Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

God’s laws were revealed by Christ and are recognized by individuals in their conscience. Happiness, Tolstoy asserts, derives from the consciousness of living according to Christ’s teachings, thereby fulfilling the will of God, which is to love everyone and never to resist evil with force. Evil is the use of force or violence against any living creature, and one gains complete freedom by renouncing evil. Tolstoy attacks contemporary science because it rejects biblical teachings, and he expresses equal displeasure with organized religions because they support governments and do not minister to the poor in the way that Christ taught. The church hides the truth of Christ’s teachings to sustain its authority.

Tolstoy believes that humanity has advanced from the pagan stage, in which people were driven by selfish needs, to that of the state, in which individuals were subservient to the political structure and to organized religion, and finally to the modern state, in which people recognize God as the eternal source of life. People will awaken to this new stage, for in their hearts they have the spirit of God to guide them. They can live in peace without government coercion. Christ’s principles have the force to turn people from violence and toward love and brotherhood.

Tolstoy says perhaps the greatest evil of all is militarism, which forces people to commit violence in the name of law and order; it requires unquestioning obedience to an order to kill others, whereas true Christians must be free to choose for themselves, and if they are free, they will choose to love rather than to kill. To be happy and free is to rid oneself of social and political enthrallment by refusing to serve a militaristic government and fulfilling God’s will by loving everyone and eschewing violence. Blessedness is achieved in a twofold effort: within, people must progress toward a Christian love of all creatures; outwardly, they must strive to establish the kingdom of God by adopting the way of the true Christian.