[Milton-L] De Doctrina Christiana

John Rumrich rumrich at mail.utexas.edu
Tue Jan 13 14:27:52 EST 2009


Regarding Louis's point, Samson seems like a good example of a  
character "elect above the rest."  And as Steve Fallon and I observed  
in talking along these same lines at a conference some years ago, Eve  
is the character to whom the phrase "peculiar graces" is applied by  
the narrator.  Not the same as "peculiar grace" as used by God, I  
admit, but the echo strikes me as unmistakable and significant.

Milton observes in his theological treatise that some are better  
disposed for salvation than others and that the Greek word usually  
translated "ordained" (tetagmenoi) would be better rendered  
"predisposed."  Like FDR, the specially elect enjoy a first class  
temperament--a beautiful complexion (in the old sense of that word).   
That doesn't mean they can't fail.  The servant endowed with ten  
talents presumably could have hidden his away as easily as the servant  
endowed with one.


On Jan 13, 2009, at 12:55 PM, Michael Gillum wrote:

> I agree with what Louis Schwartz says. Electing some above the rest  
> does not commit the Father to unconditional election, irresistible  
> grace, and persistence of the saints. It could mean that he has a  
> special role in mind for them, perhaps he gives them an extra  
> helping of prevenient grace, and he knows they will choose to be  
> faithful. Here Milton could be accommodating scripture passages that  
> sound Calvinist and thereby protecting the Arminian flank against  
> attack from that quarter. Or might he be considering empirical  
> evidence that conversion is smoother and easier for some (including  
> JM?) than for others?
>
>
> On 1/13/09 11:46 AM, "Schwartz, Louis" <lschwart at richmond.edu> wrote:
>
>> I haven’t been following this discussion as closely as I’d like—too  
>> much else to do!  But the following occurred to me while reading  
>> through Kim’s post (the question runs parallel to Jim’s response,  
>> below):
>>
>> Kin wrote:  “I cannot think of any theologian who argued that God  
>> elects some unconditionally and then requires of the rest  
>> persistent trial, with those who succeed being admitted to heaven.  
>> Yet the poem seems very clear—“some” and “the rest.” This seems to  
>> be me to more that just having Calvinist leanings; it seems  
>> perversely inconsistent.”
>>
>> My question is this:  are we sure that there’s anything in the  
>> speech that says that the “peculiar grace” given to the “elect” is  
>> a guarantor of their ultimate salvation?  Are we sure that  
>> conditions don’t apply?  Can’t grace—offered to these creatures  
>> more fully or clearly than to the others—be freely refused by them,  
>> and wouldn’t that put those who refused among those who are later  
>> in the passage “excluded?” Indeed it would seem that they would be  
>> even more culpable and perhaps would find themselves unforgivable  
>> more immediately and irreversibly.  Not unlike the rebel Angels, in  
>> other words, who seem to have fallen once and for all, and  
>> undeceived, fully knowing what they were doing (at least according  
>> to what God says in Book III).
>>
>> L.
>>
>>
>>
>> ===========================
>> Louis Schwartz
>> Associate Professor of English
>> University of Richmond
>> Richmond, VA  23173
>> (804) 289-8315
>> lschwart at richmond.edu
>>
>>
>>
>> From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu 
>> ] On Behalf Of James Rovira
>> Sent: Tuesday, January 13, 2009 10:55 AM
>> To: John Milton Discussion List
>> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] De Doctrina Christiana
>>
>> Jeffery --
>>
>> This will be an attempt to create a visual image of the conception  
>> of time Harold Skulsky has been presenting. Milton may have been  
>> working with a conception of time in which, if time is a line drawn  
>> on a chalkboard, God would be the chalkboard, so that every moment  
>> in time is equally "present" to God, as opposed to time for someone  
>> on the line, which may be thought of / experienced as a succession  
>> of moments. I don't recall the patristic source for this idea  
>> offhand. Anselm? Not sure.
>>
>> God's "appearance" in time in this view of time is not problematic,  
>> as God is ever present within time, all time simultaneously.
>>
>> Kim:
>>
>> Much appreciation for the clarity of your posts and thought.
>>
>> It could be that God's election in the passages you cite is not  
>> "individual" but "general." God may have generally decreed that  
>> those who respond in faith are foreordained to salvation, while  
>> those do not are foreordained to damnation, without decreeing that  
>> any specific individual would be saved or damned. So as individuals  
>> we choose to respond in faith or not, and choose freely ("freely"  
>> in this context is a complex term that still winds up with the  
>> individual agent being responsible for his/her choices), but once  
>> we have chosen, our fate is determined.
>>
>> A number of external agents may influence our choice, God being one  
>> of them, but we make the choice. "Free" does not necessarily mean  
>> "unmotivated" in this context.
>>
>> Jim R
>>
>> On Tue, Jan 13, 2009 at 1:04 AM, Kim Maxwell  
>> <kmaxwell at stanford.edu> wrote:
>>
>> On the difficulties of narration:  I am not sure I see the  
>> difficulty.  God is narrated in many works, some only as an  
>> allegorical figure.  That he appears in time only matters if the  
>> narration suggests that such appearance renders his efforts at  
>> transhistorical statements ironic.  This may happen in PL, but I  
>> don't see it is a necessary outcome  of the fact of representation,  
>> or poetic form for that matter.  Indeed, at the risk of another  
>> distinction, those who want the poem to be doctrinal take God's  
>> words at what they see as face value, and those who see it  
>> otherwise decide that God's general character as mean or tyrannical  
>> requires an ironic treatment, so that God's self-testaments to his  
>> own nature and mercy can be acquitted of truth.  What I am trying  
>> to argue, however, has something to do with God's words, but not as  
>> inflected by his character.  God says the following things: "To me  
>> owe all his deliverance, and to none but me" (3.181-2); "Some I  
>> have chosen of peculiar grace / Elect above the rest: so is my  
>> will" (3.183-4); the rest shall hear me call . . . (3.185 ff).  I  
>> find problems here.  Does "me" include the son, who after all  
>> actually performs the judgment?  Does "none but me" imply that only  
>> God has any influence on the outcome, the most obvious reading,  
>> which is unlimited election. "Some I have chosen of peculiar grace,  
>> elect above the rest" This is another form of unlimited election.   
>> Why does he do this, and then proceed to what I think is called  
>> limited election, that God can elect but man can refuse (the  
>> Arminian position as I understand it, that is, God's atonement is  
>> unlimited, but perseverance is not)?  But then God installs his  
>> umpire conscience in those not elected, suggesting that if they  
>> work hard, "light after light well used they shall attain, and to  
>> the end persisting, safe arrive."  This has the smell of Pelagius,  
>> of no election at all.  God of course knows who does and who  
>> doesn't, but his stand on predestination, a clear one I think,  
>> means that he causes none of it.  It seems to me that Milton did  
>> not need to have God say these things if he wanted the poem to be  
>> capable of producing on its own terms a coherent doctrine. These  
>> are the core problems between Calvinists and Arminians as decided  
>> in favor of Calvin by the Synod of Dort—they are not dark secrets  
>> or unexplored territory.  I cannot think of any theologian who  
>> argued that God elects some unconditionally and then requires of  
>> the rest persistent trial, with those who succeed being admitted to  
>> heaven.  Yet the poem seems very clear—"some" and "the rest."  This  
>> seems to be me to more that just having Calvinist leanings; it  
>> seems perversely inconsistent.
>>
>>
>> Kim Maxwell
>>
>>
>>
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