If Voltaire had rejected the possibility of a logic that explains suffering, Dostoyevsky’s Ivan Karamazov admits the logic but rejects the theodicy on moral grounds. If the perfect happiness to which God is guiding the world was achievable only through the suffering of the little ones along the way, then Ivan declines to participate in that future as a matter of conscience. He rejects ‘anything that would make the suffering of children meaningful or necessary’ (p.41). No amount of future bliss could be ‘worth the tears of that one tortured child’.
For Hart, Karamazov’s objection is the one critique that should disturb Christians. Especially the Christians who wrote the ‘Christian responses’, critiqued above, to the Tsunami. For underneath Karazamov’s rebellion Hart detects the deep influence of a more deeply subversive rebel – Jesus of Nazareth. He sees Karamazov as a ‘secret’ prophet who exposes the blasphemous determinist and deistic distortions of the various Christian traditions, and calls us back to ‘the more complicated, “subversive” and magnificent theology of the gospel’ (p.44). Dostoyevsky’s critique of God cuts deeper than Voltaire’s, because while Voltaire denied that suffering was intelligible, Karamazov sees ‘that it would be far more terrible if it were’ (p.44).
This section on Karamazov is Hart at his best so far. Indeed there is an eloquent beauty and brilliance to his writing: carefully and patiently explained, persuasively analysed, passionately advocated. It is at once convincing, inspiring and disturbing. And all in nine pages!
In this first half, you could get away without the intro if in a hurry, the substance of the discussion is in p.16-44.
The second half of the book is titled Divine Victory, and offers Hart’s version of a more Christian approach to suffering.