[Milton-L] De Doctrina Christiana

John Leonard jleonard at uwo.ca
Sun Jan 4 10:00:49 EST 2009

This is a fascinating and valuable thread.  I am not qualified to dispute 
points of doctrine with Michael Bauman, even if I wanted to--and I do not 
want to, as his excellent book on this subject has convinced me on just 
about all doctrinal matters.  So devastating are Michael's arguments in 
*Milton's Arianism* (1987) that I think it no exaggeration to say that the 
question of Milton's authorship of DDC that arose four years after the 
publication of Michael's book was in very large part a desperate response to 
it.  .  Having lost the *interpretative* battle for DDC, critics who had 
wanted to distance that text from heresy took the only course left to them: 
they denied Milton's authorship.  Their argument implicitly concedes that if 
Milton *had* written DDC, he was indeed an Arian.  Critics like William 
Hunter would not have made this concession before Bauman's book appeared.

But one can acknowledge all this and still ask a pertinent question about 
PL.  Milton certainly held views that most other Christians would call 
"heretical."  That, I think, is now indisputable.  But does Milton advertise 
these views in PL?  C. S. Lewis thought that Milton was unorthodox in his 
private beliefs but wrote PL for all Christians.  This is a very different 
argument from that of the *Bright Essence* trinity of critics who tried to 
rescue Milton for orthodoxy.  Might Lewis's argument still have credibility? 
I put this out there as a genuine question as I do not (yet) know what I 
think on the matter.  Lewis certainly overstates his case when he says that 
no one suspected Milton of heresy until the discovery of DDC.  There were a 
few critics, including John Dennis, Daniel Defoe, Charles Leslie, and 
"Theophilus," who did in fact suspect the presence of Arian heresy in PL. 
(John Rumrich's 1996 book is very good on this.)  But other early 
commentators, including the Jonathan Richardsons and Thomas Newton, thought 
that Milton was orthodox.  True, they felt the need to argue for this view, 
and they were wrong; but they were not fools.  So my question is:

Does Milton in PL go out of his way to signal his "heresies" (I use scare 
quotes because Milton himself interrogates the word, glossing it as 
"opinions") or does he tactfully understate them?  A possible analogy is his 
reticence on his Italian journey, when he made it a rule for himself neither 
to advertise nor conceal his Protestantism, but to stand by it if pressed. 
Might he have a similar attitude to Arianism and other unorthodox opinions 
in PL?  Or is he writing PL (as we might now say) "in code" for the knowing 

John Leonard

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Michael Bauman" <mbauman at hillsdale.edu>
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Sent: Saturday, January 03, 2009 12:18 PM
Subject: RE: [Milton-L] De Doctrina Christiana

> Kim,
> 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 openi!
> ng 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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