Monday, November 21, 2016

Review: The Gospel in Tolstoy: Selections from His Short Stories, Spiritual Writings & Novels

The Gospel in Tolstoy: Selections from His Short Stories, Spiritual Writings & Novels The Gospel in Tolstoy: Selections from His Short Stories, Spiritual Writings & Novels by Leo Tolstoy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one book that will challenge all your notion of what it really means to be a Christian. You may not agree with the moral teaching imbedded in each of the stories LeBlanc selected, but they will captivate your mind and move you to earnestly think about what being a Christian means personally to you.

From the very brief "Biographical Sketch," we see that Tolstoy was apparently a tragic figure who, in spite of much success, was "plagued with suicidal thoughts" until he took a "look beyond his own circle" and "noticed that the peasants, despite their poverty, had an instinctive sense of life's purpose. Their faith in God and simple labor propelled them to live. And then it dawned on him: he too only lived at those times he believed in God. It was a decisive conversion experience, after which never left him" (p.xiii-xiv).

However, he left the Church when it ordered praying for the utter destruction of Russia's enemies "with sword and bombshell." Tolstoy outspoken pacifism influenced men like Gandhi, Shaw, MLK, Jr. He made sacrifices giving up his wealth, profits, property, and even breaking with his family that would throw him and his wife into constant battle. He renounced all of his publication rights and signed all his property to wife and children.

The writing selected reveal a man who saw the sharp inconsistency of the teachings of Christ and the way Christians believed and lived. It seems many of the stories are of persons seeking for a purposeful and happy life but failing until they come to realize that "To know God and to live come to one and the same thing. God is life" (p.43).

This is not a book for the Christian who is too lazy to seek for why God put him where he is, or for one too enamored with his own self and possessions to care for others, too attached to his own theologically moral and ethical, and, yes, even his political presuppositions...but, wait! No, maybe that is just the person who should read this book...the lazy, the self-absorbed, the purposeless, the know-it-all, the seeker.

I believe these selections of Tolstoy by LeBlanc will keep you thinking and thinking, struggling to come to some satisfying conclusion on just want it means for you to to live the genuine Christian life and how much are you willing to pay to live it.

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