September 20, 2007

Sons or Tools

Category: Literature,Theology :: Permalink

In a chapter comparing John Milton’s theology with that of St. Augustine, C. S. Lewis points out that Milton and Augustine both shared a belief in God’s sovereignty.  That’s particularly interesting because Milton himself was, if I understand things correctly, no Calvinist.  Nor, for that matter, was Lewis, though he quite seems to approve the doctrine he’s describing here which is nothing short of a doctrine of God’s complete sovereignty even over evil.  It’s really the last line that made me want to quote it here:

Though God has made all creatures good He foreknows that some will voluntarily make themselves bad (De Civ. Dei, XIV, II) and also foreknows the good use which He will then make of their badness (ibid.).  For as He shows His benevolence in creating good Natures, He shows His justice in exploiting evil wills.  (Sicut naturarum bonarum optimus creator, ita voluntatum malarum justissimus ordinator, XI, 17.)

All this is repeatedly shown at work in the poem [Paradise Lost].  God sees Satan coming to pervert man; “and shall pervert,” He observes (III, 92).  He knows that Sin and Death “impute folly” to Him for allowing them so easily to enter the universe, but Sin and Death do not know that God “called and drew them thither, His hell-hounds to lick up the draff and filth” (X, 620 et seq.).  Sin, in pitiable ignorance, had mistaken this Divine “calling” for “sympathie or som connatural force” between herself and Satan (X, 246).

The same doctrine is enforced in Book I when Satan lifts his head from the burning lake by “high permission of all-ruling Heaven” (I, 212).  As the angels point out, whoever tries to rebel against God produces the result opposite to his intention (VII, 613).  At the end of the poem Adam is astonished at the power “that all this good of evil shall produce” (XII, 470).  This is the exact reverse of the programme Satan had envisaged in Book I, when he hoped, if God attempted any good through him, to “pervert that end” (164); instead he is allowed to do all the evil he wants and finds that he has produced good.  Those who will not be God’s sons become His tools (A Preface to Paradise Lost 67-68, with added paragraph breaks).

Posted by John Barach @ 3:35 pm | Discuss (2)

2 Responses to “Sons or Tools”

  1. Chuck Hartman Says:

    Der John:

    Thanks for this. I’m discussing deep issues that I’m not even sure are the deepest we’ll get into, and this might help with the context. Romans 3:23, ‘…all are freely justified…’ and similar passages re: God’ justice, and God’s creating some—well, particular atonement.

    Love in Christ,

    PS: Must search Charles Hartman on

  2. Chuck Hartman Says:

    Dear John, I should have typed.

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