[Milton-L] Strier, the Son's role and necessity

Michael Gillum mgillum at unca.edu
Tue Aug 1 15:34:17 EDT 2006

For when Richard Strier returns-- thanks for the explanation.

As I understand it (subject to correction), the Son in some respects 
seems to be just the external agency of the Father, and in other 
respects seems to be a sort of apprentice deity, a free agent who is 
learning and growing through obedience to the Father. The Father's 
will ordains creation, judgement, punishment, and redemption; the Son 
executes these things. The Father could accomplish things without the 
separate person of the Son, but as Diane McColley has said, the Son 
serves as a sort of  middle term to mediate and integrate the 
creation with the divine. Would it be true that the only thing the 
Father can't do by/for himself is to die?

Prof. Strier wrote, "Justice will not 'die' without the Son's 
intervention, since the Father has already explained -- whether 
satisfactorily or not -- the 'justice' of man being offered salvation 
and the fallen angels not (deceived vs. self-tempted). 'Die hee or 
justice must' is simply false in the poem."

I take "he" to refer to Man, not the Son. Is Prof. Strier taking it 
the other way? I have understood "Die hee or justice must" to mean, 
"Having done that for which the penalty is death, A&E must die, or 
else there is no justice."  I don't understand why this statement is 
"false in the poem." Upon eating the fruit, A&E "die" in the various 
senses adduced by Milton in DDC  12, and later they will die in the 
conventional sense. Therefore, "must die" is true in the poem. I 
believe "or justice must" is also true in the poem insofar as justice 
is executing the prescribed punishment for those undoubtedly guilty 
of crime / sin, a definition that seems to apply in PL. (I understand 
that "justice" has other meanings as well.)

It is true that "Justice will not die without the Son's 
intervention." However, the full execution of mercy seems to require 
(in the poem's terms) that some being sacrifice himself to "pay the 
rigid satisfaction, death for death."  Owing to the requirements of 
justice, man could not be restored to life without the Son's (or 
someone's) intervention. I am not endorsing the logic of Milton's 
theory of the atonement, but it seems apparent that, in the poem, the 
Son's role is needful, if not "necessary" in the philosophical sense. 
All this seems obvious, so I suspect I'm missing something.

Michael Gillum

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