Upon my word, man is created weaker and more base than you supposed! Can he, can he perform the deeds of which you are capable?
In respecting him so much you acted as though you had ceased to have compassion for him, because you demanded too much of him—and yet who was this?
The very one you had loved more than yourself! Had you respected him less you would have demanded of him less, and that would have been closer to love, for his burden would have been lighter.
The lines above are from Dostoevsky's Legend of the Grand Inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov. In them, the grand inquisitor rebukes Jesus for valuing humanity too highly and expecting too much from fundamentally "weak and dishonorable" men.
And what constitutes the "too much" Jesus expects from mankind? In two words, freedom and love:
Thou didst desire man's free love, that he should follow Thee freely, enticed and taken captive by Thee. In place of the rigid ancient law, man must hereafter with free heart decide for himself what is good and what is evil, having only Thy image before him as his guide.
The essence of the kind of faith Jesus expects from his followers is that it be:
- directly known
- freely chosen
- keenly discerned
- internal / internally-validated
- heart-centered / love-centered
The totality of these aspects combine to form the unconquerable conviction that whole value of man is intrinsically connected to his freely chosen, creative participation in Creation -- in his participation in divine life and heaven.
When you stop to think about it, Jesus's high expectations don't seem that high at all, but they do entail relying on the internal rather than the external and taking personal responsibility for one's choices and faith.
Nevertheless, the grand inquisitor is quick to point out that that only a few "chosen ones" are capable of such things; the vast majority of humanity inevitably falls by the wayside:
"In what way is the weak soul to blame for not having the strength to accommodate such terrible gifts? And indeed, did you really only come to the chosen ones and for the chosen ones?
But if that is so, then there is a mystery there and it is not for us to comprehend it. And if there is a mystery, then we were within our rights to propagate that mystery and teach them that it was not the free decision of their hearts and not love that mattered, but the mystery, which they must obey blindly, even in opposition to their consciences."
Unlike Jesus, the grand inquisitor expects little from the "weak souls" but vows to correct Jesus's overestimation of humanity by providing a purpose for those unable to follow Jesus freely:
And that was what we did. We corrected your great deed and founded it upon miracle, mystery and authority.
And people were glad that they had once been brought together into a flock and that at last from their hearts had been removed such a terrible gift, which had brought them so much torment.
Were we right, to teach and act thus, would you say?
Did we not love mankind, when we so humbly admitted his helplessness, lightening his burden with love and allowing his feeble nature even sin, but with our permission?
The grand inquisitor presents himself and his institution as loving and merciful and Jesus's expectations as unrealistic, even cruel.
Is the grand inquisitor correct? Does Jesus expect too much from people?