[Milton-L] De Doctrina Christiana

Jason Kerr aelfric at gmail.com
Wed Jan 14 13:39:20 EST 2009

Thanks to everyone for this particularly illuminating discussion, which it
has been a pleasure to follow.

Here are a few questions for the list pertaining to foreknowledge and
election as they relate to the interaction between Michael and Adam in the
final books of PL. What are we to make of this display of divine
foreknowledge? What does it mean for Michael to have access to this kind of
knowledge, or Adam for that matter? I think it's telling that Michael
refrains from prophesying anything specifically about Adam (other than that
Cain and Abel will be his sons), and Michael similarly refrains from
specific prophesy about the Christian Era. It seems to me that Milton writes
the poem in this way to avoid equating foreknowledge and determinism. Part
of the poignancy of the ending is that neither we nor Adam and Eve know what
happens next--they must choose. But even if Adam remains free (in the
Arminian sense, that he might either persevere or relapse as he so chooses),
does his extraordinary experience of Michael's vision/narration bespeak a
particular kind of election? Does this mean that Adam is one "of peculiar
grace"? Or is Eve rather the one "of peculiar grace," as John Rumrich
suggests might be the case, since the prophetic process seems not to have
been necessary for her in quite the same way?

Jason A. Kerr

The purpose of poetry is to remind us
how difficult it is to remain just one person,
for our house is open, there are no keys in the doors,
and invisible guests come in and out at will.

          —Czeslaw Milosz, from "Ars Poetica?"
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