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Spiritual Architecture and Paradise Regained

Milton's Literary Ecclesiology

By Ken Simpson

Publication Year: 2007

Ken Simpson’s study, focusing on John Milton’s Paradise Regained, examines the literary ecclesiology of this most subtle and elusive of Milton’s works. While far less critical attention has been given to Paradise Regained over the years as compared to Paradise Lost and others of Milton’s canon, it might be argued that Paradise Regained may be read as a full and culminating expression of Milton’s views on the doctrine of the church, the nature of the Word, prophecy and vocation, and apocalypticism. As Simpson asserts, in Paradise Regained Milton not only continues his critique of the English Reformation by confronting the failures of the Restoration settlement, but he also continues to develop the consistent theology of the church that preoccupied him in his prose during the civil war and Interregnum. Theology, polemics, and poetry were not backgrounds of one another in Milton’s work, nor was theology a set of abstract propositions to which all discourses referred; rather, these were overlapping fields of discourse that offered different opportunities to fulfill the religious imperative to build the church. Simpson examines Milton’s view of the church as a textual community—a group of participants in the church who are each guided by the Holy Spirit in their reading of the Word. The interplay of silence and the Word, then, in Paradise Regained demonstrates that interpretive authority must always defer to the Spirit rather than tradition. This approach also shapes Milton’s construction of ministry, liturgy, and church militancy in the poem. Simpson’s provocative and unique examination of Milton and Paradise Regained will become an indispensable study, offering new views of this somewhat neglected poem.

Published by: Duquesne University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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pp. vii-viii

This book has benefited from so much help that a list of people who have contributed to it would fill pages. For those not mentioned here, it will have to suffice that you know who you are and that you know how much I have appreciated your guidance. I should begin, however, by thanking Thompson...

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PREFACE

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pp. ix-xiv

This study examines the literary ecclesiology of Paradise Regained.1 Milton’s ecclesiology or theology of the church is literary not only because it takes poetic form, but also because of the important roles that humanist literary, textual, and rhetorical categories and practices play in his writing of the...

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ONE: Writing the Church

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pp. 1-26

That Milton continued his critique of the English Reformation in Paradise Regained should not be surprising given his interest in the church prior to 1671. Destined as a child for a life in the church, supported in his literary aspirations by his parents, and convinced by biblical and classical models of the poet’s...

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TWO: Silence and the Word

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pp. 27-53

Like many Protestant reformers before him, Milton claimed that the Word of God alone was the clear and sufficient source of salvation. For Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli, Scripture was the only external authority capable of replacing the medieval church, but it was also much more. God is accommodated to...

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THREE: The Priesthood of Believersand the Vocationof Writing

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pp. 54-105

For Milton, the Word is analogous to a sacrament. For in the practice of reading guided by the Holy Spirit — a practice Milton often compared to eating in his own works and in the works of his contemporaries — believers approach God’s presence through the textual body of the Word, transforming the...

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FOUR: The Renovationof Worship

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pp. 106-138

The ministry of the Word, in its prophetic, vocational, and ethical dimensions, is central to the literary ecclesiology of Paradise Regained. Under normal conditions, the Lord’s Supper and baptism—the sacraments, or external seals of the covenant of grace — were marks of a true, visible church and, like the...

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FIVE: Astrology,Apocalypse, and the Church Militant

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pp. 139-186

The close relationship between the authority, ministry, and liturgy of the Word in Paradise Regained reflects the relationship between the invisible and visible church in Milton’s literary ecclesiology. Following Augustine and Calvin, Milton defines the true church as the invisible, mystical body of the...

NOTES

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pp. 187-218

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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pp. 219-246

INDEX

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pp. 247-256


E-ISBN-13: 9780820705309
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820703916

Page Count: 269
Publication Year: 2007

Series Title: Medieval & Renaissance Literary Studies
Series Editor Byline: Albert C. Labriola

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Theology in literature.
  • Milton, John, 1608-1674. Paradise regained.
  • Milton, John, 1608-1674 -- Religion.
  • Religion and literature -- England -- History -- 17th century.
  • Christian poetry, English -- Early modern, 1500-1700 -- History and criticism.
  • Protestantism and literature -- History -- 17th century.
  • Great Britain -- History -- Civil War, 1642-1649 -- Literature and the war.
  • Reformation -- England.
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