[Milton-L] apostasy and apology

Larry Isitt isitt at cofo.edu
Wed Jan 2 13:21:00 EST 2008

Hi Paul,

Milton was a Trinitarian when he wrote "The Nativity Ode." The phrase,
"Trinal Unity" derives from the Athanasian Creed's art 3: "That we
worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity," the creed being one
of three guarding the gates of orthodox Trinitarianism as specified in
the 39 Articles of the Church of England. In the Ode Jesus Christ is:

That glorious Form, that Light unsufferable,

And that far-beaming blaze of Majesty,

Wherwith he wont at Heav'ns high Councel-Table, 

To sit the midst of Trinal Unity,

He laid aside; and here with us to be,

Forsook the Courts of everlasting Day,

And chose with us a darksom House of mortal Clay.


However, by the time Milton is writing Book 3 of PL, he has moved away
to the rationalist position typical of Arians. Milton is an Arian
because he does not see the Son as co-eternal and co-essential with the
Father. Only the Father is named 

Thee Father first they sung Omnipotent,
Immutable, Immortal, Infinite,
Eternal King; thee Author of all being,
Fountain of Light, thy self invisible [3.372-75]

Milton could have said, "Thee Father and Son," but he specifically
separates the Son from these attributes. Furthermore, in all of Paradise
Lost, there is not a single clear reference to the Son by any of the
attributes mentioned in this list. For example, we find "Eternal Father"
but never "Eternal Son"; "Almighty Father," but never "Almighty Son."
There are by my count some 200 names for the Son, but none that would
state or imply full divinity and equality with the Father. All
Renaissance and Reformation confessions of faith, to include the 39
Articles and the Westminster Confession of Faith 1647, specify these
same attributes of divinity in similar terms, but, unlike Milton here
(and in De Doctrina) who limits these solely to the Father, they insist
on all three members of the Godhead as possessors of them equally.


To insist, as some on this list have done, that Milton is merely a
"subordinationist" is entirely to miss the essential nature of Arianism
which itself is THE cardinal form of subordinationism. The English
confessions derive mainly from the 1530 Augsburg Confession, Article 1
which is instructive as to the true unity of Father, Son, and Holy
Spirit. It also specifically lumps the Arians in with other heresies not
recognizing this unity [I've highlighted and underlined terms related to
this list discussion]:

Article I: Of God. 

1] Our Churches, with common consent, do teach that the decree of the
Council of Nicaea concerning the Unity of the Divine Essence and
concerning the Three Persons, is true and to be believed without any
doubting; 2] that is to say, there is one Divine Essence which is called
and which is God: eternal, without body, without parts, of infinite
power, wisdom, and goodness, the Maker and Preserver of all things,
visible and invisible; and 3] yet there are three Persons, of the same
essence and power, who also are coeternal, the Father the Son, and the
Holy Ghost. And the term "person" 4] they use as the Fathers have used
it, to signify, not a part or quality in another, but that which
subsists of itself. 

5] They condemn all heresies which have sprung up against this article,
as the Manichaeans, who assumed two principles, one Good and the other
Evil: also the Valentinians, Arians, Eunomians, Mohammedans, and all
such. 6] They condemn also the Samosatenes, old and new, who, contending
that there is but one Person, sophistically and impiously argue that the
Word and the Holy Ghost are not distinct Persons, but that "Word"
signifies a spoken word, and "Spirit" signifies motion created in

However one wishes to parse Paradise Lost, the Son cannot meet the
specifications of orthodox Trinitarianism. 




Larry R. Isitt

English Dept

College of the Ozarks

Point Lookout, MO 65726

Email: isitt at cofo.edu

Office: 417-334-6411 x4269 

"All flesh is grass...the grass withereth...but the word of our God
shall stand forever" (Isa 40: 6,8) 


-----Original Message-----
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
[mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Paul Miller
Sent: Sunday, December 30, 2007 2:43 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] apostasy and apology


While we are on the subject can someone give me a short run down of

theology?  Did he believe in the trinity was he an Arian and such?


Paul Miller 



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