15 May 2008

not quite to the point?

"Grace does not cancel out justice. It does not make wrong into right. It is not a sponge which wipes everything away, so that whatever someone has done on earth ends up being of equal value. Dostoevsky, for example, was right to protest against this kind of Heaven and this kind of grace in his novel The Brothers Karamazov. Evildoers, in the end, do not sit at table at the eternal banquet beside their victims without distinction, as though nothing had happened."

Spe Salvi
section 44

It seems to me, however, that Ivan Karamazov doesn't especially object to the reconciliation of the evildoer with the victim. In fact, he seems quite ready to accept this. What we cannot accept is that innocence should be violated for the sake of salvation.

"Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature — that baby beating its breast with its fist, for instance — and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, would you consent to be the architect on those conditions? Tell me, and tell the truth.”

“No, I wouldn’t consent,” said Alyosha softly."

The Brothers Karamazov, Book V.4

It seems to me that the crux of Ivan's complaint against Christianity is that it demands that innocent people suffer so that the world may be saved. It isn't the vision of the lion lying down with the lamb but the child covered in excrement that compels Ivan to say: "It’s not God that I don’t accept, Alyosha, only I most respectfully return him the ticket."

3 comments:

Jesse O. said...

I am in the process of reading The Brothers Karamazov. It is a delightful read. I have reached the point where Alyosha is going to Grushenka's with Rakitin.

rainscape said...

What is suffering? In distinction with pain, it is undergoing something without an explanation for its necessity. It is not sufferning if I am told to sit still and take an unpleasant medicine because I am sick, as long as this explanation is satisfactory to me.

We suffer where we undergo an experience that seems to demand explanation, but where there is none at hand. Therefore malice is a cause of suffering, because malice is illogical. Love is a cause of suffering, because we cannot give an account of why we love, why we are loved, or why we do not or are not, or any the strange combinations of love and non-love that in which we find ourselves related to others. The experience of things that we cannot explain(particularly those experiences where there is something unaccountable-for in their very make up) is the cause of suffering. We cannot give an account for those things which come to be from the mystery of freedom, and these are often the cause of acutest suffering because freedom causes something new to be, which seems even more impossible to account for than those things which have been for as long as we can remember. But everything that we ask "why?" about with something more than intellectual force is something that we suffer. Living with the question of why the world or oneself exists therefore is also a cause of suffering.

Whenever we encounter the mystery of freedom, someone else's, one's own, or even in some more obscure sense the freedom of the creator expressed in creating this and not that, or in choosing to create at all, we are in danger of suffering. But we are also in danger of joy, wonder, thanks. For one suffers happiness, beauty, and gift as well; these too are experiences whose very nature is bound up with being unable to account for. So many strong and good people have trusted that these two kinds of suffering freedom go together somehow. I think they must; to be vulnerable to rejection and wrong is part of being vulnerable to communion and care.

In the creation of free creatures, God made himself and his creatures vulnerable to both. He was not the architect of the particular acts of malice done to his creatures or to himself, although he knew these things would come pass, and thought it was worth it anyway.

Lykos the Myrmidon said...

I hadn't noticed your comments until now Adam. Or maybe I had and have forgotten.

You eloquently are stating the argument (not a new one) that it is apparently necessary, for there to be freedom, to allow for the possibility of evil. You argue, for instance:

"I think they must; to be vulnerable to rejection and wrong is part of being vulnerable to communion and care."

However, if God is truly omnipotent, then it would appear to me that he should not be constrained to make a world in which the possibility of good things somehow requires the possibility of bad things.