Friday, December 26, 2014

The Divine Comedy for Dummies

Haven't posted here lately.  Mostly because I didn't want to detract from existing content.  But this post shouldn't detract from the previous content much.  Even if the title says "for Dummies".

But those books for dummies are not all that bad either, y'know.  I read a good one on Islam.  And I know of a good one on playing bass guitar.  So don't just slough them off. And don't just slough this post off.

Now, obviously this post is some select quotes from Dante's classic book.  Quotes distilled from his finest theology in the final third of his book. Quotes that should give cultured pagans significant 'pause for their cause'.  Pause because their cause is so inept.

But before we jump into Dante's inferno, I should add a sermon that I promised to post here-
A classic evangelistic sermon that I promised to post from another blog of mine. From a blog intended for mature Christians only.

Now that above sermon is actually just the final third of one of Jonathan Edwards sermons.  A sermon that should give pagans significant 'pause for their cause' as well.   A sermon with many parallels to Dante- yet superior in many ways...

Not that Dante was a philisophical or theological slouch.  He was brilliant in many ways.  To his credit, he does a lot of piggy-backing on giants like Aristotle (who hated intentionally obscure poets) and Aquinas.  And Aquinas is basically paraphrased in Dante's Statement of Belief:

 I believe in one God, sole and eternal, who moves all the Heavens with love and desire, Himself unmoving. And I do not merely have physical and metaphysical proofs for such belief, but it is shown me also by the truth that flows from it, through Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms, through the Gospel, and through you, who wrote, when the ardent Spirit had made you holy [compelled you to write?].

-Paradiso Canto XXIV:115-154 Dante’s Belief [translation courtesy of A.S. Kline]



Yet Dante is tedious and irrelevant in his history, cosmology and numerology.  With more than a little sophistry to boot:

Then I heard [from "Oh, Eternal Light"]: ‘If everything that is learnt down there by teaching, were understood so clearly, there would be no room left for sophistry-

And Dante throws more than a little Mariology in the mix as well:

Then all the other lights rang out with the name of Mary 
 -Paradiso Canto XXIII:88-139 Gabriel 
An idolatry not too unlike his worship of fellow-pilgrim Beatrice in this Divine Comedy.  A real-life 9 year-old girl that Dante adored when he was already betrothed at the age of 12.  An inaccessible girl that Dante obsessed about.  That Dante was not so disposed to prudence as he claimed to be:

And Beatrice began to speak: ‘Give thanks, Give thanks to the Sun of the Angels, who, in his grace, has raised you to this visible sun.’ The heart of man was never so disposed to devotion, and so eager to give itself to God with all its will, as I was at those words: and my love was committed to Him so completely, it eclipsed Beatrice from memory.

And he says some dopey things too. One of the dopest things he says in this Comedy is:

‘If the world turned to Christianity, without miracles, that would be such a miracle that the others would not rate a hundredth of it 
-Paradiso Canto XXIV:88-114 The Source of Faith

But that claim is kind of dopey, because Dante was almost certainly witness to a prominent religion "without miracles".  Was witness to the sham of Islam.  And that graceless duping is nowhere near the miracle of raising people from the dead.  And is nowhere near the ex nihlo miracle of creating something from nothing.

Yet, let's focus on some cool things Dante says.  Some cool stuff that has been the object of some discussion at a prominent Blog recently.  And the object of the cool picture appended.

At this recent Koinonia post we have some discussion about eschatology (a subject that medieval-Dante was really big on).  A discussion on the Beatific Vision that Christians should actually be cultivating.  A discussion on whether we should be cultivating a vision of Heaven or cultivating a vision of the Creator of Heaven.  Dante rightfully appears to do both here.  Yet unlike Edwards, with inordinate emphasis on the former:

‘But tell me, you who are happy here, do you wish for a higher place, to see further, or to make yourself dearer?’ 
-Paradiso Canto III:61-96 God’s Will

And that is where I think that the author of that Koinonia post is rightfully critical.  Rightfuly critical of a beatific vision of a place- to the exclusion of the placemaker:

where the focus and emphasis falls upon the New Jerusalem rather than her chief occupant

Rightfully critical of a contemporary vision of 'where- rather than who':

forgetting that the best news of Christian bliss is not newness but nearness

So, for all you pagan slouchs out there- be warned:

Christians have a vision (though it may be dull and distracted at times)- while you have none. And your vision will earn you an inferno...


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