Dante, Culture Wars, & The Church: Understanding Jesus’s View Judgement

The idea of placing one’s political enemies in the deepest and darkest depths of hell is neither a particularly modern nor even a post-post-modern concept. In 1314, the poet and theologian, Dante, spoke of how the inner ring of hell was reserved for Judas and Brutus, the greatest traitors in human history. Those with a Christian worldview can easily understand the placement of Judas. But why Brutus; why place the guy who stabbed Julius Caesar in the back next to guy who betrayed Jesus? Dante made such a placement because in addition to thinking about farting demons he also possessed a fascination with the Roman empire. In the third volume of his trilogy, Dante cast heaven into the shape of the Roman eagle. In other words, Brutus destroyed the very political and cultural system that Dante looked to for safety and security.

Most Christians today no longer seek to objectify and excoriate roman politicians who died a few thousand years ago. But at times, we do publicly express our deep resentment for those who voted ‘the wrong way’ and for those who promote sexual perversion of our culture. It’s not uncommon to find evangelical social media post condemning those dressed up as drag queens as being the worst human beings of all time…hanging out in the lowest levels of hell if you will. But, will they be?  

Who is the Worst Sinner?

To begin with, I want to clearly state that such acts are sinful. The ever-increasing acceptance of homosexuality and materialism within Western culture evidences the withdrawal of God’s blessing and the surety of his judgement (Rom 1:26-27). As the apostle Paul tells the Ephesians, “For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” The consequence of sin both individually and corporately will be divine judgement. That is not in doubt.

But what is in doubt in the quality of such sins. Though many evangelicals believe that the darkest rings of hell will be reserved for those who openly undermine our vision for society, Jesus reserves God’s most severe judgment for another class of sinners: those who reject the clear proclamation of the gospel.

When Jesus sends out the twelve disciples on their first missionary journey in Matthew 10, he offers this warning to those that reject their message: “Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town (Mt 10:15).” Then the next chapter over in Matthew 11:23-24, Jesus condemns the town of Capernaum with these words, “But I tell you it will be more tolerable on the day of judgement for the land of Sodom than for you.”

Jesus’s first audience understood Sodom’s prevailing sin (though the culture was also associated with many other sins such as covetousness) to be that of homosexuality. As the story of Lot and the angels makes clear, the men of Sodom wanted to sleep with the male messengers and not Lot’s unwed daughters (Gen 13:13; Gen 19:1-24). To be associated with Sodom was to be associated with great sin and the eternal judgement of God.

But according to Jesus, a greater sin than even homosexuality exists: the sin of rejecting the gospel. The old British Pastor, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, expanded upon this idea when he wrote,

The height of sin is not to feel any need of the grace of God…final self-sufficiency, and self-satisfaction, and self-righteousness is the sin of sins.

Undoubtedly many men and women leading the sexual revolution have heard and rejected the gospel of Jesus Christ. But so have countless numbers of nice moral guys who spend their weekend hunting and so have many kind women who walked their kids to the park this Sunday morning instead of church. Despite what we might imagine, the deepest and darkest spots in hell will not be reserved for Brutus nor drag queens but for those who have witnessed the glories of Jesus and politely said, “No thanks, I’m good; I’ll take it from here.”  In other words, God’s fury burns most hotly against those who once heard the gospel and then rejected it for either Sunday brunch or the baseball diamond. Those content to live content to live without grace will surely be consumed by fire.

What Do We Do?

What does such knowledge mean for us and our churches? First, we should evangelize those on the leading edge of the sexual revolution. We should call drag queens and those fighting to expand the rights and privileges of gay marriage to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. Stated differently, we should engage the public square with the truth of the gospel, longing to see sinners saved and culture redeemed. We have truth; we have light; and we should share it with our lost and dying world.

But we should also engage those in the parks, in the hunting cabins, and at the sports complexes who used to attend our churches. We should be concerned about those who can interact with Jesus and then live as if He never came than about those who voted the wrong way. Love demands that we call both those who never heard a sermon and those who heard hundreds and yet never followed Jesus to repentance…to worship the one true God.

The Real Problem?

The famous British pastor, John Stott, aptly said several years ago, “If society deteriorates and its standards decline, till it becomes like a dark night or stinking fish, there is no sense in blaming society; that is what happen when… human selfish is unchecked. The question to ask is, ‘Where is the church?” What shocking is not that the world tolerates the rejection of Jesus, but that countless manifestations of the local church that do, allowing members who never worship Jesus to stay on their roles and to shape their ethos…to dilute the light of the gospel. I suspect what the church needs today is less people like Dante who can creatively imagine Brutus in hell and more people like Stott who rightfully wonder where the church has gone. The next time you see a news story the portends the doom of your cultural ideals,