[Milton-L] The irrelevance of Satan's character

James Rovira jamesrovira at gmail.com
Sat Jul 22 23:41:57 EDT 2006

Thanks much for the respnoses, Prof. Skulsky.  I suspect our thinking
is closer on some points, at least, than I at first thought.  In
response to this:

<<To elaborate on the first reply, Satan has already brought this
character (and its obduracy) on himself. The fact that his current
actions grow out of his character doesn't qualify them as free.>>

It seems that we agree that Satan "brought this character on himself"
in freedom: the question is whether his consideration of the
possibility of repentance after doing so is a real one.  What you seem
to be arguing from is a Calvinist position of total depravity: humans
or angels cannot freely choose to respond to God's grace unless God
enables them, and God does so only selectively.

It should be noted that in bk IV Satan is speaking alone, to himself,
and being quite honest -- honest about God's goodness, and about his
pride.  He takes seriously the possibility of repentance:

<<O then at last relent: is there no place
Left for Repentance, none for Pardon left?
None left but by submission; and that word
DISDAIN forbids me, and my dread of shame
Among the spirits beneath, whom I seduc'd
With other promises and other vaunts
Then to submit, boasting I could subdue
Th' Omnipotent.>>

But can't stand the thought of the submission required of it and the
shame he would endure before the other fallen angels.  So when he goes
on to say (as one listmember quoted earlier):

<<But say I could repent and could obtaine
By Act of Grace my former state; how soon
Would highth recal high thoughts, how soon unsay
What feign'd submission swore: ease would recant
Vows made in pain, as violent and void.
For never can true reconcilement grow
Where wounds of deadly hate have peirc'd so deep:
Which would but lead me to a worse relapse
And heavier fall: so should I purchase deare
Short intermission bought with double smart.
This knows my punisher; therefore as farr
>From granting hee, as I from begging peace: >>

The conditional, "But say I could repent and could obtaine..." is
reflective more of his pride, ambition, and unwillingness to be shamed
before the other angels than God's unwillingness to forgive.  God's
unwillingness to receive his repentence is a function of Satan's
obduracy, not the other way around, so the obduracy must not only be
freely chosen initially, but must continue to be freely chosen.  This
is the obduracy you describe; but again, it is a consciously chosen
obduracy.  Yes, it was chosen at the initial fall, but it is chosen
again here, where Satan is facing the sun and remembers the glory he
had lost. If it can be freely chosen once, it can be freely chosen
again and again.

What is truly difficult to understand about Satan's condition is that
it existed before his outward act of rebellion, and he knows that his
condition remains unchanged -- should his status change, his condition
would lead him to another fall, a condition which existed before the
initial fall.

How this condition is possible is the real sticking point.  John
Tanner's book, _Anxiety in Eden_, uses Kierkegaard's _Concept of
Anxiety_ to answer this question.  Anxiety is the transitional state
between innocence and sin.

Jim R

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