Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Atrophil and Stella - an Ill Fated Romance

In Atrophil and Stella, Sidney puts himself in the place of Atrophil, the layman suitor of the noble Stella. Like every beau he praises her beauty saying nature never made anything more beautiful than Stella’s radiant black eye. His love for her inspires him to do good, but still the desire for her is unquenched. Atrophil wrote in order to earn his lady’s grace. His admiration for her beauty quickly changes into a physical desire for her. He speaks of the sweetness of her kiss. Again the high standards of courtly love fall to pieces in the presence of lust. In the end as is typical the two can not be together, so Atrophil despairs. He has attached his heart to a useless cause and now suffers as result. Going to show once more the futility of creating extramarital attachments when marriage is not an option. It hurts both parties and leaves less of Atrophil’s heart for his future spouse.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Milton on Marriage

In our day and age we often hear about marriages falling apart, children who suffer from their parents divorce, and people living together outside of marriage, but this is not the way it was meant to be. Marriage is one of the sacred ordinances God established symbolizing the relationship between God and Man. In John Milton’s Paradise Lost he illustrates the sacredness and beauty of marriage while at the same time correctly portraying the roles of each partner. Milton has been called misogynistic and Paradise Lost a poem portraying gross suppression of women. In an ideal state Milton presents a biblical portrait of marriage.
After Adam finishes naming all the animals finding that there is no suitable companion for him pleads with God;
“Not so is Man
But in degree, the cause of his desire
By conversation with his like to help
Or solace his defects.” (Milton, 8. 415-19)

A husband and wife should be friends first and then lovers. In Genesis 2 it confirms, “but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.” (New American Standard Bible, Genesis. 2:20) When Eve is created, she begins to become infatuated with her own reflection. A voice tells her she was created for another and to be forever his.
Adam is called to be the ruler of all creation and to lead. Eve’s role of submissive love is commonly looked down upon by many with a secular worldview. Many times in the Bible it is stated that wives should be submissive to their husbands while at the same time the husband should be caring for the wife like Christ cares for the church. In paradise Eve accepts this recognizing that Adam is her guide and meaning of existence. Adam and Eve are called unequal many times, but not in a derogatory manner. It is commonly said that they simply have different role, and while that is true there is more. The differences between Adam and Eve are complementary like a harmony in music. A song can be played and sound beautiful, but a good harmony does not take away from the original composition. It enhances it and shows the full potential the piece has. The role of the wife is not to overthrow the husband’s leadership, but to support it and by doing this she will show submissiveness. When a wife is being gracious and accommodating, it makes the husband want to do more for her. The circle continues with the wife wanting to do more for the husband in return. After the fall God chastises Adam;
“Thy love, and not thy subjection, and her gifts
Were such as under government well seemed,
Unseemly to bear rule, which was thy part
And person hadst thou known thyself aright.” (10, 153-156)

His lack of leadership was part of the fall. If Adam had not allowed Eve to guide him he might not have fallen. In Eve’s submission before the fall Adam tells Raphael that though she is unequal to him she seems to him the most wise, virtuous, and discreet.
Before the fall the perfect and pure physical relationship of Adam and Eve is shown. They give of themselves in a sweet and pure way. They show innocence and love to one another through a conjugal relationship. After the fall they still enjoy the relationship, but lust has tainted their thoughts and actions. In 1 Corinthians 7 Paul points out that it is good for men and women to be married and not live celibately inside of marriage. This part of marriage, so often distorted by our society, proves the sacredness of marriage. Many enter into sinful relationships where they live as though they were married without the commitment of actually being married, but these people do not understand that as they live in promiscuity they loose the fulfillment of the relationship; fulfillment that can only come in marriage. Satan invades the sacred bower in Paradise when he watches Adam and Eve make love. After the angels find him he is thrown out of the garden for invading the unadulterated place and trying to pervert the love that Adam and Eve share. Milton shows the beauty and purity when Adam and Eve first meet. Adam goes after her, not to take anything from her, but to win her over and become one with her. Later, when Adam wakes up, he marvels at Eve and her beauty. Procreation was one of the reasons Adam asked for a mate. He told God that because God was eternal He had no need of a companion, but because Adam was alone there was no way to continue his own race. The first commandment in Genesis 1 is “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth…” (NASB, Genesis 1:28) and after the flood Noah was told the same thing.
In Exodus 21 a man is told to give his wife all she needs, food, clothing, and marriage rights. Adam was called to be a provider for Eve and a steward of all that God had given. The first example of stewardship is found when God tells Adam to name the animals and tend the garden. Adam and Eve’s main job was to take care of the garden and animals. Providing is made more difficult after the fall when all the necessities of life are not on hand. Before Michael turns them out of the garden he tells them it will be difficult, but gives them hope with visions of the future. God tells Adam that it will be increasingly difficult to grow food as part of the curse. Part of stewardship is maintaining his own family and in this Adam failed. When Adam blames Eve after the fall, God tells him that Eve was not the one He put in charge. Adam was the one responsible for her actions. She was made for softness and sweetness, whereas Adam was made for strength and contemplation. Adam should have not allowed Eve to go her own way, for in doing this he was not maintaining stewardship over his own. In Proverbs 31 the woman’s role in stewardship is shown. She is to make good use of the time and resources provided to her by her husband. Eve was unwise to leave Adam in the Garden, but she was trying to use her time wisely, but it would have been better to stay together and follow Adam.
The most important thing for both in marriage was that they should worship God alone both on the inside and the outside. Adam and Eve praise God and thank Him in the morning and night. They inspire the plants and animals to praise God. Part of Adam’s leadership is found in worshipping God. He is to lead all of creation in praise to the Lord. After the Fall Eve commits idolatry as she worships the tree instead of God. She perceived the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil to be the giver of all good things. Adam later lustfully praises Eve in an idolatrous manner. God tells us in the Bible many times to “worship the Lord you God and serve him only” (NASB, Luke 4:8) and that we shall have no other gods beside Him. At one point before the Fall Adam told Raphael that Eve though unequal is the most wise, virtuous, discreet, and best. He says she is better than wisdom her self. Raphael verbally chastises Adam reminding him that he (Adam) is Eve’s superior and not one to be worshiped. We are reminded in the Bible to “love the Lord you God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind” (NASB, Matt. 22:37).
Milton did not see marriage as a fool’s ordeal, but rather an ordinance set up by God from the beginning. The ideal marriage is a partnership where each person fills roles providing a perfect complement to the other. Like a well-written piece of music each should provide a complementary theme, not with each seeking to overthrow the other in dissonant cacophony. Adam was called to lead and provide while Eve was created to bring companionship and assist in stewardship. Both were created to worship God alone and serve him through submitting to one another in love. They were given physical intimacy as a gift and sealing gesture to a preordained commitment. Christ is described as the groom and His bride, the Church. He provides for His people, leads them, and is a constant companion even when they seek to walk away. The Church is to submit and carry out His plans. Milton knew this and wrote Paradise Lost with this in mind.

Cite Page
1. Milton, John. Paradise Lost. New York: W W Norton and Company, 2005.
2. New American Standard Bible. , Editor. Iowa Falls, IA: World Publishing Inc., 1960.
3. Norton Anthology of English Literature. 6th ed. Vol. 1. New York: Norton, 1993.

Christian Philosophy

Seeking the Face of God

As the world’s greatest philosophers sought the good and ultimate standard, the Christian worldview cultivated its own great minds. They knew the ultimate standard and from there showed the world what philosophy and literature really was. Dante, Augustine, Boethius, and Aquinas were models of Christian thought and not only wrote them down, but did this with eloquence and form.

Dante shows fullness of God’s attributes and how they can be seen in the everyday lives of men and women. It shows vividly the image of God in their lives. In each sphere an attribute is chosen and depicted in the life of saints who lived virtuous lives. Like the nuns who were torn from their vows, but in their lives kept their love for God keeping their hearts dedicated to Him alone. They showed God’s devoted and unalterable love. In Genesis 1:27 God said, "So God created man in His own image; the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." A wise man once said, “We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” Dante shows how to glorify God in his writing and through his writing. God gave him the gift of poetry and he used it to glorify God by writing a poem that fully displayed the attributes of God.
Boethius was a Roman who was raised in the ways of Rome. He was a scholar, poet, and politician. He was thrown into prison on charges of treason and sentenced to death by torture and beatings. As he awaited his death, he wrote about meeting a woman named Wisdom and together finding through discourse that God is with them and death brings man closer to Him.“For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory…but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15: 53 -54, 57) Boethius wanted to be closer to God and knew death would bring him closer to Him. Every day he woke up to face torture and I the end bludgeoning and death, but he knew this to be a refining process that would bring him closer to God.” Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10)
In his youth he was a philanderer and the opposite of everything that he became later in life. Augustine of Hippo was changed by God and then dedicated his life to God when he became the priest of the town of Hippo. City of God was written to instill hope in Christians who had been persecuted. He reminded them of the certainty of true salvation and that the “City of God” was a place of eternal Sabbath, rest and fulfillment. While we are in our mortal bodies, we cannot reach fully understand the nature of God and His displayed attributes. “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12) But in the City of God our eyes shall be opened and we will be able to understand the fullness of the presence of God when the Psalmist says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
Aquinas brings to light in the Summa Theologica things that previously seemed sundry and unimportant. He taught that God is simple. He is one and unified within Himself. He is not composed of parts and no part of Him is separate from the rest. His Goodness is not separate from Him because He is Good. And love, justice, mercy, grace, omnipotence, and the rest of his attributes are the same way. He is His attributes, whereas we, humans, are only mirrors of that, thus we can see goodness in ourselves as a passing act and then continue in sin. Not only is He His attributes, but also each attribute is not contradictory and complementary to the rest. His Goodness is a Just Loving Merciful Gracious and Omnipotent Goodness. God is independent of all things making Him a simple being. “With us composite things are better than simple things, because the perfections of created goodness cannot be found in one simple thing, but in many things. But the perfection of divine goodness is found in one simple thing.” (A Shorter Summa, pg 67) It is one of the most traditional concepts in Christianity, “Hear! Oh Israel, the LORD is our God, the LORD is one!” But the depth of His oneness is seldom thought about.
God has given men minds to think, yet we have allowed them to waste away, a sin, and instead of using them for good, we use them to further our own jealous schemes and sinful desires. These men knew how to think and what to think. These Christian saints sought the face of God and were rewarded with a glimpse of His attributes.

Humanism in Literature

Humanism is the idea that the human body and intellect should be the main focus of life. It was depicted in the art, religion, and literature in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. There are many things both good and bad that came out of this worldview, but anything taken to an extreme is sinful. It can be found in many works, but 'Paradise Lost', 'Utopia', and the 'Damnable Deeds and Deserved Death of Doctor John Faustus' give an excellent taste of humanism.
Mankind has always been egocentric, but at the beginning of the Renaissance in the sixteenth century humanism flourished as Greek ideology was resurrected. Humanism brings about an acute realization of mankind and when used for good our flawed nature. Men like Michelangelo were able to portray the beauty of the human body in an ideal form while showing at the same time the corruption of mankind (The Last Judgment). But on the other end men deified the human mind and body making man the ultimate standard.
In 'Paradise Lost' humanism is shown in a good way when God creates man in His own image and sets him as a ruler over all. Milton portrays the body as good and useful for the purpose God created it, but during the fall secular humanism begins with Eve wanting to be a god unto herself and Adam sees the evil actions of men toward others as something to be honored. Michael explains that this is not the case, but many like Adam will see it as such. Also Adam is warned not to worship Eve or deify her, for there is but one God and He is Lord.
In 'Utopia' the search for the ideal society is found. Men want to create a society where they are able to be a law unto themselves and be good in and of themselves. The men who go there are very impressed with the ideal society that verges on making intellect king. These men share the Gospel and the native Utopians accept this and recount that before they had come they had known most of what was told them through there own logic.
In the 'Damnable Deeds and Deserved Death of Doctor John Faustus' humanism itself is shown as unfulfilling. Faustus knows everything there is to know. He is a lawyer, a scientist, a doctor, and a well studied, well respected, well known man, but the lack of fulfillment is shown when he continues to seek more. He knows he is going to Hell, so He does not seek to change his status with God, but rather become a powerful lord of the world. He seeks the apex of humanism without God, to be a god unto himself. When he sells his soul to the Devil, he realizes that in the end that egocentric worldview has subjugated him even more than before.
Each of these works of literature portray the hopelessness of uncontrolled humanism, but it is not humanism itself that is evil, but rather what our corrupted sin nature does with humanism. Humanism is good when it causes us to give God more honor, praise and glory, but like anything else when made a religion is condemning.

Purpose Statement

This is based off of James 1: 5-6 (ESV) - "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind." I want to seek truth and in doing so find wisdom by looking at not only history, but also current events, literature, philosophy, theology, and politics. It has long been said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it and I hope that by remembering these things it will draw us closer in our walk with Christ. If you can not already tell, I am a Christian meaning that I believe in a triune God who foreknew and predestined all of Creation for the purpose of His Glory and the glory of His Son, Jesus Christ, who was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, was crucified, died, buried, descended to hell, rose again the third day, presented himself to hundreds of witnesses, and ascended to heaven. I believe in heaven and hell.