Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 09:1 (Spring 1988)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Book Reviews

Michael Bauman, Miltons Arianism. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1987. xvi + 378 pp.

Was John Milton, author of the great poem Paradise Lost, theologically orthodox or not? In our secular age, who cares? One who does is Michael Bauman, who wrote this dissertation while a church historian at Northeastern Bible College. I, too, care; in fact, many Miltonists do. It is true that most of the going schools of literary criticism are interested in questions quite different from that of orthodox purity. But Milton, even in this age, remains relatively fortunate in the critics whom his works have attracted. Thus, there is a real, albeit small, audience for this book, and it belongs in all library collection~ which are serious about their Milton holdings.

I found myself deeply engaged by this book, and I think that many other Miltonists will feel the same. Never mind that its number of footnotes stretches to 408, covering ninety pages, or that the discussion is sometimes very abstruse. Bauman is dealing with an important issue for all Milton readers. Love him or leave him, one must take account of him.

Nevertheless, a reviewer who teaches English feels somewhat daunted when he opens to an epigraph which suggests that those who cannot handle technical theological terminology in untranslated Greek should stay away from the subject of the book (and thus presumably from the book itself?.). This threat is not eased when the reviewer concludes that he probably does not agree with the author.

Just what is at stake in this book? The most important thing is how we are to read Paradise Lost. Is it a Christian poem or not? Bauman’s emphatic answer is no. It is, he avers, an Arian poem; only a heretic of stripe similar to Arius could embrace it wholly. This position is unsettling to Christians who love this poem and think of it as belonging to them heart and soul; I am one such. So maybe we are easy targets for any psycholo-gizers who would say that we defend Milton’s orthodoxy merely because we need to. But any readers of Bauman’s book will realize that the issues under discussion are difficult ones, concerning which there is anything but unanimity. Also, they will be well advised to keep in mind that Bauman himself concedes that, if there is anything like a consensus position, it is one other than his.

Of the theological disputes in regard to Milton, none has been as controversial in recent decades as the one about his views of the nature of the Godhead. Bauman calls it “the hottest argument in Milton criticism.” I could wish that he was right; but with the rising tide of secular readings (misreadings) of Milton, I am ...

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