[Milton-L] De Doctrina Christiana

Michael Bauman mbauman at hillsdale.edu
Sat Jan 3 12:18:39 EST 2009

I'm interested to hear precisely what  PL is if it is "neither Trinitarian nor Arian, but something else entirely."  What theological category are you invoking with "something else entirely"?

I wonder what you mean when you say that an epic poem designed to "justify the ways of God to man," one that deals with things like creation, temptation, heaven, hell, angels, demons, Satan, predestination and the fall, and that contains a lengthy and detailed summary of the entire Bible, "is not doctrinal at all," to some unspecified "degree."  I'm confused about how PL is not doctrinal at all -- to some degree.

I'm puzzled about why you say that the notes to Carey's translation are a better guide to PL and De Doctrina than Kelley since, if I remember correctly, the notes to the Yale Prose version of De Doctrina are almost all by Maurice Kelley, and in them he teaches the same points in almost always the same fashion that he did earlier in his This Great Argument.

The Son is not "the sole cause of Creation" in PL.  See 3:167, 5:836, 7:163ff, etc.

Michael Bauman
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Kim Maxwell [kmaxwell at stanford.edu]
Sent: Saturday, January 03, 2009 9:40 AM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] De Doctrina Christiana

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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