The Grand Inquisitor
For every Eugene, there’s an Ernie. Ernie was a frequent visitor at the home I shared with four other men prior to getting married. He was a thoughtful young man seeking answers for life’s questions. At times, we would engage in conversations about meaning and purpose in life. Ernie would often use me as a foil for his search for meaning. I wore my newly discovered Christianity on my sleeve and he liked to bring me into a debate on the existence of God. “I just can’t get myself to believe in God,” Ernie said. “In fact, the evidence I see makes me believe there is no God. When I read about children dying from natural disasters, it turns me away from believing in God. Then when I see Christians and others who believe in God add to these deaths in the name of their religion, I am totally turned off to the idea of God.”
I had recently finished reading Dostoevsky’s, Brothers Karamzov, in which the brother Ivan makes exactly this point, so I engaged Ernie in a spirited debate. If you have read the book, you will know that Dostoevsky counters Ivan’s skepticism with Alyosha’s, generous and loving spirit, which comes from his simple and unquestioning faith. But, to no avail. Ernie just wouldn’t have it. And so, I emerged from those discussions a wiser, but a sadder man, learning how hard it would be to transmit the joy, meaning, and purpose that I had found in my newly rediscovered faith.