[Milton-L] Abdiel (thought-sins)

Michael Gillum mgillum at unca.edu
Mon Jun 30 18:04:35 EDT 2008

Clearly I¹m in the minority here in thinking that Adam and Eve sin before
they eat the fruit. Maybe I¹m wrong. So let me reiterate the points I¹ve
made and invite rebuttals to the position I¹ve stumbled into.

1. A&E are bound not only by the prohibition of the tree ‹ a so-called
³positive² law that gains its force only from the authority of the
legislator ‹ but also by the ³rule of conscience² (DDC 1.11). This latter is
the obligation to follow reason in accordance with natural law; as Eve says,
³our reason is our law.² 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 doesn¹t tell them to avoid a particular
tree. However, reason does tell them to follow God¹s commandment, not only
from fear of punishment, but because they are morally obliged to serve God.
The Father¹s 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
³approved² thought -- is a sin against God and natural law according to the
³rule of conscience.² It marks the failure of grateful obedience; it is
already disobedience of the law.
4. DDC says ³our original parents were first guilty [n.b.]² of ³evil
concupiscence² or desiring to sin. (This I take it would need to be
something more than a passing thought.) DDC also says thoughts may
constitute ³actual sin.²
5. Adam says that evil thoughts may come and go without ³spot or blame²
provided they are ³unapproved.² This statement implies that evil thoughts,
if approved, entail spot or blame. I take ³approval² to entail conscious
endorsement or confirmation.

In his interior monologue, Adam mentions ³forbiddance² and transgression in
reference to Eve¹s act and wonders how it could have happened (9.900-905),
but, in reference to his own decision, he doesn¹t 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 ³rule of
conscience.² 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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