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It is distinctly paradoxical that John Milton - who opposed infant baptism, supported regicide, defended divorce and approved of polygamy - should be heard as a voice of orthodoxy. Yet modern scholarship has often understated or explained away his heretical opinions. This volume investigates aspects of Milton's works inconsistent with conventional beliefs, whether in terms of seventeenth-century theology or the common assumptions of Milton scholars. Contributors situate Milton and his writings within his specific historical circumstances, paying special attention to Milton's pragmatic position within seventeenth-century religious controversy. The volume's four sections deal with heretical theology, heresy's consequences, heresy and community, and readers of heresy; their common premise is that Milton, as poet, thinker and public servant, eschewed set beliefs and regarded indeterminacy and uncertainty as fundamental to human existence.
Medieval Europe was a hotbed of revolt against religious dogma. Particularly offensive to the established church were the views of the Cathars, whose dualist beliefs Rome condemned as heretical. Through a variety of literary works, this book explores the dualist religious movement which developed as a culture of the masses and took place in Europe between the 12th and 17th centuries. It examines the strong parallels between the Bogomils and Cathars and the religious practices of the British Lollards, extrapolating Lollardy’s spread from eastern to western Europe. Providing numerous text comparisons, the work focuses on a number of authors including John Wycliffe, William Tynsdale, William Langland and John Milton, whose works exhibit the dualist philosophy.
This interdisciplinary volume of essays brings together a team of leading early modern historians and literary scholars in order to examine the changing conceptions, character, and condemnation of 'heresy' in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England. Definitions of 'heresy' and 'heretics' were the subject of heated controversies in England from the English Reformation to the end of the seventeenth century. These essays illuminate the significant literary issues involved in both defending and demonising heretical beliefs, including the contested hermeneutic strategies applied to the interpretation of the Bible, and they examine how debates over heresy stimulated the increasing articulation of arguments for religious toleration in England. Offering fresh perspectives on John Milton, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and others, this volume should be of interest to all literary, religious and political historians working on early modern English culture.
Fifteen leading Milton scholars examine the idea of toleration in Milton's poetry and prose. Looking at how Milton himself imagined tolerance and locating his works in their literary, historical, and philosophical context, the essays address central issues including violence, heresy, church polity, liberalism, libertinism, natural law, equity, imperialism, republicanism, and Milton and his Muslim readers.
This volume contains a selection of essays presented at the 8th International Milton Symposium, -Milton, Rights and Liberties-, which was held in Grenoble, France, 7-11 June 2005. It was the first time ever that such a major event was organized in France, hence the volume's title. Moreover, Milton's writings influenced key figures of the French Revolution. The essays presented in this volume were written by emerging as well as confirmed Milton scholars from around the world. Topics range from Romanticism (Milton and Wordsworth) to a psychoanalytic reading of Milton, from the iconography of the garden in "Paradise Lost" to the prosody of "Samson Agonistes," from Derridean readings of Milton to Milton's presence in Brazil and China. Another volume of essays entitled "Milton, Rights and Liberties" was published in 2007."
I argue that the seventeenth century Puritan poet and polemicist John Milton is not at all the theological Arminian he is nearly universally held to be. In fact he exemplifies the typical theological paradigm held by virtually every English Puritan of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This century of Puritanism has its theological nexus in the Calvinism of Beza as propagated through William Perkins and others. Puritans were Calvinists. They fought what they saw as the various and intermingled pressures of Roman, Laudian, and Arminian forces arrayed against their desire for the complete and biblical reformation of the English church. While the Puritans were certainly not absolutely monolithic, their core theological beliefs about the nature of God, man, sin, and salvation, were deeply and irrefutably Calvinist. Calvinists are soteriological monergists: they argue that God alone is the author of salvation. Man is a fallen, depraved rebel; when one is saved from judgment it is by God's gracious will alone and has nothing to do with the virtue or attitude or future faith of the sinner. Salvation is purely a result of the eternal decree of the deity "from before the foundation of the world" and is irresistible, unconditional, and eternal. The Arminian position, arising in the early seventeenth century and codified in the Remonstrance of 1610, holds that ma cooperates with God in salvation to some extent. Remonstrant theology rejects both the supralapsarian and the sublapsarian views of election and predestination, the doctrine of irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints -- major cornerstones of Calvinist doctrine. Instead, Arminians argue for conditional election based upon God's foreknowledge of future faith through prevenient grace. Salvation is thus synergistic and conditional. Calvinists are faced with the difficulty of explaining the justice of a perfectly good and utterly sovereign God who elects to salvation some but not others, regardless of either merit or foreseen faith. Arminians developed their system to bypass this difficulty and to preserve the character of the deity: God must not be made the unjust author of evil. Milton was clearly a puritan. Why then has he long been considered Arminian? A long list of critics have argued for his Remonstrant theology, and these assertions have gone almost entirely unchallenged since the early nineteenth century. Everyone knows Milton is an Arminian. But what if this understanding of Milton is inaccurate? What if, instead of being that rarest of exceptions -- an Arminian Puritan -- Milton could in fact be shown to be Calvinist? This shift would entail a large-scale reconsideration of virtually everything Milton has written. Milton's thought revolves around how paradise was lost, how it can be regained, and how we are to live in the interim. The most central issue for Milton is theodicy; the question of the existence of evil in a world supposedly controlled by a good deity of unlimited power and knowledge. Theodicy is a particular problem for Calvinists, with their insistence upon God's absolute, eternal sovereignty -- while Arminian thought is itself already a theodical structure, grounded in the contingencies of conditional decrees, divine foreknowledge, and human freedom. Our primary questions, then, if we are to consider Milton, must be historical-theological questions: who, exactly, controls this economy of loss and redemption? God, man, or both? To misread Milton's theology is to misread Milton. My work provides a corrective which opens up a richer, more historically accurate, and more stimulating reading of the poet's works. I first show the relationship between Calvinist and Arminian thought through analysis of the Remonstrance of 1610 and the Canons of Dordt (1619), thus establishing the nature of the theological debate in Europe and England during Milton's lifetime. Next I demonstrate and critique the long-term consensus regarding Milton's supposed Arminian theology, while attempting to explain the origins of such significant misreadings of his rhetoric. I further clarify the historical-theological context by delineating the contours of the Calvinist/Arminian debates as they were understood in seventeenth century England while laying out a series of close readings of Milton's prose and poetry demonstrating Milton's strong Reformed theology. I argue that Milton holds to a peculiarly English Calvinism that, in its strong emphasis on eternal providence and theodicy, is a direct and deliberate repudiation of Arminian theology. Along the way I show how a growing mass of unexamined assumptions about Milton's Arminianism -- assumptions endemic to critical essays, footnotes, and scholarly apparatus -- work to short-circuit a reader's ability to recognize the Calvinist paradigm actually informing Milton's thought.

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