[Milton-L] Free Will, Forgiveness

James Rovira jamesrovira at gmail.com
Thu Jul 27 10:51:47 EDT 2006

Hello Michael...thanks for joining the discussion:

I'd like to think about your response in two different ways.

First, I would say that your response demonstrates something I
described in a previous post (probably before you joined the list) --
that God is being treated as a fellow creature in this kind of
reasoning, rather than the Creator.

The Christian God, and I think Milton's God, shares a number of
attributes that impact on this discussion, the first being that he is
the only self existent being, the sole creator of everything.
Everything that is not God is therefore created by God, and continues
to depend upon God for its ongoing existence.

Therefore an attack upon God is an attack upon the very structure of
existence, and a rejection of one's own existence.  God, if he loves
all that exists, is by that love obligated to repel all attacks
against him as attempts to endanger that which he loves.

Furthermore, the traditional notion of the Christian God claims that
God is omniscient -- that God knows everything.  God doesn't have
"ideas" in the way that you or I have ideas.  What God perceives is
truth and is to be identified as part of the essential nature of the
structure of existence (seeing that he is the Creator).  Again, God is
being treated like a creature in this critique, as if he were a member
of a liberal democracy "coming to the table" and presenting his ideas
for acceptance or rejection, ideas that are just one set of ideas
among others.  That is just not the case with God.  God's "ideas" are
our reality.  God spoke and the worlds came into being.

Another traditional notion of God is that God is omnipotent -- all
powerful.  If that is the case, what meaning could a war against God
possibly have?  Does God really need angels to protect him from
Satanic attacks?  Is the war carried out for the sake of God, or for
the sake of the angels, both fallen and unfallen, as a means by which
they can exercise free choice and pick a side?

Now, all this being said, if we accept, just for the sake of argument,
that all these are Milton's assumptions about God as well, that
doesn't mean that God as a character in the drama of PL doesn't come
across as a narrow minded tyrant.  But this leads to my next question:
does Milton's God come across this way because he is poorly written,
or because it is very difficult to impossible to well represent God
dramatically, or because of our own philosophical commitments?

It is very common for educated westerners to have an almost dog-like
conditioning to be at least theoretically "accepting" of all points of
view, an acceptance that flows from a knee-jerk, undiscriminating
egalitarianism that isn't deeply thought about or consistently held.
It is essentially the tyranny of the majority over the rights of the
minority, or the one, to exercise their own, independent power
separate from the majority, but especially not over the majority.
This is a necessary tyranny if we hope to maintain a stable democracy,
but it should still be moderated by our knowledge that it is still a
tyranny, and more importantly, that these assumptions guide our
thinking as westerners usually without being questioned.

I would say that the thinking described in the above paragraph is
consciously and deliberately endorsed by English Romantics who
identify Satan as the hero of PL.  Milton's anti-monarchial politics,
powerful poetry, and wide ranging imagination attracted the Romantics,
but Milton's presentation of God in PL generally did not, and these
people were our intellectual fathers and mothers.

Hopefully all this gives you some ideas to chew on.

Jim R

More information about the Milton-L mailing list