[Milton-L] De Doctrina Christiana

Larry Isitt isitt at cofo.edu
Sun Jan 4 14:23:40 EST 2009


Michael,
Virtually all of the early reviews (1825-26) lable the author of De Doctrina an Arian. There the Son is subordinated to the Father and subordination is what Arianism is about; only the Father is unborn and eternal, while the Son has a beginning of existence and he does not share a common essence with the Father. We can see clearly in the treatise that Arian heresy which is otherwise hidden and much more difficult to spot in the PL. But it is there nonetheless if we have but a reliable way of detecting it. Lewis and Johnson, for all their magnificent commentary, may not have been able see Arianism because of its being partially blocked from view in the close association of the Son with the Father and with the Father's genuinely orthodox descriptions and names. 

The question for me is: if Arianism is present in the epic, and that epic is by the same author as the treatise (as I believe it is), should we not expect that the zealous regard for this doctrinal question by the author of the treatise would also be a central feature of the epic? Milton is so emphatic in the treatise in showing the Son's inferiority to the Father that I cannot imagine he would not give evidence for this belief even in a poem.  Milton chose not to publish the De Doctrina, in part no doubt for safe-guarding himself from prosecution under England's anti-Trinitarian laws; so if we are to find his Arianism it must be in muffled disguise, and what better way to do this but by closely associating the Son with the Father's thoughts and actions, especially in the blaze of heavenly light of Book 3.

The way, then, that I think he worked into his epic the subordinating heresy of Arianism was by choosing to unequally name the Son so that readers who would would find his actual views, while those like Lewis and Johnson who chose not to look carefully enough would not. The Father is "invisible" but the Son is not. One might well defend this by pointing to the requirements of drama. OK. But shouldn't the Son be "infinite" and "almighty" and "eternal" if he is the equal of the Father (which orthodoxy demands)? Yet nowhere in the treatise is the Son called by these names.

Larry Isitt
College of the Ozarks
________________________________________
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Michael Gillum [mgillum at unca.edu]
Sent: Sunday, January 04, 2009 12:28 PM
To: milton-l
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] De Doctrina Christiana

Yes, this is a helpful thread. Thanks to all.

In support of Lewis's view, as far as I recall the Father never speaks of
what the Son is not (e. g. "not of one essence"), but only in positive terms
of what he is. These positive descriptions are generally compatible with
orthodoxy. The Son's subordinate position is dramatized (but not
emphatically), and not stated as doctrine. The very orthodox Samuel Johnson
noticed nothing doctrinally objectionable. One might expect Johnson to have
his antennae up, Milton being anti-Anglican and politically objectionable to
him.

Michael


On 1/4/09 10:00 AM, "John Leonard" <jleonard at uwo.ca> wrote:

> 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
> few?
>
>
> 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
>> ³conversation² 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 Carey¹s 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 other¹s 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 ³creation by² and
>> ³creation through² 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 (³second omnipotence²) and is the sole cause of the Creation, said
>> explicitly to be ³by² 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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