Everyday epiphanies from Milton's Eden and beyond

Month: December 2019

Goodbye, Mr. Feeny!

Well class, it has certainly been a journey. I agree with Melida in saying that our last class meeting felt strangely emotional; perhaps the college equivalent of the closing scene in Boy Meets World. It is not everyday you leave a class feeling challenged and pushed to think critically (although that should be the main objective within a college education) and I think this class’ ability to do so is mostly due to Dr. C’s pure passion for Milton, his humility within a seemingly endless pool of knowledge, and his genuine respect for students with a desire for them to not just learn information but gain real wisdom. Before coming to VCU, I imagined every English class would leave me with a head full of thoughts and a spark of inspiration and am so thankful that Milton proved to be one of those classes for me.

May our minds be forever at home in the spacious circuits of her musing as onwards we go.

Milton the Molinist?

For my paper I tried to focus on predestination vs. free will in Paradise Lost (you know, the easy low-hanging fruit here, no pun intended). I spent a little bit of the paper explaining the philosophical/theological theory of Molinism that attempts to bridge the gap between Arminianism (free will) and Calvinism (predestination).

Molinism was developed by Luis de Molina in the mid 16th-century and is a theory that argues three types of God knowledge: natural, free, and middle. Natural knowledge is the stuff that holds the world together (1+1=2 and other fundamentals) and encompasses all the knowledge of these things that can be known. Free knowledge is based on God’s action and what He will do (create the earth, Adam and Eve, give them free will, etc.) and includes everything that will be. Finally there is this middle knowledge that is distinctive to Molinism; it claims that God knows everything that could potentially happen in any given situation but never actually becomes reality.

Middle knowledge is important because it retains God’s omniscience and omnipotence while still allowing libertarian free will for man (our actions are really ours, no strings attached). Think of it this way: before God created the earth, He saw the infinite amount of possibilities for earth but chose one specific reality to actually create. This reality He chose included man to have free-will. Therefore, while God chose the reality we live in and therefore predestined it “before the foundation of the world” for everything to happen exactly how it would, our actions our still ours because He simply chose the reality in which we would make those specific decisions.

To summarize: everything is in God’s hands, but it is up to us to make it happen. We are the conduit to His sovereign will.

This makes sense in Paradise Lost as we see God have foreknowledge of everything that will happen while also hearing from Raphael about what could happen to Adam and Eve if they remain obedient and don’t eat the fruit; Milton himself wondered about the infinite possibilities. The question is… why did God choose the world in which man falls? As C.S. Lewis famously wrote, “Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk.”

Thoughts on Molinism?

 

Hope Endures

I know a lot of us have already weighed in on the concept of hope, but I just wanted to reiterate how fascinating I found the two different ideas of hope to be. There is a well-circulated quote that says, “Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air… but only for one second without hope.” Being a Christian, I have personally always ascribed to this idea of hope that it is an all-encompassing good. Without out there would certainly be no reason or motivation to live. However, on the flipside of that, we often hear the warning not to give someone “a false hope.” Doing so could result in action (or lack thereof) that is sorely misguided and ultimately regretful. Perhaps what is so interesting to me about this is how something good could also be an evil. Yet what we see at the end of Paradise Lost is not an evil, misguided hope but a promise within the solitude that Adam and Eve cling to. Whether you ascribe to the hope in the faith of the enduring love that Adam and Eve share in human community together or the love of the Son and His salvation, there is no doubt that Milton leaves us with the truth that  “hope is faith in love.”

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