Milton and the Trinity: Good, Evil and Free Will

Milton wanted people to exhibit the humanity of God and Jesus as it's painted in the Bible rather than allow the "subtle imaginations" of people to labor in trying to comprehend the meaning of omnipotence, which inevitably led to the uncomfortable concepts within Calvinism. It's so easy to agree with the logic of Calvin: God is omniscient and omnipotent, so therefore everything that has and will happen was preconceived, including the damnation of those who are not saved. The idea of God being the author of both good and evil also has firm Biblical ground in Isaiah, Job, and Lamentations. The New Testament has numerous references to the word eklektos, the elect or chosen, elaborated most especially in the Pauline epistles. The problem with this is that it takes away from the concept of God being All-Good, since He would have planned for people to undergo infinite torture before he even created them. So Milton had his God forego omnipotence, making his will conditional upon the actions of mankind. Fate was replaced by Free Will and the divine author willingly stepped down to become a cosmic "dungeon master". This internalized God also has strong Biblical support, especially in Genesis, where God is at his most anthropomorphic. The Epistle of James also gives the impression that God has no part in the temptation of mankind, easily contradicting the episodes in Exodus in which God purposely hardens Pharaoh's heart so that he can make an example of Egypt.

In reality, I think these concepts are really two sides of the same coin. Calvinists of course admitted to the idea that God still wants everyone to be saved, at least in one sense, but in a more real sense, he wants a lot of people to burn in a lake of fire, since after all, that is what's going to happen. Milton said that God's foreknowledge is certain, but it doesn't necessitate the event, not too far from Calvin since foreknowledge is still enough to constitute design. (Not unlike designing a car you know will break down half the time.) Calvin says Atonement is for the elect alone while Milton says that Atonement is universal... but it is conditioned by faith. These theological differences rival the "official" reasons for the separation of the Roman and Greek Orthodox churches in their degree of subtlety. And yet it was this kind of doctrinal scrutiny that fueled the intense hatred that dominated the lives of Luther and Calvin. While Luther dreamed up Nazi-like repressions on the Jewish community after chastising the Catholic Church for their own suppressions, Calvin spent his time burning the physician who discovered the pulmonary circulation of the blood- as well as many others- for the heinous act of commenting on his theological dissertations. Fighting the repressions of the Catholic Church must have hardened their hearts, if either of them ever believed that those who disagree with them still have a right to live. The ultimate degradation of humanity is when Cain kills his brother when he doesn't like his poetry.

Milton's Arianism brings us back to the fourth century, where more obvious questions like the nature of Jesus were being discussed. Denying the Catholic and Protestant concept of the Trinity, Milton believed that Jesus was inferior to God and that the Holy Spirit was inferior to them both. (Incidentally, this is one of the reasons Michael Severus, the afore-mentioned physician was murdered by Calvin, having previously escaped the Inquisition.) The idea that the instrument of man's salvation is actually at a lower state of being than the Godhead almost enters into what I consider to be the Zurvanistic solution to the question of omnipotence: If the highest God, Zurvan or Fate, acts as a neutral balancing force between the god of good and the god of evil, then that would explain the premise that there is both a heaven and a hell. But to do this, one would have to admit that the god they are worshipping is not the highest and most determinative force. The Dead Sea Scrolls have actually uncovered an instance of this kind of belief recorded in an earlier version of the book of Deuteronomy, which seems to be the only instance where God and Yahweh are referred to as different entities: "Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you. When the Elyon [Most High] gave the nations their inheritance, when he divided all mankind, he set up boundaries for the peoples according to the number of the sons of Elohim: For Yahweh's portion is his people, Yah-Akov [Israel] his allotted inheritance." (Deu. 32:7-9). If Elyon and Elohim are also different entities, it may even correlate with the Babylonian model of the Demiurge being the third generation from the top. Milton, of course, does not go so far, and instead keeps with his classical model of the Trinity being safely and 100% on the side of good, with the dark trinity creating a hell through the almighty Free Will. For me, the idea that without free will we would be like robots is actually misguided. Anyone who believes that admittance into heaven is everlasting should be able to conceive of state of being where there is simultaneous free will and eternal bliss. Whether this is a limiting or an expanding of the consciousness would be hard to argue. If God is truly omnipotent, then he could just as easily created thinking, feeling beings, each in their own hearts accepting the good. (Although, as Milton would say, it would still take the pleasure out of being complimented.) Free will is relative to the mind of the individual. If thoughts are manifested through electrical currents within our brains, then it stands to reason that they operate in a structured manner on this plane of existence, which would mean that on some level, our thoughts and therefore actions do follow a set formula, even if they are too complicated for us to decipher.

Milton denied the idea that spirits were housed within the body, but that the body and soul were inseparable substances, both of which die and sleep until revived at the Resurrection. Taking after Plato, Milton also believed that heaven had a point-by-point analogy with the Earth. Another heresy he accepted was the almost universally accepted doctrine that God created the world out of nothing. Milton believed that the universe was boundless just as God was boundless, more evidence of an internalized God. This seems to be a corollary into his conception of free will paralleling the plane of chaos, external from this solar system, just as free will is external from God.

Milton's use of chaos seems to me to be a randomizing factor, answering the revised version of the question "Can God create a boulder so heavy that even He can't lift it?": can God pick a random number? Einstein's answer was no, "God does not roll the dice", though he did not believe in a personal God. Chaos Theory may seem like it is delving into the realms of mysticism, but as cool as the name sounds, it's actually related as the "sensitive dependence of initial conditions". From what I understand of it, it's just an intellectual way of saying the Weather Channel is never going to give good forecasts. We may not be able to determine a formula to predict whether Schrodinger's Cat is going to be killed, but that doesn't mean there isn't some underlying reason behind it though indiscernible through the present faculties of this universe. Modern science has given us good reason to believe that there are other things happening outside this dimension. The most prominent theory of the universe is that it is a giant explosion from an unknown origin. The Rationalist tradition, as elaborated by Spinoza, Locke, Jefferson, and Franklin and Einstein, now rules over the current debates over the nature of the universe, having turned their back on the Bible, and with it Milton's world.