Solzhenitsyn and classical Christianity


“In nearly all of his major writings, Solzhenitsyn appeals to the indispensability of the spiritual qualities of ‘repentance’ and ‘self-limitation’ for a truly balanced individual and collective life. ”
-Daniel J. Mahoney, First Things (2004) [Link]

Each of us has, I think, a list of silent mentors whose work and words have shaped our faith. For me its names like Fyodor Dostoevsky, John Calvin, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn.

Apart from his fascinating life, his generous intellect, and his powerful prose, Solzhenitsyn is a theological guide whose works repeatedly return to two key themes: repentance and self-limitation.

As someone who sins with alarming regularity, I find the theme of repentance central to my lived experience of the Christian faith. The Christian life, if it’s anything, must be a continual turning and re-turning from the world, the flesh, and the devil, with the concomitant turning to Christ.

In our current cultural moment, the notion of self-limitation is almost unheard of. Like many classical Christians, Solzhenitsyn recognizes the freedom that comes with self-limitation. The New Testament refers to Christians as “bond servants,” those who are united to their master who is the Lord Jesus Christ. As a result we experience spiritual freedom through submission to the way of Christ as expressed in His Word, the Bible.

These two factors make Solzhenitsyn someone who is not only fun to read, but as sound guide to the life of faith.

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