Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

At first glance, Berdyaev’s thinking may remind readers of the heterodox vision of the English poet William Blake, and this resemblance should not be entirely surprising, since both thinkers shared a common influence—the mysticism of Jakob Böhme. Moreover, both were passionately dedicated to the ideals of human freedom and creativity, and both believed in the need for positive action to transform society.

Though remaining close to the boundaries of orthodox Christian theology, Berdyaev’s work offers strong criticisms of certain traditional theologies, such as Thomism, that posit a creator who is omnipotent but who seems remote and dispassionate toward humanity. For Berdyaev, such a conception is overly rationalist and derives ultimately from Aristotle, not from Christian sources. Berdyaev shows a particular scorn for theologies that emphasize human weakness and are demeaning to the dignity of human beings. In this regard, both Roman Catholicism and classical Protestant Calvinism become targets of Berdyaev’s attack.

In the final summation, Berdyaev places the highest value on human personality and its potential to be creative in every sphere of life. Thoughtful Christians should find Berdyaev’s eschatological thought intriguing and provocative. Berdyaev does not present his vision of the final days in a superstitious tone or picture it as a coming event that inspires terror, as in Medieval Christianity or some forms of Christianity today. Rather, Berdyaev’s vision of the end is based on his concept of the different modes of time in which humans may live, and the achievement of eschatological events results from the partnership between the striving of human spirits and the action of God.