[Milton-L] had removd

JD Fleming jfleming at sfu.ca
Sun Apr 6 20:56:54 EDT 2014

"Thus they in lowliest plight repentant stood 
Praying, for from the Mercie-seat above 
Prevenient Grace descending had remov'd 
The stonie from thir hearts, & made new flesh 
Regenerate grow instead, that sighs now breath'd 
Unutterable, which the Spirit of prayer 
Inspir'd, and wing'd for Heav'n with speedier flight 
Then loudest Oratorie." 

I do not see, in this passage, any indication that Adam and Eve are "free to accept or reject" grace. Quite the contrary: a prevenient grace that performs a moral heart transplant, without so much as a by-your-leave, would appear to be as close as one can get to an evacuation of soteriological volition under the sign of the divine power. And it is precisely because ("for") this has happened that they stand praying. It is very much as if the scene we have witnessed at the end of book 10 is meant to invite us to suppose a primary soteriological role for the first parents' repentance; only to pull away that carpet with the opening of 11. Even the "spirit of prayer," here, is treated as external to Adam and Eve, operating upon and within them like some Neoplatonic demigod. 

Now: it is clearly the case that the transplant works ; the new flesh takes . And this would be a major distinction between A+E and Satan, insofar as we reasonably suppose (based on his monologue at the beginning of 4, among other stuff), that grace would not work in him. But that is to say that in the difference between Satan and A+E, we are not talking about a difference in moral volition. We are talking about a difference in moral kind. They are better than he is; God made them better. Perhaps he is just getting better at creating. But this is down to him, not down to them. 

As for the other matter, I still do not understand how a teaching that is Calvinist can't be called Calvinist, whatever else it is. And yeah--that kind of pointless harrumph is indeed pedantic. JDF 

----- Original Message -----

From: "alan horn" <alanshorn at gmail.com> 
To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu> 
Sent: Sunday, 6 April, 2014 14:52:28 
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] crucifixion 

--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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J ames Dougal Fleming 
Associate Professor 
Department of English 
Simon Fraser University 

Burnaby -- British Columbia -- Canada. 

Upstairs was a room for travelers. ‘You know, I shall take it for the rest of my life,’ Vasili Ivanovich is reported to have said as soon as he had entered it. 
-- Vladimir Naboko v , " Cloud, Castle, Lake' 

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