[Milton-L] prevenient (was crucifixion)

Dennis Danielson danielso at mail.ubc.ca
Sun Apr 6 18:13:49 EDT 2014

When I was a theological pedant almost exactly half a lifetime ago 
(though perhaps I'm still one of those), I argued a reading of the 
beginning of Book 11 by analogy with a Q&A from Robert Harris's 1563 
catechism, which imagines a student wondering, given that all 
“spirituall goodnesse” is accomplished by grace, what room there is for 
his or her own agency:

"Quest. What can we do toward [the softening of our hearts]? it is not 
in our power to soften our selves.
Answ. True: but yet it is in our power to harden our selves ...: Here 
therefore, take heed that when God speaks, you stop not your eares; when 
God shines upon you, that you shut not your eyes ...; do not receive the 
grace of God in vain; do not future your repentance, nor make delaies, 
... but when the Word findes you out in your sins, take Gods part 
against yourselves, stablishing your hearts in the assured truth of all 
the promises of God."

Similarly, in Paradise Lost (I argued), Adam and Eve recall both the 
promise concerning the bruising of the serpent’s head and the evidence 
they already have of God’s pity (l0.1028 ff., 1056 ff). Having refrained 
from hardening themselves, from stopping their ears, from shutting their 
eyes, they also avoid any “futuring” of their repentance: To the place 
of judgment they repair “forthwith” (10.1098). Moreover, when Adam 
counsels against suicide on the grounds that it “cuts us off from hope, 
and savours only / Rancour and pride, impatience and despite, / 
Reluctance against God and his just yoke” (10.1043 5), there is no 
reason for thinking him mistaken in assuming this possibility of 
“reluctance against God” to be real, even though we are subsequently 
told that the decision not to be reluctant was effected through God’s grace.

In short, this (Arminian) reading of prevenient grace does not (pace JD 
Fleming) prevent us from imagining that A and E are saved because they 

On 14-04-06 2:52 PM, alan horn wrote:
>     --So, in this moment, we do indeed have Milton asserting a doctrine
>     consistent with Calvinism.  Which is what you, originally, objected to.
> Pardon me, but I objected to your calling it a Calvinist teaching. It is
> not distinctive to Calvinism. It is indeed one of the Calvinist five
> points, but it is also consistent with positions like Milton’s that
> reject the other four.
>     In any case, the point, still glowing amidst the theological
>     pedantry, is that PL does not ask us to imagine that A and E are
>     saved because they repent.
> As I read the passage, they are offered grace, which they are free to
> accept or reject; they accept it and pray; their prayers go up to
> heaven; and through the Son’s intercession and the promise of his
> sacrifice these prayers are granted. Grace is offered, accepted, and
> made effective. Are you sure this text is free of theological pedantry,
> as you call it?

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