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

No comments:

Our Shadows, Our Selves

"Like my shadow, I am and I am not." ~Rumi       God shows us what moves in the darkness so we might flee int...