The Kingdom of God is Within You by Leo Tolstoy, was written in 1894 and published in Germany, where liberal theology or “Higher Criticism” had already taken a foothold. Since Tolstoy used much of this book to lambaste the Russian government, I’m sure the Germans were all too happy to help the manuscript discover the light of day.

Tolstoy seems to very anti-institutional in his overall worldview. In this theological treatise, he rails against the Orthodox, the Catholics, the Protestants (specifically the Lutherans) and even the Salvation Army.

The main gist of his argument seems to be that religious institutions prey on the masses for their own financial gain and political power. He is rather heterodox in some of his theological views, such as denying the infallibility of the Old Testament, being skeptical of miracles, opposing the church creeds on their key points, declaring that modern science and the Bible are not compatible and even claiming that man is the son of God with the same essence of God himself, and this is what makes love for other human animals possible.

It is clear why this book has not become a household favorite of conservative Evangelicals. However, as with most people who are frustrated with religion as it is currently held, many of his rebukes of the church are well-founded.

Leo Tolstory

Tolstoy’s view of Christianity is that it is the moral teachings of Jesus (found in the Sermon on the Mount) that have value to all humans. Rather than believing in the miraculous or the historical claims of the Bible, Tolstoy feels that Christianity has much to give to world in terms of loving neighbors, loving God and avoiding war and retaliation for wrongs.

Overall, if I didn’t know better, I would assume that I were reading Doug Paggit, Brian McLaren, Leonard Sweet, Rob Bell, Tony Jones, Donald Miller or some other Emergent Church author who is decrying Modernity and the Modern church. Perhaps Tolstoy was ahead of his time. Or perhaps it is true that there is nothing new under the sun.