[Milton-L] De Doctrina Christiana

FLANNAGAN, ROY ROY at uscb.edu
Sun Jan 4 15:52:30 EST 2009

Points very well taken, John.  Someone on this list might be able to argue that Milton does in Paradise Lost provide evidence that polygamy and divorce should be legal, and that executing a king who violates the trust of his people is a good thing to do.  If Milton had argued or even implied the second position in his epic, he might indeed have been caught by the censor and executed, after the Restoration, but he might have been able to get away with arguing as "the divorcer" again.  I think the rumor that Charles II sought Milton's advice about divorce is not only juicy but plausible.

Perhaps Samson Agonistes is the riskier piece, theologically speaking, because it does approve of the annihilation of the enemies of God.

Milton was never afraid of taking thelogical risks in his poetic works.  Think of the masque as a defense of Christian chastity but not sacerdotal celibacy, or think of what happens to the pagan gods in the Nativity Ode--not to mention what is foreseen for the clergy in "Lycidas."

The attitude Milton took towards Roman Catholics when he was in Rome, as John implies, might well be the key to understanding his handling of theological subject matter (as in "this great Argument") in his poetry.

Roy Flannagan


From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu on behalf of John Leonard
Sent: Sun 1/4/2009 10:00 AM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] De Doctrina Christiana

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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