yourself who was right: you or the one who questioned you then?
Recall the first question; its meaning, though not literally, was
this: ‘You want to go into the world, and you are going empty-handed,
with some promise of freedom, which they in their simplicity and
innate lawlessness cannot even comprehend, which they dread and fear—for
nothing has ever been more insufferable for man and for human society
than freedom! But do you see these stones in this bare, scorching
desert? Turn them into bread and mankind will run after you like
sheep, grateful and obedient, though eternally trembling lest you
withdraw your hand and your loaves cease for them.’”
The Grand Inquisitor levels this accusation
at Christ in Ivan’s prose poem in Book V, Chapter 5.
The inquisitor is referring to the story of the temptations that
Satan offered Christ, and that Christ rejected. The Grand Inquisitor
sees Christ’s rejection of the temptations of Satan as responsible
for placing the intolerable burden of free will on mankind, and
for taking away the comfort of stability and security. The Inquisitor
says that when Satan tempted Christ to make bread from the stones,
Christ should have done so, and should have brought the bread back
to the people so that they would follow him in order to win the
security of being fed. Christ’s response—that man does not live
by bread, but by the word of God—gives men the freedom to choose
whether to follow Christ or not, without buying faith with security.
This notion of free spiritual will is central to Christian theology,
but as the Grand Inquisitor sees it, Christ has actually done mankind
a disservice by keeping people from obtaining security. Most people,
he says, are too weak to tolerate the burden of free will. As a
result, he says that “the one who questioned you then,” meaning
Satan, was right, and Christ was wrong. Ivan believes that mankind
is not competent to handle the awesome burden of free will, and
should have been given a leader to obey instead.