15 April 2014

Faith vs Reason: The Inferno

For Literature class, we are reading Dante's Divine Comedy. It has been by far my favorite thing we've read this year. It's much less dry than, for instance, Plutarch's Lives, because it reads much more like a story. I finished the Inferno last week, and this week I'm writing an essay on it.
My essay involves how far one can get using Reason alone and when Divine Revelation has to take over. Virgil, being the embodiment of Reason in the Divine Comedy, leads Dante the pilgrim through Hell. He also guides Dante through part of Purgatory, but is obliged at one point to go no further and let Beatrice, a soul from Heaven who asked Virgil to guide Dante through Hell, lead him the rest of the way. This exchange illustrates the point that one cannot reach the Beatific Vision using only Reason. There are certain things about God and creation and virtue that require Faith, because they cannot be understood by the minds we were endowed with. God's revelations to Man help us to comprehend Him a little further, but we shall never be able to understand fully until we reach Heaven.
The Bible says, "Man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the Mouth of God." (Mt. 4:4) Without the wonderful things God reveals to us, we would have a much poorer Faith. The Bible itself was written through revelation from God to its  holy authors. There are many aspects of our Faith that can be proved through reason, such as the existence of God, but there are far more that are beyond human reason.
Virgil says goodbye to Dante the pilgrim and puts him in the care of Beatrice, the allegory of Divine Revelation. Dante the author is making a very obvious point here: reason alone isn't good enough to get into Heaven. Using the intellect is right and good; after all, God created it for us. But relying on the things of earth and not looking to the things of God (Faith, for instance) doesn't get us far enough. Even more telling is that Virgil is in Limbo--not really in Hell, but he is in the place where those who were virtuous but did not know God stay. As he puts it, they had the four cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude) but not the three most important theological virtues (Faith, Hope and Charity). God had not been revealed to them in life, and they were not permitted a revelation of Him in the afterlife. In Limbo, the souls are not in torment, but they live without hope of a greater place.

No comments:

Post a Comment

If you don't have a blogger account, click on Name/URL and put in your name. [Comments are moderated.]