Predestination and freedom in Milton's Paradise Lost

Benjamin Myers

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2 Citations (Scopus)
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John Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost (1667) offers a highly creative seventeenth-century reconstruction of the doctrine of predestination, a reconstruction which both anticipates modern theological developments and sheds important light on the history of predestinarian thought. Moving beyond the framework of post-Reformation controversies, the poem emphasises both the freedom and the universality of electing grace, and the eternally decisive role of human freedom in salvation. The poem erases the distinction between an eternal election of some human beings and an eternal rejection of others, portraying reprobation instead as the temporal self-condemnation of those who wilfully reject their own election and so exclude themselves from salvation. While election is grounded in the gracious will of God, reprobation is thus grounded in the fluid sphere of human decision. Highlighting this sphere of human decision, the poem depicts the freedom of human beings to actualise the future as itself the object of divine predestination. While presenting its own unique vision of predestination, Paradise Lost thus moves towards the influential and distinctively modern formulations of later thinkers like Schleiermacher and Barth.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-80
Number of pages17
JournalScottish Journal of Theology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2006


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