the extent to which the provenance of the De Doctrina Christiana has been the
subject of debate and uncertainty during the past decade or so, it might be
considered an act of foolhardiness to embark on a study of
I would have it no other way: it is this very atmosphere of uncertainty and contention that governs my own "take" on the God of Milton's oeuvre. In the case of the theological treatise, that "take" is one not of attempting to resolve the matter of authorship. Rather, it is a matter of acknowledging and even embracing the uncertainties that surround the provenance of the De Doctrina Christiana in order to appreciate how profoundly rooted
It is for this reason that the De Doctrina Christiana represents the ideal starting point for an encounter with a God, the delineation of which appears to be Miltonic but because of the questions regarding provenance challenges the reader at every point to question the identity of the true author. That is, in the delineation of the Author of the author, the reader is made to ask "Whose God is this, anyway?" On the one hand, the De Doctrina Christiana is a work that purports to "explain" God, to "systematize" God, to "theologize" God. On the other hand, it is a work that refuses at all points the luxury of "knowing," of penetrating to the heart of the mystery that underlies the deus absconditus at the center of its discourse. What results is a deus absconditus that arises as much because of the uncertainties that surround the text qua text as it does because of the nature of the discourse in which God of its theology is framed. At issue is the notion of deity conceived and executed in a text that is by its very nature problematical, if not at times inexplicable. Here, the state of the text as we know it becomes all important. As those who have worked with the manuscript of the De Doctrina Christiana will attest, this is a treatise that quite justifiably should be called a "palimpsest," a medium upon which many layers of writing have been effaced and reinscribed by other layers. Inscription / effacement / reinscription: such is the text that lies before us. Emerging from that text are all the uncertainties that underscore the delineation of God. As much as one might hope to gain a foothold on that delineation, the problems associated with its provenance and by extension its production keep getting in the way. Addressing the way in which God is delineated in the De Doctrina Christiana should go far to illuminate the complexities and uncertainties surrounding the Miltonic deity.