Crime and Punishment

November 2, 2004

For a while now, Iíve thought that I should start reading classic novels, for no other reason than to know why they are referred to as classics. About three weeks ago I decided to put that thought into action. I decided to start with Crime and Punishment, a 600 or so page novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky (sounds just like itís spelled J) He wrote Crime and Punishment for the purpose of paying off his debts, and it was published in 1866. Honestly, when I checked the book out at the library three weeks ago I didnít expect that I would actually read it the entire way though, let alone in the allotted time. After all, it is a 600+ page novel written about a century and a half ago, and translated from Russian to English. There are a certain breed of people who consider this type of endeavor enjoyable. Please, donít make fun of us.

The more I think about it, the desire to read the classics isnít odd in and of itself, but beginning such a task with Crime and Punishment is. I donít know why I chose it. I donít know what led me to think that this would be a good place to start. Perhaps I did it to be able to answer more of the literary questions on Jeopardy (this is not a joke). Or maybe it was because if I started with Crime and Punishment reading everything else would be a breeze. I discovered towards the end of my reading that it was not my choice to read this book, but that something other than my own will had set my mind upon reading it. God wanted to meet me in the novel. God is truth, and he communicates his truth to us in ways we donít always think of. We have been trained (unintentionally, I think) to view truth only as that which can be heard or preached in a church setting, or that which is written in the Bible. Yet we cannot limit the creativity of God no matter how hard we try to label him, box him up or give him certain ramifications by which he must communicate with us. He will not be contained. Not only will he speak through the pastor, but he will speak through the novelist. His truth is to be found everywhere, in every nook and cranny.

The grace of God is vast, immeasurable and without boundaries. And it is near to us. God is not distant. He speaks his grace, his love and his hope for us into our souls through people of great compassion. We must give one another a large margin to commit error, which is only right because we have been given the same by God himself. In doing so, we exercise the authority of God which has been given to us to forgive the sins of others. The human heart has an incredible capacity to love and forgive. God is in relentless pursuit of our trust in him and in his people. Redemption is a long and powerful process.
This is the extremely short version of how God met me in the pages of Crime and Punishment. I feel as though I cannot discuss anything further, unless I were to retell the entire story. But it is complex, yet worth the reading. And it almost makes me laugh to think that God powerfully communicated with me through the words of a dead Russian.

“Moreover, in order to understand any man one must be deliberate and careful to avoid forming prejudices and mistaken ideas, which are very difficult to correct and get over afterwards.”

–Pulcheria Alexandrovna Raskolnikov (Crime and Punishment)

ďHe did not know that the new life would not be given him for nothing, that he would have to pay dearly for it, that it would cost him great striving, great suffering. But that is the beginning of a new storyóthe story of the gradual renewal of a man, the story of his gradual regeneration, of his passing from one world into another, of his initiation into a new unknown life.Ē

–Fyodor Dostoevsky (Crime and Punishment)

ďTo you, as an artists, truth is revealed and declared; it came to you as a gift. Treasure, then, your gift, be faithful to it, and you will become a great writer.Ē

–Vissarion Belinsky about Fyodor Dostoevsky


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