Part 2, book 5, chapter 4: the Rebellion
1. How does Ivan summarize the problem of evil and what especially stands out to him?
2. Why doesn't Ivan think that suffering can ever be made right or atoned for?
3. Is Ivan correct that historic Christianity teaches that harmony, peace, or happiness, is the final goal of human history? What else could be the final goal and how might that alter things for Ivan?
4. How does Ivan understand forgiveness?
5. In what way is the last question Ivan asks Alyosha similar to the "free will defense" offered by many Christians to explain suffering and evil? Would Ivan say that free will justifies the suffering he mentions?
You see, Alyosha, perhaps it really may happen that if I live to that moment, or rise again to see it, I too, perhaps, may cry aloud with the rest, looking at the mother embracing the child's torturer, 'Thou art just, O Lord!' but I don't want to cry aloud then. While there is still time, I hasten to protect myself and so I renounce the higher harmony altogether. Its not worth the tears of that one tortured child who beat itself on the breast with its little fist and prayed in its stinking outhouse, with its unexpiated tears to 'dear, kind God'! Its not worth it, because those tears are unatoned for. They must be atoned for, or there can be no harmony. But how? How are you going to atone for them? Is it possible? By their being avenged? But what do I care for avenging them? What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don't want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of suffering which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price. I don't want the mother to embrace the oppressor who threw her son to the dogs! She dare not forgive him! Let her forgive him for herself, if she will, let her forgive the torturer for the immeasurable suffering of her mother's heart. But the sufferings of her tortured child she has no right to forgive; she dare not forgive the torturer, even if the child were to forgive him! And if that is so, if they dare not forgive, what becomes of harmony? Is there in the whole world a being who would have the right to forgive and could forgive? I don't want harmony. from love for humanity I don't want it. I would rather be left with the unavenged suffering. I would rather remain with my unavenged suffering and unsatisfied indignation, even if I were wrong. Besides, too high a price is asked for harmony; its beyond our means to pay so much to enter on it. and so i hasten to give back my entrance ticket, and if am an honest man i am bound to give it back as soon as possible. and that i am doing. its not God that i don't accept, Alyosha, only I most respectfully return Him the ticket."
"That's rebellion," murmured Alyosha, looking down.
"Rebellion? I am sorry you call it that, " said Ivan earnestly. "One can hardly live in rebellion, and I want to live. Tell me yourself, i challenge you--answer. Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, given them peace and the rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature--that little child beating its breast with its fist, for instance--and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, would you consent to be the architect on those conditions? Tell me, and tell the truth."
"No, I would not consent," said Alyosha softly.