31 Dec 2017

Tolstoy’s *A Confession*

Religious 6 Comments

For Christmas I got this work (which Jordan Peterson talks about), as I am a huge fan of The Kingdom of God Is Within You. This passage from early in the book really rang true to me:

I am amazed at how accurately this describes economists today. Here’s a prominent economist arguing that “Money is a veil, and real decisions are (to first order) independent of financial decisions,” and another prominent economist critiques the first by arguing “the corporate tax rate affects per-period after-tax profits in exactly the same way in every period, so there is no effect on the after tax rate of return on investment the firm is facing. Therefore, the firm won’t invest more with a lower corporate tax rate.” I understand the assumptions and model each economist had in mind, and how their statements are true “in context,” but nonetheless those statements on their face are absurd. Just as I’m sure Tolstoy could’ve explained the mindset of each of his literary colleagues in their disputes, where they were huffing and puffing and saying seriously absurd things.

I’m also going through the Chronicles of Narnia with my son. In The Dawn Treader we just covered the adventure where a magician was trying to help these dwarves who think he’s a tyrant, while they do things like wash their forks and knives *before* dinner because they think that saves time.

The older I get, the more convinced I am that the Christian worldview is the only one that gives you an accurate diagnosis of human nature, and the prescription for it. Other paths lead to despair, as Tolstoy’s own discussion exemplifies.

6 Responses to “Tolstoy’s *A Confession*”

  1. E. Harding says:

    “The older I get, the more convinced I am that the Christian worldview is the only one that gives you an accurate diagnosis of human nature, and the prescription for it.”

    And as I get older, I still find this to be simple nonsense. Human nature’s pretty bad; that we can agree on.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Unlike you, Tolstoy actually opposed slavery, and other forms of exploitation. Tolstoy used a very broad definition of slavery, which included things that many other people would simply call exploitation, but better that than your glorification of industries born in slavery and genocide!

    Electric lights and telephones and exhibitions are excellent, and so are all the pleasure-gardens, with concerts and performances, and all the cigars, and match-boxes, and braces, and motor cars, but they may all go to perdition, and not they alone, but the railways, and all the factory-made chintz stuffs and cloths in the world, if to produce them it is necessary that 99 per cent. of the people should remain in slavery and perish by thousands in factories needed for the production of these articles. If, in order that London or Petersburg may be lighted by electricity, or in order to construct exhibition buildings, or in order that there may be beautiful paints, or in order to weave beautiful stuffs quickly and abundantly, it is necessary that even a very few lives should be destroyed, or ruined, or shortened — and statistics show us how many are destroyed — let London or Petersburg rather be lit by gas or oil; let there rather be no exhibition, no paints, or materials, only let there be no slavery, and no destruction of human lives resulting from it. Truly enlightened people will always agree rather to go back to riding on horses and using pack-horses, or even to tilling the earth with sticks or with one’s hands, than to travel on railways which regularly every year crush so many people as is done in Chicago6 merely because the proprietors of the railway find it more profitable to compensate the families of those killed than to build the line so that it should not kill people. The motto for truly enlightened people is not fiat cultura, pereat justitia, but fiat justitia, pereat cultura.

    – Leo Tolstoy

  3. Mark says:

    Unlike E. Harding, you are exactly right, Bob. Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason (str.org) had a video made as a promo for his book, The Story of Reality.

    The video (and presumably, the book) illustrates your point that only Christianity explains things as they are and offers a solution to the mess we are in. The video uses five words to explain our history: God, Man, Jesus, Cross and Redemption. Answers in Genesis offers the “Seven Cs” showing that the Bible is a history book of the universe and its events connect with real history: Creation, Corruption, Catastrophe, Confusion, Christ, Cross, Consummation.

    Both ministries support your contention regarding the Christian worldview. You can watch the four minute video here:


    where you can also download a free chapter of the book.

  4. Harold says:

    “they do things like wash their forks and knives *before* dinner because they think that saves time.”
    It is quite a while since I read Narnia series (to my son), so the details are hazy – are these the invisible one footed folk?. However, washing cutlery before dinner is perfectly sensible. I always wash them before dinner, often many hours before dinner, possibly immediately after the last dinner.

    Depending on the storage method we could assume that the exact timing of the operation would make no difference to the overall time spent.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Harold yes it’s those folk.

      And you’re right, when I was typing it in, I realized it didn’t sound so nutty. But I think really what maybe you mean, is that you wash your silverware immediately after and THEN AGAIN right before using it? In the story I think they were saying they’d eat, then leave the dirty silverware until the next meal.

      • Harold says:

        Well, as long as they are left in water to soak and not left out for the food to dry on, it should not affect the overall time taken whether they are washed immediately after or immediately before. However, immediately before is an inconvenient time to wash them because you are busy with the food preparation.

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