Is “the binding idea” of mankind gone?

Sometimes drunk rogues say best what’s to be said. In Dostoevsky’s novel The Idiot, Lebedev is such a man. Consider the conclusion to his rambling speech on moral corruption in the modern age:

[T]here was a thought stronger than all calamities, crop failures, torture, plague, leprosy, and all that hell, which mankind would have been unable to endure without that thought which binds men together, guides their hearts, and makes fruitful the wellsprings of the life of thought! Show me something resembling such a force in our age of crime and railways . . . that is, I should have said: our age of steam and railways, because I’m drunk, but just! Show me a thought binding present-day mankind together that is half as strong as in those centuries. And dare to say, finally, that the wellsprings of life have not weakened, have not turned muddy under this ‘star,’ under this network that ensnares people. And don’t try to frighten me with your prosperity, your wealth, the rarity of famines, and the speed of communication! There is greater wealth, but less force; the binding idea is gone; everything has turned soft, everything is overstewed, everyone is overstewed! We’re all, all, all overstewed!

Lebedev never makes it clear what “binding idea” he has in mind. But I submit that all men are bound together because they bear the image of God, as the writer of Genesis says: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (1:27). I also submit that Jesus Christ is the only “force” in human and cosmic history that rescues everything from becoming “overstewed.” When his disciple Thomas asks, “How can we know the way?”, Jesus offers the answer, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” (John 14:5-6).


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