[Milton-L] crucifixion

David Urban dvu2 at calvin.edu
Sat Apr 5 22:38:52 EDT 2014

For the record, Samuel Smith's article is not in fact forthcoming, but already published:

"Milton's Theology of the Cross: Substitution and Satisfaction in Christ's Atonement​"

 *Christianity and Literature* 63.1 (Autumn 2013): 5-25.

(Sorry for the oversized font, copied and pasted! :)  )

From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu <milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu> on behalf of Smith, Samuel <ssmith at messiah.edu>
Sent: Saturday, April 5, 2014 9:02 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] crucifixion

I want to come back to what I find most cogent and pertinent in Richard's response, which marks Milton's inconsistency - or perhaps (others on this list will know better than I) his inability to make (complete?) a journey to the Socinian alternative:

God's speech gives a full and coherent rationale -- ON STRICTLY MORAL/RATIONAL GROUNDS -- for forgiving man.  Not only is the crucifixion not mentioned, it is not needed -- that's the point (my point).  The grounds for man's salvation are clearly laid out in this speech; nothing further is needed.

I find this reading absolutely on target. Because of this, "Die hee or justice must" puzzles me (or, to borrow previous discourse, "bugs" me). Milton's God (and I don't see Milton severely split off from his God, although I'm no psychoanalyst) affirms a common interpretation of Paul, one that I inherited as the son of an Evangelical minister and the nephew of a Reformed Baptist minister whose life-long hero has been John Owen (and it's been a rather long-life: eight decades now). Given the interdiction, perhaps humans must die in order for God to be consistent with his promise - God's integrity is at stake; God cannot play the relenting parent ("well, just this once"). But that Death and/or its consequences must be experienced eternally by individual sinners does not seem to follow, at least not as an instance of justice.

So the crucifixion is unnecessary as an Anselmian satisfaction or as a penal-substitutionary atonement.

So Richard is right, I think: Milton's God can forgive humanity without any crucifixion/sacrifice. And yet Milton clearly embraces the crucifixion as a (necessary) sacrifice. Why? Probably because it is difficult to read Paul as an authoritative source and not do so - there seems to have been no crisis in the life of Milton to compel him to write the equivalent of The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce that would find a way to re-contextualize and reinterpret biblical texts that made the death of Christ as an atoning sacrifice anything other than the plain truth of the matter. I think Milton gives little time to it because this is one of his most basic governing presuppositions - one of a number of things he did not rethink or reconfigure - at least not in print.



P.S. Naturally, I prefer my own inconsistencies to Milton's. I like to think he would appreciate that.
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu <milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu> on behalf of Richard A. Strier <rastrier at uchicago.edu>
Sent: Saturday, April 5, 2014 7:49 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] crucifixion

I'm not sure what this snide comment accomplishes (and I am sure that it's not appropriate).  What does "taking him [Milton] at his word" mean?  I am taking the speech that God gives at its word.  Doing so is the whole basis of what I am saying. The point (for me) is that the poem is conflicted and contradictory at some points.  And as I said, I am not sure how to think about the contradiction that I see.

From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of alan horn [alanshorn at gmail.com]
Sent: Saturday, April 05, 2014 6:19 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] crucifixion

I should have added, as I tried to make clear the first time around, that Milton is trying to APPEAR orthodox in the body of Book 3.  He wants the central "action" of the Book, through some powerful writing, to lead us to forget the position of the opening monologue, to bracket it, as it were.  He really does want to appear orthodox--

How nice for you that you know why Milton wrote what he did while the rest of us have to take him at his word.


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