[Milton-L] Milton and the crucifixion, etc

Richard Strier rastrier at uchicago.edu
Fri Jul 28 15:26:53 EDT 2006


With regard to the centrality of the crucifixion to most Christian 
conceptions of God, I agree.  However, Milton is one of the 
exceptions.  The Incarnation and crucifixion play remarkably little 
role in his thinking (and in PL).  It's all about the Father.  (The 
Son in PL has no necessary role, except to serve as an irritant to 
Satan.  In the first speech in Book 3, the Father has already decided 
to give erring man a chance (and the erring angels, none), so the 
Son's "intervention" is not really part of the soteriological scheme. 
And driving dad's chariot in Book VI is not much of a role.)  So, 
talk about the meaning of the crucifixion is basically irrelevant to 
Milton. 

For a successful theodicy, see Charles Hartshorne, The Divine 
Relativity, etc.  H's idea is that to get a morally acceptable 
picture of God in relation to evil one has to give up some of the 
traditional attributes (i.e. can't keep both absolute goodness and 
absolute power).  It's quite a brilliant treatment, and does not rely 
on empty predication like "the best that can be thought."

Re Milton intending the Father to look mean, etc, I do not at all 
agree with my friend Peter H.  This is why the notion of M writing 
"in fetters" (Blake) when he wrote of God, and unconsciously 
critiquing his own overt system of beliefs (Shelley) are so powerful. 
The rational-choice model of theodicy has many problems, but it is 
definitely the one M chose.  I think that there's lots of bad writing 
in the treatment of God and heaven in PL.  Again, I would refer folks 
to my essay on why Eden is better than heaven (writing about Eden, M 
was not in fetters).

And, of course, Steve F is right about M's Arminianism and rationalism.
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