God and the impossible

Lev Shestov as a young man

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“The only true solution is precisely where human judgment sees no solution. Otherwise, what need would we have of God? We turn toward God only to obtain the impossible. As for the possible, men suffice.” — Lev Shestov (also transliterated Leon Chestov), quoted in Albert Camus’  “The Myth of Sisyphus

A few words on Shestov (Chestov): He was a Russian Jew who saw in the resurrection of Christ the victory over “necessity,” or the force of death, reason, and other things of this world.

Shestov really, really should be better-known.

Camus, Isaiah Berlin, and D.H. Lawrence admired him. Martin Buber, Nikolai Berdyaev, and Edmund Husserl were his friends. Nobel-Prize winning poet Czeslaw Milosz devoted an essay to Shestov in Emperor of the Earth: Modes of Eccentric Vision.

Fortunately, biographical information and several writings by Shestov / Chestov are available on this website.

And in 1966, Bernard Martin wrote this essay on Shestov in Theology Today.

I stumbled upon Shestov in the early 1990s when I was searching a database for books on Kierkegaard. My search turned up Shestov’s Kierkegaard and the Existential Philosophy, and its opening essay, “Kierkegaard and Dostoyevsky,” was a thunderclap in my undergraduate mind. I can’t remember which I read first: that Shestov essay or Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground; either way, one framed and enhanced the other.


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