Sunday, October 30, 2005

Hear my Decree!

Read this post or feel my wrath!

I probably should have included the crucial passage from Paradise Lost that prompted my query concerning divine decrees and modal logic, for some of you who read my blog might wonder which decree Milton's God actually uttered.

The archangel Raphael narrates to Adam and Eve the story of Satan's fall, how he rebelled against the authority of God's Son despite God's decree that those who disobey the Son will fall and remain forever fallen.

Here follows the passage, from Paradise Lost, Book 5, which I'm quoting from the 1774 edition, conveniently online at Dartmouth College's Milton Reading Room:

Hear all ye Angels, Progenie of Light, [ 600 ]
Thrones, Dominations, Princedoms, Vertues, Powers,
Hear my Decree, which unrevok't shall stand.
This day I have begot whom I declare
My onely Son, and on this holy Hill
Him have anointed, whom ye now behold [ 605 ]
At my right hand; your Head I him appoint;
And by my Self have sworn to him shall bow
All knees in Heav'n, and shall confess him Lord:
Under his great Vice-gerent Reign abide
United as one individual Soule [ 610 ]
For ever happie: him who disobeyes
Mee disobeyes, breaks union, and that day
Cast out from God and blessed vision, falls
Into utter darkness, deep ingulft, his place
Ordaind without redemption, without end. [ 615 ]

Line 602 announces God's words as an irrevocable decree, and lines 611-615 present the words that my query focuses upon (and note the word "ordaind," a synonym for "decreed"). If I may modernize the words of Milton's God using prosaic language:

Whoever disobeys the Son disobeys me and thereby breaks union with me and on that day will be cast from my presence, and thus from the blessed vision of the divine, to fall into the deep gulf of utter darkness, which will be his place, a place ordained without redemption for eternity.
From these words, one sees that God's decree fits the second case listed in my previous post:

2. God, prior to but knowing Lucifer's choice to fall, decrees that if any angel should fall, then that angel is to be punished eternally.
God doesn't single out a particular angel but refers generally to any angel who disobeys. In my formalized rendering of the case, I've ignored Milton's actual words, "his place / Ordaind without redemption," though I think that Milton is choosing these words very carefully. But more on that some other time.

Meanwhile, for those of you intrepid enough to visit his site, the Big Hominid has a response to my Milton query.


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