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C H A P T E R F O U R LOVING THOSE WHO HATE YOU Toward a Tolstoyan Christology . . . not the love that loves for something, for some purpose, or for some reason, but that love I experienced for the first time when, as I lay dying, I saw my enemy and yet loved him. Prince Andrei, War and Peace, volume 3, part 3, chapter 32 The negative theology charted up to this point in Dostoevsky is even more pronounced in the life and works of Leo Tolstoy. Unlike Dostoevsky, Tolstoy was not fascinated by the person of Christ as the incarnation of God, but rather by Christ’s teachings and what they reveal about God. In particular, he was taken with Christ’s commandment to love your enemies.What began in his two great novels as a fascination with the idea of divine love understood as loving those who hate you became in his later writings the expression of an apophatic approach to discerning God, one predicated on the denial of Jesus’s divinity. This movement from the concept of divine love imaged negatively to a negative imaging of Jesus himself is the subject of this and the next chapter. In this chapter , Tolstoy’s treatment of divine love is examined both for its importance in illuminating the strong divide between earthly and heavenly kinds of love in his works but also for the significance Tolstoy ascribes to love of enemies as its basis. Tolstoy’s exploration of divine love as love of those who hate you influenced both Bulgakov’s and Pasternak’s Christ novels in substantive ways. Paradox is key here for Tolstoy. Divine love and Christ are not what people suppose them to be, Tolstoy argues. The former requires the violation of societal expectations surrounding the proper object of love; the latter must be understood only as the C H A P T E R F O U R 84 non-divine bearer of this teaching, whose non-divinity actually serves as assurance that such hard ideals are achievable here on earth. These aspects are essential elements of Tolstoy’s idiosyncratic Christology. The implications of divinely loving one’s enemies will find their ultimate reflection in Tolstoy’s final novel, Resurrection, where Dmitry Nekhliudov learns to give up love in the romantic sense in order to devote himself to the well being of others, even those whom he hates. This topic and a treatment of Tolstoy’s apophaticism in his religious writings will be the subject of Chapter 5. Christ as Provocation Like that of his great contemporary, Tolstoy’s quest to believe carried him well into the regions of unbelief,at least as far as traditional Christianity goes.If Dostoevsky once vowed to remain with Christ even if he were “outside the Truth,” Tolstoy declared that Jesus was neither the incarnate Son of God nor the second person of the Trinity precisely because the hero he declared he loved “with all the power of my soul” at the end of his 1855 story “Sevastopol’ in May”1 —the Truth—demanded that he do so. And if the truth demanded that he reject the Orthodox understanding of Christianity in favor of the Christianity he came to reinvent, then so be it.“I began by loving my Orthodox faith more than my peace,” he wrote in his 1901 “Reply to the Synod’s Edict” of excommunication from the Orthodox Church, “then I loved Christianity more than my Church, and now I love truth more than anything in the world.And up to now truth for me corresponds with Christianity as I understand it.”2 In their hyperbolic statements about Christ, both Dostoevsky and Tolstoy arrive at seemingly contradictory conclusions. On the one hand, Dostoevsky’s “symbol of faith” is so radically Christocentric that it is capable of acknowledging a non-divine Christ if necessary, thus potentially making his Christ no different from Tolstoy’s. Tolstoy, on the other hand, is so Christophobic as to divorce Christ from his message altogether. In What I Believe (1884) he goes so far as to confess that it seemed to him“that if Christ’s teaching, with the Church teaching which has grown out of it, had not existed at all, those who now call themselves Christians would have been nearer to the truth of Christ.”3 As different as these positions are, they both confirm a shared truth, that at the heart of each writer’s image of Christ...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781609092382
Related ISBN
9780875807799
MARC Record
OCLC
1035546524
Pages
329
Launched on MUSE
2018-05-16
Language
English
Open Access
No
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