From Chapter 5 Elders
…but it seems to me that Alyosha was even more of a realist than the rest of us. Oh, of coure, in the monastery he believed absolutely in miracles, but in my opinion miracles will never confound a realist. It is not miracles that bring a realist to faith. A true realist, if he is not a believer, will always find in himself the strength and ability not to believe in miracles as well, and if a miracles stands before him as an irrefutable fact, he will sooner doubt his own senses than admit the fact. And even if he does admit it, he will admit it as a fact of nature that was previously unknown to him. In the realist, faith is not born from miracles, but miracles from faith. Once the realist comes to believe, then, precisely because of his realism, he must also allow for miracles. The Apostle Thomas declared that he would not believe until he saw, and when he saw, he said: “My Lord and my God!” Was it the miracle that made him believe? Most likely not, but he believed first and foremost because he wised to believe, and maybe already fully believed in his secret heart even as he was say: “I will not believe until I see.”
Miracles are so much a matter of the heart. We seem to live in a rather schizophrenic age. We have people who believe the most outlandish charlatanism to be miraculous, and we have people who have utterly dismissed the concept of miracle altogether. Delusion can come in either form.
The greater difficulty is to live without delusion – being what Dostoevsky here describes as a “realist” – but not in the sense of having dismissed God from the world. Coming to a faith that is actually integrated into the whole of our lives is the great difficult task. To see God at work everywhere is the serious challenge.
And the crux of all of this will be found in the heart. Is it warm or cold? Is it malleable or hard? Do I have the kind of heart that God, or anyone else for that matter, can do anything with?
This is the daily struggle for God – for a true grasp of reality that only grace can give. Left to ourselves we will never arrive there alone. And so we always struggle: “I believe, help Thou my unbelief!”