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Paradise Lost by John Milton - Barron's Booknotes
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LINES 56-134. GOD'S EXPLANATION OF FREE

God the Father is seated on his throne in Heaven, with his Son by his side, looking down through the gate of Heaven, past the stairs, on Adam and Eve in Paradise and on Satan flying toward the suspended World. As he points out Satan to his Son, God describes what is going to happen: Satan will deceive Adam and Eve, who will listen to him and disobey God.

It is difficult to like what God says. He calls man an ungrateful-"ingrate"- for his good fortune: "he had of me / All he could have." The contradiction between man's free will and God's omnipotence is easy to understand but hard to accept. God knows everything that is to happen and controls it all, but man is free, If he were not, then he could not choose and earn praise or blame.



NOTE: THE DOCTRINE OF FREE WILL Free will isn't a dead issue. It's hotly debated in political science and philosophy classes. How free are you to do what you want? Are your actions under the control of your free will or is that your perception only? Milton thinks that man experiences his choices as free, even though God knows what the results will be. Because man does not know what God knows, man has the sense of complete freedom. Is it possible that this is a metaphorical way of describing our dependence on our context and heritage? We may not believe that God determines our actions, but a large part of them are controlled by genes, family history, economic circumstances, and environment-matters which, like God, are beyond our individual control.

God continues his explanation to the Son by saying: "Foreknowledge had no influence on their fault." Man is therefore responsible for his fall, but not as responsible as Satan and his followers. Because they fell "self-tempted, self-depraved," they will receive no mercy, but man will find grace and mercy, to God's glory.

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