In fact, I have long thought that there are basically two kinds of people in the world: Tolstoy people and Dostoevsky people.
Sanders quotes literary scholar George Steiner on the differences between the two authors:
“Dostoevsky, advancing into the labyrinth of the unnatural, into the cellerage and morass of the soul; Tolstoy, like a colossus bestriding the palpable earth, evoking the realness, the tangibility, the sensible entirety of concrete experience; Dostoevsky, always on the edge of the hallucinatory, of the spectral, always vulnerable to daemonic intrusions into what might prove, in the end, to have been merely a tissue of dreams; Tolstoy, the embodiment of health and Olympian vitality; Dostoevsky, the sum of energies charged with illness and possession; Tolstoy, who saw the destinies of men historically and in the stream of time; Dostoevsky, who saw them contemporaneously and in the vibrant stasis of the dramatic moment…”
I would say that I tend to fall more in the Dostoevsky camp (I’ve also read much more Dostoevsky than Tolstoy), though I find Tolstoy immensely valuable. From my reading of the two authors, the world of Tolstoy is a world that can ultimately be grasped. Dostoevsky’s is a world where the individual is ultimately diminished in the face of a greater, often menacing transcendent order. Tolstoy’s ultimate concern is with all things immanent, where Dostoevsky leans more toward the transcendent.
Christian theology, of course, takes into account both the transcendent and the immanent. The incarnation of Jesus is the immanent embodiment of the transcendent God—the temporal manifestation of the eternal.
I agree with Sanders’ point that a person is either a Dostoevsky–inclined person or a Tolstoy–inclined person, but not both. It should be noted, however, that if a person follows either of these trajectories to the complete exclusion of the other, he or she will miss much.