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Discussion - Paradise Lost > Paradise Lost--Through Book 12

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message 1: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments So we come to the end of our epic journey with Milton. We started in hell, visited chaos, earth, Heaven, saw the beauties of Paradise and the wickedness of Satan, spent considerable time with Adam and somewhat less with Eve, heard the future of the human race described, and now we come to the end of the journey.

Time to discuss not only Book 12, much of which continues the to-be-historical future which Adam and Eve's progeny will see, but also the work as a whole.

I happen to think that the final lines of PL are some of the most touching in all of literature. Is there anything to match it for both pathos and hope?

They looking back, all th' Eastern side beheld
Of Paradise, so late thir happie seat,
Wav'd over by that flaming Brand, the Gate
With dreadful Faces throng'd and fierie Armes:
Som natural tears they drop'd, but wip'd them soon; [ 645 :]
The World was all before them, where to choose
Thir place of rest, and Providence thir guide:
They hand in hand with wandring steps and slow,
Through Eden took thir solitarie way.



message 2: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments One theological issue raised in Book 12, which we alluded to in passing earlier but now can return to in full voice, is the question whether the Fall was in fact a blessing for Man. Milton clearly thinks so. But this is far from a universal viewpoint. Was it, or wasn't it?

And, of course, we now are ready to form our views on whether Milton succeeded in his stated goal to justify the ways of God to man. Did he?


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

I agree with Everyman about the power of the closing lines and image. Extremely moving. However, the lines also raise a question: If Providence is their guide, why is their way "solitary?"


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

On a lighter note. A cartoon from a recent New Yorker.

Adam and Eve sit on a rock underneath the tree. Before them a small fire with a grill-spit.

Caption: No one said we couldn't eat the snake.


message 5: by Dianna (new)

Dianna | 393 comments lol Zeke...Now if the Children of Israel were to have eaten snake it would have been a sin...

http://kosherfood.about.com/od/kosher...


message 6: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Zeke wrote: " However, the lines also raise a question: If Providence is their guide, why is their way "solitary?""

What do you take Providence to be in this usage? If he had written "necessity their guide" would you have the same question? Or Love their guide?

I checked with the OED to see how Providence was used in Milton's day, but came up without anything specific. The primary definitions are the act of providing without a named actor (first usage 1426), foresight or timely care (first usage 1382), or the care and government of God (back to 1300s).

Whatever, though, I don't see it conflicting with solitary. When you use GPS to navigate a backwoods trail, you're still solitary, aren't you?


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

That's a very solid response Everyman. And I suppose a lot depends on the meaning of Providence to Milton. Since it is capitalized in the original, it seems to me that it must, at a minimum encompass the meaning, "the care and government of God (back to 1300s)."

I'm not persuaded that it means a kind of amorphous "support" to him. Especially in view of the fact that, in his time, Calvinist predestination is surging.

Frankly, the Existentialist in me prefers (and is more moved by) the idea that they must find their way alone in a world which God has (seemingly?) abandoned.

But that position is still challenged by the mention of Providence.


message 8: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Zeke wrote: "That's a very solid response Everyman. And I suppose a lot depends on the meaning of Providence to Milton. Since it is capitalized in the original, it seems to me that it must, at a minimum encompa..."

I confess that I am not really sure what Milton meant by it. Nor can I find a note to it in any of my copies of PL.

But I do remember that in Book 1 Milton said he would "assert Eternal Providence,'
And justify the ways of God to men."

This seems pretty clearly to me to suggest that Providence, at least in this usage, is something separate from God. Interesting that in the beginning he asserts Providence and in the end it provides the guide for A&E. So Providence bookends the poem and aids both the author and the subjects.

With that recollection in mind, I decided to do a search on Providence to see whether that would help us understand what he meant by it. Here are a few instances:

At 1.160, Satan and Beelzebub are talking, and Satan says:
To do ought good never will be our task,
But ever to do ill our sole delight, [ 160 :]
As being the contrary to his high will
Whom we resist. If then his Providence
Out of our evil seek to bring forth good,
Our labour must be to pervert that end,
And out of good still to find means of evil;


Here Providence seems to be a tool of God.

At 2.557, during the debate of the fallen angels, we find

Others apart sat on a Hill retir'd,
In thoughts more elevate, and reason'd high
Of Providence, Foreknowledge, Will and Fate,
Fixt Fate, free will, foreknowledg absolute,


Here, Providence is more linked in with attributes than anything else.

In Book 11, the term Providence apparently isn't used, but the note to the Dartmouth on-line edition says:

"Despite these criticisms, book 11 does merit and reward close attention from a careful reader. Both the opening scene in Heaven and Michael's presentation of "future" history continue to explore many of the theological issues that Milton features throughout Paradise Lost: the relationship between the Son and the Father, the distinction between predestination and foreknowledge, and the nature of divine Providence, to name a few. Rogers discusses two different kinds of Providence that he sees Milton attempting to reconcile in his article "Milton and the Mysterious Terms of History.""

So even Rogers is apparently unclear about exactly how Milton uses the term.

And later in the same notes:
"The Law I gave to Nature. John Rogers observes that this is the first of two methods of expulsion the Father discusses; in this passage, ordinary providence (the law God gave to Nature) will automatically expel Adam and Eve's now-sinful bodies from Paradise."

So here, one meaning of providence is said to be the law God gave to nature.

There's a bit more, but I'm being called to dinner. YOu can do the looking further yourself at the Dartmouth PL site --
http://www.dartmouth.edu/~milton/read...


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

Everyman I hope you had a nice dinner. You certainly left us much to feed on. Still, for me, the question of what providence means to the exiled couple is left unresolved. Is it a gift they can call upon? Or is it a challenge they must meet? Still unclear.


message 10: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK Great post Everyman!


message 11: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Zeke wrote: "Everyman I hope you had a nice dinner. You certainly left us much to feed on. Still, for me, the question of what providence means to the exiled couple is left unresolved. Is it a gift they can cal..."

Rogers apparently has thoughts on this. I haven't listened to all his lectures to see whether it's something he discusses, but someone with time on their hands and a nose for research -- say a retired person with insomnia living in a nice garden flat [g:] could download and go search the transcripts of his lectures and see whether they could find anything.


message 12: by MadgeUK (last edited Aug 25, 2010 07:14PM) (new)

MadgeUK Everyman wrote: '...say a retired person with insomnia living in a nice garden flat....'

LOL. Couldn't possibly mean me - I live in a semi detached house:D:D:D.

I am fairly happy with the OEED definition of Providence and providence and feel that the English language is unlikely to have strayed much in this regard since Milton's time:

1 The protective care of God or nature.
2 God in this aspect.
3 timely care of preparation, foresight, thrift

Latin root: providentia = foresight, prudence, from pro = ahead and videre to see [a root which Milton would have known:].

This seems to accord sith the American College Dictionary's definition of 'the foreseeing and guardianship of God over his creatures...a manifestation of his divine care or direction'.

So I see A&E as now being under the protection of a prudent God with foresight, which I thought was the case with all their progeny up to and including the 'sinners' on earth at the present time.

I also find it interesting that the other Old English meaning of provident is to be frugal or economical so there is also a subsidiary meaning here of not being wasteful or extravagant with God's bounty. This would be in keeping with Puritan beliefs.

I feel that Milton chose the word very carefully, fully knowing the above meanings.


message 13: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 25, 2010 07:18PM) (new)

Everyman wrote: "But I do remember that in Book 1 Milton said he would "assert Eternal Providence,'
And justify the ways of God to men."

This seems pretty clearly to me to suggest that Providence, at least in this usage, is something separate from God"


I read that completely differently. Using the definition "the care and government of God (back to 1300s)" in that quote makes it sound as if Milton could be saying "I will assert the eternal oversight and care of God for mankind, thereby justifying the ways of God."

The other bookend could have a similar meaning, where God and their adherence to God's will provides guidance.

The real question is weren't they always solitary? Or is it that they are now alienated from the natural world that surrounds them, which they weren't before.


message 14: by MadgeUK (last edited Aug 25, 2010 07:54PM) (new)

MadgeUK Everyman wrote: '...say a retired person with insomnia living in a nice garden flat....'

LOL. Couldn't possibly mean me - I live in a semi detached house:D:D:D.

I am fairly happy with the OEED definition of Providence and providence and feel that the English language is unlikely to have strayed much in this regard since Milton's time:

1 The protective care of God or nature.
2 God in this aspect.
3 timely care of preparation, foresight, thrift

Latin root: providentia = foresight, prudence, from pro = ahead and videre to see [a root which Milton would have known:].

This seems to accord sith the American College Dictionary's definition of 'the foreseeing and guardianship of God over his creatures...a manifestation of his divine care or direction'.

So I see A&E as now being under the protection of a prudent God with foresight, which I thought was the case with all their progeny up to and including the 'sinners' on earth now.

I also find it interesting that the other Old English meaning of provident is to be frugal or economical so there is also a subsidiary meaning here of not being wasteful or extravagant with God's bounty. This would be in keeping with Puritan beliefs.

I feel that Milton chose the word very carefully, fully knowing the above meanings.

Here is the transcript of Rogers' Lecture 19 on Book 12 which, as Everyman says, has quite a lot about 'providence' in it. It is well worth reading and does seek to explain the questions Zeke has already put. The last four paragraphs are particularly apposite and they also deal with the 'solitariness' of A&E. Rogers ends with this controversial idea:-

'...[Milton is:] liberating a conception of Providence that has been enslaved and silenced by orthodox Christian theologians. It's as if the notion of Providence had been enslaved by the literal-minded doctrinaire readers of Genesis. Milton wants us to know that it is our good fortune as readers of Paradise Lost that we have John Milton -- John Milton, like some wandering knight in a chivalric romance -- to come to the rescue.

You'll remember the note on the verse that Milton had appended to a later printing of Paradise Lost, explaining why his poem didn't rhyme. Milton told us there that he was saving poetry from the troublesome and modern bondage of rhyming. Milton was liberating poetry from a type of enslavement, but Milton is trying to save us as readers, too, I think -- to save us from our enslavement, freeing us from the shackles of what he takes to be are the shackles of religious orthodoxy, from normative social and poetic conventions, and to save us from the shackles of the tyranny of literary tradition. He has attempted in Paradise Lost to free us finally from the troublesome and modern bondage of literary reading.'


http://oyc.yale.edu/english/milton/co....


message 15: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Kate wrote: "The real question is weren't they always solitary? Or is it that they are now alienated from the natural world that surrounds them, which they weren't before. "

Didn't they always have angels around to talk with them and protect them (but not perfectly!)? Perhaps that's what Milton means -- they go forth without any the presence or protection of Michael or Raphael or any other angels.


message 16: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments MadgeUK wrote: "Here is the transcript of Rogers' Lecture 19 on Book 12 which, as Everyman says, has quite a lot about 'providence' in it. It is well worth reading and does seek to explain the questions Zeke has already put. "

Thanks for locating that from the comfort of your semi-detached non-flat. [g:]

Zeke, does it answer, or at least address, your question?


message 17: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK LOL. It was an insomniacal pleasure at 4am:):).


message 18: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments MadgeUK wrote: "LOL. It was an insomniacal pleasure at 4am:):)."

Glad to help you get through the night.


message 19: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK You have been doing that for years Everyman:D


message 20: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1723 comments For all of Milton's sexism (as we would put it), it's hand in hand and side by side that Adam and Eve walk into their new home, it isn't Adam leading a chastened Eve. I don't recall God or His angels saying anything to indicate they thought Eve more blameworthy than Adam, either. My impression is that Milton wants to present an ideal marriage as a partnership, though with strongly defined roles that we 21st century types don't automatically accept. Adam is definitely the head of the family, but Eve has her role too and Adam can't make it without her.


message 21: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK Yes, I guess Milton wants to present the ideal marriage he never had.


message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

I think all of the responses to my question deepened my understanding of the passage. I still see a tension, if no longer an antithesis, between Providence and solitary though, as others point out through their different interpretations, perhaps that is Milton's point.

Kate's comment about alienation from nature was an interesting one. I've been troubled throughout the poem by the ways in which the natural world is abused for the needs of Satan or the angels. I'll reference Thoreau once again; "In wildness is the preservation of the world." The fallen A&E may be under God's providential care, but, as Books 11 and 12 show us, the natural world is in for a rough spell.


message 23: by Rhonda (new)

Rhonda (rhondak) | 202 comments I am curious as to how one could read (in Book XII) that God has in any way abandoned Adam and Eve.
Milton says in Book 12:
But God who oft descends to visit men
Unseen, and through thir habitations walks…

It just doesn’t sound like you can say he has abandoned anyone

Michael, in Book 12, has explained to Adam the history of the world and the ultimate return of Jesus Christ. That, with beginning in the Garden and ending with Revelation, seems to cover the entire plan of God. Michael explains that overcoming Satan will be a manner of erasing his deeds by obeying God’s law and through love, referring to Romans 13.
Moreover Milton has Adam say:
Henceforth I learne, that to obey is best,
And love with feare the onely God, to walk
As in his presence, ever to observe
His providence, and on him sole depend,
Merciful over all his works, with good [ 565 :]
Still overcoming evil, and by small
Accomplishing great things, by things deemd weak
Subverting worldly strong, and worldly wise
By simply meek; that suffering for Truths sake
Is fortitude to highest victorie, [ 570 :]
And to the faithful Death the Gate of Life;
Taught this by his example whom I now
Acknowledge my Redeemer ever blest.


Adam recognizes the need to obey God’s laws and to fear God. He further recognizes that God is ever merciful in all things. The central issue of suffering for truth is raised as a central tenet for not only the two expelled from Paradise but for mankind in general. This concept remains important for Milton. Suffering is the means by which Christ advocates overcoming death and he delivers life through removing mankind’s sin.

In addition, in Eve’s dream, she receives the basic knowledge of how the prophecy of Satan’s end will come to be. It is God who has promised that the heel of the woman’s seed will crush the head of the serpent. However it is interesting that Eve doesn’t get it quite right. She says:
Art all things under Heav'n, all places thou,
Who for my wilful crime art banisht hence.
This further consolation yet secure [ 620 :]
I carry hence; though all by mee is lost,
Such favour I unworthie am voutsaft,
By mee the Promis'd Seed shall all restore.


She gets the main idea but Adam wasn’t expelled because of Eve’s actions and it isn’t exactly her seed that will restore things. It is interesting that Milton is probably suggesting that Eve is in need of a little guidance. Adam wisely decides to bring up the issue at another time. I wonder whether Milton was trying to use humor here. Otherwise he is depicting Eve as a little light on the reasoning about prophecy. Still no prophet got the whole interpretation correct, no matter what he or she saw, so perhaps this is excusable.


Michael says:
Through all his Realme, and there confounded leave; [ 455 :]
Then enter into glory, and resume
His Seat at Gods right hand, exalted high
Above all names in Heav'n; and thence shall come,
When this worlds dissolution shall be ripe,
With glory and power to judge both quick and dead [ 460 :]
To judge th' unfaithful dead, but to reward
His faithful, and receave them into bliss,
Whether in Heav'n or Earth, for then the Earth
Shall all be Paradise, far happier place.


What is quite interesting here is that Milton has understood that heaven comes literally to the remade earth. In any case, Milton shows how much better off everyone will be…if, of course, he or she is faithful to God during life. This includes not just peripheral love, but obedience to his laws.

Lastly we have a clear and undeniable explication of the Holy Spirit, although we ought to assume that he has been busy all through the poem from Book I.
Be sure they will, said th' Angel; but from Heav'n [ 485 :]
Hee to his own a Comforter will send,
The promise of the Father, who shall dwell
His Spirit within them, and the Law of Faith
Working through love, upon thir hearts shall write,…


The difference between Book XI and XII is quite interesting and I expected them to be similar. However Book XII was a lot like watching a Bible history program on the History Channel where the fast forward was stuck. Milton did a remarkable job on explicating the entire scenario, even covering the difficult history between the testaments which ultimately resulted in Herod, a foreigner, as king.
The last lines remind me of the famous Blake painting of the angel escorting the man and woman out of the garden. Still as they have no where to go and are by themselves, they have been given the great hope that mankind shall prevail. The poetry was very even the scholarship almost worthy of awe, the focus on certain events somewhat inconsistent, but all in all, I think, assuming his premises, Milton did a fine job of justifying God to men.


message 24: by MadgeUK (last edited Aug 26, 2010 09:54AM) (new)

MadgeUK Gustave Dore seems to visualise the earth to which A&E are banished as having had some sort of nuclear holocaust:-

http://www.creationism.org/images/Dor...

William Blake does not show the earth at all but seems to indicate them being accompanied by the Four Horses of the Apocalypse instead, so presumably A&E are entering a world which has pestilence, war, famine and death:-

http://www.pitt.edu/~ulin/Paradise/im...

So they will have to do a lot of 'prevailing'!


message 25: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Roger wrote: "For all of Milton's sexism (as we would put it), it's hand in hand and side by side that Adam and Eve walk into their new home, it isn't Adam leading a chastened Eve. "

That's a nice comment. Is it possible that one positive benefit of the Fall was to make man and woman more mutually dependent?

But I'm not persuaded (either way) as to whether Milton meant by those closing lines to change the dynamic that he set up so strongly in the earlier books. He's still the one with all the knowledge of what is going to come, for example, so if knowledge is power, he is still the one with the power, intellectual, physical, and probably spiritual.


message 26: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 26, 2010 10:52AM) (new)

Roger's comment captures one reason I found the ending so moving. For the first time, Adam and Eve are people: alienated and mortal but, in Everyman's words "mutually dependent." They can't know --as none of us can--whether there will be eternal life in a Heaven that is even better than the Paradise from which they have been expelled.

However, Rhonda's wonderful post about God's relationship to them and the implications of Michael's cinematic history lesson, provides a convincing portrait of Adam's frame of mind. I would prefer Milton hadn't stated that these were things Adam "learned," since he can only take them on faith. But I can certainly understand why Milton used it.


message 27: by Everyman (last edited Aug 26, 2010 11:14AM) (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Zeke wrote: "I would prefer Milton hadn't stated that these were things Adam "learned," since he can only take them on faith. But I can certainly understand why Milton used it. "

Are you suggesting that an angel might lie to him?

But here again we have the foreknowledge element coming in. God knows all this, and has presumably told Michael, so although it is all future, there's nothing whatsoever that Adam or Eve or their progeny, despite their free will, can do to change one jot or tittle of it.


message 28: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1723 comments Everyman wrote: "But here again we have the foreknowledge element coming in. God knows all this, and has presumably told Michael, so although it is all future, there's nothing whatsoever that Adam or Eve or their progeny, despite their free will, can do to change one jot or tittle of it."

Au contraire, mon frere: There is everything they can do about it--they have free will. It's just that they won't do anything contrary to Michael's story.


message 29: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1723 comments Eve's words to Adam after Michael's departure, and before Adam has told her anything, are these:

Whence thou returnst, and whither wentst, I know; [ 610 :]
For God is also in sleep, and Dreams advise,
Which he hath sent propitious, some great good
Presaging, since with sorrow and hearts distress
Wearied I fell asleep: but now lead on;
. . . . . . . .
This further consolation yet secure [ 620 :]
I carry hence; though all by mee is lost,
Such favour I unworthie am voutsaft,
By mee the Promis'd Seed shall all restore.

It seems to me that Eve has received her own revelation while asleep, perhaps one better adapted to her abilities and gifts, though perhaps less easily expressed in words. Anyway, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.


message 30: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Roger wrote: "Au contraire, mon frere: There is everything they can do about it--they have free will. It's just that they won't do anything contrary to Michael's story.
"


Which comment perfectly encapsulates why I have so much trouble with free will and foreknowledge.


message 31: by [deleted user] (new)

Everyman wrote: "Which comment perfectly encapsulates why I have so much trouble with free will and foreknowledge."

Precisely.


message 32: by [deleted user] (new)

So, we are given free will, but if we use it, we face a zero sum game: use it in obedience and with faith in our "maker" (and be "saved") or use it for real, with the potential for growth, expressing our current best thinking about ethics and consequences (and be "damned.")

I don't mean this disrespectfully, but what kind of God would devise such a game?


message 33: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Zeke wrote: "So, we are given free will, but if we use it, we face a zero sum game: use it in obedience and with faith in our "maker" (and be "saved") or use it for real, with the potential for growth, expressi..."

That, of course, is one of the 64 thousand dollar questions of theology.


message 34: by Thomas (new)

Thomas | 4430 comments Will Durant said somewhere that the younger generations of a culture tend to be the ones who "use" their free will to push the boundaries of the culture and achieve progress or change, while the older generations tend to be the ones who try to preserve tradition and provide stability. Between the two the culture changes, but slowly enough that it neither stagnates nor fragments. (In healthy cultures, anyway.)

I think there's a way in which A & E as they leave Paradise to forge a new world are in that position. It is a brave new world but they have Providence to guide the way. But as Michael shows, there will be some stumbling.

And now for something totally inappropriate: the other night I had a sudden vision of Adam as Scrooge. Did anyone else think of a Christmas Carol as Michael was foretelling the fate of man?


message 35: by MadgeUK (last edited Aug 27, 2010 02:02AM) (new)

MadgeUK This little essay poses some of 'the 64 thousand dollar questions of theology' in an interesting way. One of the questions it asks is how could Cain and Abel 'beget' further children, without committing incest with Eve since there were no other people on the Earth when their parents were expelled.

http://www.vexen.co.uk/religion/chris...

Zeke asks 'what kind of god would devise such a game' and I wonder, if God pronounced his creation as 'good' in the first place, why did he have to 'create' the Fall and ruin it all?! It seems to be a foolish, even cruel act, or 'game'.

There is no wonder that Milton had a lot of trouble justifying it all. It is unjustifiable by the very reason and logic he so admired. But it is a great poem anyway!


message 36: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK If by 'people who think like you' you mean atheists, there are many Christians who have puzzled over this too and come to similar, worrying conclusions.

On the other hand, if God had not given human beings free will they could have stayed in a perfect paradise and the earth we know now would not have been 'ruined' - this too has been speculated about throughout the centuries.

If being obedient is also being 'mindless', why is so much emphasis put on obedience in PL and elsewhere?


message 37: by Rhonda (new)

Rhonda (rhondak) | 202 comments Zeke wrote: "So, we are given free will, but if we use it, we face a zero sum game:...
With respect, I find your logic somewhat flawed: I think you suggest that the created being is somehow being punished for his own creativity and might, in fact, discover some greater truth than the creator wants him to find. The exact opposite is true. As Milton has attempted to explain, God wants man to find the truth... and God IS the only truth because he was the one who created it! God loves us first in creation and then in forgiveness when we depart from the truth.
It is easy to understand that one might see creation itself, as do many existentialists, like a game of rats through a maze. If it is true (and I doubt that it is,) it would still be HIS game, one whose rules have been created before us. One has the choice to either take part in it or to not do so: in this parlance, one runs through the maze or refuses to take part. Milton has Adam willingly taking part simply because Adam has seen first hand what happens when one doesn't do so.
Like Job, you are demanding that God (and I add "if he exists" to be polite) show up and be accountable to you. I understand the desire to do so and I believe that it is a fairly universal inclination. Still I gather that the argument which God gives to Job (Where were you when I created the world?) is insufficient because it doesn't answer what God's plan is/was. Serving the truth in a world where immorality is rampant is more than a little difficult. Yet Milton explains what is required to overcome the world.
The answer to your question as to what kind of being would create a world like ours is that a just and loving God has done this. While I fear that such a response may elicit apoplexy on your part, I hasten to add that I have no desire to be flippant. The justice may not be apparent but Milton himself in Book XII exposes both obedience AND love as the necessary conditions by which salvation from sin may be purchased. Milton’s point is that salvation is possible because God has loved us first and continuously forgives us when we err. God gives us an entire lifetime to discover or lose it.
Madge's issue, therefore, is a reasonable one for many: "[God:] is unjustifiable by the very reason and logic [Milton} so admired."
This is a very true statement. The greater issue is that God is unjustifiable by only the use of reason and logic. As Milton indicated, there are different ways in which God communicates his message to mankind and it goes beyond simple matters of logic. Issues decided by faith and inference are simultaneously a matter for the empiricist as they are for theologian. This argument should require greater space than available here. Still it is important to understand that this would be Milton's argument and he has spent a great deal of effort explaining just that. Once more, I humbly suggest that you cannot meaningfully state that Milton did not achieve his desired end if you deny the premises first.


message 38: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK I remain with apoplexy allied to sheer incredulity but I still like the poem:).


message 39: by [deleted user] (new)

MadgeUK wrote: "I remain with apoplexy allied to sheer incredulity but I still like the poem:)."

:D Me too. Obviously everyone reads this poem differently and makes their own assumptions about what Milton was doing as he constructed it.

(But my praise of the poem is a bit more qualified than yours.)


message 40: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments But when we talk about the theological problem of free will and foreknowledge, we also have to consider that science has the same problem.

Core principles of science say that, particularly in chemistry and electricity, a given set of inputs under identical circumstances will always produce the same output, and that the output is entirely controlled by the conditions and the inputs and is, in the presence of total information, fixed.

Now, recognizing that the human brain is governed entirely by chemical and electrical impulses, a given set of inputs will always produce a predictable output. That is, if we knew everything that was in a person's brain and had total knowledge of the conditions and circumstances, if we take an input -- say, Zeke reading this post -- we could absolutely predict what he would think about it and what response, if any, he would make. He would have no free will in the matter; chemistry and electricity would dictate absolutely what he would do.

So in one sense, all we have to do is deem God to be a scientist with absolute knowledge and sufficient intelligence to be instantly take into account every possible factor in every situation at every moment of time, and bingo, God has foreknowledge, because everything we will do is absolutely fixed by the laws of chemistry and electricity which govern our brains.

So it isn't just a theological problem, but is also a scientific problem.


message 41: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Amanda wrote: "I think it would have been foolish and cruel for God to take away A&E's, and subsequently, our, option to obey Him or not, as we will. I don't know why people think that in allowing humans to make bad choices, including the first humans, God is somehow crueler for it. I would resent a being more that didn't let me decide for myself. "

That's a very nice way of putting it. Or, put another way, would any parent really want a child which had no capacity to decide whether or not to obey and love its parents? If the parent knew that obedience and love were only there because the child was forced to act that way (as a properly working computer is forced to put a d on the screen when I press the d key on my keyboard), would they really value that obedience and love?

I think not. I think that obedience and love only have meaning when one has a choice to obey or not to obey, to love or not to love.

This, I take it, is why you are suggesting that God the parent allows humans to disobey and deny him.


message 42: by [deleted user] (new)

Everyman wrote: "But when we talk about the theological problem of free will and foreknowledge, we also have to consider that science has the same problem.

Core principles of science say that, particularly in chem..."


In other words "free will" is a chimera?


message 43: by Everyman (last edited Aug 27, 2010 11:56AM) (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Kate wrote: "
In other words "free will" is a chimera? "


I'm not sure. It may be,or it may just be that our ability to understand is what's flawed.

After all, to the first Native Americans who came across humans with guns, or telegraphs, or other inventions which to the West were perfectly logical and understandable, those without any experience with them or knowledge of the science behind them considered the magical, beyond the realities of nature as they knew it.

It may be that there is no free will. Or it may be that we just don't have the knowledge or intellectual capacity to understand the question properly.


message 44: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1723 comments Everyman wrote: "Core principles of science say that, particularly in chemistry and electricity, a given set of inputs under identical circumstances will always produce the same output, and that the output is entirely controlled by the conditions and the inputs and is, in the presence of total information, fixed."

At the level of elementary particles, I don't believe this is true. They behave according to a wave equation, which provides only a probability distribution of where the particle will appear. In other words, elementary particles have free will.


message 45: by [deleted user] (new)

Roger wrote: "Everyman wrote: "Core principles of science say that, particularly in chemistry and electricity, a given set of inputs under identical circumstances will always produce the same output, and that th..."

You beat me to it Roger. RL interfered with my posting. Science can best be described as a probability that the expected will occur. But the very nature of elementary particles creates a degree of randomness that prevents 100% certainty. "Free will", or as I like to put it "free won't" is inherent in modern scientific theory.


message 46: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1723 comments That's what Adam and Eve should have had--Free Won't.


message 47: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Roger wrote: "elementary particles have free will. "

I started a response, but realized that although it did deal with a core issue of PL, free will and determinism, particle physics is getting a bit far away from PL, so I moved my response to the Tea Room.


message 48: by [deleted user] (new)

Instead, sadly, they had Free Don't.

I've been away all day, but just read quickly through these interesting responses. I can assure Rhonda that nothing she has (or, probably, could) write would cause me apoplexy; her thinking is serious and her writing clear. On the other hand, as E-man points out, I can't be responsible for what how my chemicals and electrical impulses might react. But, as Roger and Kate note, neither do those darned impulses know. (And, as Schrodinger's cat learns, even watching them changes them.)

So, for all of us, no need for apoplexy (though Madge is entitled if she wishes!) and a hearty dose of humility before the awesome, unknowable marvels of creation.

For me, it's pretty cool to be able to hang out with a bunch of people who even care about this stuff--as opposed to who is the latest winner on Dancing With the Stars. Now, anyone who can convincingly explain the marvels of the internet to me will really be on to something.


message 49: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Zeke wrote: "Now, anyone who can convincingly explain the marvels of the internet to me will really be on to something. "

Oh, that one's easy. You pay some company a bunch of money, you plug something into your computer, you punch a bunch of keys and the particles of their own free will decide whether to send you gibberish or something of interest to you.


message 50: by MadgeUK (last edited Aug 28, 2010 01:59AM) (new)

MadgeUK This is the Jewish p.o.v. on Free Will:-

http://www.faqs.org/faqs/judaism/FAQ/...

But Jews have an entirely different p.o.v. on Original Sin :-

http://www.whatjewsbelieve.org/explan...

Islam teaches that only Allah has free will and everyone is subject to that:-

http://www.newenglishreview.org/custp...

Muslims do not believe in Original Sin or that there is hereditary sin in the world stemming from the actions of Adam and Eve:-

http://www.newenglishreview.org/custp...


'You pays your money and you takes your choice'!


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