Paradise Lost

The Dilemma of Free Will, Omniscience, and Omnipotence in Paradise Lost College

Milton’s representation of free will and Christian faith is centered on an omniscient God of selective omnipotence. He predicts the fall of man, without doing anything to cause or prevent this. It's Satan who instigates the fall, with God knowing that his imperfect creations would be tempted. Like Satan, Adam and Eve have the choice of obeying or disobeying God, and it’s free will that gives this decision significance.

Through writing Paradise Lost, Milton sought to “justify God’s ways to man.” His rewriting of Genesis provides his perspective on unanswered theological questions including the topic of predestination. In “The Fallacy of the Fall in Paradise Lost,” Millicent Bell explains how the “transition between Man and Woman uncorrupt and mankind corrupted is simply to be accepted as having happened.” Bell argues that the fall might be predestined, though it should not be considered a sin. She considers it “the beginning of self-discovery by creatures essentially human, which is to say imperfect in a hundred ways.”

Bell's interpretation contradicts Milton's theological beliefs. He makes it clear that the self-discovery she describes is sinful in itself. Eve displays such self-awareness before eating the fruit, when she...

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