[Milton-L] Abdiel (thought-sins)

Horace Jeffery Hodges jefferyhodges at yahoo.com
Tue Jul 1 14:33:48 EDT 2008

Michael, I'm glad that you liked the "Like One of Us" article.
On "evil," as you inferred, I do agree that in Paradise Lost, "the first actual sins are deliberate mental 'acts' of disobedience toward God." I'm not sure what the consequences of such sins would be, however. Possibly, the first mortal sin is the actual physical act of taking and eating the fruit, for only that act bears the warning of bringing death. Possibly, for Adam and Eve -- in Milton's view -- the evil thoughts affirmed by Adam and Eve would have been more easily forgivable. What do others think?
Jeffery Hodges

--- On Tue, 7/1/08, Michael Gillum <mgillum at unca.edu> wrote:

From: Michael Gillum <mgillum at unca.edu>
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Abdiel (thought-sins)
To: "milton-l" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Date: Tuesday, July 1, 2008, 9:24 AM

Jeffery Hodges and I seem to have almost the same view. By the way, Jeffery, your other article on “like one of us” is indeed visible outside Korea, and it’s a very interesting read.

I agree entirely with Carol’s last post. I don’t see any contradiction to my argument.

Kim Maxwell raises some cogent objections. Regarding point 2, none of the small mistakes and omissions count. This is how Jeffery and I disagree with Millicent Bell’s thesis. My view and (I think) Jeffery’s is that the first actual sins are deliberate mental “acts” of disobedience toward God, clearer perhaps in Adam’s case than in the case of confused Eve. Regarding point 1, I think Adam’s mental rebellion does have an immediate “untoward consequence” that is noticeable in his subsequent speech to Eve. In DDC, Milton explains that the punishment of “death” incorporates all kinds of physical, intellectual, and moral disorder that follow from sin’s disrupting the original order of the human creature. Thus the consequence of the Fall is not a spanking by God but rather a self-undoing. So in Adam’s speech to Eve he dissembles his real feelings and thoughts, seems to praise Eve’s adventurousness (the first sarcasm?), ignores the
 responsibility to obey, develops a specious argument that punishment might be avoided, etc. He is already no longer his proper self.

Kim also writes, “Note as well that god provides the umpire conscience after the fall, not before.” I am not certain about the relation (in Milton’s thought) between conscience and moral reason, but so far I don’t see any clear difference. What do others understand? The Father says in 3.194 that he will send the umpire conscience, but at the time of that statement A&E haven’t been created yet.  The context of the Father’s statement does sound like he will send conscience later as an aid to the fallen, but maybe not. Clearly, A&E before the fall already have the reason that is their law. I am arguing that Adam sinned against that law when he decided to disobey. Whether or not unfallen reason is the same as regenerate conscience, they have the same function, to identify what is right according to natural law (which includes the duty of obedience to God).


On 6/30/08 8:07 PM, "Kim Maxwell" <kim-maxwell at sbcglobal.net> wrote:

I can imagine two problems with the fall before the fall idea that to me make it difficult.  (1)  It presumes that the putative event was itself sufficient to be a transgression.  Yet no event before the actual eating of the fruit has an untoward consequence.  (2)  Adam and Eve make many small mistakes and omissions before the fall itself, any of which could be be linked to the event.  Does Adam letting Eve go in the Garden count? Or Eve's inclination to separate? Or Eve's Narcissus moment? Or Adam's inability to recognize the real peril of Eve's dream? Or Adam's confession to Raphael that he has ungoverned passions for Eve? Or Adam's persistent desires to know things after Raphael warns him repeatedly not to.  (all of these have been nominated by critics over time.)  I don't think the poem gives us one golden moment of failure before the fall, but rather suggests a sequence or a generic failure, which failures will ultimately get back to God if
 they constitute sin by themselves.  I agree with Sara van den Berg, that thinking is a necessary component of sin itself not a prequel that stands on its own as sin.  Note as well that god provides the umpire conscience after the fall, not before.

Kim Maxwell
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