[Milton-L] crucifixion

James Rovira jamesrovira at gmail.com
Sun Apr 6 12:23:42 EDT 2014


Thanks for responding, Richard.

I think you're right about the trickiness of Milton's rationale for
distinguishing between lending help to human beings and lending help to
angels: he does sound like he's saying that we "deserve" grace more because
our sin is less, being the product of a deception rather than outright
willfulness. Obviously, if it's a matter of grace, then there's no need to
reference the severity of sin, which is supposed to be infinitely
(qualitatively) exclusive of Divine favor rather than quantitatively. If
the quantity of sin mattered, then we can still be saved so long as our sin
meter doesn't go too high -- which is almost what God sounds like he's
saying in bk 3 with these lines.

I'm wondering if a focus on Satan's unwillingness or inability to really
repent -- that we hear from Satan himself in his private thoughts -- would
have solved this dilemma? Milton seems to be throwing everything into the
conceptual hat here, including predestination and foreknowledge. Was he
trying to represent everyone's position to keep from alienating anyone on
this point, or because all of these ideas seemed viable?

I would like to suggest that since Milton doesn't appear to be a
universalist, when he says that man "shall find grace" he may be referring
only to the availability of grace to all human beings and the reception of
grace by some human beings. If he were to hold to a strict view of
predestination, those seeking and asking for grace are those who have been
enabled by God to do so, and the sacrifice of Christ might be a means of
that enabling. In the NT, you might see some mechanism like this in Romans:
"Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." The act hearing
of the message carries with it the capacity to believe in it.

Jim R


On Sun, Apr 6, 2014 at 12:07 PM, Richard A. Strier <rastrier at uchicago.edu>wrote:

>  Thanks for the nice discussion, Jim.
>
>  But I think "Die he or justice must" makes no sense given what God says
> about the rationale -- justice -- of forgiving man but not Satan and
> company (though the fallen angels were also, it seems to me, not
> "self-tempted").  And I think what you say about giving man the capacity to
> receive grace is lovely but tricky, and not clearly laid out by Milton.
>  "Shall find grace" is pretty absolute.  And, within the poem, the
> creatures that A and E are shown to be after the Fall look as if they are
> capable of asking for and receiving grace.  And they are certainly punished
> directly -- having to leave Eden, cause the misery of history, etc, etc.
>
>  RS
>   ------------------------------
> *From:* milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [
> milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] on behalf of James Rovira [
> jamesrovira at gmail.com]
> *Sent:* Sunday, April 06, 2014 1:47 AM
>
> *To:* John Milton Discussion List
> *Subject:* Re: [Milton-L] crucifixion
>
>   Richard --
>
>  Thanks for posting these ideas. I'd like to suggest that Milton's
> specific language is important. He doesn't have God say, "I'm going to
> forgive Adam and Eve because they were deceived." He has God say,
>
>  Self-tempted, self-deprav'd: Man falls deceiv'd<http://www.dartmouth.edu/~milton/reading_room/pl/book_3/notes.shtml#falls> [
> 130 ]
> By the other first: Man therefore shall find grace,
>
>  He says instead that man shall find "grace." We might be tempted to
> think of God's forgiveness the way that we think of human forgiveness: you
> or I could forgive someone unilaterally, regardless of their response to us
> or of their feelings for us.
>
>  But grace is something that must be both given and received. The Son
> observes later in Book 3 that
>
>  "he her [grace's] aide /
> Can never seek, once dead in sins and lost;"
>
>  Because of man's fallen state, man is unable to seek out the help of
> grace, so God offering man grace won't be enough to save mankind: somehow,
> mankind has to be made able to receive it.
>
>  Because mankind is unable to make atonement for themselves, Christ
> agrees to become man and offer himself up:
>
>  "Attonement for himself or offering meet,
> Indebted and undon, hath none to bring: [ 235 ]
> Behold mee then, mee for him, life for life"
>
>  In these lines the state of being "dead in sins and lost" can only be
> remedied by atonement, but because of man's fallen state, man is unable to
> offer atonement. Christ, however, being unfallen, can make himself such an
> offering by becoming human.
>
>  That seems to me to be the Milton's explanation for the existence of the
> cross: God offers grace, but mankind is unable to receive it, so Christ's
> sacrifice of himself, as a man, makes all of mankind able to receive God's
> grace.
>
>  As has been mentioned, I think, there's also the problem of a just
> penalty for sin: God is the judge or ruler of a moral universe and mankind,
> having sinned, deserves punishment:
>
>  "But yet all is not don; Man disobeying,
> Disloyal breaks his fealtie, and sinns
> Against the high Supremacie of Heav'n, [ 205 ]
> Affecting God-head, and so loosing all,
> To expiate his Treason hath naught left,
> But to destruction sacred and devote,
> He with his whole posteritie must dye,
> Dye hee or Justice must; unless for him [ 210 ]
> Som other able, and as willing, pay
> The rigid satisfaction, death for death."
>
>  The two and a half lines seem like a fairly straightforward presentation
> of substitutionary atonement: either justice falls on humanity or on
> someone else. If that doesn't happen, then justice itself will die.
>
>  Jim
>
>
> On Sat, Apr 5, 2014 at 6:06 PM, Richard A. Strier <rastrier at uchicago.edu>wrote:
>
>>  Well, here goes!  I'll say it, and let the storm follow:  Milton could
>> hardly care less about the crucifixion and still be any sort of Christian.
>>
>>
>>  The Son's "heroism" in Book 3 is entirely adventitious, since, after
>> the proem, the action of the Book OPENS with God's decision to pardon man
>> on purely moral/rational grounds (he was misled -- but then, so were
>> Satan's followers-- but that's another problem).  In any case, "Man
>> therefore shall find grace" is determined, absolutely and definitively,
>> before the whole drama of sacrifice takes place.  The critics who think
>> Satan's heroism false and the Son's true have it backwards.  Someone had to
>> do what Satan did, if his plan was to succeed (and it is not clear that
>> anyone else was going to volunteer); the Son's Great Act is strictly
>> unnecessary -- it's Milton trying to look orthodox, as if he believed in
>> Anselmic atonement theory, when in fact he has already worked things out in
>> his purely rationalistic way.
>>
>>  And of course, the crucifixion is notoriously difficult to find in the
>> account of history in Bks XI-XII.  It takes up 3 lines (XII: 411-13), and
>> even there, Milton finds the abjection intolerable, and immediately makes
>> the event a military triumph and reversal of torture -- "But to the Cross
>> he nails thy Enemies."
>>
>>  RS
>>
>>    ------------------------------
>> *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 4:40 PM
>> *To:* John Milton Discussion List
>> *Subject:* Re: [Milton-L] tree of life
>>
>>     why is the Tree of Life there at all? Milton seems to strip it of
>>> any function in the literal narrative and reduce it to a symbol prefiguring
>>> Christian salvation. Does this get us any closer to establishing a
>>> symmetrical relation between the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life?
>>>
>>
>>  The Tree of Life is the type of the cross. Jesus dying on the cross in
>> obedience to the law of God makes good Adam's disobedience in eating of
>> that other tree. So Christ (the anti-type of Satan, who offered the fruit
>> of the Tree of Knowledge, or death) redeems from death all those who
>> "offered life / Neglect not" (XII, 425-6). The Tree of Life is identified
>> with the true church in Book IV and Satan who perches on it as he scopes
>> out Eden to corrupt clergy (193).
>>
>>
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>
>
>
>  --
> Dr. James Rovira
> Associate Professor of English
> Tiffin University
> http://www.jamesrovira.com
> Blake and Kierkegaard: Creation and Anxiety
> Continuum 2010
> http://jamesrovira.com/blake-and-kierkegaard-creation-and-anxiety/
>  Text, Identity, Subjectivity
> http://scalar.usc.edu/works/text-identity-subjectivity/index
>
> _______________________________________________
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-- 
Dr. James Rovira
Associate Professor of English
Tiffin University
http://www.jamesrovira.com
Blake and Kierkegaard: Creation and Anxiety
Continuum 2010
http://jamesrovira.com/blake-and-kierkegaard-creation-and-anxiety/
Text, Identity, Subjectivity
http://scalar.usc.edu/works/text-identity-subjectivity/index
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