Dante the Christian Unifier
From an essay I have on Patheos today, talking about how Dante and his Divine Comedy can serve as a point of Christian unity for Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox:
So a Catholic poet, an Orthodox priest, and a Southern Baptist therapist walk into a bar…
It sounds like the set-up for a theology joke, but (minus the bar) this is the oddball team God sent to rescue me from the dark wood in which I was trapped a couple of years ago. The amazing experience taught me a lesson in how Christian brothers can work together, across time and traditions, to help each other walk the road to our Father’s house.
Christians today live in a time of chaos and trial for the church, but one of this era’s blessings is how we Christians are working together across our divisions, and learning to see things of value in other traditions. In particular, the world of classical Christian education has opened the minds of many contemporary believers to the wisdom of the pre-modern Christian past.
Dante Alighieri stands near a hinge point in Christian history. He is close enough to the 1054 schism cleaving East and West so that strong echoes of Eastern Christianity can still be resoundingly heard in his poem today. And he writes as a Western Christian in the twilight of the European church’s unity, before many of the very things he excoriates in his symphonic hymn to the glory of God would shatter the bonds of fellowship forever. I believe that Dante can serve as a figure of unity and a source of fellowship for all believers today.
Read the whole thing. This morning I was reading more in Robert Louis Wilken’s history of the early church — the chapter on the iconoclastic controversy, and how the church affirmed the Incarnation by affirming the value of images — and I thought, wow, this is all in Dante.
Pre-order How Dante Can Save Your Life, willya? Your spiritual life will be better for it. So will your Sunday School or catechism classes. Eric Metaxas says, “Sometimes a book comes along that you want to press into the hands of everyone you know. A brilliant, searingly honest account of one man’s path to real healing, and an invitation to the rest of us to join him.”