Author Topic: Dostoevsky's Paradox of Catholicism and the Gospel: The Grand Inquisitor  (Read 4317 times)

Offline Pon de Replay

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There is no question that pagans are examples of what it means to twist Creator - Creation relationship which St. Paul describe in Romans 1 and Jewish Christians could have interpreted that way (the NAB commentary is not wrong here in regard to Romans 1), but it is a non-sequitur to claim that he limits this condemnation to pagan Romans in context of the whole letter. What does Paul say immediately afterwards, in Romans 2?

Romans 2:1: You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.

Yes, of course.  But this doesn't negate anything of what I maintained about the passage: he deliberately singles out the Romans for their so-called pagan filth, and speaks of how God's wrath will be upon them.

And then he warns his brethren that they, too, may expect damnation if they will not be steadfast, excellent, and upright in the faith.  Conceded.  You can certainly label this a rhetorical trap being set for Jewish Christians (though Romans I.5-6 seems to indicate a Roman community of Gentile Christians), but nevertheless, the rhetoric itself depends on the drama he unspools: that of the wicked pagans getting their just desserts.  This is not a "non sequitur"—it's the essence of the passage.  Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus.  Confucius is damned and the Romans are doomed, but the Christian is special: the Christian has hope.  "The one who is righteous by faith will live."


« Last Edit: April 13, 2021, 03:56:43 PM by Pon de Replay »
If traditional Catholics like to call themselves "trads", in the context of a Catholic forum, that is fine usually.

But it is a matter for Catholics only to discuss.
 

Offline Xavier

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Quote from: Pon
But like many a zealot, Paul burned out.  It happens often.  You see it frequently on these traditional Catholic forums.

Hi Pon. I disagree that St. Paul burned out. He remained zealous until the end, the day of his Martyrdom under Nero with St. Peter. He was always zealous, first for Judaism, then for Jesus Christ. You could compare it to a devout Orthodox Christian poster who, let's say, is first convinced the Papacy is the Anti-Christ, and wars against it zealously; then, later on, he is convinced he was mistaken, the Papacy is truly of Jesus Christ, then zealously champions the Papacy until the end of his life. He always remained zealous. We would say, at first his zeal was misplaced, later on, it was properly placed. That is the only difference, but he never ceased to be greatly zealous in his own convictions.

I wish our friends would see St. Paul's Life for what it is: a great evidence and a manifest sign of the Presence, Power and Love of the Risen Christ. Only the Risen Christ could have effected so great a transformation as we see in St. Paul's Life. St. Paul was sure he had seen a Risen Christ, and went to his death as a Martyr for Jesus only because of that. God Bless.
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Offline Arvinger

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There is no question that pagans are examples of what it means to twist Creator - Creation relationship which St. Paul describe in Romans 1 and Jewish Christians could have interpreted that way (the NAB commentary is not wrong here in regard to Romans 1), but it is a non-sequitur to claim that he limits this condemnation to pagan Romans in context of the whole letter. What does Paul say immediately afterwards, in Romans 2?

Romans 2:1: You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.

Yes, of course.  But this doesn't negate anything of what I maintained about the passage: he deliberately singles out the Romans for their so-called pagan filth, and speaks of how God's wrath will be upon them.

And then he warns his brethren that they, too, may expect damnation if they will not be steadfast, excellent, and upright in the faith.  Conceded.  You can certainly label this a rhetorical trap being set for Jewish Christians (though Romans I.5-6 seems to indicate a Roman community of Gentile Christians), but nevertheless, the rhetoric itself depends on the drama he unspools: that of the wicked pagans getting their just desserts.  This is not a "non sequitur"—it's the essence of the passage. Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus.  Confucius is damned and the Romans are doomed, but the Christian is special: the Christian has hope.  "The one who is righteous by faith will live."

It is, again, misrepresentation of Paul's point. The Apostle does not merely say "if you do this too, you will be damned like the Romans" - that would imply that Christians are by default in better position than the pagans. Rather, his message to Christians and Jews in Romans 2 is: "you are like the Romans and you are no better then them". Paul demonstrates that everyone is in the same position before God (condemnation), therefore everyone needs justification in Jesus Christ, as he teaches in Romans 3. You miss Paul's main message from Romans 1 and 2 - universal sinfulness of mankind.

The bolded quote is most certainly wrong, because in Romans 2 St. Paul reveals that Romans 1 applies to Christians and Jews the same way as to pagans, therefore the former cannot claim any moral high ground over the latter. I think you are trying to fit your exegesis to your preconceived thesis.
 

Offline Pon de Replay

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The Apostle does not merely say "if you do this too, you will be damned like the Romans" - that would imply that Christians are by default in better position than the pagans. Rather, his message to Christians and Jews in Romans 2 is: "you are like the Romans and you are no better then them". Paul demonstrates that everyone is in the same position before God (condemnation), therefore everyone needs justification in Jesus Christ, as he teaches in Romans 3. You miss Paul's main message from Romans 1 and 2 - universal sinfulness of mankind.

Of course.  Massa damnata.  I'm not missing that.  All I am pointing out is that in teaching his doctrine of the universal sinfulness of mankind, Paul deliberately singled out the Hellenes to make his point.  The passage's strength comes from the Christian hearer delighting in God's wrath against the idolaters.  Conceded, "all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God," and conceded: Paul does turn things around on his reader to point out that they, like the Hellenes, are convicted of original sin.

But even with the universal sinfulness established, the Christian hearer is nevertheless able to enjoy God's wrath being poured out on the idolaters, because the old dispensation is over, and things are now in the age of Christ.  Paul says of himself and his Christians, "we boast in hope of the glory of God.   The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us" (Romans V.2,5).  The aforementioned pagans will go to eternal fire, because Paul imputes to them an innate knowledge of the Hebrew God (Romans II.14-19), a knowledge for which they are without excuse (Romans I.20).  And yet they persist.   Chapters later, they are "the vessels of wrath made for destruction by God, wishing to show his wrath and make known his power."  Whereas Paul and his Christians are "the vessels of mercy, which he has prepared previously for glory, namely, us whom he has called" (Romans IX.22-24).

The whole point of Paul's limning this doctrine of universal sinfulness is to draw out the unique, special, and gratuitous gift and privilege of being a Christian.  I don't see how that's not the overarching message of the epistle to the Romans.  You might be straining a gnat to swallow a camel here.
If traditional Catholics like to call themselves "trads", in the context of a Catholic forum, that is fine usually.

But it is a matter for Catholics only to discuss.
 

Offline Tennessean

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Additionally, the devil tempted Christ with political power, and has there ever been an institution that was so politically influencial as the Catholic Church? Not a single institution, the Roman Empire not withstanding, has managed to unite so much people under it's breadth and wield such political power as did the Catholic Church during the medieval period. The Pope could depose monarchs and wreck havoc on nations by excommunicating, could organize manpower and tax nations for crusades, etc.
The bezant, the only gold coinage in circulation through the Roman world until the 14th century, made the Byzantine Empire exceedingly more influential than any Pope or inquisition. Of course all the world's commerce came through Byzantium. The Emperors were the only men in Christendom who could mint gold coins, and once they lost the gold mines or the mines went bust, they had no way of meeting the market's need for more coinage. They had the West by the purse through most of the medieval period. The tyranny of Finance upon the earth, which we live in the aftermath of today, exceeds any medieval despot's wildest imagination. Maybe Dostoevsky couldn't see into the future, but I don't see Byzantium get nearly the criticism they deserve these days. They get a free pass as if the West were always the bullies, and I think this is absurd and stupid.
 

Offline DigitalLogos

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TL;DR

In "The Brothers Karamazov", Dostoevsky gives a parable where Christ comes back for a second into Seville, Spain, where the Inquisition grabs him and tries him for heresy.

In it, the Inquisition tells Christ to not bother them, because the Catholic Church had provided  all three temptations that the devil gave in the wilderness. For one, the Catholic Church provided the people with security, food, and sustenance, even though the devil himself tempted Christ with bread and with security from harm. Additionally, the devil tempted Christ with political power, and has there ever been an institution that was so politically influencial as the Catholic Church? Not a single institution, the Roman Empire not withstanding, has managed to unite so much people under it's breadth and wield such political power as did the Catholic Church during the medieval period. The Pope could depose monarchs and wreck havoc on nations by excommunicating, could organize manpower and tax nations for crusades, etc.

The inherent paradox which Dostoevsky seems to attack on Catholicism, and perhaps, Christianity itself, is that the monastic mode of living inherent in Catholicism is paradoxical to the needs of the every single person. Each person needs food, each person needs security, each person needs government and political power - so how exactly is Christianity compatible with human nature? And moreover, how could you unconditionally love humanity when they are so flawed, so weak, and so pathetic as to not be able to embrace the monastic mode of living, yet love the monastic mode of living all the same?

Thoughts?

Simple: "Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you." St. Matt. 6:33
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