what is at stake in the tension between the views of faith presented in The Grand Inquisitor volume and the formal arguments (Ontological, Cosmological, Teleological) for the existence of god and for why one should have faith (Pascal’s Wager and the subsequent argument against arguments).
The Grand Inquisitor
The Grand Inquisitor volume presents an in-depth and perennial philosophical debate: the philosophy of religion and God’s existence. The arguments for and against God’s existence are debated by authors both theists and atheists developing theoretical foundations to support their claims. Formal arguments such as Ontological, Cosmological, Teleological, Pascal’s Wager shape and influence ways and reasoning of believing for the existence and the need to have faith, aspects highly contested by the Grand Inquisitor. Neither of these formal arguments are adequate to provide the ultimate answer nor do the objections and counter arguments such as the Grand Inquisitor. This essay finds that the value people have in the universe we live in and the life meaning derived are at stake in the tension presented in the Grand Inquisitor and formal arguments on the existence of God and faith.
The value placed on the universe or world we live in is measured by how good or bad it could be and how it could turn out. Questions on God’s existence and our need to have faith that God exists seek essential answers that explain what is to be valued in our universe. If God exists, then we believe the world should be peaceful free from suffering, maximizing people’s value and derivation of life meaning, as they believe in higher power and purpose. The ontological argument contends that if our mind conceives the possibility of God’s existence, then an infinite and all-perfect Being exists (Vaughn). Traits that accounts for ‘all perfect’ include being omnipotent, just, and omniscient. The Grand Inquisitor objects to this argument, arguing that he cannot accept God’s existence, a supreme being, described as perfect with absolute power. Yet, He allows the suffering to occur in the universe we live in and value. Further, regarding Jesus Christ’s answers to the three temptations, Jesus felt that every person had the free will to choose right from wrong and was an example of steadfast faith in their suffering. However, for the Grand Inquisitor, Jesus Christ’s responses placed people to the eternal burden of suffering, making them reject the comforts, wealth, and power brought about with material possession (Dostoyevsky).
Looking at these two views, a tension likely to instigate uncertainty, hesitation, and disorientation on the existence of God is created. If God is all-powerful and perfect, why does He let suffering, especially of the innocent or underserved occur? If God existed, why He would let his son, the messiah, instill a perennial burden among people. God would not force people to follow him due to free will. Hence, why did Jesus Christ already choose a hard path for humankind by selecting not to take bread and material comfort instead, asking people to believe in faith? This means that God permitted misery and suffering despite His all-perfect nature, presenting a paradox. This results in people thinking and questioning God’s existence, asking whether things would be different if God did not exist. When measuring the value and purpose of the universe by how good or bad it is, people can conclude that even with an “all-powerful, all-knowing, caring, and just God,” suffering and misery is part of our lives as God will not stop it since it was permitted in the firsts place (Vaughn). Secondly, we could think that humans have free will, but this is subjective and debatable, as it seems choices could already have been made for people. Thirdly, in reference to Pascal Wager’s argument on having faith, we stand at a chance or gaining and losing everything if we believe and not believe in God’s existence (Vaughn). However, the Grand Inquisitor shows that faith is for the strong, with the largest number being weak with increased doubt (Dostoyevsky). Thus, in a world with confirmed suffering, doubt supersedes faith. This results in confusion and diminishing value whether the universe could turn out differently, even without God’s existence. If the universe is not purposeful, then our life’s purpose is eliminated.
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor. The Grand Inquisitor. Aegitas, 2019. https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Grand_Inquisitor/ujuQDwAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=0.
Vaughn, Lewis. LIVING PHILOSOPHY CUSTOM: 2nd Edition. Oxford, 2018.
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