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Free Will vs Security

"Instead of taking men's freedom from them thou (Jesus) didst make it greater than ever." -Fyodor Dostoevsky

In Fyodor Dostoevsky's masterpiece, The Brothers Karamazov , there is a section that speaks about a character called the grand inquisitor. In this revealing account the grand inquisitor argues with Jesus about the nature of free will.  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 comes once again 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 contends that this freedom of choice has destroyed his church. The inquisitor's church instead 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.

There are 6 reasons why I believe that the inquisitor's church is wrong: 
  1. It doesn't give a person the choice to worship or not to worship God. The person believes because they have no other choice. The inquisitor becomes God in this scenario.
  2. It makes a heaven out of earth.  By giving security the person will have no desire for an afterlife. Why believe in an afterlife when life on earth is so good?
  3. The individuality of the person is lost.  The person gets lost in the shuffle of the collective whole. What separates Christianity from most belief sets is it's emphasis on the importance of each, individual person.
  4. It strips the initiative of person to improve their life.  A key ingredient of growth is uncertainty. This is the opposite of what the inquisitor promises.  In the inquisitor's church the person will never develop their full potential. There is no such thing as uniqueness in the inquisitor's church.
  5. It doesn't explain or give an adequate response to the question of suffering.  In the inquisitor's church suffering simply doesn't exist.  But this is impossible since suffering is a very real part of existence. In the past, different societies and political ideologies have sought to explain suffering by simply ignoring it. 
  6. True freedom doesn't cause chaos. The converse is true; throughout history the most chaotic, dysfunctional, and even evil societies have all attempted to strip the freedom of its members for the promise of a more Utopian society. 
Just as the above examples show how the inquisitor's church was wrong, they also show how Christianity is right.  Jesus was and is personal. A follower of Christ has an intimate relationship with Him  As in all relationships, there are doubts, difficulties, and sacrifices. Christianity does not promise earthly ease and comfort.  What it does promise however, is a real and eternal relationship with a God that created us out of a ferocious love for mankind. This same God wants nothing more than for us to freely and without coercion to decide to follow Him.  That is true freedom. 


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