[Milton-L] Re: Eve seeking temptation

David Ainsworth dainsworth at bama.ua.edu
Fri Sep 11 15:42:42 EDT 2009


If I'm posting this often to Milton-L, I must have other work I should 
be doing... but here I go anyway.

I often think on the Book VIII conversation between God and Adam when 
considering God's motives.  God's question to Adam about whether *God* 
requires a fit companion hints at the purposes of Creation.  God needs 
nothing; infinite, God requires no propagation to fill everything; God's 
power permits him to "raise thy creature to what height thou wilt/Of 
union or communion, deified" (430-1).

 From that perspective, the real mystery is that God elected to create 
and chooses to lift up any part of creation whatsoever, or plans for 
those made in his image to propagate themselves.

The sticking point here is that one must accept God as God to avoid 
asking questions like what God expects out of this deal or how God 
benefits.  If God is not all-good, or all-powerful, or omnipresent, that 
does not necessarily prove that God is a despot, but it opens up the 
question of motive.  But if God is all-good, omnipotent and omnipresent, 
then a natural conclusion is that creation reflects selfless 
generosity--literally selfless, perhaps, in the sense of a creation ex 
Deo which produces intelligent beings God may someday raise to deific 
stature (on account of merit or of grace, presumably).

Returning, then, to Stella's point, the glory and "forced hallelujahs" 
which Satan sees as God's pay-off, the profit God makes on Creation, 
adds nothing of any meaning to God (who already possesses all glory), 
while the corresponding gratitude of created beings towards God reflects 
upon and ennobles THEM.  God's kingly state doesn't alter one jot, no 
matter who praises him.

I do see some really messy theological problems lurking underneath this 
whole model, but I think the basic outline here must be predicated on 
certain assumptions about God's nature.  Reject those assumptions and 
God might indeed be a tyrant (or worse).  But if God is unknowable, on 
what grounds can one accept or reject assumptions about the divine nature?

Satan makes many assumptions about God and God's nature.  His track 
record doesn't seem very good.  At the very least, his assumptions about 
God's strength were off.  By Paradise Regained, Satan's providing ample 
additional data for us to judge his perspicacity when it comes to the 
divine.

David

> Yes, Stella. As Bill Hunter, God rest his good soul, pointed out many 
> years ago in /A Milton Encyclopedia /(v.7, "Tree of Knowledge/"), /"Adam 
> calls the command concerning it 'One easie prohibition' (4.433), and 
> both he and Eve clearly recognize that keeping the command is the only 
> way they can prove their faith and obedience to God. . . . God does not 
> give them a command that contradicts His divine gift of right reason, . 
> . . He expects them to use their reason to understand the rightness of 
> trusting Him." The ways of the Lord are mysterious indeed, but even 
> Adam--who in Book 9 transforms that "easie prohibition" into "Thy terms 
> too hard"--doesn't question the Creator's right to test him, or the 
> merit of the penalty:
> 
> God made thee of choice his own, and of his own
> To serve him, thy reward was of his grace,
> Thy punishment then justly is at his Will.
> Be it so, for I submit, his doom is fair,
> He and Eve were "sufficient to have stood." They *chose* to fall. And in 
> fact, in Milton's Eden, at least, they do seem to have known what evil 
> was before the fact, without having experienced it: as early as Book 
> 4.96-99, after Eve's dream, Adam says:
>  
> Best Image of my self and dearer half,
> The trouble of thy thoughts this night in sleep
> Affects me equally; nor can I like
> This uncouth dream, of evil sprung I fear . . .
> Best to all,
>  
> Carol Barton
>  
> 
> Sep 10, 2009 09:18:48 AM, milton-l at lists.richmond.edu 
> <mailto:milton-l at lists.richmond.edu> wrote:
> 
>     I think Milton answers the question most fully in Paradise
>     Regained 3 when Satan petulantly points out to the Son that
>     God seeks glory. The Son replies that God's glory must be
>     defined as his extending his good to all creatures and that
>     he requires no more in return that gratitude. To understand
>     God this way would be what was required of Eve when Satan
>     proposes to her that God is a denying and not a giving deity.
> 
>     Stella Revard
> 
>     Quoting Horace Jeffery Hodges <jefferyhodges at yahoo.com
>     <mailto:jefferyhodges at yahoo.com>>:
> 
>      > 'Well, that was exactly what I was asking.
>      >  
>      >  
>      > I originally wanted to know if Milton ever gave an answer to the
>     question
>      > raised in the temptation scene in which Satan brings Eve to the
>     point of
>      > wondering if God is the true God. Milton was implicitly raising
>     the question
>      > in his readers' minds, it seemed to me, and I therefore asked
>     others on the
>      > Milton List if Milton offers an answer in Paradise Lost.
>      >  
>      >  
>      > Jeffery Hodges
>      >  
>      >
>      >
>      > --- On Wed, 9/9/09, James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com
>     <mailto:jamesrovira at gmail.com>> wrote:
>      >
>      >
>      > From: James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com
>     <mailto:jamesrovira at gmail.com>>
>      > Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Re: Eve seeking temptation
>      > To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu
>     <mailto:milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>>
>      > Date: Wednesday, September 9, 2009, 3:55 PM
>      >
>      >
>      > Yes, but you still serve a purpose by asking such questions or
>     posing such
>      > positions.  When I use this device in class, it's simply to provoke
>      > discussion.  What do you think was Milton's purpose?
>      >
>      > Jim R
>      >
>      >
>      > On Wed, Sep 9, 2009 at 4:47 PM, Horace Jeffery Hodges
>      > <jefferyhodges at yahoo.com <mailto:jefferyhodges at yahoo.com>> wrote:
>      >
>      >
>      >
>      >
>      >
>      >
>      > As I understand the expression "devil's advocate," it means to
>     propose a
>      > position that one does not oneself accept but that one thinks
>     deserves to be
>      > addressed. I used it in that sense -- but with an
>     implicitly ironic allusion
>      > to Satan in the PL text (as a bit of humor).
>      >
>      >  
>      >  
>      > Jeffery Hodges
>      >
>      > -----Inline Attachment Follows-----
>      >
>      >
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