pious Russian Orthodox home, as a young man Dostoevsky went through a period of serious doubt. Exile in Siberia (1849–59) helped him to reaffirm his commitment to Christian principles, as embodied in the traditions and spirituality of the Russian church, and to develop a sense of the ‘messianic destiny’ of the Russian people. As a novelist Dostoevsky gave expression in different ways to concepts such as the tremendous power of evil, the dangers of Roman Catholicism and socialism (which Dostoevsky tended to equate with each other), of individualism, indeed of any philosophy which did not give God his rightful place, and recognize the salvific value of suffering.
Dostoevsky was not, however, a systematic thinker. He did not write works of philosophy and theology, still less novels about abstract ideas. As a brilliant, creative writer, he has left us a series of unforgettable characters motivated by many different kinds of ideas and passions, some of which were those of the author himself. Undoubtedly the most powerful exposition of ideas occurs in the ‘Legend of the Grand Inquisitor’ (The Brothers Karamazov, Book 5, ch. 5), of which Dostoevsky makes Ivan Karamazov the author. Dostoevsky aimed to portray the bankruptcy and pernicious influence of the philosophy of Ivan Karamazov/the Grand Inquisitor which led to man’s putting himself in the place of God. This, Dostoevsky felt, was the heresy both of Roman Catholicism, whose ‘Grand Inquisitor’ condemns Christ for rejecting the three temptations in the wilderness, and also of socialism.
A. B. Gibson, The Religion of Dostoevsky (London, 1973).
P. Brazier, Barth and Dostoevsky (2007);
M. Jones, Dostoevsky and the Dynamics of Religious Experience (2005);
G. Pattison and D. Thompson, eds., Dostoevsky and the Christian Tradition (2001);
R. Williams, Dostoevsky (2008).
Richard F. Kantzer, “Dostoevsky, Fyodor (1821–1881),” ed. Glen G. Scorgie, Dictionary of Christian Spirituality (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 413.
Sinclair B. Ferguson and J.I. Packer, New Dictionary of Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 209.