[Milton-L] Free Will, Forgiveness

mgrattan at ucsd.edu mgrattan at ucsd.edu
Thu Jul 27 11:14:48 EDT 2006

Please allow a supposition from a neophyte in Milton studies. It’s my
understanding that "to justify" had an ambivalent meaning in the sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries.  In the act of justification one could be a
critic of or an apologist for “the ways of God”. An intriguing possibility
seems to me that Milton was both in the poem and his own life, which is to
me much more satisfactory explanation of the often conflicted depiction of
God in PL. A third possibility, and one I’ve been thinking on for a while,
is justification as a printing term. In this sense Milton would be
bringing the seemingly chaotic and incomprehensible ways of God into a
form more accessible "to man", especially if, as Professor Herman notes,
critics were beginning to critique God and the bible. I welcome
justification of any kind to this my first post to the list.
Michael J. Grattan

> Much appreciation for Prof. Herman's reply -- but wouldn't that go
> against Milton's stated intent to "justify the ways of God to man?"
> How does one justify God's ways to man by presenting God as unsavory,
> cruel, and mendacious?  I can accept a deliberate presentation of that
> kind of a God given a -different- intent by Milton, but not that one.
> My guess would be that the rightness of God was presumed by Milton and
> presumed by Milton to also be presumed by his audience, so his
> presentation of God was to be read in that light.  The Romantic
> rereading of Milton's Satan would then signify a dramatic shift in the
> nature of Milton's audience.
> But still, my question is sincere.  My guess is just a guess.
> I appreciate Jason Kerr's reply too and feel it advances the
> discussion well, and look forward to the day his email settings are
> tweaked...
> Jim R
> On 7/27/06, Peter C. Herman <herman2 at mail.sdsu.edu> wrote:
>>  Jim Rovira's choices repeat a paradigm that is very common in
>> treatments of
>> Milton's God. Faced with a depiction of God that goes against
>> expectation,
>> critics either attribute the anomaly to an artistic failing on Milton's
>> part
>> ("he is poorly written"), or the impossibility of the task, the
>> assumption
>> being that Milton could not possibly have meant for God to come across
>> as a
>> narrow-minded tyrant. However, as I've demonstrated elsewhere, critiques
>> of
>> God were far from uncommon in the latter seventeenth century
>> (commentaries
>> on the Book of Job, for instance, rocket during this period), and given
>> the
>> vast amount of evidence within PL that God is a deeply unsavory
>> character,
>> who is not only cruel, but mendacious, perhaps we should assume that
>> Milton
>> knew what he was doing (he did not fail artistically in other parts of
>> the
>> poem, so why here?), and deal with poem Milton wrote, not the poem we
>> wish
>> he would have written.
>>  Peter C. Herman
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