I’ve just started reading Dante’s Inferno with my heathen high-schoolers. It’s been helpful to see the honest approach so many of them take to the issue of hell and paradise. It strikes them as odd, bizzare, and arbitrary for God to appropriate punishment and reward to those who just make a choice, or respond to an altar call, or some other shallow movement towards God. (This is not to say that they completely overlook the goodness of the movement.) While they are intriqued with the difficult idea of fate (or better put, predestination) they struggle with the concept of a God that would damn multitudes of people. They relate well when Dante himself struggles with the virtuous pagans in Limbo: a circle that is populated by the poet’s personal rock stars.
What struck me when I first read Dante, and what they are reassured by, is the reality of salvation. It cannot be something arbitrary and surface level. It is something that rips us apart and offers us great healing and transformation. It is so great and so manifold that it cannot be summed up simply.
Well, except for maybe this podcast here; which doesn’t offer much in the way of debate, but much in the way of the spirit of understanding what salvation is.