[Milton-L] theodicy and critique

jfleming at sfu.ca jfleming at sfu.ca
Fri Jul 28 10:16:10 EDT 2006

Thanks to Professors Danielson and Fallon. Leibniz aside, I don't hear an
answer to the paradox I tried to lay out at the end of my last post. A
"theodicy" must be about God. But a being vulnerable to critique, surely, is
not God. This is the point of the ontological argument -- which can perhaps
be refuted, but not just dismissed. If we see M as critiquing God,
therefore, we ought not to speak of him as drafting a theodicy. To respond
"well, M is surely drafting a theodicy, because he indicates the possibility
of critique of God" -- this is to beg the question I am trying to ask. 

Meanwhile, if M is critiquing a non-God -- a "character" called God, for
example -- what's the point of that? 

Now, re: "justify." The word means "make just." This does not necessarily
entail "explain." Consider the relevant context of the Protestant conversion
narrative. Justification is not an occurence in which God _explains_ one's
basic justness (to oneself or others). Quite the contrary: it is an
occurence in which God _effects_ one's basic justness. By justification, one
is made just. To suppose the possibility of explaining or rationally
understanding this event -- for example, on the basis of some deserving --
is to offend the divine _arbitraire_ that figures so largely even in
Arminian soteriology. 

In short, I do not think that the possibility of critique of God (which
would, in any case, not be theodicy) follows from the phrase "justify the
ways of God to man." Frankly, if it does, we are in for a lot of special
pleading, because M (on my reading) tends to _worsen_ theological and
exegetic problems wherever he finds them, not seek to resolve or ameliorate
them. _This_ technique, however, is consistent with theodicy. The challenge
to poet and reader is precisely to understand, and/or to accept, the justice
of what does not seem just. The challenge is to justify: to make just. But
we can explain God's justice even less than we can explain our own. JDF

On Thu, 27 Jul 2006 13:19:35 -0700 milton-l at lists.richmond.edu wrote:

> I predicate "theodicy" of PL because of the etymological 
> symmetry between that one word and the phrase "justify the ways of 
> God." Furthermore, I do see Milton's	theodicy as envisaging the 
> possibility of a "critique of God" given the presence in the world of 
> the evil that his creatures must face and try to understand. The 
> strongest evidence for this view, I think, is the Son's own response to 
> the scenario--though it turns out to be contrary to both fact and 
> divine intention--in which God permits the universal triumph of malice: 
> "So should thy goodness and thy greatness both / Be questioned and 
> blasphemed without defence."
> Milton wrote that.
> Dennis Danielson

James Dougal Fleming, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of English,
Simon Fraser University,
(604) 291-4713
cell: 778-865-0926

Laissez parler les faits.

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