[Milton-L] Hell and forgiveness

Richard Strier rastrier at uchicago.edu
Thu Jul 20 13:56:22 EDT 2006

Re the book that Milton did write.

There are conflicting visions of the ultimate end of things in PL. 
God becoming "all in all" is not compatible with a permanent sealed 
off hell.  And it's not as if the idea of universal salvation was not 
available to Milton.  Origen believed in it, as did some of M's 
contemporaries.  It is not an idea incompatible with other things 
that M believed, or with some of his metaphysical and moral visions.

With regard to moral improvement as a model, one could imagine 
holding a Habermasian view of continuous and progressive discursive 
activity -- a model that Aeropagitica can be seen to endorse -- or, 
to put it more traditionally, a purgatorial view of some sort, where 
sinful creatures experience morally educative pain (not simply 

On the matter of forgiveness, Samuel Smith has made an extremely 
profound point, and the crucial one.  The deepest idea of forgiveness 
is one that does NOT require preconditions.  This is the conception 
of grace put forth by Luther and Calvin and co, and one that Milton, 
as a rationalist, could not grasp (see my essay on why Eden is better 
than heaven for the corrosive effects of M's rationalism on his 
religious vision-- Milton Studies 38 [2000]).
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