[Milton-L] De Doctrina Christiana

Larry Isitt isitt at cofo.edu
Mon Jan 5 10:07:26 EST 2009

The brand of heresy regarding the Son, so far as these brands are represented in the negative anathemaas against anti-Trinitarianism sometimes attached to the positive articles defining the Trinity in Reformation confessions of faith the likes of the 1530 Augsburg and the Anglican 39 Articles and the Westminster 1647, all of which endorse in various wording the sense of Nicea 325 and Constantinople 381, is not as important as realizing that once one leaves off the Nicene definition and adopts something else to define the Son, be it ancient gnosticism or 17th century Socinianism and all others inbetween, one as it were falls off a high plateau into a valley the high end of which is Arianism (as it comes closest to endorsing the Son as deity) and the gradient falling off lower and lower as the variant definitions lower the Son more and more to the end of being just and only a man. 

PL best fits the Arian definition of the Son and reflects closely that same Arian picture to be found in De Doctrina wherein Milton states that he has nothing against the Son being called God, just not the supreme God (Yale 6.245). A Socinian would never admit this as for Socinus the Son is a man only.

The "shifting theology" to which you refer, and the analogy to a flowing stream, are not valid so far as this epic is dealt with historically and not subjectively from the viewpoint of a reader. Milton meant something definite in 1667 and that is what we have. The shifting he went through certainly but that was done much earlier when he left off Nicene orthodoxy (found in his "trinal unity" of the Nativity Ode, for example) to pursue his rationalistic thought. He lost orthodoxy long before he composed PL and the De Doctrina. 


From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of jonnyangel [junkopardner at comcast.net]
Sent: Sunday, January 04, 2009 1:44 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] De Doctrina Christiana

I'm inclined to ask Michael's questions on Kim's post: if PL isn't
Trinitarian nor Arian, then what is it?

The reason I asked the question of DDC authorship is because I've been
reading the controversy and just wanted to get the lists opinion and see
what the consensus was regarding this issue. I've recently started reading
DDC because I wanted to save it for last, thinking it might unlock some
doors in Milton's writing, but it seems Milton was theologically all over
the road and was never truly static.

There are elements of Arianism in there for sure, but I also read in some
old crusty book in the library that he was (to some degree) a Socinian which
I can see to a very small degree. When speaking with my Milton professor
last semester about Milton's shifting theology, the line from Areopagitica
where Milton states that " Truth is compar'd in Scripture to a streaming
fountain; if her waters flow not in a perpetuall progression, they sick'n
into a muddy pool of conformity and tradition." kept coming up time and time

It seems (to me) as though his theological views in particular were flowing
in "perpetual progression", and he's hard to pin down. DDC frustrates me
because it could just be where Milton was at the time he wrote it, and who
knows precisely about before, after and all the points in between. It seems
like he was always reaching for the "truth" (objective truth) in a
"perpetual progression".

I'm not closed off to Kim's idea that PL is "something else entirely"
because Milton's theology seems to fit that description very well.

Thanks for all the responses and I look forward to hearing (and thinking)
more about DDC and how it fits/doesn't fit with Milton's body of work.



On 1/3/09 12:18 PM, "Michael Bauman" <mbauman at hillsdale.edu> wrote:

> 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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