Dostoevsky — Sonia’s reading of the raising of Lazarus in Crime and Punishment

“So you pray to God a great deal, Sonia?” he asked her.

Sonia did not speak; he stood beside her waiting for an answer.

“What should I be without God?” she whispered rapidly, forcibly, glancing at him with suddenly flashing eyes, and squeezing his hand.

“Ah, so that is it!” he thought.

“And what does God do for you?” he asked, probing her further.

Sonia was silent a long while, as though she could not answer. Her weak chest kept heaving with emotion.

“Be silent! Don’t ask! You don’t deserve!” she cried suddenly, looking sternly and wrathfully at him.

“That’s it, that’s it,” he repeated to himself.

“He does everything,” she whispered quickly, looking down again.

“That’s the way out! That’s the explanation,” he decided, scrutinising her with eager curiosity, with a new, strange, almost morbid feeling. He gazed at that pale, thin, irregular, angular little face, those soft blue eyes, which could flash with such fire, such stern energy, that little body still shaking with indignation and anger–and it all seemed to him more and more strange, almost impossible. “She is a religious maniac!” he repeated to himself.

There was a book lying on the chest of drawers. He had noticed it every time he paced up and down the room. Now he took it up and looked at it. It was the New Testament in the Russian translation. It was bound in leather, old and worn.

“Where did you get that?” he called to her across the room.

She was still standing in the same place, three steps from the table.

“It was brought me,” she answered, as it were unwillingly, not looking at him.

“Who brought it?”

“Lizaveta, I asked her for it.”

“Lizaveta! strange!” he thought.

Everything about Sonia seemed to him stranger and more wonderful every moment. He carried the book to the candle and began to turn over the pages.

“Where is the story of Lazarus?” he asked suddenly.

Sonia looked obstinately at the ground and would not answer. She was standing sideways to the table.

“Where is the raising of Lazarus? Find it for me, Sonia.”

She stole a glance at him.

“You are not looking in the right place. . . . It’s in the fourth gospel,” she whispered sternly, without looking at him.

“Find it and read it to me,” he said. He sat down with his elbow on the table, leaned his head on his hand and looked away sullenly, prepared to listen.

“In three weeks’ time they’ll welcome me in the madhouse! I shall be there if I am not in a worse place,” he muttered to himself.

Sonia heard Raskolnikov’s request distrustfully and moved hesitatingly to the table. She took the book however.

“Haven’t you read it?” she asked, looking up at him across the table.

Her voice became sterner and sterner.

“Long ago. . . . When I was at school. Read!”

“And haven’t you heard it in church?”

“I . . . haven’t been. Do you often go?”

“N-no,” whispered Sonia.

Raskolnikov smiled.

“I understand. . . . And you won’t go to your father’s funeral to-morrow?”

“Yes, I shall. I was at church last week, too . . . I had a requiem service.”

“For whom?”

“For Lizaveta. She was killed with an axe.”

His nerves were more and more strained. His head began to go round.

“Were you friends with Lizaveta?”

“Yes. . . . She was good . . . she used to come . . . not often . . . she couldn’t. . . . We used to read together and . . . talk. She will see God.”

The last phrase sounded strange in his ears. And here was something new again: the mysterious meetings with Lizaveta and both of them– religious maniacs.

“I shall be a religious maniac myself soon! It’s infectious!”

“Read!” he cried irritably and insistently.

Sonia still hesitated. Her heart was throbbing. She hardly dared to read to him. He looked almost with exasperation at the “unhappy lunatic.”

“What for? You don’t believe? . . .” she whispered softly and as it were breathlessly. Continue reading “Dostoevsky — Sonia’s reading of the raising of Lazarus in Crime and Punishment”

Dietrich Bonheoffer

“Dietrich Bonheoffer (1906-1945) a German Lutheran minister who joined Barth in resisting Hitler’s attempts to use the Lutheran Church, became a teacher in the seminary of the newly formed Confessing Church, tried to form a link between Germans opposed to Hitler and the British government, and was involved in the plot to assassinate Hitler. He was arrested and put in prison in 1943 and hanged just before the end of the Second World War in 1945. His Letters and Papers from Prison reflect an impressive and courageous witness under hardship; and they reflect on the growing secularization of man (Nietzsche’s ‘God is dead’ idea) and on the need to speak about God in a secular way, so that God is not reduced to a pseudo-religious magic force or so-called “God-of-the-gaps” but who on account of Jesus Christ’s redemptive act is present at the center of even secular and non-religious life” (Frederick Lawrence, Philosophers and Theologians, Boston College).

Barth

“Karl Barth (1886-1968) reacted against the liberal theological trend that started with Schleiermacher, because in reducing religion to feeling it also tended to reduce Christianity back into the meanings and values of the secular culture. He tried to bring theology back to the principles of the Reformation and the prophetic message of the Bible. Heavily influenced by Kierkegaard, he interpreted the Christian message to mean that God is so supremely transcendent and superior to all human aspirations that human reason and ‘natural theology’ (philosophy of God which does not accept the teachings of revelations) are worthless; and religion grounded in mere human experience (as in Schleiermacher) is impossible. His Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans rejected all merely historical interpretation of Scripture as incapable of doing justice to the text as the inspired Word of God. His ability to distinguish so sharply Christianity from human culture enabled Barth to resist Hitler’s attempts to enlist the German Lutheran State Church in the Nazi cause, saying, “We have no Fuehrer (leader) but Jesus Christ!” In the Humanity of God he still affirmed that God’s sole revelation is in Jesus Christ, who in becoming human, uttered the only really significant Yes! of the transcendent God to poor sinful humanity in need of redemption through grace” (Frederick Lawrence, Philosophers and Theologians, Boston College).

Schleiermacher

“Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) tried to win the educated classes back to religion in his Religion: Speeches to its Cultured Despisers. He argued against both German rationalists and orthodox dogmatists, contending that religion is based on intuition and feeling which is more important than and independent of dogmas or rituals, which may or may not be adequate expressions of religious feeling. The highest experience of religion for Schleiermacher is a sensation of union with the infinite. He defined religion as a feeling of absolute dependence which finds its purest expression in monotheism. The variety of forms which the feeling of absolute dependence assumes in different individuals and nations accounts for the diversity of religions, of which Christianity is the highest, but not the only true one” (Frederick Lawrence, Philosophers and Theologians, Boston College).

Nietzsche

“Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), like Kierkegaard and Marx, was opposed to the pretensions of any kind of rationalist approach such as Hegel’s. But he was also a radical critic of Plato, of Christianity, and of the kind of person produced by liberal democracy (Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau), or communism (Marx). He called this kind of person “the Last Man” who, in his concern for bodily health, relaxation, entertainment, and feeling good about himself, thinks he is greater and smarter than anyone before in history; and yet who has lost all the deepest aspirations and desires that really make people human. Liberal democracy’s and communism’s preoccupation with comfortable self-preservation—the joyless quest for joy—ends up making us universal, homogeneous, and trivial. Nietzsche teaches that throughout history human beings have needed to create horizons of serious values by which to live and give meaning to their everyday existences. But they have to hide from themselves that these horizons or values have been created by their own will-to-power. Continue reading “Nietzsche”

Kierkegaard

“Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) also reacted against the abstractness of Hegel’s dialectical march of ideas in the unfolding of the Absolute Spirit because it leaves out the concrete dynamics of personal and individual existence. For Kierkegaard what is actual and particular is more important than universal concepts and abstractions. Passionately Christian, Kierkegaard was contemptuous of organized religion and of the tendency to use doctrines to blunt our awareness of how we are making decisions about our personal existence. He attacks any kind of rationalism (i.e. exclusive dependence on sense observation or reasoning in rejection of belief or faith) and he tries to justify a new commitment or ‘leap of faith’ in which passion and feeling have as much importance as reason and in which the inward and personal life of human beings is recognized as the source of meaning and value. Continue reading “Kierkegaard”

Marx

“Karl Marx (1818-1883) in his Theses on Feuerbach contends that up till his time philosophers like Hegel had only interpreted history, but that now the real task of philosophy was to make or change history. Marx claimed that the chief philosophy interpretations prior to him had been ideologies intended to cover up the real relationships between the economic forces of production (= any given stage of technological developments available) and the relations of production (social relations between capitalists [owners of means of production] and wage-earners). Hegel’s account of the historical evolution of universal freedom omitted the realities of economics and obscured how history is really the history of class warfare. The liberal capitalist ideology of Locke and Adam Smith tried to make people believe that the laws of the market place (of supply and demand) are necessary and iron-clad laws of nature (like Marx supposed the laws of physics were). But Marx unveiled them as really only misunderstandings of one phase in the dialectical development of economics from feudalism through capitalism to communism. Continue reading “Marx”