Radical Orthodoxy’s Fatal Flaw

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.

I could say the same sentence – but would mean that secular society it is integrated, infused, marbled, or mixed with religion and expired religious forms so thoroughly that it forms a multiplicity of bricolage pluralities or something like that. 

I knew at the top that defenders of RO will say this is too easy a dismissal. One sentence in and I’m already shaking my head in disagreement.  I would counter however that – whether you use a foundational analogy or DNA one – when something is predicated on bad material,  you don’t have to explore too long to see that it is corrupted or warped – and functionally unusable.

                               The First Problem Leads to a Second

Once the initial binary is adopted, a consequential effect is offered as a solution. RO thinks that the answer is to go back. Back to Aquinas – to the middle ages when theology was ‘queen of the sciences’. It doesn’t stop there!  Going back to Aquinas necessarily means going back Aristotle when greek society was organized into communities called polis.

Many within RO want to see the church re-claim that polis identity. One of RO’s favorite thinkers is Alasdair MacIntyre (famous for his book After Virtue). MacIntyre chooses to reclaim a notion of Aristotle’s approach to the formation of virtuous character within the context of community (polis).  Within these communities character is formed by the “enacted narratives” that allows the self to be formed and ones identity to emerge within the continuity (or discontinuity) of the self that is provided by a greater environment. This happens within an embedded or situated environment in which a narrative may be lived out.

I love MacIntyre. I have used his notion of character formation within community and I am rocked by his assessment of our contemporary moral morass. MacIntyre’s concern is justified and his analysis is right on.

In fact, there is only one thing I don’t agree with MacIntyre on – his solution.

MacIntyre closes his book with the character of St. Benedict. who is earlier paired with the likes of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Theresa along with Engels, Marx and Trotsky as “exemplars of certain of  the virtues as I understand them”.  In the final sentence of the book MacIntyre says that we are waiting for another – albeit different kind – of St. Benedict.

The author looks to the time when virtues were able to survive the dark ages and laments that in our time, however,

“the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time.”

It is here that my hope in the project fades. Benedict and his Orders existed within framework of Christendom that spanned time periods both before and after his influence. We stand at a precipice of a different kind of boundary that does not share the continuity that Benedict’s did. Thus, even if a new “very different” Benedict figure were to emerge it would be unimaginable that such a figure’s work would be formulated or transmitted in any way that would be recognizable for the very comparison.

Whereas Benedict was embedded within a tradition and reformulated the practices of a tradition, the new pluralistic Benedict would necessarily be inter-traditional at best or non-traditional at worst and would thus be no sort of Benedict due simply to the radical disparity of the environment from which she emerged and the absence of an institutional mechanism that Benedict employed.

A new Benedict within any tradition would therefore not being comparable to the original for the need and the application would be so radically disparate. If a new thinker/leader/organizer were to emerge from our modern context the program would be, one would have to imagine, outside of a historical tradition/expression and would necessarily manifest as a new school of religion altogether.

If one was to employ a comparable rule to the Benedictine in our pluralistic age, it would exist either within an established institutional framework and thus not provide the same role as the original or would be appropriately pluralistic and thus not similar at all in function to the original within its (and subsequent) era.  At that point, it would be providing a very different service to the formation of virtuous beings that existed outside of established institutional silos of belief.

 I say it all the time: Christianity’s future is not to be found in Europe’s past.

Now I will go further and say that it only appears that going back is a solution – or even a possibility – if one accepts the simple binary initially.  RO’s proposal is fatally flawed from the outset.

__________________

If you are interested HERE is a link to part of an article I wrote about MacIntyre. I will not post it on the main page. This will be the only link to it.

_________________

Post-Script: I chose to not provide references for the quotes in order to avoid the easy ‘anecdotal’ dismissal from RO defenders.

*  In fairness, MacIntyre somewhat addressed this concern in 2007 with the 25th anniversary of After Virtue in a new prologue for the 3rd edition. He explains:

Benedict’s greatness lay in making possible a quite new kind of institution, that of the monastery of prayer, learning, and labor, in which and around which communities could not only survive, but flourish, in a period of social and cultural darkness.

“The appeal of such a character would indeed be spectacular and, for the reasons stated, their work would be somewhat unprecedented. Outside of the existing continuity experienced by the original Benedict, this new set of rules would bridge gaps unimaginable to the original.”  

 

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64 comments
lancelogic
lancelogic

I think you're actually missing the most important flaw of radical orthodoxy, and most of theology that rooted in philosophical speculation: it doesn't find its roots in the Bible. Mattes and Boersma have noted these critiques now for some time. Either way, the constant witchhunt for theology's mortal enemy, from Scotus, to Trent, or whatever, need to be dropped. Christian anthropology tells us what's wrong already. As for a ressourcement project, James KA Smith is right to say that Milbank and the RO are not returning to a truly classic Augustine or Aquinas; it is 'their' Augustine and Aquinas, similar to Hinlicky and Luther. What is undeniably great about their project, however, is the concern for bankrupt secular worldviews. Cunningham's Genealogy of Nihilism, one of the easier RO books to read, provides a brilliant critique of inherent nihilism in contemporary and classic worldviews, and tracking the dialectic from which they spawned. There are important things to take from Radical Orthodoxy whether you buy into the project or not. Their fervent, unrelenting critique of secular space, their concern for political engagement, and the concern for a consistent ontology, built upon the foundation of the Tradition, should all be engaged with. RO started some of the conversations that everyone else takes for granted. Any hope for the future of theology may not be written on a dusty books on the shelf, but I promise you that our future is too grounded in the past to pretent we can float above the tradition we stand on. 

iamstillrobdavis
iamstillrobdavis

I got excited when I saw that there were 45 comments on this post. Then, I tried to read them and don't understand most of what I read. So, now I will frown and wish I was a little taller, wish I was a baller...

 

I will hear, but I'm not sure that I can listen...

Robert Zaleski
Robert Zaleski

Is there a doctor in the house (like Dr. CS Lewis), he'd whittle this stick into a twig.

revnormal
revnormal

Yeah, but... I feel like you adopt an equally flawed binary: if Milbank (or McIntyre) are right that is a beautiful thing but if they are wrong, RO is fatally flawed. Those are my only two choices? I think you're in love with RO and just haven't realized it yet. 

JoshuaBrockway
JoshuaBrockway

Bo, 

Thanks for engaging RO. I am far from an RO guy, though some (Fitch, Hunter, and others) have put Neo-Anabaptist and RO in a similar genus- in part because of the roll of MacIntyre. I am struck by a couple of things- one is the "fatal flaw" language. Cause, honestly, I have quite run into a theological system that doesn't have one :)

 

Second, I rather resonate with Milbank's phrase from the opening. I think it is between religion and nihilism- just which religion is the opperative question. Kind of like my critique of 'Spiritual but Not Religious"= there is a religion operating in our epistemology. There are systems of values, ideas, practices, and desire that hold up our beliefs about ourselves and the world- Capitalism, Democracy, Liberalism,.... all function religiously by ordering and making sense of what is around us. We, then, assent to one or more of those religions as our primary frames. They need not be Thomist catholicism, Hauerwasian Christianity, or even bland American Evangelicalism- but they are religions. 

 

I hear, in Millbank's binary a pressing back into the ranges of secularism a religious apathy. "Is that so, well you may not be 'Christian' but you do have a religion.

BoEberle
BoEberle

 @revnormal How in the world is it a beautiful thing if these guys are right? Have you SEEN what the political solutions people like Milbank and Philip Blonde have proposed? 

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @revnormal 1) No. RO is one of thousands of options. There is no either-or here. If you want more on multiplicity see my post from last week:  http://homebrewedchristianity.com/2013/01/09/moving-toward-multiplicity/

 

2) No. I think that RO is layers and layers of crappy. I just addressed one. It is crappy in approach, framing, analysis, and solution.   If you have read me before, I don't know how you could think that this is my bag ;)    

 

Does it help to know that I am not employing a binary?  - Bo 

BoEberle
BoEberle

 @JoshuaBrockway Have you ever read either a.) death of god/secular theologians (Crockett/Robbins/Caputo/Vattimo/Taylor et al) or b.) scholars like Marcel Gauchet and Steve Bruce, William Connolly, and even Max Weber (among many others) who show that there is so such thing as "secularism?" A postsecular approach is needed that realizes the religious and theological underpinnings of modernity/secularity itself. The dichotomy between religion and nihilism only works if religion is the pejorative term and "nihilism" is taken in a positive sense of being the outcome of religion itself. 

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @JoshuaBrockway And here is my biggest problem with RO and it's binary: redefining everything and imposing those definitions on every area.

 

"Everyone has a religion" RO advocates say!  You are a serious Marxist? THAT then is your religion!!    

 

RO:  "Everyone eats everyday."   Me: I know an anerexic girl who has not eaten today.  RO: "Then NOT eating is her food!  THAT is what gives here nourishment!"  

 

RO: "Every church has liturgy."  No they don't.  Some go out of their way not to.  RO: "Then THAT is their liturgy."   [this is an actual argument I have had with an RO.  so please don't say that I am being hyperbolic. This line of reasoning informs RO]

 

RO: "Everybody has a pattern and takes the same road home every day".  I intentionally go out of my way to try new roads and see different areas. RO: "then THAT is your routine!"  [also an actual exchange with RO guy].  

 

I hate this thing that RO does.  Like said in the post - it ONLY makes sense IF you concede the binary initially.  

 

would love to hear your thoughts back ;)   -Bo 

lancelogic
lancelogic

 @BoSanders provide some authors/titles? Maybe a short paragraph synopsis on the idea?

revnormal
revnormal

 @BoEberle I am not defending RO, still learning about it. Just felt like you were characterizing the whole project (RO) by a very narrow slice (instances you give of Milbank and McIntyre). I am assuming you see no one within RO as a broader emphasis who would see this differently than Milbank/McIntyre.

revnormal
revnormal

 @BoSanders  @revnormal 1) That really was not my point. My point was that in the post you seemed to be throwing out RO on the basis of one voice within RO.

 

(2) I haven't read you much before, mostly just listened to podcast. And I was being sarcastic about your alleged love affair with RO.

 

I don't know the technical definition of a binary. You just seemed to be doing with RO what you are saying RO does with nihilism. Call it what you will. Appreciate your interaction. I'll mine your stuff for more complete view of how you see RO.

JoshuaBrockway
JoshuaBrockway

 @BoEberle Yes, many though not all of them. I am saying with them that there are religious and theological underpinnings of modernity. So I am not sure I understand your last sentence. Is this to mean that Nihilism is what is to be sought out, based on a good post-secular theory? 

LaneSeverson
LaneSeverson

@BoEberle can you explain that last sentence?

JoshuaBrockway
JoshuaBrockway

@BoSanders

Easy man.... As you said in a comment below, you are putting some words in my mouth here. As I said, I AM NOT AN RO GUY! Can we let that point stand. 

 

If the fact that "Religion" can mean a system of practices, concepts, values, and desires which connect experiences and understandings then everyone does have a religion. And until we can name the fact that American Democratic Capitalism has become the new civil religion we will keep entering the banal binary of secular and religious, which happens to be the binary of Liberalism (where is the rant on that :) )

 

It seems that this emphasis on the RO binary precludes you from applying your quick sentence to the the Religion side of Milbank's sentence- namely that the broader defining of religion is "integrated, infused, marbled, or mixed with religion and expired religious forms so thoroughly that it forms a multiplicity of bricolage pluralities." Cause, honestly man, I am with you there. I would just drop the secular society language. Does Milbank have in mind a certain kind of Right Religion for his simple sentence- YEP, a kind of sick Christendom obsessed socialism. I am not rrying to support that. But I do think that the wider definition of religion can speak to the range of possibilities. Its just that it is a joke to say that "Secular Society" does not have a metaphysic  or religious liturgies. As I have said in regards to Spiritual But Not Religious- Its more a question of WHICH religion(s).

 

Josh

 

BoEberle
BoEberle

 @BoSanders  @Sean Patrick  @revnormal I don't understand what the desired bib is about... refuting/alternatives to radical orthodoxy (isnt anything else an alternative?) or books either by or about Radox that would give one a good critical handle on the movement? 

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @Sean Patrick   @revnormal  while we are waiting for @BoEberle 's bibliography ... I just want to make a quick comment:

 

Sean, I was raised evangelical with charismatic leanings. I'm now an emergent kind-of progressive who likes Lindbeck a little too much and hangs out with Process types and thinks their answers are way better than most stuff out there.

 

 So I think that it is possible to 'not be married to process' and still entertain the conversation. I started out as an open-theologian for pity's sake :p  -Bo  

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @BoEberle  Ya. can you provide @revnormal  with non-process alternatives?   Maybe name 5 books that could get one started.

 

I will chime in with 3 as well  (as is my pattern)  -Bo West 

revnormal
revnormal

 @BoSanders  @revnormal  @BoEberle Awesome. Thanks for explaining. Can you recommend a couple starting points for trying to get a grasp of all this without simply marrying Process Theology?

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @revnormal  I just want you to know that I am glad that you are IN this conversation :)  Couple points of clarification:  a) @BoEberle is a younger smarter non-pastoral version of me on the East coast (jk)  Bo East (as I call him) is a Union Masters student who ROCKS the radical edge of theology.  I am Bo (West) Sanders.  Most of the time we get confused which is OK with me but rubs Bo East the wrong way cuz I am into Practical Theology ;p 

 

b) I get what you are saying about only using Milbank/MacIntyre and how it might 'appear' to be a narrow selection.  But I assure that 1) it is not as they are marquee names utilized in the movement  2) If you look at other (as Bo East does) you will find it goes all the way through.  

 

But I get the concern. It's just that in the case ... it is what it is.   -Bo (West) 

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @Crisjunfan  @JoshuaBrockway What would be go round and round about? 

5 variations is not a binary.

A dozen options is not a binary.

1000 marbled expressions is not a binary. 

 

I'm confused :)   -Bo 

Crisjunfan
Crisjunfan

 @BoSanders  @JoshuaBrockway No, it's really nothing like saying that "hangovers are pesky but unavoidable." 

 

I disagree that I'm missing the point (I'm just extending it) and with your "clarification" but I see we could go round and round on this one. Thanks for the cordial exchange.

 

Peace ;-)

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @Crisjunfan  @JoshuaBrockway  NO. You keep missing the point because you keep changing the parameters.   Its not that Milbank say it the the 'best option OVER these others' - the binary is that there are ONLY two options. IF I then provide MORE than those two options then the binary is false. 

 

It is the falseness of the binary that is the problem. NOT if there are any binaries ANY where or if all binaries are inherently bad.  What is problematic he is the falseness of the initial assertion! 

 

It's not that binaries are 'pesky'  (in general) it is that this one is fictitious (specifically).   -Bo  

and BTW They only keep  emerging because of the way the we conceive of them and frame them. WE are conceptualizing them. They are not pesky an unavoidable - it is because of our internal permission to frame them that gives birth to them.  This is an entirely man made problem ;)

 

That's like saying that hangovers are pesky but unavoidable. I can think of at least one way to avoid them.  ;p   

 

 

 

Crisjunfan
Crisjunfan

 @BoSanders  @JoshuaBrockway  @Crisjunfan The way you set up your beverage analogy is not a good one, here's why.

 

The way of a thousand ways is still "a way" if it stands in opposition to the one way on the other fork of the binary. I can state that for people, water may be the best option over and against beer, wine, soda, etc. depending upon what it is we are talking about. The same could be said for plants. I can give a plant coffee, beer, wine, soda, but the best option may in fact be water in order for it to flourish, even though it seems as though I've offered numerous other (seemingly) viable options.

In this type of binary we would not be talking about Christianity as opposed to say, Islam. But rather we would be thinking about Christianity in contrast to Unitarian Universalism, or perhaps Baha'ism, both of which purport to be highly inclusive and eclectic.

 

In these examples we are introducing what appears to be wide ranging options in contrast to Christianity. But in fact both of these other systems still exclude the exclusivists (RO) perpetuating their very own binary either/or. It's really quite inescapable as these binaries are pesky and continue to emerge despite our best efforts. The best we can do is evaluate them on their own merits, and not dismiss them out of hand by suggesting that it is some kind of "move" or "trick" in order to persuade people.

 

Another way to think about it would be that I can decorate my home in a single style (say, modern) or I can decorate in an eclectic approach, taking in many various forms and not limiting myself to one solution. Some people may think of this as widening their options, but it in fact becomes a new style of it's own which stands apart from the modern option. 

 

I guess my main point (which you never really addressed) is that binaries in and of themselves are not inherently wrong. Sometimes, if I'm crossing the street and I don't see that proverbial bus, it's *either* the bus *or* me, not both of us.

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @JoshuaBrockway  @Crisjunfan I appreciate your clarification. :)   but I will stick with the beverage analogy.

 

Saying "there are only 2 options: soda or water" - the fatal flaw is that it is erroneous. If I list beer, wine and juice as alternatives, I have broken the false binary ... and NOT set up another.  I have provided 5 options. That inherently can not be a binary. 

 

Speaking against something does not set up an either-or opitition. That is my simple objection to saying that it undermines my "analysis at it's core and foundation.".   I'm not being hypocritical by speaking against a binary if I provide 5 options!   

 

-Bo 

JoshuaBrockway
JoshuaBrockway

 @BoSanders  @Crisjunfan I was going to type include this in the earlier reply.

 

A binary is almost always of product of our discourse. We are trained to posit one theological/religious system over and against another. In our critique of one system we implicitly or explicitly imply our own "better" alternative. I agree you haven't done that in the above post- as I said earlier. Yet, each of us as we read and discuss, assume there is a particular construction behind the critique. 

 

If I were to argue against this binar-ification of theology I would return to one of the earlier podcasts with Corcoran. The remedy to the natural impulse to set things in opposition is to reclaim some epistemic humility. We know/understand things in limited ways (based on experience, practices, and readings) and our posture ought not to be one of certitude that our construction of a system is organized is the only one. Thus, my own leveraging of a "fatal flaw" it would be that Milbank's approach lacks just such humility.

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @JoshuaBrockway  @Crisjunfan  BUT THAT IS WHAT I'm saying :)   If there are dozens of 'right' ways  Mennonite, Methodist or Charismatic non-denominational  to name a few - then THAT is not a binary :)   Implied or otherwise!!   

It seriously feels like doing so is only because one is bound and determined to posit one v the other.   

I can't be more clear! There are not only two options.  That does not 'imply' a binary v Milbank.  IF one does not buy Milbank there are dozens of valid other options.  

-Bo 

JoshuaBrockway
JoshuaBrockway

 @BoSanders  @Crisjunfan Hope I am not one of those three Bo :) I do think that saying "there are 1000's of possibilities" does not preclude the implication of a binary (the ultimate of post-structural heresies :) ) How those possibilities are selected and arranged can, however, imply a binary. The way Milbank understands "Right Religion" is a binary- but so is the way each of us organize our learnings from the multitude of possibilities. As many have pointed out in this thread, the "Religion" of RO is the problem and yet, each of us are guilty of establishing a binary when we posit a similarly rigid understanding of what right religion ought to look like.

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @Crisjunfan  Ummm - step back and think about what you said :)  

 

If I say there are 1,000 varieties/ options ... you can'y come back with "that is a binary"  ;)  

 

Someone says " there are only two types of drinks in the world: Soda and water".  If I then come and say "actually there are many more - juice, beer, wine, etc."   That is not a binary.    Providing more than 2 options  - but definition can't be a binary.   

 

It's interesting, because you are the 3rd person this week to attempt this move :)   It has me wondering how 1,000 options can be a binary ...  -Bo 

Crisjunfan
Crisjunfan

@BoSanders @revnormal "Let me try this in a really positive way: Because there are between a dozen and thousands of layers, options and varieties ... RO is wrong that there are only 2 options." It seems you are caught in and advancing yourvery own binary. You *either* buy into RO's approach *or* you go the route of postmodern multiplicity. Seems to undermine your analysis at it's core and foundation.

revnormal
revnormal

 @BoSanders Sorry, not really. I get what you are saying. That is not what I'm getting at. I realize there are many options, that you are not limiting the options available. I think I also get what you are trying to say about RO. Where I am fuzzy is that to me you seem to be ruling out RO as a system on the basis of a very narrow slice (Milbank/McIntyre). All I'm asking is whether RO itself would offer more than one option (beyond Milbank/McIntyre as cited by you).

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @revnormal I'm glad you clarified :)  and I was onto your sarcasm ... sorry if I sound too snappy. 

 

Let me try this in a really positive way:   Because there are between a dozen and thousands of layers, options and varieties ... RO is wrong that there are only 2 options. 

 

Saying that ( RO is wrong) does not mean that mine is the only other option. 

 

Was that more helpful?  -Bo 

BoEberle
BoEberle

@JoshuaBrockway First, I'm playing a but of a character. I do not reject metaphysics, but I understand why it seems prudent to do so. The ONLY reason I don't is because of Whitehead, who in my view, does metaphysics in a way that is unforeseen by Heidegger and those who followed him in his condemnation of metaphysics as ontotheology. Heidegger says:

"The original matter of thinking presents itself as the first cause, the causa prima that corresponds to the reason-giving path to the ultima ratio, the final accounting. The Being of beings is represented fundamentally, in the sense of the ground, only as causa sui. This is the metaphysical concept of God. Metaphysics must think in the    direction of deity because the matter of thinking is Being." 

This is what I mean when I say "metaphysics," something in the line of Plato and Aristotle through Aquinas and here critiqued by Heidegger (rightly). So I want to use metaphysics in a very specific and historical way, not just a word referring to the general story we tell about the world, or a metanarrative or story, what have you. Metaphysics is the attempt at "final accounting" that presupposes the end from the beginning, etc that necessarily ends with God. If you have a story that does these things, you're just thinking badly for your own benefit. I'm fine with stories and narrative theology and all of that, but the real real practical threat you can see shine through in Milbank that comes with his high ontotheological heresy is his politics- his politics derived from his metaphysics looks to subjugate and overpower. Radox is very bad for women, glbtq folks, even poor people. With that in mind, your second point fades a bit, I hope, because "immanent" world-views or frameworks are not the target here. It could be incarnational xianity, Spinoza, Deleuze, even Whitehead. Much less of a problem is at all, but not "metaphysics" as I was using the word. If any of that makes sense  

JoshuaBrockway
JoshuaBrockway

 @BoEberle Ok, I am getting it now. Vattimo was one in the "have not read" column. Should have said that earlier on. Couple of late night thoughts- so take them with a grain of salt or press back into them for clarity. (I could negate them :) when I wake up in the morning)

 

1) "So back to the original point, religion becomes an artificial injection of the metaphysical/transcendent back into the emerging secular sphere."

 

This is where I struggle with the critique of metaphysics- There still is a "metaphysic" in play. It just happens to be radical immanence. Or put another way- the rejection of Master Narratives was the rejection of a singular master narrative being superimposed (with force) on others, nor the setting aside of them all together. There is still an ordering story to what you are saying, and it functions nearly exactly like the metaphysics of Plato and Thomas (and Milbank). The good Anabaptist that I am- I think there is point when we consciously adopt a metaphysic/master narrative. We take it as our own, allowing it to organize and shape our understanding of and action in the world.

 

2) "General good will, time with friends and family, relaxatoin, etc (some consumerism too, but we're working on that). These "secular" things represent the true meaning of Christ coming into the world."

 

Not convinced those are secular things at all. Is it possible they are manifestations of God (Incarnations) that can point us back, begin restoring us? I find it funny that progressives are falling in love with a theology of Incarnation, but at the same time are jumping into theological systems that use metaphysics pejoratively. Incarnation of what? Christ coming into the world- from where? 

 

I really am enjoying this, and I hope it is constructive. Nothing personal is meant in any of it, and I am not taking it personal. 

 

Josh

JoshuaBrockway
JoshuaBrockway

 @BoEberle I'll start here and move up... What passes today is a king of Hyper=Thomism. I am totally with you there- and that is my beef with RO. I was thinking further back though- like Ps Dionysius. That the Kataphatic and Apophatic are twin movements to be held together. "God is Love." followed by "God is Not Love" That continual movement from affirmation and negation of theological naming, i think avoided some of the traps of metaphysical trumping.

BoEberle
BoEberle

 @JoshuaBrockway Apophatic theology is usually just hyper-thomism, part of the rat race to think up a bigger and stronger god than yours (mine's so big I can't even talk about him! boom!) 

BoEberle
BoEberle

 @JoshuaBrockway Sure, but Caputo addresses his differences with apophatic theology in Prayers and Tears ch. 1 pretty clearly... idk what is left to be desired in negative theology after deconstruction. But that's me. 

BoEberle
BoEberle

 @JoshuaBrockway Look, I'm just trying to explain what I think Vattimo means. I probably shouldnt have invoked him to begin with, and jumped to pluralism. But still, in defense of V, I think much of what has scared us about "nihilism" and all of its connotations- meaninglessness- has been, all along, the fear of no SINGLE meaning, or the idea that we can choose and make meaning in the world. That might be seen as terrifying, hence the negative rap for old nihilism. But regardless, don't get caught up on it. Pluralism is fine. Secularism/pluralism is the ultimate goal of religion. For instance the "war against xmas" people ge tit wrong, because once Christ is taken out of Christmas (and Christ was kenotic to begin with) what do we have? General good will, time with friends and family, relaxatoin, etc (some consumerism too, but we're working on that). These "secular" things represent the true meaning of Christ coming into the world. So back to the original point, religion becomes an artificial injection of the metaphysical/transcendent back into the emerging secular sphere.

JoshuaBrockway
JoshuaBrockway

 @BoEberle So then, this sense of "nihilism" is something like what Rollins (Caputo) mean by Atheism and Apophatic- a radical negation. (Though, I think he misses the much richer and earlier sense of Apophatic. But that is the stuff of another conversation)

JoshuaBrockway
JoshuaBrockway

 @BoEberle Hmmm. That just doesn't seem to track with me- ie that nihilism is a kind of pluralism. Seems like that kind of definition falls into the category of what BoWest :) was saying about RO's expanding the definition of Religion, Liturgy, and Driving by Another Route. 

BoEberle
BoEberle

 @JoshuaBrockway Nihilism, with qualifications, is not meaninglessness but an excess or plurality of meanings and no master signifier or algorithm to privilege one over another 

BoEberle
BoEberle

 @JoshuaBrockway Yes, although I think when Vattimo says "nihilism" for example he means robust pluralism + no metaphysical claims. As a Whitehead guy I would modify the former, but not a big deal for now. I think pluralism is what we're after. Perhaps best explained by William Connolly in his book called, incidentally, "Pluralism."

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @JoshuaBrockway Thanks for the clarification :) and sorry about being snappy.   I think that we agree on a lot here.  Two points : 

 

It's not just you - but I am leery about saying 'capitalism or democracy function as a religion'.  Yah .....  I get that .... but .... it's not a religion. Marxism isn't either (the example I cited). 

It just ... not the same.  and I think that this is a move that muddies the waters. 

 

I would never claim that secularity or X doesn't have a metaphysic.  It is too complex, layered, and diverse to say something like that. Even within 'science' there are natural reductionists and not.  Secularity and secularism are the same way - there are tons of different folds within the monolith functioning differently than each other. 

 

I just think that this way of speaking (wider definition of religion) v. secular is helpful. It is based on some broad assumptions and quirky redefinitions - which means that most conversation partners are not hearing the same thing you want to be saying ....  it's just an odd unhelpful approach that RO takes. 

 

Thanks so much for the reply  -Bo 

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  1. […] This is part of an article I wrote a while ago. I am posting it as background to my blog post “Radical Orthodoxy’s Fatal Flaw”.  It is not written in blog format but for anyone who is interested, I wanted to put it out […]