[Milton-L] Abdiel (thought-sins)
larisa at lit.u-szeged.hu
Tue Jul 1 01:49:13 EDT 2008
For consideration, since James Rovira has already suggested a parallel
between Adam and Eve, and the "everyman" Christian:
"Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself
against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to
the obedience of Christ." (2. Cor. 10.5). In the original, we read the word
"logismos" (rendered imaginations), i.e. a reckoning, computation, reasoning
- I presume the one that is against the knowledge of God: in case of Adam
and Eve this knowledge entails their previous experience as well as the
knowledge gathered from Raphael. I wonder whether Milton mentions this
scripture verse in CD?
I would also like to thank you all for this inspiring discussion.
I am looking forward to see you in London.
From: Michael Gillum [mailto:mgillum at unca.edu]
Sent: Tuesday, July 01, 2008 12:05 AM
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Abdiel (thought-sins)
Clearly I'm in the minority here in thinking that Adam and Eve sin before
they eat the fruit. Maybe I'm wrong. So let me reiterate the points I've
made and invite rebuttals to the position I've stumbled into.
1. A&E are bound not only by the prohibition of the tree - a so-called
"positive" law that gains its force only from the authority of the
legislator - but also by the "rule of conscience" (DDC 1.11). This latter is
the obligation to follow reason in accordance with natural law; as Eve says,
"our reason is our law." According to DDC, transgression of this law is sin.
2. Natural law and reason dictate that A&E maintain, as the first
principle of life, a stance of grateful obedience toward their creator.
Since the prohibition is arbitrary, reason doesn't tell them to avoid a
particular tree. However, reason does tell them to follow God's commandment,
not only from fear of punishment, but because they are morally obliged to
serve God. The Father's statements make clear that he intends the
prohibition as a test of grateful obedience.
3. Therefore, just deciding to break the commandment - as a confirmed
or "approved" thought -- is a sin against God and natural law according to
the "rule of conscience." It marks the failure of grateful obedience; it is
already disobedience of the law.
4. DDC says "our original parents were first guilty [n.b.]" of "evil
concupiscence" or desiring to sin. (This I take it would need to be
something more than a passing thought.) DDC also says thoughts may
constitute "actual sin."
5. Adam says that evil thoughts may come and go without "spot or blame"
provided they are "unapproved." This statement implies that evil thoughts,
if approved, entail spot or blame. I take "approval" to entail conscious
endorsement or confirmation.
In his interior monologue, Adam mentions "forbiddance" and transgression in
reference to Eve's act and wonders how it could have happened (9.900-905),
but, in reference to his own decision, he doesn't think at all of ethics,
God or law, nor does he reason at all. He just decides, solely on the basis
of his feelings, to disobey and die (906-07). Then he compellingly
describes these feelings (908-17). He never consults the "rule of
conscience." Because Adam has already corrupted himself with this decision,
his subsequent speech to Eve is corrupt.
On 6/29/08 6:11 PM, "Sara van den Berg" <vandens at slu.edu> wrote:
In traditional theology, there are three conditions that must be met for an
action to be a sin: (1) serious matter; (2) sufficient reflection; and (3)
full consent of the will. The interdiction makes Eve and Adam's eating
serious matter. The monologues are not themselves sinful, but meet the
condition of "sufficient reflection."
Eve meets all three conditions. Eve knows the act would be serious(IX.652).
The first part of her soliloquy is a set of questions of reflection
(IX.758-779). Then she acts: "she pluck't, she ate" (IX.780). Her second
sin is to involve Adam, and her soliloquy turns her from tempted to tempter.
She introduces a set of non-rhetorical questions (as she wonders whether or
not to tell Adam) mixed with one rhetorical question ("for inferior who is
free?). She then declares full consent of her will to tempt Adam:
"Confirm'd then I resolve,/ Adam shall share with me in bliss or woe"
(IX.830-31). When she sees him, she acts.
Adam's soliloquy indicates similar reflection. He knows Eve has fallen. He
considers what he should do, and confirms his decision: "for with thee /
Certain my resolution is to die." Finally, when he eats, he does so very
deliberately: "he scrupl'd not to eat / Against his better knowledge, not
deceav'd. . ." (IX.998-999).
The soliloquies are not themselves a "sin," but fulfill a condition that is
necessary if the act of eating is to be a sin.
Sara van den Berg
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