Skip to main content

The Grand Inquisitor: Would we recognize Christ?

"For the secret of man's being is not only to live but to have something to live for.  Without a stable conception of the object of life, man would not consent to go on living, and would rather destroy himself than remain on earth, though he had bread in abundance.  That is true.  But what happened? Instead of taking men's freedom from then thou didst make it greater than ever!  Didst thou forget that man prefers peace, and even death, to freedom of choice in the knowledge of conscience, but nothing is a greater cause of suffering."  (The Brothers Karamazov, pg. 234)


In this powerful quote "The Grand Inquisitor" argues with Jesus about the nature of free will and choice.  This ingenious encounter is part of a large poem written by Ivan Karamazov as a way of proving his doubt of faith. The poem takes place during the 16th century, at the height of the Spanish Inquisition.  The premise of the poem is that the "Grand Inquisitor" is an agent working for the church who ruthlessly hunts, seeks to destroy anyone who opposes church teaching.  In the midst of all this turmoil Jesus come once again down to earth.  Jesus is instantly revered, and attracts a huge and devoted following. Because of his popularity and message of freedom and love the inquisitor arrests Jesus, and subsequently sentences him to death.

While Jesus is awaiting trial the inquisitor visits Jesus in his prison cell and begins to explain his opposition to his teachings.  His main argument is that Jesus' greatest error was that he gave people freedom of choice.  This freedom the inquisitor argues strips away man's security,  creating a life of extreme chaos and confusion.  The inquisitor argues that this freedom of choice has destroyed the church.  The inquisitor, who turns out to be an agent working for the devil goes on to explain that his church is the true church, the way it was supposed to be.  His church, promises security, and comfort.  His church also does not allow for it's believers to exercise their free will.  The followers instead are told what to do and for this exchange of personal independence they are guaranteed a lifetime of security, even if it causes them eternal damnation in the future.

This passage elicited two questions in me: 1) Is free will truly a gift from Christ? or is it a source of great suffering like the inquisitor argues? 2) If Jesus came down from heaven today would our church recognize him or wrongly imprison him again like the inquisitor did? 

Sit and ponder these questions.  I will revisit these themes in another blog.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

10 Great Quotes from The Book of Sirach

The book of Sirach is a book that is often overlooked in the bible. This is unfortunate since this book contains many wise, practical saying on how to live a virtous life. The book was believed to have been written between 200-175 B.C.E.

Here are ten quotes that I feel best reflect this timeless work.

1."Do not become a beggar by feasting with\borrowed money, when you have nothing in your purse." Sirach 18:33

2."In all you do remember the end of your life, and then you will never sin." 7:36

3.."Glory and dishonor come from speaking; a man's tongue is his downfall." 5:13"

4."A wise man is cautious in everything." 18:27

5."One who trusts others is light minded." 19:4

6."If you pursue justice, you will obtain it and wear it as a glorious robe." 27:8

7."Many have fallen by the edge of the sword, but no many as have fallen because of the tongue." 28:18

8." In all of your work be industrious and no sickness will…

George Michael, Carrie Fisher, and The Afterlife

I was stunned, as was most of the world was when I heard about the passing of George Michael on Christmas day.  Michael possessed enormous talent was and one of the most successful acts in the 1980's and early 90's

Shortly after Carrie Fisher died.  Fisher was famous for her legendary role as princess Leia from the Star Wars movies.  Strangely her mother also died the day after.

2016 was a notable year for celebrity deaths.

Some names include Prince, Glenn Frey, David Bowie,  Doris Roberts, Alan Rickman, and Muhammad Ali.

As a Catholic these deaths got me thinking about the transient nature of life and the inevitability of death.

Marcus Aurelius, the stoic, emperor, philosopher king wrote about the passing nature of life as he reflected, "Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away."

Even though I agree mostly with Aurelius&…

Me vs. The Almighty

There is a famous scene in the Bible where Jacob wrestles with God.  Jacob fights with God until God takes out a bone from Jacob's thigh. Interestingly, God eventually relents and stops fighting with Jacob. After this dramatic incident, Jacob is renamed Israel which literally means, "he who struggles with God."

I can relate to this story.  Many times in my life I have argued with God. I still do. (my wife can attest to that.) Many times I have criticized his tactics, his ways, and his wisdom. In my worst moments, I have even used choice language. I have a complicated relationship with God. Like Jacob, I have wrestled with God. (thigh bone still intact)

Recently I approached a priest friend of mine and told him of my struggles with God.  I expected that he would chide me for my lack of respect and informality. What this priest said was illuminating and encouraging. He told me that it was OK at times to be angry with God, God understood. He, in fact, encouraged this honest…