Deus Ex Machina

"This is the generation of the great LEVIATHAN, or rather, to speak more reverently of that mortal god, to which we own under the immortal God, our peace and defense." -Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan

Sinning out of Love and Virtue; John Milton’s Paradise Lost and the Divine beyond Love and Virtue

While theologians like the ones I just mentioned differed on the details, they all agreed that Adam, as the representative of humanity, bore the responsibility for sin, as Paul articulated in the New Testament. However, they asserted that the initiating sin was Eve’s: she succumbed to the Devil’s temptation and then, worst of all, preyed on Adam’s self-sacrificial love for her and convinced him to eat of the fruit with her. In other words, according to these theologians, Adam ate the forbidden fruit because he loved Eve too much to live without her, even in the Garden.

-Rachel Hekman, “What about Eve?”

This idea, that Adam disobeyed God out of love for Eve, I believe was articulated by John Milton in his Paradise Lost.

Milton’s Paradise Lost to my mind remains one of the greatest and most important piece of philosophy and theology, not only that of literature. It is an extremely human heart in intense struggle with the transcendence of the divine, reflecting a relentless consistency largely absent from the English canon on par to that Dostoevsky.

I can think of no other English work which depicts the dialectic between man and God so brilliantly. His portrayal of Satan, the romantic hero with conviction, willful determination, courage, zeal, and even heroic leadership and honourable self-sacrifice for his fallen comrades against a cold and inscrutable God, calls into question in a way which no other work has, the congruence of virtues and subjective ideals with that of a wholly other and wholly alien divinity which transcends every human value and virtue.

Our heart quakes before the notion that all the things and ideals so dear to our hearts, self-giving love, virtues, subjective passion, conviction, the things so valued by humanity, could very well be used in service of rebellion against God and be so beautifully embodied in Satan himself. Can these things so desired by our hearts be truly so contrary to God and so alien to the divine? The great C.S. Lewis himself argued that our sympathy with Satan lies in the corruption of our hearts rather than in any genuine appreciate for virtue or heroism, etc. A convenient cop out for the arch English Romantic who could not bear the thought of a divine so alien transcendent that it might be contrary to our most humanly treasured values, and would sooner engage in an ad hominem attacks than confront the possibility that maybe the divine truly is foreign and could even be contrary to the things most beloved and exalted by human ideals and virtue.

Likewise in Milton’s depiction of the Fall, he once more brings to bear the dialectic between Man and God by his portrayal of the intense passion and love which Adam had for his wife Eve, who chose to disobey God and eat the fruit, even if it might mean death and divine punishment, rather than face an eternity without Eve, whom he loved with all his heart and could not bear to watch decay and die before his eyes. Who could deny the romance, the passion, the authenticity of this love, who rather join his beloved in death, than spend all eternity without her?

Once more our hearts trembles before this possibility, could the divine even be alien to our deepest desires, our most profound love and longings, could the divine be above and against love itself? Could we be demanded, in service and in obedience to the divine will, to violently rip out of our hearts without mercy or compassion, that which has claimed our deepest love, which has laid its roots right into the very core of our being, which is entwined beautifully and intricately, into the very flesh of our flesh and bones of our bones?

Truly as long as this world continues, as long as God remains God and above his world, this dialectic and conflict between God and man will continue to remain, and in the English canon, no other writer has grappled with this issue with more integrity, honestly and passion, than John Milton’s Paradise Lost.

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This entry was posted on August 30, 2013 by in Uncategorized.
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