Ask the Pastor — What of John Donne’s Divine Ravishing?

Dear Pastor,

I wonder what you think of John Donne’s Holy Sonnet 14, “Batter My Heart.” ? It ends with a rape of the soul. But he links it to chastity. The paradox is present.

 
Jayson Grieser
 
 
Jayson,
 
Donne’s couplet in question,
 
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
 
I think one has to understand the points of perspective in order to dissolve the paradox. We, as humans, will always be ravished either by God or by the devil. As such, it is never a matter of being “ravished” or “not being ravished,” it is always only a matter of “ravished by whom.”

I think what Donne is getting at is akin to Luther’s prose in his, “On the Bondage of the Will,”

 
“Man is like a horse. Does God leap into the saddle? The horse is obedient and accommodates itself to every movement of the rider and goes whither he wills it. Does God throw down the reins? Then Satan leaps upon the back of the animal, which bends, goes and submits to the spurs and caprices of its new rider.”
 
So, man is always a ravished being, just as man is always a rode being. If we are ravished by the devil it is a ravishing unto corruption. If we are ravished by God it is a ravishing unto chasteness and purity. Man, having no free will, will thus only be a ravished being. Either we will be ravished unto purity by God or we will be ravished unto impurity by the Dragon.
 
Donne uses the “ravished” language but in my estimation he is using the language from Lucifer’s perspective when he uses that language. If he were to speak from God’s perspective he would have written instead something like,
 
Except you possess me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you keep me.
 
But that doesn’t make for as good poetry. I hope that helps.
 
Thank you for stopping by Jayson and thanks for a thoughtful question.

 

Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Kinist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture . Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

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