Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Closer Look at "The Grand Inquisitor"

Monday Dec. 19, 2016

source: https://wonderingfair.com

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
~John 8:31-32(ESV)

“No matter how hard Evil tries, it can never quite match up to the power of Good, because Evil is ultimately self-destructive. Evil may set out to corrupt others, but in the process corrupts itself.” 
― John ConnollyThe Infernals

“You think that your laws correct evil - they only increase it. There is but one way to end evil - by rendering good for evil to all men without distinction.” 
― Leo TolstoyChristians and the Law-Courts

     Christ sets us free, of that there can be no doubt! The freedom we have as members of Christ's body, and the mind-boggling scope of that freedom, is not easily grasped. We are inheritors of a peace that surpasses all understanding (Phillipians 4:7). So it was inevitable that an apostolic Church would arise to become a brokerage of that freedom and an earthly custodian of that peace. "Never," says the Grand Inquisitor in Ivan Karamazov's story, "was there anything more unbearable to the human race than personal freedom." Although this an extremely cynical comment on humanity, it is nonetheless true. The responsibility for one's own life, and the further onus of living a life worthy of the Lord for those in Christ (Colossians 1:10causes existential angst. It pits the inner man, who hungers for naught but the bread of life against the outer man who hungers for earthly bread and cares not for the bread of life. 

     The Grand Inquisitor acknowledges that the prisoner before him is indeed the Christ, but is completely unmoved by the fact. His long-winded complaint calls back to the two violent demoniacs in the country of the Gadarenes whom Jesus met during His travels (
Matt. 8:28-34): What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?" By this time the Grand Inquisitor has seen with his own eyes the miracles Christ has already performed in the town of Seville. The old man's hatred is being poured out on the silent prisoner not because he suspects fakery but because he knows it all to be real! (But is it? Ivan teases Alyosha with the possibility of this encounter taking place wholly in the warped mind of a senile cleric.) The Catholic Church of this story is in the possession not of Christ --who comes again as a slave-- but of Antichrist. 

     The Cardinal Grand Inquisitor is unambiguously a servant of Satan, one of the larger cogs in an eldritch and terrible machine. Ivan Karamazov, the teller of the story within the framing device of the novel, is the voice of Dostoyevsky's cynicism, despair, misotheism and misanthropy. He sees the shining city on a hill as an infernal device, a black flame that steals light from the world rather than giving it. The character of the Grand Inquisitor, as he himself implies, is living proof of the inadequacy of good and the inevitable victory of evil. Alyosha's cryptic response to the end of the story-within-a-story is to give his brother is the holy kiss of peace, the same as Christ had given the Grand Inquisitor. Judas Iscariot betrayed his Master in the Garden of Gethsemane this way, wordlessly marking him to the Jewish and Roman authorities. When the holy kiss is given by One who betrays evil itself, the black flame is snuffed out. All infernal devices are crushed underfoot. 




Brothers Karamazov Cliffsnotes

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Holiness and the Unholy Inquisition

Sunday Dec. 4, 2016

         "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!" rings the unending cry of the four seraphim surrounding the Throne of Yahweh in Revelation 4:8b. This is the absolute holiness of the One who lives for ever and ever, all-annihilating, unapproachable save for one small doorway at the end of a long and narrow path. It's a mockingly small doorway by any worldly measure, just big enough for the faithful to enter through if they grovel on hands and knees with their faces in the dirt. The holiness of the Lamb shines ever brighter as Church history yields ever more to the scrutiny of the present-day Christian conscience. The flashlight beam in the above illustration could represent God's "Holy-Vision" as He looks into the hearts of His human creatures and into the heart of the world we created along with the prince of darkness as its First Citizen. We are each born into many different kinds of ignorance but the most profound of these is the ignorance of God. We wallow in the darkness that is separation from God, and to be reunited with God is to have that Holy-Vision look on us, through us, and at last transform us into a channel for its own singular life. When this happens we become living channels in whom His own delight can manifest --through us-- into a dark world. We become the Body of Christ, the City of God. 

     Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov contains a prose-poem story told by Ivan to his brother Alyosha called "The Grand Inquisitor." It takes place in Seville, Spain during the Inquisition (1478-1834). The Grand Inquisitor, a Roman Catholic Cardinal, has at his mercy a prisoner whose identity is never confirmed but playfully suggested by Ivan (or Dostoyevsky) to be Jesus the Christ returned to earth after many centuries of absence. The bulk of the story is the Inquisitor's florid rant in the presence of a silent yet attentive prisoner. Judging from what he says, the reader learns that this old man, this Grand Inquisitor, is the uber-Pharisee. Arch-traitor to the cause of Christ. A viper from a brood of vipers. An unholy terror in the hearts of many. But why? Why did the Christian Church, founded on the rock of Petrine witness by Christ Himself, suffer such profanation? (Here I refer to the ekklesia of Dostoyevsky's little parable as much as its nonfictional counterpart). So, what happens after the City of God has been dashed against the gates of hell for twenty centuries? How much longer can this go on? In Matthew 16:18 (KJV) the promise given by Jesus to Simon Bar-jonah upon being called as "Peter" assures us that the Communion of Saints will endure the power of hell and the oblivion of the grave. I have seen how the corruption worms its way into the heart of all things holy and godly. This is a war of attrition in the spiritual realms. The unholy fire of auto da fé was the power of hell hungrily consuming the flesh of the Inquisition's most hated victims, the so-called Holy Office's most impenitent heretics. It was an unholy fire in the spiritual realm, striving to quench the Holy Spirit fire first poured out on men at Pentecost. Our God is an all-consuming fire, and it is God's Enemy that has been allowed to make war on the saints for the time being. 


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Our Shadows, Our Selves

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