fire, air and water. It lacks the life that animates the universe, and it is devoid of light. God brings light (see VII.243-9). For Milton the arrival of light is a key moment; it divides the history of the creation, the created universe from the realm of Chaos and Night.

Milton reveals in Book I that the Creation of man was a project discussed in Heaven before the Fall, thus refuting claims that have been made by theologians and critics that God did so to repopulate his ‘empire’ after the war in heaven. Milton has his God refute this charge in Book III.

Milton’s Theodicy

Miltondeclares in Book I that his purpose in writing Paradise Lost is to justify to mankind the ways and justice of God, a theodicy. The theological apologetic of Paradise Lost concerns God’s nature, or ‘character’, rather than his existence. The latter, given Milton’s own piety and religious convictions, is an unquestionable truth.

The ‘problem’ of evil in Milton’s theodicy is essentially an attempt to balance three tenets of the Christian faith: the omnipotence and omniscience of God, His unwavering "goodness", and the existence of evil in the world. In the poem this also entails rhetorical balancing – that is, if God’s ways are "justifiable to men", Milton must somehow manage to avoid alienating his readers, whilst still upholding the reality of Man’s sinfulness and the limits to his understanding divine procedure. Milton’s concern with the problem of evil is of its relation to the human condition, the very heart of the poem.

Thus Milton begins his epic with a declaration of Man’s fallen status; of his and his readers’ need for redemption because of this (I.1-26). Throughout the poem the reader is reminded of his or her fallen condition; however, complementary to this are Milton’s continual declarations of the possibilities of Man for salvation.

The Fall (of Man) represents mankind’s first transgression of the will of God. In narrative terms this involves the events that preceded the Fall and its consequences. Taken doctrinally, it concerns the cause and nature of mankind’s wickedness. Historically these two strands had not been particularly interwoven; this is one of the areas in which Paradise Lost is remarkable. The Biblical source for the narrative is Genesis 2 and 3; outside this, the Old Testament makes no other explicit reference to the story of Adam and Eve, and St Paul’s typological interpretation (i.e. seen in the context of Christ’s redemption) is the only other Biblical account. Milton took both strands and interwove them into his epic, each informing the other. This develops in Paradise Lost as Milton magnifies the narrative details to expose further questions about the Fall story that are marginal in the Genesis narrative.

It is in discussing the issues of the foreknowledge of God and human free will that Milton encounters some of his greatest difficulties in reconciling narrative and doctrine. Free Will is vital to Milton’s argument, it is what explains the fall of Satan and his retinue, and what allows the loss of Eden. God’s omniscience means that he foreknows the choices that Adam and Eve will take, but allows them to do so through their own Free Will, as he had done with Satan. The question remains, why does God allow this?

God, for reasons that hold with His own wisdom and goodness, chose to create angels and humans with the capacity for Free Will, the freedom to obey or disobey his commands. Although He foreknows the choices angels and humans will make, this act of self-limitation on His part means that a certain amount of disobedience, and thus evil, will exist. Satan laments that he could return to heaven, to obey God, but chooses not to. For humans, and in the poem Adam and Eve, values such as love, honesty and loyalty would be devoid of content without freedom. In Areopagitica Milton outlined this: "when God gave him [Adam] reason, he gave him freedom to choose, for reason is but choosing; he had bin else a meer artificiall Adam, such an Adam as he is in the motions [i.e. puppet shows]". Nowhere is this clearer than in Book III where God declares

"I made [man] just and right,

  By PanEris using Melati.

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