[Milton-L] had removd

JD Fleming jfleming at sfu.ca
Mon Apr 7 12:10:44 EDT 2014

But the fact remains, as I said earlier (a point which you ignore below) that there is zero indication at the beginning of 11 (contrary to a claim you made previously) that A and E are "free to accept or reject" that prevenient grace--indeed the passage could scarcely make that a less sustainable reading. Here, in 3, we certainly have an Arminian soteriology, but that is to say a soteriology articulated as "Calvinism plus": some just plain elect (such is my will), without the rest being symmetrically shut out as reprobate. And even for the latter, God makes quite clear that the sincere prayer etc. to which he will respond will come to him precisely because he makes it happen. A good thing, to be sure; but one that occurs through human freedom? Only through significant equivocation. 

Look: my dog in this fight was not in the first place theological at all--rather I was after making a point about the semi-viability of the deceived/undeceived distinction, based on the great hermeneutic significance of the Abdiel episode. I don't think, in PL, that M is primarily concerned with offering a systematic theology (that's what CD is for). 

----- 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 20:54:32 
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] had removd 

“[R]emov’d / The stonie from thir hearts” is an echo of the Father’s decree on the subject of grace in Book III: 

Man shall not quite be lost, but sav'd who will, 
Yet not of will in him, but grace in me 
Freely voutsaft; once more I will renew 
His lapsed powers, though forfeit and enthrall'd 
By sin to foul exorbitant desires; 
Upheld by me, yet once more he shall stand 
On even ground against his mortal foe, 
By me upheld, that he may know how frail 
His fall'n condition is, and to me ow 
All his deliv'rance, and to none but me. 
Some I have chosen of peculiar grace 
Elect above the rest; so is my will: 
The rest shall hear me call, and oft be warnd 
Thir sinful state, and to appease betimes 
Th' incensed Deitie while offerd grace 
Invites; for I will cleer thir senses dark, 
What may suffice, and soft'n stonie hearts 
To pray, repent, and bring obedience due. 
To Prayer, repentance, and obedience due, 
Though but endevord with sincere intent, 
Mine ear shall not be slow, mine eye not shut. 

“[S]av’d who will”--salvation requires an act of will (and will not be denied to those who make it). “Yet not of will in him, but grace in me”--it is not the will of fallen man that ultimately saves him (that would be a Pelagian teaching); God must “renew / His lasped powers” to turn away from sin (compare: “and made new flesh / Regenerate grow instead”). Leaving aside the admittedly vexed question of who receives “peculiar grace” and what it might entail, everyone else at least is promised sufficient grace (“[w]hat may suffice”) that has the power to “soft’n stonie hearts / To pray, repent, and bring obedience due,” which sincere repentance will not be for naught. This unhardening of hearts, then, is not a violation of human freedom, but rather a restoring of the freedom to avoid sin that man once enjoyed before the fall. In his fallen state, he needs God’s help to do so (he cannot be saved “of will in him” alone). But it takes an act of will to avail himself of this aid. Heart-softening is what enables fallen man in his state of total depravity to repent, but to be effective that repentance must be “endevord with sincere intent.” 

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. 

I’m sorry you didn’t see the point of my insistence that the need for prevenient grace is not a specifically Calvinist doctrine. Let me try again. You seemed to be making the assumption that prevenient grace is necessarily irresistible, as Calvin would have it. I was concerned to remind you that the need for prevenient grace is held by all Christians who accept the doctrine of total depravity, which includes a lot more than just Calvinists. It includes those, like Milton, who believe that while grace is needed for repentance and salvation it can also be rejected at will. Thus, as it says in some lines I quoted earlier today in a different thread, salvation is available to all those, and ONLY those, “as offered life / Neglect not, and the benefit embrace / By faith not void of works” (XII, 425-7). 

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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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