[Milton-L] Why sin in Milton's creation?
dbainswo at students.wisc.edu
Wed Jan 21 21:34:10 EST 2004
Part of the answer to that question depends on how you read Paradise Lost
Book VIII's discussion between God and Adam prior to Eve's creation.
God's rather pointed question to Adam inviting this newly created man to
speculate concerning His own condition leads Adam to respond:
"No need that thou/Shouldst propagate, already infinite;" (VIII, 419-20)
By comparing his own imperfect state, his own need to propagate, his need
for a helpmeet, with God's perfect state, Adam generates a powerful
argument for the creation of a companion out of God's question to him.
God's response addresses Adam's need, but says nothing concerning Adam's
understanding of God's own state.
If one decides that Adam is correct in his perception of God, then Creation
emerges from no need in God to create. Then again, that doesn't mean he
has no love for Creation, however imperfect it may be ("...well thou
know'st how dear/To me are all my works" III, 276-7). Stepping heavily on
the paternal aspect of God the Father... a parent may not have a need for a
child, but may desire a child not out of a sense of personal
incompleteness, but out of a desire to share life and love.
But Milton leaves the point somewhat open, I think, perhaps because he
wasn't quite sure. God's reasons for creating everything are ultimately
his own, and if he doesn't share them it would be sheer arrogance to claim
to know his mind. So the passage in Book VIII leaves some ambiguity, as
Adam states that man, unlike God, "by number is to manifest/His single
imperfection, and beget/Like of his like, his Image multipli'd" (VIII,
422-4). In approving Adam's argument, God notes that he has expressed
"well the spirit within thee free,/My Image, not imparted to the Brute,"
(VIII, 440-1). Given the context, Milton leaves open the question of why
God, who is One, would pass on his Image.
At the moment I'd personally say that Milton sees free will as central to
the Image of God. Since Adam discusses how God holds power sufficient to
raise up imperfect creation, God may have created free willed beings in the
hope that he can elevate them through generosity (and grace) to a status
not much inferior to himself. But there are some major problems with that
interpretation, and if you ask me to interpret this passage again in a few
months I expect I'd have a somewhat different position.
If I were feeling puckishly Empsonian, I might answer this question instead
by suggesting that God creates beings in his own Image so that they may
have the great privilege and pleasure of loving him as much as he loves
himself--purely for their own benefit, of course.
At 01:14 PM 1/20/2004 -0500, James Rovira wrote:
>Thanks to Cynthia and Deborah for the suggestions.
>I think the idea of "proliferation" works in general, but I wonder how
>well it works for Milton? I think any answer that related to some unmet
>need on God's part wouldn't work for Milton, but I'm wondering how he
>would have worked this out, since I'm not sure he was trinitarian.
>The traditional, trinitarian answer is that God doesn't need others to
>love because God is a trinity to begin with -- God is both the subject and
>object of his own love, self giving and self receiving. Was this answer
>possible for Milton? If not, how did he work it out?
>gilliaca at jmu.edu wrote:
>>>>The question I was asking was, "Why create people -at all-
>>>Perhaps a true artist needs to create, as well as to give?
>>See Dorothy Sayers' "The Mind of the Maker."
>>My take is God creates from love. Love seeks a lover [it is too cold to
>>say 'an object']. The wonder of the creation of humanity is well
>>expressed, to my mind, in the Collect for 2 Christmas, as found in the
>>1979 BCP: "O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully
>>respored, the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine
>>life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, your Son Jesus
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