Leo Tolstoy’s What I Believe

Fresh Ground Theology

Over spring break, I also read Leo Tolstoy’s What I Believe. In this book, he relates his personal journey from atheism to his version of Christianity. Earlier in his life, he had no use for religion. During these years he wrote his novels and other famous works. But then, finding something lacking in himself, he turned to the church and began reading the Gospels. Soon, however, he noticed that the church did not follow the words of Christ. In Tolstoy’s view, the church was entrenched in the sacraments and rituals, but neglected to follow the command “do not resist evil.”

It was this command which Tolstoy believed was the true essence of Jesus’s teaching. Everything in his interpretation revolved around this command. Thus, Tolstoy’s favorite (and in some ways only) passage to interpret from was the sermon on the mount. Like later liberals, he argued for the brotherhood of…

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