[Milton-L] De Doctrina Christiana

Kim Maxwell kmaxwell at stanford.edu
Sat Jan 3 09:40:53 EST 2009

Another point of view.
In his latest work on the subject, Michael Lieb suggests the
word “conversation” as the academic relationship between PL and DCC, one that
admits inconsistencies between them but resists sorting either out in terms of
the other.  Given what has happened since
Kelly, it is hard not to read his book as Procrustean and selective.  I personally find the footnotes in Carey’s
translation in the Yale Prose to be a better introduction to how DCC and PL
converse than Kelly.  Furthermore, I would
defend the word on the grounds that DCC provides means of understanding the
degree to which PL is not doctrinal at all, rather than the means by which
either might improve our understanding of the other’s doctrine.  For example,  in DCC Milton makes it clear that God is
unitary and unchangeable, and hence cannot duplicate himself or transfer all of
his powers to a second, inferior God (the Son).  To work around the obvious complications such a view entails regarding
the Creation and the opening of John, he makes a careful distinction between
“creation by” and “creation through” in his DCC chapter on the subject,
allocating to the Son only the formal cause of the universe.  Whether this works or not  is not important to its read on  PL, where the Son does have all the powers of
God (“second omnipotence”) and is the sole cause of the Creation, said
explicitly to be “by” the Son, a position only possible on a Trinitarian or
polytheistic account of the Godhead, both of which DCC denies.  I think DCC helps see the many ways in which
PL is both Trinitarian and not Trinitarian, and hence is neither Trinitarian
nor Arian, but something else entirely.

Kim Maxwell
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