[Milton-L] Milton as challenger?

James Rovira jamesrovira at gmail.com
Sat Oct 3 19:18:18 EDT 2009

Most of what you list, Hannibal, isn't necessarily contrary to
Christian orthodoxy, though it'd be better if you didn't think of
Christian orthodoxy as a single, unified thing.  How uniformly are the
ideas of sex before the fall or Satan's charisma condemned in
authoritative documents?  I've seen both affirmed at different times
and to serve different purposes.  Bede's record of the correspondence
between the Pope and the English churches sets careful boundaries
around treating sex as anything other than good and created by God,
even while it clearly attempts to encourage the readers to exercise
restraint.  Satan's attractiveness tends to be emphasized in sermons
describing him as an "angel of light."

I think the notion of angelic sex would be rejected, but it doesn't
show up in any of the creeds to my knowledge -- any papal encyclicals
on it -- so do you think this is really a big issue?  The two
dimensionality of God the Father in PL is an aesthetic judgment that
varies by time and place.  It's hardly a point of doctrine.  It's
conceivable that readers could interpret the stasis of God the Father
as majesty, and the movement and mutability of Satan as a clear sign
of his fall from eternity.

I'm not saying Milton was entirely orthodox, and what's odd to me is
that you don't mention his views on the trinity or on Christology,
which would be far more important, controversial, and questionable to
those concerned than anything else you mention.  I think you picture a
very narrowly conceived, barely educated Puritan as standing in for an
orthodox Christian reader, but that's not faithful to history or the
history of Christian belief.  I could see Medieval monks being
fascinated by PL.

Jim R

On Sat, Oct 3, 2009 at 2:10 PM, Hannibal Hamlin
<hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com> wrote:
> Hmmm. Well, I should probably qualify or complicate this I suppose. I'm
> still inclined to think that a careful reading of, say , Paradise Lost, is
> likely to challenge the orthodoxies or received religious beliefs of our
> students. Sex before the fall, angelic sex, the charismatic appeal (at times
> seemingly logical --  highable contestable I know) of Satan, the
> two-dimensionality of the Father (how does one dramatize omniscience?), and
> so forth.

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