[Milton-L] De Doctrina Christiana

Peter C. Herman herman2 at mail.sdsu.edu
Thu Jan 8 16:01:25 EST 2009


Dear All,

I wonder if perhaps we could try for more precise 
terminology than "Christian," since the 
definition of that term for Milton (and others) 
was very much in dispute. Catholicism, for 
example, is for Milton (and others) "popery," and 
not to be tolerated in the well-regulated 
commonwealth. And I remember that Calvin's 
Catholic antagonists called him an "atheist." To 
call PL a "Christian" poem, therefore, implies an 
ecumenicism that I do not think is warranted by 
either the times or the text itself.

Peter C. Herman

At 11:49 AM 1/8/2009, you wrote:
>This is a quick response because I'm trying to complete my syllabi for
>Spring.
>
>I'm not saying that the comparison between doctrina cristiana and PL is
>not interesting, because I think it is very interesting.
>
>Exoterically, I think,  PL appears as a "Christian poem", which phrase I
>interpret as a poem that argues for Christianity and espouses and promotes
>or explicates exclusively Christian doctrine and values. In contrast, a
>poem about Christianity wouldn't necessarily be limited to Christian
>values, or to christianity but inclusive of values beyond christian
>doctrine. On one level Milton might be making an argument for his
>interpretation of christianity, if we want to resort to author intent. But
>the poem is too complex to read it as a Christian poem, when Christianity
>is merely the context or situation for the events and interactions that
>occur between personalities in the poem.
>
>Social practices that immediately come to mind include the critique of
>dominance of men over women and the kind of woman and man and their
>interrelationship that this practice creates. Another is excess concern
>over titles that PL traces to Satan's mentality at the moment of his fall.
>
>Cristina
>--
>Dr. Cristine Soliz
>Visiting Assistant Professor
>Colorado State University-Pueblo
>Project Director, NEH Grant
>http://dchumanities.org/
>Area Chair Historical Fiction, SW Tex Pop Culture and Am Culture Assoc
>Associate Scholar, Center for World Indigenous Studies
>http://csoliz.com
>csoliz at csoliz.com
>
> > Cristine,
> > I'm interested to hear the rationale for your stance:
> >
> > How does one distinguish between a Christian poem and one about
> > Christianity (and what in PL makes you conclude that PL is the latter, not
> > the former)?
> >
> > What in PL establishes your conclusion that PL is about "the social
> > practices" implied by its theology?
> >
> > Michael
> >
> >
> >
> > ________________________________________
> > From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
> > [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Cristine Soliz
> > [csoliz at csoliz.com]
> > Sent: Tuesday, January 06, 2009 10:54 AM
> > To: John Milton Discussion List
> > Subject: RE: [Milton-L] De Doctrina Christiana
> >
> > Some might think this banal, but I consider PL more sociological and
> > cultural than religious, although Milton was addressing Christians and the
> > evolution of their theology and practice. Rather than being a Christian
> > poem, though, I read it as a poem about christianity and religion in
> > general and the social practices that the theological stances logically
> > imply.
> >
> > cristina
> >
> > --
> > Dr. Cristine Soliz
> > Visiting Assistant Professor
> > Colorado State University-Pueblo
> > Project Director, NEH Grant
> > http://dchumanities.org/
> > Area Chair Historical Fiction, SW Tex Pop Culture and Am Culture Assoc
> > Associate Scholar, Center for World Indigenous Studies
> > http://csoliz.com
> > csoliz at csoliz.com
> >
> >> For what it's worth, I agree strongly with both John Leonard and Larry
> >> Isitt:
> >>
> >> I think John is quite right that many interesting, profitable, and
> >> productive interpretive questions and challenges arise when one reads PL
> >> and DDC in conjunction with one another, especially because they were
> >> written, so far as I can tell, contemporaneously.  That juxtaposition
> >> can
> >> prove profoundly informative and enlightening.  I think, too, that John
> >> Rumrich and Maurice Kelley have identified responsible ways by which to
> >> interpret those texts accurately and well.
> >>
> >> I think Larry is right to say that PL is Arian and that the evolution in
> >> Milton's theology was largely complete when the poem and treatise were
> >> written.  Nothing in Paradise Regained or in Of True Religion makes me
> >> think otherwise, and many things in them confirm it -- things like
> >> Milton
> >> insisting in PR that paradise was regained by successfully resisting
> >> temptation (which Gegg and Groh demonstate to be part of Arian
> >> soteriology), and Milton's exclusion of Arianism from the list of things
> >> he thinks are heretical (in OTR).
> >>
> >> Michael
> >> ________________________________________
> >> From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
> >> [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Larry Isitt
> >> [isitt at cofo.edu]
> >> Sent: Monday, January 05, 2009 10:07 AM
> >> To: John Milton Discussion List
> >> Subject: RE: [Milton-L] De Doctrina Christiana
> >>
> >> Johnny,
> >> 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.
> >>
> >> Larry
> >>
> >> ________________________________________
> >> 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
> >> again.
> >>
> >> 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.
> >>
> >> Shalom,
> >>
> >> Jonny
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> 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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> >>
> >>
> >>
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