[Milton-L] human intellectual & moral capacity

Richard A. Strier rastrier at uchicago.edu
Sun Apr 6 16:04:48 EDT 2014

What is "worthiness before God?"  That is the big question.  For Luther, Calvin, etc, there is no such thing for humans.  For Milton, I think there was such a thing, and that it consisted of the classical virtues (ideally together with faith in some version of the biblical God) -- this may not have been "all," but it certainly was not nothing.  The on/off switch makes no sense -- that would mean a world of only saints and sinners.

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 2:45 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] human intellectual & moral capacity

I'm more interested in the reasoning than the fact: does it matter that Eve's sin is somehow lesser than Satan's, or for that matter, why does it matter at all that there was an element of deceit in Eve's fall and none whatsoever in Satan's? If grace is undeserved, Satan's sin being either worse or somehow different without being worse shouldn't matter. If Adam and Eve can only repent because of God's prior act, why doesn't God so act upon Satan? He doesn't deserve it? That's not grace, then.

I think we need to wrap our heads around the idea that worthiness before God (though not people) is an absolute quality: the difference between being worthy and unworthy is infinite because it is qualitative. It's like an on/off switch -- all or nothing.

Jim R

On Sun, Apr 6, 2014 at 3:31 PM, Richard A. Strier <rastrier at uchicago.edu<mailto:rastrier at uchicago.edu>> wrote:
"Eve is not Satan's intellectual match, and neither are we."  I think this vastly underestimates Milton's belief in human intellectual and moral capacity (see "Of Education," Areopagitica, etc, etc).  As Satan says -- I think correctly -- in PR, the positions that the Son articulates in the dialogue between them show the Son to be "th'utmost of mere man both wise and good, / Not more."  For the Son to show himself to be "more," something else is required (and happens, of course).

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