The Postsecular

The intellectual, academic world, according to some observers, has become “postsecular.”  Scholars are now factoring back in the importance of religion.  And yet this too has its divisions between those who favor a multi-faith religious pluralism and the advocates of “radical orthodoxy”–a sophisticated application of historical Christianity in terms of continental philosophy.  See this interview: Views: After the Postsecular – Inside Higher Ed.

For Radical Orthodoxy, see this.

HT:David Mills

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://webulite.com webulite.com

    I think that most people have overcome the belief in the supernatural. People still attend church, because it is a very social institution in the USA. But more and more the supernatural is not something people think about of give much importance to.

    Cheers! webulite.com

  • http://webulite.com webulite.com

    I think that most people have overcome the belief in the supernatural. People still attend church, because it is a very social institution in the USA. But more and more the supernatural is not something people think about of give much importance to.

    Cheers! webulite.com

  • http://plauer.net Paul

    Wow. Thanks for bringing us this. It opened a helpful vista for me to consider things going on around us which will impact the second half of my career as a Pastor. I specifically wonder about the application of these views to differences even within Lutheranism in America – between Lutheran denominations and even within my own LCMS where there does seem to be a division between some sort of “radical orthodoxy” along with those not willing, for whatever reason, good or bad, to be so radical. And this distinction does seem to apply to movements within Roman Catholicism as well as political positions as the article suggests. I’ll have to think about this. So, let me understand: modern, post-modern, and now post-secular. Or is post-secular an alternative to post-modern?

  • http://plauer.net Paul

    Wow. Thanks for bringing us this. It opened a helpful vista for me to consider things going on around us which will impact the second half of my career as a Pastor. I specifically wonder about the application of these views to differences even within Lutheranism in America – between Lutheran denominations and even within my own LCMS where there does seem to be a division between some sort of “radical orthodoxy” along with those not willing, for whatever reason, good or bad, to be so radical. And this distinction does seem to apply to movements within Roman Catholicism as well as political positions as the article suggests. I’ll have to think about this. So, let me understand: modern, post-modern, and now post-secular. Or is post-secular an alternative to post-modern?

  • Jerry

    You’ve given us all more than we can think about with this. However, it should be a natural with Lutherans. It will definitely apply to Lutheran differences even if it may do nothing more than issue a call to emphasize what’s important in our confessions.

    My immediate question is where Gerhard Forde may or may not fit in with his call for a “More Radical Gospel.” Or is just the language similar?

  • Jerry

    You’ve given us all more than we can think about with this. However, it should be a natural with Lutherans. It will definitely apply to Lutheran differences even if it may do nothing more than issue a call to emphasize what’s important in our confessions.

    My immediate question is where Gerhard Forde may or may not fit in with his call for a “More Radical Gospel.” Or is just the language similar?

  • Peter Leavitt

    I agree with Paul, this is very interesting. Secularism has proven its limitations; though it still occupies the height of American culture, the foundation is cracked.

    Samuel Huntington in his last book, Who We Are: Challenges to America’s National Identity wrote that the twentieth-century is dawning as a century of religion; everyReading where except in Western Europe people are turning to religion for comfort, solace, guidance, and identity. He thinks that America as a nation has historically had a profound interest in religion, something that went missing around the Sixties.

    Reading the Inside Higher Ed has caused me to put Dana Milbank’s book, Theology and Social theory : Beyond Secular Season on a books to read list. Even the smug agnostic Inside Higher Ed questioner knows that something distasteful is going on with the resurgence of religious philosophy.

  • Peter Leavitt

    I agree with Paul, this is very interesting. Secularism has proven its limitations; though it still occupies the height of American culture, the foundation is cracked.

    Samuel Huntington in his last book, Who We Are: Challenges to America’s National Identity wrote that the twentieth-century is dawning as a century of religion; everyReading where except in Western Europe people are turning to religion for comfort, solace, guidance, and identity. He thinks that America as a nation has historically had a profound interest in religion, something that went missing around the Sixties.

    Reading the Inside Higher Ed has caused me to put Dana Milbank’s book, Theology and Social theory : Beyond Secular Season on a books to read list. Even the smug agnostic Inside Higher Ed questioner knows that something distasteful is going on with the resurgence of religious philosophy.

  • Peter Leavitt

    In the above “Everyreading” should be “everywhere.”

  • Peter Leavitt

    In the above “Everyreading” should be “everywhere.”

  • Bethany Kilcrease

    Radical orthodoxy is kind of old news. It’s interesting to see some response to some of the political implications so late in the game. The main point, so to speak, of the radical orthodox critique is, I think, hard to deny: secularism and the secular state are not someone “neutral” or objective vantage points. This is ought to be common sense after the postmodern “turn,” but most people seem to combine what I see as the worst of modernism and post-modernism without any regard for consistency in practice: meta-narrative of progress through neutral science and tolerance and moral relativism. Mark Mattes wrote a good Lutheran review / critique of Milbank in particular and radical orthodoxy in general. Here’s the citaiton: Mark C. Mattes, “A Lutheran Assessment of Radical Orthodoxy.” Lutheran Quarterly 15.3 (2001),
    pp. 354-67.

  • Bethany Kilcrease

    Radical orthodoxy is kind of old news. It’s interesting to see some response to some of the political implications so late in the game. The main point, so to speak, of the radical orthodox critique is, I think, hard to deny: secularism and the secular state are not someone “neutral” or objective vantage points. This is ought to be common sense after the postmodern “turn,” but most people seem to combine what I see as the worst of modernism and post-modernism without any regard for consistency in practice: meta-narrative of progress through neutral science and tolerance and moral relativism. Mark Mattes wrote a good Lutheran review / critique of Milbank in particular and radical orthodoxy in general. Here’s the citaiton: Mark C. Mattes, “A Lutheran Assessment of Radical Orthodoxy.” Lutheran Quarterly 15.3 (2001),
    pp. 354-67.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Bethany, thanks for the thoughtful post. I wasn’t able to track down the Mattes article on the Internet. Could you give us a summary of his argument?

  • Peter Leavitt

    Bethany, thanks for the thoughtful post. I wasn’t able to track down the Mattes article on the Internet. Could you give us a summary of his argument?

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Yes, Bethany, tell us more. You’ve been in the scholarly trenches more recently than I have. But Radical Orthodoxy, while it has been around since the turn of the century, is still going strong. Perhaps it is just now getting known beyond its highly-specialized origins, as happens with other scholarly movements. Most of the practitioners, as far as I can see, are Roman Catholics or Eastern Orthodox. I’ve been curious about Lutherans, if Gerhard Forde or Oswald Beyer could be considered in this context. I would say that “postsecular” IS postmodern in critiquing the rationalistic reductionism of modernism, which all postmodernists do. Some people are trying in vain to revive Enlightenment secularist rationalism, but that really is old news.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Yes, Bethany, tell us more. You’ve been in the scholarly trenches more recently than I have. But Radical Orthodoxy, while it has been around since the turn of the century, is still going strong. Perhaps it is just now getting known beyond its highly-specialized origins, as happens with other scholarly movements. Most of the practitioners, as far as I can see, are Roman Catholics or Eastern Orthodox. I’ve been curious about Lutherans, if Gerhard Forde or Oswald Beyer could be considered in this context. I would say that “postsecular” IS postmodern in critiquing the rationalistic reductionism of modernism, which all postmodernists do. Some people are trying in vain to revive Enlightenment secularist rationalism, but that really is old news.

  • Bethany Kilcrease

    Dr. Veith
    I’m certainly no radical orthodoxy expert – but I think they have grappled with postmodernity in a helpful way by exposing the assumptions of modernism. John Milbank is probably the densest writer I have ever read, which is saying a lot. I wouldn’t put either Forde or Bayer in the radical orthodoxy category, but I’ve only read a couple Forde books. I’ll have to ask my husband since Forde is his speciality area. Did you know that your Cranach blog gets cited in his dissertation?

    Bethany

  • Bethany Kilcrease

    Dr. Veith
    I’m certainly no radical orthodoxy expert – but I think they have grappled with postmodernity in a helpful way by exposing the assumptions of modernism. John Milbank is probably the densest writer I have ever read, which is saying a lot. I wouldn’t put either Forde or Bayer in the radical orthodoxy category, but I’ve only read a couple Forde books. I’ll have to ask my husband since Forde is his speciality area. Did you know that your Cranach blog gets cited in his dissertation?

    Bethany

  • Peter Leavitt

    I did find Mattes’ review article of John Milbank’s books and central themes. Essentially he criticizes Milbank for accepting the Aristotle, Aquinas view point that leads to a semi-pelagian outlook leading to a radical orthodoxy and an Anglo-Catholic view that is contrary to Luther’s Paul/Augustinian pure justification by faith.

    Matte’ summary paragraph is:

    In a certain respect, Milbank’s counter-modern view of God is all-too-modern. The problem with Milbank’s view of God is less its seeming irreality—its lack of an extra-linguistic referentiality— than that he fails to acknowledge that the real God always somehow addresses us and, from the sinner’s perspective, this is not necessarily a positive experience. Milbank seeks to establish a continuum between the human and the divine that overlooks the biblical sense of God’s sheer holiness and otherness. Through Milbank’s revision of God we are not apt to encounter the deity before whom we must take off our shoes because we stand on holy ground. This latter view of God is wholly beyond our ability to contest, manip- ulate, bargain with, or control. Milbank’s attempt to devise a counter-modern revision of God shares the typical modern theo- logical attempt to evade one’s finitude before the divine by rear- ranging the doctrine of God. Nevertheless, while Lutherans will not be able unconditionally to follow Milbank in most of his con- structive proposals, they should seriously consider his evaluations of modernity so as to discern how culture viruses can infect the church’s preaching, teaching, worship, and service.

  • Peter Leavitt

    I did find Mattes’ review article of John Milbank’s books and central themes. Essentially he criticizes Milbank for accepting the Aristotle, Aquinas view point that leads to a semi-pelagian outlook leading to a radical orthodoxy and an Anglo-Catholic view that is contrary to Luther’s Paul/Augustinian pure justification by faith.

    Matte’ summary paragraph is:

    In a certain respect, Milbank’s counter-modern view of God is all-too-modern. The problem with Milbank’s view of God is less its seeming irreality—its lack of an extra-linguistic referentiality— than that he fails to acknowledge that the real God always somehow addresses us and, from the sinner’s perspective, this is not necessarily a positive experience. Milbank seeks to establish a continuum between the human and the divine that overlooks the biblical sense of God’s sheer holiness and otherness. Through Milbank’s revision of God we are not apt to encounter the deity before whom we must take off our shoes because we stand on holy ground. This latter view of God is wholly beyond our ability to contest, manip- ulate, bargain with, or control. Milbank’s attempt to devise a counter-modern revision of God shares the typical modern theo- logical attempt to evade one’s finitude before the divine by rear- ranging the doctrine of God. Nevertheless, while Lutherans will not be able unconditionally to follow Milbank in most of his con- structive proposals, they should seriously consider his evaluations of modernity so as to discern how culture viruses can infect the church’s preaching, teaching, worship, and service.

  • Peter Leavitt

    I did find Mattes’ review article of John Milbank’s books and central themes. Essentially he criticizes Milbank for accepting the Aristotle, Aquinas view point that leads to a semi-pelagian outlook. This outlook tends to an orthodox Anglo-Catholic view that is contrary to Luther’s Paul/Augustinian view of rather pure justification by faith.

  • Peter Leavitt

    I did find Mattes’ review article of John Milbank’s books and central themes. Essentially he criticizes Milbank for accepting the Aristotle, Aquinas view point that leads to a semi-pelagian outlook. This outlook tends to an orthodox Anglo-Catholic view that is contrary to Luther’s Paul/Augustinian view of rather pure justification by faith.

  • http://jackkilcrease.blogspot.com Dr. Jack Kilcrease

    Dr. Veith-

    Radical Orthodoxy is best described as an extremely unusual variant of Anglo-Catholicism. I would describe it as the Henri De Lubac confronts Derrida.

    Du Lubac and his compatriot’s aim in Catholic theology was to make grace universal. The idea isn’t that everyone is saved or something, but that all reality can be narrated on the basis of God’s plan of glorifying nature with grace. Vatican II used this idea a lot.

    The Radical Orthodox would also accept the idea that there is not foundational basis for connecting language to reality. In other words, as post-modernists claim, there’s no getting behind language to show that what we call red is red in essence- or cats are cats. We just have our language, there’s no testing it by getting to something beyond it.

    People like Derrida therefore conclude that it’s arbitrary and that there is not connection between language and reality. Reality is essentially chaotic and we place order on it via language.

    Now the Radical Orthodox say, yes, that’s right, there’s no way of showing that language corresponds to reality. But there’s also no way of showing that it doesn’t- because you can’t get behind it, right?

    If that’s the case, Christianity has been overly modest for the last 300 years or so. Why try to conform the secular worldview? It’s just language about the world which is no more foundationally grounded in the real world than Christian language about the world. So, let’s just say that Christian language about the world is true and secular language is false?

    We can’t prove that Christian language is true, but they can’t prove their language about the world is true either.

    How does Christianity win out then? It wins out because it’s language about the world is far more beautiful. Beauty draws us to things that true and so it draws us to the Christianity narrative over the secular ones- which are ugly (think Nietzsche).

    That’s just part of it. There’s a lot of other stuff. But that’s the basic thing.

    Not a lot in common with Forde or Bayer. Forde is a modernist thinker, he’s Neo-orthodox I would say. Bayer is sort of a post-modern thinker in that he’s somewhat anti-foundationalist. But in a way you wouldn’t think. Bayer is very hard to categorize because his concept of theology is so amazingly unique, yet at the same time in accordance with that of Luther.

  • http://jackkilcrease.blogspot.com Dr. Jack Kilcrease

    Dr. Veith-

    Radical Orthodoxy is best described as an extremely unusual variant of Anglo-Catholicism. I would describe it as the Henri De Lubac confronts Derrida.

    Du Lubac and his compatriot’s aim in Catholic theology was to make grace universal. The idea isn’t that everyone is saved or something, but that all reality can be narrated on the basis of God’s plan of glorifying nature with grace. Vatican II used this idea a lot.

    The Radical Orthodox would also accept the idea that there is not foundational basis for connecting language to reality. In other words, as post-modernists claim, there’s no getting behind language to show that what we call red is red in essence- or cats are cats. We just have our language, there’s no testing it by getting to something beyond it.

    People like Derrida therefore conclude that it’s arbitrary and that there is not connection between language and reality. Reality is essentially chaotic and we place order on it via language.

    Now the Radical Orthodox say, yes, that’s right, there’s no way of showing that language corresponds to reality. But there’s also no way of showing that it doesn’t- because you can’t get behind it, right?

    If that’s the case, Christianity has been overly modest for the last 300 years or so. Why try to conform the secular worldview? It’s just language about the world which is no more foundationally grounded in the real world than Christian language about the world. So, let’s just say that Christian language about the world is true and secular language is false?

    We can’t prove that Christian language is true, but they can’t prove their language about the world is true either.

    How does Christianity win out then? It wins out because it’s language about the world is far more beautiful. Beauty draws us to things that true and so it draws us to the Christianity narrative over the secular ones- which are ugly (think Nietzsche).

    That’s just part of it. There’s a lot of other stuff. But that’s the basic thing.

    Not a lot in common with Forde or Bayer. Forde is a modernist thinker, he’s Neo-orthodox I would say. Bayer is sort of a post-modern thinker in that he’s somewhat anti-foundationalist. But in a way you wouldn’t think. Bayer is very hard to categorize because his concept of theology is so amazingly unique, yet at the same time in accordance with that of Luther.

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