What Happens When Everyone Else is Wrong?

bears fighting

He dreamt that the whole world was condemned to a terrible new strange plagueSome new sorts of microbes were attacking the bodies of men

Men attacked by them became at once mad and furious. But never had men considered themselves so intellectual and so completely in possession of the truth as these sufferers, never had they considered their decisions, their scientific conclusions, their moral convictions so infallible.

— Raskolnikov’s dream, Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Raskolnikov in Prison

Towards the end of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, the protagonist Raskolnikov is in Siberia after his conviction and has disturbing dreams while recovering from illness in a prison hospital.

Raskolnikov is a convicted murderer. He had developed his “extraordinary man” theory, which he believed gave him license to act as though everyone else was expendable, while he was free to act as a superior being. Acting on his theory ended with murder and prison, the place he eventually began to see things in a new light.

The Dream

He was in the hospital from the middle of Lent till after Easter. When he was better, he remembered the dreams he had while he was feverish and delirious. He dreamt that the whole world was condemned to a terrible new strange plague that had come to Europe from the depths of Asia. All were destroyed except a very few chosen. Some new sorts of microbes were attacking the bodies of men, but these microbes were endowed with intelligence and will. Men attacked by them became at once mad and furious. But never had men considered themselves so intellectual and so completely in possession of the truth as these sufferers, never had they considered their decisions, their scientific conclusions, their moral convictions so infallible. Whole villages, whole towns and peoples went mad from the infection. All were excited and did not understand one another. Each thought that he alone had the truth and was wretched looking at the others, beat himself on the breast, wept, and wrung his hands. They did not know how to judge and could not agree on what to consider evil and what good; they did not whom to blame, who to justify. Men killed each other in a sort of senseless spite. They gathered together in armies against one another, but even on the march the armies would begin attacking each other, the ranks would be broken and the soldiers would fall on each other, stabbing and cutting, biting and devouring each other. The alarm bell was ringing all day long in the towns; men rushed together, but why they were summoned and who was summoning them no one knew. The most ordinary trades were abandoned, because everyone proposed his own ideas, his own improvements, and they could not agree. The land too was abandoned. Men met in groups, agreed on something, swore to keep together, but at once began on something quite different from what they had proposed. They accused one another, fought and killed each other. There were conflagrations and famine. All men and all things were involved in destruction. The plague spread and moved further and further

What happens when we all know we’re right?

As every person argues for their own perspective, utterly convinced of their own rightness, the world crumbles. When we believe that everyone else is wrong, society loses its ability to distinguish between good and evil and doesn’t know what is worthy of honor and what is worthy of blame. Since all believe they are intellectually and morally superior, they are therefore justified in fighting all the more feverishly for their convictions.

While today we may not be literally killing each in senseless spite, many of us Christians are guilty of virtual murder. Who has not felt tempted towards anger, disdain, or outright contempt when talking about (or typing about) the legitimacy of impeachment or the reliability of the national media or the reasons for the gulf between rich and poor or testing procedures and mask policies for coronavirus?

What if we are wrong when we believe that we alone have the truth? And how can we all be right when professing Christians have such strongly divergent views on the subject? We are all at risk of going mad from the same infection.

The Extraordinary Man (and Woman) Theory

Rasknolnikov is in prison for the murder of an old pawnbroker and her assistant. He’s in prison because he had a theory about the world that he called the extraordinary man theory, and he tried to put that theory into practice with his crime. Raskolnikov’s theory is quite similar to Nietzche’s later Ubermensch theory, that divides the people of the world into two classes. There are the regular people and there are the “extraordinary” or “super” among us, who can set their own rules in their pursuit of greatness. For the Ubermensch, the ends always justify the means.

The practical problem, of course, arises as it does in Rasknolnikov’s dream. When we all believe that we alone have access to the truth there is only disorder and hatred and chaos. The deeper problem is that on some level we all have hearts that crave justification.


We are proud and broken people. Even those of us who call upon the name of Jesus have proud, stubborn hearts that are desperately seeking justification, identity, and security through our own efforts, abilities, and achievements. That’s why we can still manage to sin even after coming to faith and it’s why we desperately need him. Without perpetual renewal, we will tend to convince ourselves that we are extraordinary. We will be just like God’s chosen people who, despite miraculous provision and supernatural guidance, were often described as a “stubborn and stiff-necked people” with hard hearts.

What’s My Problem?

I have a proud heart that left to its own devices will make me into a world class Pharisee. The particular brand of Pharisee has evolved throughout life. While my beliefs have changed, what hasn’t changed is that underlying each of those phases was an ironclad assurance of my own “rightness” and a feeling of superiority to all others who weren’t enlightened enough to share my views.

And I still have plenty of blind spots today. But I’ve begun to see a common thread: there is pride at the center of nearly all of it.

2 thoughts on “What Happens When Everyone Else is Wrong?

  1. Jesus teaches that narrow is the path which leads to life, difficult is the way, and those who find it are few. I wasnt left with the impression that His use of the word “few” meant a few million. Oftentimes, the lesson is more about what is communicated… yet not overtly stated. A narrow path indicates a single file line; which demonstrates that, more often than not, those souls who find the path will find themselves walking it alone. Furthermore, that there are few who find it, clearly means that MOST people not only are not on the path to life (truth…the way) but are on the path to destruction. This means that most people are malignant, untrustworthy, liars, who “like to wear long phylacteries as a pretense…”

    My intellectual and moral superiority is given to me by Him. My intellectual and moral superiority are not issues for those who are confident in their own intellectual and moral superiority. My entitlement was given to me by His grace, and because He knows me by name, I am worthy of his many blessings. If I experience anger, it is righteous. I am not wrong because He revealed to me the truth as I was alone.

    As a result of His salvation, I am not counted among sinners as one who sins. I have been given divine authority by God Himself. I can cure and I can bless. Within my heart is the love of God. I am God’s chosen. The only reason my Lord tolerated the Jewish people is because it was from their lineage, his Son would be born. They are no longer His chosen people. This was made clear when Jesus cursed the fig tree, and when He told the Parable of the Vineyard Tennants.

    I cannot speak for anyone else except myself, and I can speak on His behalf because I am a faithful witness. He knows His sheep by name, He knows His own, and to everyone else… he will say “I never knew you.” It is my privilege to serve my Masters will. However, although it is not His will that any should perish, we can lead a horse to water… but I cannot make him drink. In fact, having seen and met the risen Lord Jesus personally, I can testify that almost everyone else is wrong.

    He created in me a clean heart and renewed my spirit. I no longer crave justification. No do I seek validation through trite superficialities like worldy achievements. The truth is that which opposes convention. It is out of your own need to validate your existence within the world which keeps you desperately seeking. We seek that which we have lost and do not have. Once we are found… we no longer seek. I am His and no one will snatch me from His hand. I do not need constant renewal because I no longer thirst after drinking the water He gave me. I no longer have to ask for it is already given. He speaks to me. I will share a parable He recently taught me:

    Jesus said to me “You are safer in the deepest darkest woods, alone among snakes then in a well lit room with another man.”

    While it is my duty to proclaim that which He has revealed to me in darkness… It is my disappointment that so few are ready for knowledge. This is obvious to me when so many people claim they know Him and are His… almost all “Christians”… yet I have not met a single one who has even undertaken the first lesson in the first few pages of the Handbook on the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

    1. Thanks for your comment and thank you for sharing some of your journey.

      There’s so much here that I tend to agree with from my own experience (that includes life experience and things I’ve learned from reading the Bible and listing to folks wiser than myself). For example, I tend to agree that the way may be far more narrow indeed than many of us may choose to believe. Although his “yoke is easy and…burden is light”, Jesus sure doesn’t make it sound like it’s easy to be a follower. I think that too often we read Luke 9:23 or reflect on stories like the rich young ruler (Mark 10) and think it somehow doesn’t apply to us in the same way. I know I’m guilty of it.

      I suppose one of the places where I’d have a question is what you say about intellectual and moral superiority. I’m struggling with that because of what Jesus teaches in Luke 18: 13 – 14…and perhaps because I’m no intellectual giant myself!

      I’ve found the truth of the Gospel to seem *almost* like a contradiction:

      On my own, I’m a worse sinner than I could ever have dreamed (Ecclesiastes 7:20), but yet I’m loved more than I could ever have imagined (John 3:16) even though I’ve never done anything to deserve it.

      Placing my faith in Jesus allows me to turn control over to a God who loves me (John 1:12), and live in a whole new way.

      I’m not sure if we’re saying the same thing (but in a different way), or not, but either way I wish you all the best. Thanks again for stopping by to read. God bless!

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