The 19th century Russian novelist and essayist Fyodor Dostoyevsky is nearly unrivaled in his ability to explore theological themes in and through literature. His elaborate portrayals of the inner life of human persons in all their psychological, spiritual, and social complexity, particularly as they are found in a sinful and broken world, are must-reads for anyone seeking to understand humanity theologically. Similarly his treatments of the doctrine of God, the problem of sin, and the nature of the church, have generated interest ever since.
If you are a Dostoyevsky fan, I would be interested to know which works you have found most compelling and why. For me, I will go with The Brothers Karamazov. There is no easy way to summarize such a complex work, but at the very least a forceful argument that real human life only happens when we embrace one another in all our ugliness and sinfulness – recognizing the mutuality, and complicity, of humanity. Here is a quote from the spiritual sage of the book, Zosima to the young Alyosha along these lines:
My friends, ask gladness from God. Be glad as children, as birds in the sky. And let man’s sin not disturb you in your efforts, do not fear that it will dampen your endeavor and keep it from being fulfilled, do not say, ‘Sin is strong, impiety is strong, the bad environment is strong, and we are lonely and powerless, the bad environment will dampen us and keep our good endeavor from being fulfilled.’ Flee from such despondency, my children! There is only one salvation for you: take yourself up, and make yourself responsible for all the sins of men. For indeed it is so, my friend, and the moment you make yourself sincerely responsible for everything and everyone, you will see at once that it is really so, that it is you who are guilty on behalf of all and for all. Whereas by shifting your own laziness and powerlessness onto others, you will end by sharing in Satan’s pride and murmuring against God. (Book VI, Chapter 3)