[Milton-L] Free Will, Forgiveness

Michael Dobiel michaeldobiel2003 at yahoo.com
Wed Jul 26 23:05:00 EDT 2006

  I have recently joined this discussion group.  My interest in Milton was sparked by a class in British Literature this past semester, and I have recently read Paradise Lost for the first time.  Thus I will gladly acknowledge a lesser experience level than the professors who are part of this group.  That being said I wished to respond to Mr. Strier and Mr. Rovira.  
  I was intrigued by what Mr. Strier said because I have encountered the very same passage written by Shelley that is critical of God's handling of humanity.  Shelley refuses to accept God as a superior moral being to Satan and I tend to agree with him.  I also agree with Mr Strier's "my hands are clean" assessment.  I think God takes such an attitude towards the fall in Book 3:
  "For man will hearken to his glozing lies,/ And easily transgress the sole command,/ Sole pledge of his obedience: so will fall,/ He, and his faithless progeny. Whose fault?/ Whose but his own? Ingrate, he had of me/ All he could have; I made him just and right;/ Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall."(III, 93-99) I am not so sure that I don't see a valid reason for this attitude.  Mr Rovira may be right in asserting that God should not force forgiveness upon humanity, as this would be inconsistent with the idea of free will.  But later in the poem, in books five and six, Raphael relates the story of the battle between Satan and his rebels against God and his legions of angels.  It appears that God has used what amounts to military force to enforce his rule in Heaven, and more importantly, his way of thinking.  
  While it is difficult to doubt the ways of an omniscient being, God states in book 3 that he also created the angels having free will.  "Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall./ Such I created all th'ethereal powers,...Freely they stood who stood, and fell who fell."(III, 99-102)"  I think that Satan is quite justified in challenging God's ideas.  He is probably not justified in threatening to undermine his rule.  To be truly free all would have to coexist despite their differing ideas.  But the question remains for me: Is God intolerant in his severe dealings with Satan?  
  Romantics such as Shelley might say that he was, as it seems they often identify Satan as the "hero" of the story.  And to connect this all to Mr. Rovira's point, I question whether God should use force to squash Satan's rebellion, which is intitiated of Satan's free will, and then decline to get involved in the humanity's foreseen temptation.  I question whether Satan and his legions were given the same opportunity to choose forgiveness as humanity was.  I look forward to responses to these comments, and hope that this is helpful in continuing a dialogue on the subject.  

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