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Discussion - Paradise Lost > Paradise Lost--through Book 3

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message 1: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments The tune changes a bit here, doesn't it?


message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

The tune changes a bit here, doesn't it?

Yes. But the rhythm is still DA dum DA dum DA dum DA dum DA dum.


message 3: by MadgeUK (last edited Jun 23, 2010 10:08AM) (new)

MadgeUK There are some very sad lines here when Milton, as Narrator, speaks to God about the the 'stygian' despair (depression?), 'Chaos and eternal night' he felt when he became blind. He chides God who 'Revisit'st not these eyes, that roll in vain...and find no dawn' then finally consoles himself by thinking of other renowned men who were also blind and hopes that God will throw 'celestial Light' upon his Muse:-

Thee I re-visit now with bolder wing, (III:105)
Escap'd the Stygian pool, though long detain'd
In that obscure sojourn, while in my flight
Through utter and through middle darkness borne,
With other notes than to the Orphean lyre
I sung of Chaos and eternal Night;
Taught by the heavenly Muse to venture down
The dark descent, and up to re-ascend,
Though hard and rare: Thee I revisit safe,
And feel thy sovran vital lamp; but thou
Revisit'st not these eyes, that roll in vain
To find thy piercing ray, and find no dawn;
So thick a drop serene hath quench'd their orbs,
Or dim suffusion veil'd. Yet not the more
Cease I to wander, where the Muses haunt,
Clear spring, or shady grove, or sunny hill,
Smit with the love of sacred song; but chief
Thee, Sion, and the flowery brooks beneath,
That wash thy hallow'd feet, and warbling flow,
Nightly I visit: nor sometimes forget
So were I equall'd with them in renown,
Thy sovran command, that Man should find grace;
Blind Thamyris, and blind Maeonides,
And Tiresias, and Phineus, prophets old:
Then feed on thoughts, that voluntary move
Harmonious numbers; as the wakeful bird
Sings darkling, and in shadiest covert hid
Tunes her nocturnal note. Thus with the year
Seasons return; but not to me returns
Day, or the sweet approach of even or morn,
Or sight of vernal bloom, or summer's rose,
Or flocks, or herds, or human face divine;
But cloud instead, and ever-during dark
Surrounds me, from the cheerful ways of men

Cut off, and for the book of knowledge fair
Presented with a universal blank
Of nature's works to me expung'd and ras'd,
And wisdom at one entrance quite shut out.
So much the rather thou, celestial Light,
Shine inward, and the mind through all her powers
Irradiate; there plant eyes, all mist from thence
Purge and disperse, that I may see and tell
Of things invisible to mortal sight.



message 4: by toria (vikz writes) (last edited Jun 23, 2010 10:01AM) (new)

toria (vikz writes) (victoriavikzwrites) | 186 comments Milton’s hatred of Catholicism really shines through in this book. The venom flows on pages 74-76 (lines 489-500) when he speaks of the robbed Jesuits, with their relics and dispensations, being “blown” out of the reach of salvation. Anyone see Luther’s influence here?


message 5: by MadgeUK (last edited Jun 23, 2010 10:21AM) (new)

MadgeUK Yes, he puts catholics in Limbo and portrays Satan passing over a 'dark globe' where:

Then might ye see (III:489)
Cowls, hoods, and habits, with their wearers, tost
And fluttered into rags; then reliques, beads,
Indulgences, dispenses, pardons, bulls,
The sport of winds: All these, upwhirled aloft,
Fly o'er the backside of the world far off
Into a Limbo large and broad, since called
The Paradise of Fools, to few unknown
Long after; now unpeopled, and untrod.

Luther, of course, protested about the sale of indulgences and this kick started the Reformation:-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indulgence

Milton's first published tract 1641) was Of Reformation which opposed the concept of central church government (such as England then had), which Luther also opposed. Like many English Puritans Milton believed that congregations should govern themselves.


toria (vikz writes) (victoriavikzwrites) | 186 comments Whst do you think of God's arguments concerning man's free will and man's fall at the beginning of this book?


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

MadgeThere are some very sad lines here when Milton, as Narrator, speaks to God about the the 'stygian' despair (depression?), 'Chaos and eternal night' he felt when he became blind.

Anyone with particular interest in this will find the Yale lecture on blindness very interesting. If I understood the case Rodgers is building Milton felt that he was to blame for the blindness for some reason. And also that it was precipitated by something he ate--in which case his physical fall would mirror those of Adam and Eve.

There was an interesting digression about Milton's lament elsewhere that God designed eyes to be so frail and small. He wishes we could see light the way we can touch and feel with every part of our bodies. This is related to his monism which was explained as the soul being infused throughout our material being.


message 8: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1743 comments In Book II, Satan sits enthroned before the denizens of Hell. Beelzebub describes what needs to be done, and there is an awkward silence. Finally Satan volunteers. In Book III, God sits enthroned before the denizens of Heaven. He describes what needs to be done, and there is an awkward silence. Finally Christ volunteers. Charming symmetry, but it rubs me the wrong way, The uncreated God, Creator of all, should not be sitting on a throne and monologuing like one of His creations. Michael, not God, is the opposite of Satan (as C. S. Lewis says somewhere). It seems to me that Milton has let his heroic imagery lead him into absurdity.


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

I noticed that same pattern Roger, but Milton's treatment of God is unusual, to say the least, in this whole poem so far. Nothing seems accidental about the way he writes, so I'm trying to figure out why he did it this way. It looks very deliberate to me, rather than absurd. I haven't watched the Yale lecture on Book 3 yet so maybe it will give me some ideas.


message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

FWIW Kate (and others), I am finding that I get more from these lectures when I listen to them (in my car) or read the text as he speaks. With all due respect to his knowledge and erudition, I don't find much in the visual presentation that holds me.

And it strikes me as odd that Yale lecturers (and for that matter politicians) continue to rely on the talking head approach as the preferred way to deliver important information to an audience.


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

Zeke wrote: "And it strikes me as odd that Yale lecturers (and for that matter politicians) continue to rely on the talking head approach as the preferred way to deliver important information to an audience. ..."

*snort* Yeah I read along too and wish his lecture notes were actually sourced. But he says interesting things that would have never occured to me. Like when he was discussing the line structure of the poem and the eroticism of the enjambed phrasing. (Book 1 I think)


message 12: by Jeremy (last edited Jun 23, 2010 07:24PM) (new)

Jeremy Doan (qnormal) Lines 51-55:
So much the rather thou Celestial light
Shine inward, and the mind through all her powers
Irradiate, there plant eyes, all mist from thence
Purge and disperse, that I may see and tell
Of things invisible to mortal sight.


Blake, from A Vision of the Last Judgement:

The Last Judgment is an Overwhelming of Bad Art & Science. Mental Things are alone Real; what is Calld Corporeal Nobody Knows of its dwelling Place; it is in Fallacy & its Existence an Imposture. Where is the Existence Out of Mind or Thought? Where is it but in the Mind of a Fool? Some People flatter themselves that there will be No Last Judgment, & [P 95:] that Bad Art will be adopted & mixed with Good Art, That Error or Experiment will make a Part of Truth, & they Boast that it is its Foundation. These People flatter themselves; I will not Flatter them. Error is Created; Truth is Eternal. Error or Creation will be Burned Up, & then & not till then Truth or Eternity will appear. It is Burnt up the Moment Men cease to behold it. I assert for My self that I do not behold the Outward Creation & that to me it is hindrance & not Action; it is as the Dirt upon my feet, No part of Me. “What,” it will be Questioned, “When the Sun rises, do you not see a round Disk of fire somewhat like a Guinea?” O no no, I see an Innumerable company of the Heavenly host crying “Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty.” I question not my Corporeal or Vegetative Eye any more than I would Question a Window concerning a Sight: I look thro it & not with it.

The power of true art is that it lets us see what is true behind what is visible. Part of the genius of Milton is the enormity of his vision conveyed in this epic poem. I for one sense that I am seeing only a fraction of what can be seen.


message 13: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4572 comments MadgeUK wrote: "Yes, he puts catholics in Limbo and portrays Satan passing over a 'dark globe' where:

Then might ye see (III:489)
Cowls, hoods, and habits, with their wearers, tost
And fluttered into rags; then..."


Interesting that there is a limbo for Catholics (aka "Embryos and Idiots") even before the Fall. It seems a bit overweening to me, as if Milton felt he had the same foreknowledge that he imputes to God. Maybe this falls in line with John Rogers's suggestion that Milton thought he was a new prophet.


message 14: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Vikz wrote: "Whst do you think of God's arguments concerning man's free will and man's fall at the beginning of this book?"

They make perfect sense to me.


message 15: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4572 comments Roger wrote: "In Book II, Satan sits enthroned before the denizens of Hell. Beelzebub describes what needs to be done, and there is an awkward silence. Finally Satan volunteers. In Book III, God sits enthrone..."

The parallel seems sound to me, as long as a distinction is made between God and Jesus. Satan is the agent of evil who has volunteered to sow sin and death; Jesus is the agent of God, who will redeem him. Both are volunteers, one for corruption and destruction, the other for redemption and life.


message 16: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 23, 2010 09:10PM) (new)

Thomas, that parallel is fairly straight forward. But if you back up from there you get to what Roger is talking about. Satan enthroned before his fallen angels asking for a volunteer to carry out his wishes and God is enthroned before his angels asking for someone to volunteer to sacrifice himself. Satan is his own agent, while Jesus is God's, but God and Satan are both presented as enthroned:

Satan:
High on a Throne of Royal State, which far
Outshon the wealth of Ormus and of Ind,
Or where the gorgeous East with richest hand
Showrs on her Kings Barbaric Pearl and Gold,
Satan exalted sat,
Book I

God:
From the pure Empyrean where he sits
High Thron'd above all highth,
Book III

Of course, the wording is clever. Satan sits on a "Throne of Royal State" which Milton the republican saw as having no particular validity.


message 17: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4572 comments Kate wrote: "Thomas, that parallel is fairly straight forward. But if you back up from there you get to what Roger is talking about. Satan enthroned before his fallen angels asking for a volunteer to carry ou..."

If I understand this correctly, the objection is that there can only be one King. But I think Satan is a monarch in name only -- he is the rebel leader, the royal opposition. I took this as understood, but maybe I'm still not seeing the issue here.


message 18: by MadgeUK (last edited Jun 23, 2010 11:06PM) (new)

MadgeUK Zeke wrote: "...to blme for his blindness..."

In the 17C (and sometimes in ours) people would see blindness as a punishment for sins. Glaucoma was thought to be the cause. There are some interesting comments on his blindess in relation to PL here:-

http://www.dur.ac.uk/resources/theolo...

(A story goes that Milton dictated the whole of PL to various people, writing 40 lines each morning for 5 years! If a secretary was late Milton used to grumble: 'I want to be milked, I want to be milked'!! )


message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

Yes, he is the rebel leader, the royal opposition. That is an interesting juxtaposition of near equality in the way that Milton structured the poem. Satan being a monarch in name only is a post hoc bit of knoweledge because we already know the eventual outcome, i.e. he loses.

But looking at the story itself, and pruning away what we already know of Bible, Milton has given God and Satan close to equal stature, and Satan is contesting with God, not the Son. If we didn't know better, the outcome could be presumed to be in doubt. Kind of like the Restoration after the fall of the Protectorate. I'm sure Cromwell and his son considered Charles II to be a monarch in name only as well.


message 20: by MadgeUK (last edited Jun 23, 2010 11:08PM) (new)

MadgeUK Roger: As the image of God on a throne comes from Revelation 4 and is one which has been frequently used in literature and in art, Milton was presumably using this image of God to satirically mirror Satan, 'High on a throne of royal state', at the beginning of Book II?

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?...


message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

Vikz wrote: "Whst do you think of God's arguments concerning man's free will and man's fall at the beginning of this book?"

I think he was tying himself in knots trying to claim that omniscience about who was going to fail was not the same as making them choose to do so and that predestination does not obviate free will. I don't think he was altogether successful.


toria (vikz writes) (victoriavikzwrites) | 186 comments Laurele wrote: "Vikz wrote: "Whst do you think of God's arguments concerning man's free will and man's fall at the beginning of this book?"

They make perfect sense to me."


What parts of the arguments are the most convincing?


message 23: by MadgeUK (last edited Jun 24, 2010 07:40AM) (new)

MadgeUK This little essay makes a useful comparison between Milton's ideas about predestination and freewill:-

http://www.associatedcontent.com/arti...


Milton disagreed with Calvin's theory that God took pleasure in arranging the Fall or in man's disobedience and wrote in Book III:-

What pleasure I from such obedience paid, (III:107)
When Will and Reason (Reason also is choice)
Useless and vain, of freedom both despoiled,
Made passive both, had served necessity, 110
Not me. They therefore as to right belonged,
So were created, nor can justly accuse
Their maker, or their making, or their Fate;
As if Predestination overruled

Milton expresses an Arminian view that Man has the free will to either choose or reject obedience to God, and by doing so, Man is made responsible for his decisions to serve either Satan or God, as illustrated in Book II when God said:-

.......I else must change (II:125)
Their nature, and revoke the high decree
Unchangeable, eternal, which ordained
Their freedom, they themselves ordained their fall
Self tempted, self-depraved: man falls deceived
By the other first: man therefore shall find grace

Quite a lot of Protestants in Milton's day were Arminians and he appears to support their arguments both in Aeropagitica and PL. Perhaps Laurel could elucidate further on this?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arminianism

BTW Milton was thought of by his contemparies as being rather 'contrary' on religious matters and one of them wrote: 'He is so much an enemy to usual practices that I believe that when he is condemned to travel to Tyburn in a cart, he will petition for the favour to be the first man that ever was driven forth in a wheelbarrow' !


message 24: by [deleted user] (new)

MadgeUK wrote: "This little essay makes a useful comparison between Milton's ideas about predestination and freewill..."

Rogers makes brings up much the same points in the Yale lectures and follows on with Milton's non-Trinitarian views on God and the Son. Interesting character, isn't he?


message 25: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK He was probably infuriating to know!


toria (vikz writes) (victoriavikzwrites) | 186 comments MadgeUK wrote: "He was probably infuriating to know!" LoL

Most great men/women are. I always ask myself, had I been alive in ancient Greece, would I be one of those calling for the death of Socrates. Just imagine how annoying it would have been. Your minding your own business, buying things in the local market or paying your bills, when Socrates starts asking you questions about morality. In admire Socrates from a safe historical distance but...


message 27: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Vikz wrote: Laurele wrote: "Vikz wrote: "Whst do you think of God's arguments concerning man's free will and man's fall at the beginning of this book?"

They make perfect sense to me."

What parts of the arguments are the most convincing?


The whole thing. God created man to be free so He would have a person with whom to fellowship, not a puppet. God knew ahead of time what man would do with his free will, because He is outside time: He sees all of history and pre-history at once. Just as man was free to fall, he is also free to accept Christ's sacrifice for him and come back into fellowship with God. God knows who will do that, but He lets us make the choice.

I think we sometimes give terms to ideas and think the term embodies the idea completely. Then we set up an opposite idea in the same way and say one has to believe one or the other but not both. I think we have to look at the ideas in their entirety and realize that we, like Pooh, can say "Both."


message 28: by Laurel (last edited Jun 24, 2010 10:10AM) (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments MadgeUK wrote: "This little essay makes a useful comparison between Milton's ideas about predestination and freewill:-

http://www.associatedcontent.com/arti..."


That is a beautiful statement of what I believe, Madge. I like this: "In life, everyone must decide which freedom to pursue: freedom from God or freedom from self."


message 29: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK I guess some thought that about Jesus too:D. A prophet is without honour in his own country etc.

Puritans overall seem very priggish and self-righteous and although I admire many of their ideas, I don't think I would like to have lived under their household rules.

There are some telling insights into Milton's character in this chapter from a 1907 edition of the Cambridge History of English Literature:-

http://www.bartleby.com/217/0503.html


toria (vikz writes) (victoriavikzwrites) | 186 comments MadgeUK wrote: "There are some telling insights into Milton's character in this chapter from a 1907 edition of the Cambridge History of English Literature:-

http://www.bartleby.com/217/0503.html"

Thanks, this looks really interesting.



message 31: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 24, 2010 11:26AM) (new)

Just as man was free to fall, he is also free to accept Christ's sacrifice for him and come back into fellowship with God.

In discussing this and asking my questions, I am referring to the poem's logic and Milton's beliefs, not those of contemporary Christians.

When I read the following lines, it seems as if Adam and Eve's repentence should be sufficient:

To Prayer, repentance, and obedience due,
Though but endevord with sincere intent,
Mine ear shall not be slow, mine eye not shut.
And I will place within them as a guide
My Umpire Conscience, whom if they will hear, [ 195 :]
Light after light well us'd they shall attain,
And to the end persisting, safe arrive.


Along with free will, God is giving conscience with which to understand one's lapse and correct it. Salvation lies within oneself.

It would not seem necessary for His son, who is clearly a separate character and not part of any Trinity, nor the co-equal to God, to die.

Yet within lines, God has pivoted sharply and he says,

But yet all is not don; Man disobeying,
Disloyal breaks his fealtie, and sinns
Against the high Supremacie of Heav'n, [ 205 :]
Affecting God-head, and so loosing all,
To expiate his Treason hath naught left,
But to destruction sacred and devote,
He with his whole posteritie must dye,
Dye hee or Justice must;


This sounds almost petulant; a God of justice, but not mercy.

Am I alone in perceiving echoes of Abraham and Isaac, for me, the most disturbing story in the Bible?


message 32: by [deleted user] (new)

MadgeUK wrote: "Puritans overall seem very priggish and self-righteous and although I admire many of their ideas, I don't think I would like to have lived under their household rules.
..."


I've always suspected that had a lot to do with why the royalists won out in the end. All of the issues of taxation and military revolt aside, the English were probably aching to let a little profligacy and color back into their lives.

Nice link.


message 33: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 24, 2010 11:42AM) (new)

This paragraph from the Yale course sheds some light on what the professor thinks Milton is endeavoring to do in Book III:

Now, Milton lays the groundwork for his sweeping vindication of God in the discussion in Book Three between the heavenly Father and his Son. This is essentially the same theology that Milton will establish in the theological treatise that he's writing at the same time that he's writing Paradise Lost, On Christian Doctrine, parts of which were assigned for today's class. Now it's important for Milton to establish something like -- and this is what he gets to do in the venue of the prose treatise as opposed to the poem: he has the opportunity to establish a theoretical basis for a lot of his beliefs and thus a theoretical basis for his vindication of God. He needs to prove theologically, not just poetically or narratively, that God did not place Adam and Eve in the garden with the intent or with the purpose in mind of punishing them for eating the fruit. He needs to convince himself and he needs to convince his reader, Milton does, that the fact of God's foreknowledge of the Fall doesn't in any way cause the Fall. This is a huge worry not just for Milton but for all philosophically minded Christians, that the faculty of free will is a genuine faculty -- this is something that Milton really needs to believe -- and that it's not just some papier-mâché concept pasted together by a cynical and manipulative deity or by a cynical and manipulative poet.

We've had a fair degree of discussion about the ways in which the failed revolution influences the poem. Rodgers adds an interesting view that the poem also reflects the transition from Absolutism (Divine Right of Kings, etc) to John Locke and "liberal" economies and politics.


message 34: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Zeke wrote: This sounds almost petulant; a God of justice, but not mercy.

Again, I reply, "Both." Also holiness and righteousness. The sin must be punished, but not, necessarily, the sinner, if a substitute can be found. The sinner can find mercy.


message 35: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4572 comments The section in the Christian Doctrine on predestination is very interesting. Milton argues that the Fall is foreknown by God (not predestined, since it was a free choice) while salvation is predestined. Furthermore, this predestination is dependent on belief, which must of course be a free choice.

Hence it seems that the generality of commentators are wrong in interpreting the foreknowledge of God in these passages in the sense of prescience; since the prescience of God seems to have no connection with the principle or esseanse of predestination; for God has predestinated and elected whoever believes and continues in the faith.

I think I understand how in this sense God operates outside of time, but I don't see how it can lead to a convincing theodicy. I can understand how the ways of God are in this sense impenetrable by the time-trapped human mind, but not how they can be justified. It seems to me a matter of faith rather than understanding.


message 36: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1743 comments Thomas wrote: "The section in the Christian Doctrine on predestination is very interesting. Milton argues that the Fall is foreknown by God (not predestined, since it was a free choice) while salvation is predest..."

Good point: there is a difference between justifying God and showing that we shouldn't expect to be able to comprehend a justification. I think Isaiah is saying the latter in 45:9: "Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker--an earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, 'What are you doing?' Or the thing you are making say, 'He has no hands'?" Milton wants to do better than this, but it's not clear to me that he succeeds.

God made man knowing that he would fall (if through his own free will). Why did He not make man so that he would not fall, again through his own free will? Presumably because that is impossible--there is some logical contradiction in the idea that is not evident to us. Why then make man at all? Presumably because Creation would be poorer without man than with fallen and redeemed man. So goes the classic explanation as I understand it. It's not quite "Don't argue, you're just a pot," but it still takes a lot of faith if you ask me.


message 37: by Tom (new)

Tom Vikz wrote: "MadgeUK wrote: "He was probably infuriating to know!" LoL

Most great men/women are. I always ask myself, had I been alive in ancient Greece, would I be one of those calling for the death of Socrat..."


That stuff happens all the time on the subway here. I guess I would have just ignored Socratese and stared at my Kindle.


message 38: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Thomas wrote: I think I understand how in this sense God operates outside of time, but I don't see how it can lead to a convincing theodicy. I can understand how the ways of God are in this sense impenetrable by the time-trapped human mind, but not how they can be justified. It seems to me a matter of faith rather than understanding.

I would agree to that. Certain kinds of understanding can come only after faith. They are spiritually discerned.


message 39: by MadgeUK (last edited Jun 25, 2010 01:24AM) (new)

MadgeUK Zeke wrote: "Rogers adds an interesting view that the poem also reflects the transition... "

Yes, if you remember I posted about this both in our Richard II discussion and in my first 'potted history' on the politics thread. After various tyrannies imposed by the king, including those which led to the Bishop's Wars and the appointment of the crypto-catholic Archbishop Laud, the people were rebelling against both the idea of DRK (absolutism) and the changes made to church rituals by Laud, which were backed by the King:

http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/...

In 1750 Thomas Newton commented on lines 836-8 of Book XI, which describe why God sent The Flood 'To teach thee that God attributes to place/no sanctity, if none be thither brought/By Men who there frequent, or therein dwell.':-

'These lines may serve as one instance, [of Milton's opposition to Laud:] and I think he plainly here alludes to the manner of consecrating churches used by Archbishop Laud which was prodigiously clamoured against by people of our author's way of thinking, as superstitious and popish.'

Puritans thought that places of worship, wherever they may be, could only be sanctified by God's presence. Archbishop Laud was beheaded in 1644 'for endeavouring to subvert the laws to overthrow the Protestant religion'.

Archbishop Laud was what has been described as an 'Arminian of the Right' and Milton originally wrote that Arminians 'deny originall sin' (1642) but in 1673 he changed his mind and wrote that 'The Arminian...is condemned for setting up free will against free grace; but that Interpretation he [Arminius:] disclaims in all his writings, and grounds himself largely upon Scripture only.' Milton has been called an 'Arminian of the Left' - once again he was being 'contrary':). Like the disputes between the Church of England and the Catholic church, the disputes about Free Will and Predestination seem set to run and run!

All these challenges to the King, to his Bishops and Archbishop, led to Puritans thinking 'outside the box' about liberty and equality, which in turn prepared the way for the liberalism of Locke and other 18C thinkers. As I posted earlier, I think we should feel grateful to the Puritans, no matter how priggish and righteous they may seem to our 21stC way of thinking.


message 40: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 25, 2010 06:07AM) (new)

Madge and Rodgers,as well as this discussion, have really helped me better understand the importance of the 16th century. As I wrote before, it has been a kind of blank in my generalists knowledge.

One of the things I still find intriguing is that the so-called Protestant Ethic which, arguably contributed to the rise of industrialization, liberal economics, etc. was first practiced by people who felt their salvation or damnation was predestined. They were striving not to prove their faith, but to demonstrate their election.


message 41: by MadgeUK (last edited Jun 25, 2010 09:55AM) (new)

MadgeUK But weren't they proving their faith by trying to live as Christ told them to do in the Sermon on the Mount (and elsewhere)? As we now see it, and as Roger here has also noted, their morality, discipline and industry helped them to acquire wealth as a by product.

http://www.famousquotes.me.uk/speeche...

Unfortunately, the acquisition of wealth, which had hitherto been 'beyond the dreams of avarice' for many of the yeomen in the New Model Army, was their undoing, their introduction to 'Mammon', and it was not until later centuries that liberal economics led to ways of distributing wealth more fairly.

There are other references to the Sermon on the Mount in Book 9 when Adam and Eve make a rather capitalistic division of their labour but more of that when we get there:). And of course the same Sermon with its 'city on the hill' inspired John Winthrop and the Puritans who left for the New World in an earlier period.

BTW, I don't know whether I have mentioned this or not but John Bunyan, author of The Pilgrim's Progress, was a Puritan soldier in the New Model Army and was later imprisoned for not giving up preaching after the Restoration. He wrote PP during the first six months he was in prison, published it in 1675 and was subsequently imprisoned many times for preaching and for publishing seditious literature. Like Milton, Bunyan was openly anti-catholic - the chapter on Vanity Fair, for instance, portrays the Fair as selling the 'Ware of Rome, which our English nation have taken a dislike thereat.' After the Restoration only CofE churches, preaching and literature were allowed under the 'Act of Uniformity'. It was this which caused many Puritans, especially Quakers, to emigrate to America.


message 42: by Eliza (new)

Eliza (elizac) | 94 comments Zeke wrote: "Just as man was free to fall, he is also free to accept Christ's sacrifice for him and come back into fellowship with God.

In discussing this and asking my questions, I am referring to the poem's logic and Milton's beliefs, not those of contemporary Christians.

When I read the following lines, it seems as if Adam and Eve's repentence should be sufficient:

To Prayer, repentance, and obedience due,
Though but endevord with sincere intent,
Mine ear shall not be slow, mine eye not shut.
And I will place within them as a guide
My Umpire Conscience, whom if they will hear, [ 195 :]
Light after light well us'd they shall attain,
And to the end persisting, safe arrive.

Along with free will, God is giving conscience with which to understand one's lapse and correct it. Salvation lies within oneself.

It would not seem necessary for His son, who is clearly a separate character and not part of any Trinity, nor the co-equal to God, to die.

Yet within lines, God has pivoted sharply and he says,

But yet all is not don; Man disobeying,
Disloyal breaks his fealtie, and sinns
Against the high Supremacie of Heav'n, [ 205 :]
Affecting God-head, and so loosing all,
To expiate his Treason hath naught left,
But to destruction sacred and devote,
He with his whole posteritie must dye,
Dye hee or Justice must;

This sounds almost petulant; a God of justice, but not mercy. "


I see both justice and mercy exemplified in these passages. Mercy in that anyone who accepts it receives forgiveness, and justice in that even forgiveness does not erase the consequences on the action. I think that the second passage instead of being a departure from the first is simply stating that death is the unalterable consequence of sin, that along with forgiveness someone must actually pay the physical consequence.

The best practical example I can think of is that of a child being told not to touch a stove and doing it anyway. We can forgive the disobedience but the burn remains as a consequence.


message 43: by [deleted user] (new)

Elia, I think I partially agree with part of what you say, and partially disagree--or don't fully understand it.

Mercy in that anyone who accepts it receives forgiveness What is the "it" in this sentence? Is it mercy or something prior to that?

justice in that even forgiveness does not erase the consequences on the action. Of course, forgiveness does not erase consequences, but neither does punishment.

Though I'm no biblical scholar, to me, the God of the Old Testament is many things, but not a merciful one. i would welcome examples that alter that feeling.


message 44: by Laurel (last edited Jun 25, 2010 08:49PM) (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Zeke wrote: Though I'm no biblical scholar, to me, the God of the Old Testament is many things, but not a merciful one. i would welcome examples that alter that feeling.

You can start by simply searching for the word "merciful" in the Bible. In the King James Version, it appears twenty-five times, all in the Old Testament. This shows at least that the people of the Old Testament thought of their God as being merciful. http://www.biblegateway.com/keyword/?...

And you might remember this from Messiah:

Isaiah 40:11
He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.

You have to know Him, though, to feel His gentleness and mercy, I think.

That being said, I don't think that Milton does a really good job in characterizing God the Father here in Book 3. Poetry that puts words into God's mouth usually does fall flat, though.


message 45: by MadgeUK (last edited Jun 25, 2010 10:25PM) (new)

MadgeUK I think that Milton is trying to 'justify the ways of God to man' here and gets deep into the explanations of why God does and says some 'unmerciful' things. He is also trying to explain the difference between early Calvinism and later beliefs about predestination v. free will. The second part of John Roger's lecture on Book 3 is excellent on the argument between God and the Son, why God appears to be cruel etc. and why Milton, at this point in PL, makes him so.

It was after all a very difficult thing to explain to people who so firmly believed in Calvinism/predestination, why all that had happened in the world and was about to happen, including all the horrid things, were known to God. It does not make him appear merciful at all and Milton knew that this needed explaining if his 'justification' were to succeed. At this stage of PL it is difficult to see whether Milton's method is working because God seems rather a cruel and bad-tempered character but will he have changed our minds by the end of PL?

http://academicearth.org/lectures/par...

Rogers also makes a brilliant case of comparing the authoritarian nature of God as perceived by Calvinists and the more liberal/libertarian one Milton perceived him as being, and also its relationship to the economics of the day. This particular lecture is well worth listening to because it throws a lot of light upon these very difficult arguments about predestination v. free will and the change which was occurring in people's thinking at that time, as a result of these arguments. For Christians now it is all 'done and dusted' but for Puritans of Milton's day these were terrifying thoughts.

As a political person, I liken these arguments to those that our society had at the beginning of WWII - to appease or not to appease, or over the war in Iraq - invade or not to invade? In Milton's day these religious differences were being debated every day - pamphlets were being published, meetings were being held, preachers were preaching, public ('soap-box') arguments were being heard. They were cause celebre and absolutely dominated the life and literature of the time. An idea of the importance of religious literature can be seen from the publication of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress in 1678, which outsold the Bible and was republished annually for years afterwards, and some of his earlier 'Hellfire' sermons attracted audiences of 9000 people!


message 46: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4572 comments Roger wrote: "God made man knowing that he would fall (if through his own free will). Why did He not make man so that he would not fall, again through his own free will? "

It will be interesting to see how Milton treats the Tree of Knowledge. To some extent I think what Milton intends to do -- look into the mind of God and explain it -- charts a similarly dangerous course.


message 47: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 26, 2010 05:38AM) (new)

Those more experienced with the poem make good comments about the need to "wait and see" about God's "character." He does seem on shaky ground in Book III and, with Thomas I suspect that Book IV and the Tree of Knowledge is going to raise a similar discussion.

The internet's ability to provide instant concordances is wonderful. A quick analysis of the 38 instances of the word merciful shared by Laurele does, indeed, yield a majority of positive references. However perhaps a third of the total are pleas for mercy and one is a request to show no mercy to the writer's enemies.

Laurele, and others, I would genuinely welcome thoughts about the story of Abraham and Isaac in this context. To me it is one of the biggest stumbling blocks in the bible. As a child, when I first heard this account, it terrified me. Now it mostly confuses me. Why would God test and toy with his devoted follower this way?

Also, it seems pertinent to this discussion since in Book III we learn that God, himself, feels himself "compelled" not only to accept his son's sacrifice but to see it carried out.

(There is a recent Israeli movie that explores this theme called My Father, my Lord.)


message 48: by Dianna (new)

Dianna | 393 comments Zeke I also have problems with that story and also with the story of how Lot offered his daughters to the wicked men of the city of Sodom so they would not defile the angels. I am glad I live in a time of "enligntenment" but I wonder how much of our own belief system will be looked on as unenlightened in the centuries to come.


message 49: by Eliza (new)

Eliza (elizac) | 94 comments Zeke wrote: "Elia, I think I partially agree with part of what you say, and partially disagree--or don't fully understand it.

Mercy in that anyone who accepts it receives forgiveness What is the "it" in this s..."



The "it" in my awkward sentence was forgiveness.


message 50: by [deleted user] (new)

Thank you. Makes sense.


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