Radical Orthodoxy?

What are we to make of “radical orthodoxy”?  This isn’t people who are orthodox getting all radical about it, as in some sort of theological Tea Party.  It’s a distinct theological movement, as I understand it, that uses postmodern philosophy to shoot down theological liberalism, that challenges the fact/value nature/grace distinction, that makes use of the church fathers to critique modernity, and that looks at all areas of life from a theological lens.

From  Radical Orthodoxy – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Radical Orthodoxy is a Christian theological and philosophical school of thought which makes use of postmodern philosophy to reject the paradigm of modernity. The movement was founded by John Milbank and others and takes its name from the title of a collection of essays published by Routledge in 1999: Radical Orthodoxy, A New Theology, edited by John Milbank, Catherine Pickstock and Graham Ward. Although the principal founders of the movement are Anglicans, Radical Orthodoxy includes theologians from a number of church traditions. . . .

Radical Orthodoxy is a critique of modern secularism and Kantian accounts of metaphysics. The name “Radical Orthodoxy” emphasises the movement’s attempt to return to or revive traditional doctrine (“Radical“, lat. radix, “root”), “Orthodoxy” (gr. ὀρθῶςorthόs, “correct” and δόξαdóxa, “teaching”, therefore, “correct teaching”). The movement reclaims the original early church idea that theology is the “queen of the sciences”. This means that if the world is to be interpreted correctly, it must be viewed from the perspectives of theology. Radical Orthodoxy critiques and dismisses secular sciences because their worldview is considered inherently atheistic and nihilistic, based on acts of ontological violence (of which the faith/reason, nature/grace separations are examples). What this means is that science, ethics, politics, economics and all other branches of study are interpreted and informed through a theological ontology, with the mainstream secular variations representing heresies (as in deviations from orthodoxy). Its ontology has some similarities to the Neoplatonist account of participation.

To see it in practice, see the online journal Radical Orthodoxy.

I’m trying to get my head around this, and I ask you to help me.  How would you assess this movement?  Is it successful in using postmodernism to battle the relativism that usually accompanies that philosophy?  And what about the neoplatonism?  Is radical orthodoxy different from regular old orthodoxy?  Most members of this school seem to be Anglicans, Roman Catholics, or Eastern Orthodox.  Can one be a Lutheran who is radically orthodox in this sense?  A Calvinist?  An Evangelical?

Again, I’m asking because I don’t know.  At least some of what I’ve read from these folks I have liked very much, but I’m curious if there are problems with their approach or if it’s something thoughtful Christians should embrace.

HT:  George Strieter

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.


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