Radical Orthodoxy: Binaries and Nostalgia

Bo Sanders

Big Daddy Bo takes Radical Orthodoxy — a theological movement of which I am not fond — down to size:

It does not take long, when listening to John Milbank, to discover the fatal flaw.

Milbank says “The only choice in our time is between religion and nihilism”.

Into a plural, multiple, diverse 21st century, RO comes marching in with a old-school binary!  From sentence one, as a listener, you start thinking “yeah, that thing you said might be true … IF there is only an either-or option. But if there are layers, any nuance, multiple factors, complexity or any number of other variations … then your argument breaks down pretty quickly. Your proposal only stands up IF your initial simplistic framing of the issue is adopted. ” [like when Milbank calls all of post-modernism a footnote to Nietzsche]

When Milbank says that a purely secular society is untenable… it’s a no-brainer! Of course that would be true. Duh. Only … that’s not exactly the reality we are dealing with.

Of course, the sentence takes on wholly new meaning inside RO’s binary.

Read the rest: Radical Orthodoxy’s Fatal Flaw.

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  • Honestly, I thought this way for a long time. Either God+Jesus+Bible…or nothing matters! Might as well “eat and drink for tomorrow we die!”

    At this point, I think that consistent thought will lead you nihilism (and, ultimately, suicide). But, most of us are not consistent. And, I don’t see a complete lack of cognitive dissonance as a desirable goal. It just seems “un-human” to me.

    I was confused as hell when I first read Jamie Smith’s “Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism?” before I had ever encountered “radical orthodoxy.” Overall, the book is great. But, his “solutions” to postmodern “problems” made – and still make – absolutely no sense to me.

    • You make several good points. And I am 100% with you on that Smith book. The end was weird! I loved the first 4 chapters and how movies were paired with influential historical figures … then that final chapter. Bizarre.

      I’ve actually recommended (and even given) that book to several people and just told em not to read that final chapter 🙂 -Bo

  • Larry Barber

    Who knows what John Milbank thinks? That would require being able to penetrate the impenetrable. I don’t even think John Milbank can understand what he writes.

  • Chris

    It seems like saying RO is wrong because all it offers is a simple binary is a non sequitur.

    As much as they give postmodern sensibilities the willies, binaries are not wrong in and of themselves. In fact Sanders offers his own when he suggests you *either* buy into the binary of RO *or* you accept the present multiplicity of possibilities.
    I’m not saying RO is right necessarily, but Sanders “taking RO down to size” seems rather overstated and his analysis self-refuting at it’s foundation.