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Introducing Radical Orthodoxy: Mapping a Post-Secular Theology (Englisch) Taschenbuch – Dezember 2004

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"Smith is always fair and kind to his Radical Orthodoxy interlocutors, yet he is able to distance himself when necessary. Persons wanting to familiarize themselves with the movement will need to read Smith's book to get a clear picture of what drives Radical Orthodoxy theologians and to contextualize their own readings of Radical Orthodoxy authors. I was particularly impressed by Smith's ability to lay out the key elements of Radical Orthodoxy's approach. He writes clearly and understandably, without unnecessarily simplifying the issues involved. This book will no doubt be read with interest, as well as with profit, by theologians, philosophers, students, and other keen individuals."

Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

James K. A. Smith (Ph.D., Villanova University) is the Gary & Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology & Worldview at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In addition, he is editor of Comment magazine and a senior fellow of the Colossian Forum. He formerly taught at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Active in both the church and the academy, Smith is the author of Speech and Theology (part of the Routledge Radical Orthodoxy series) and The Fall of Interpretation.


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5.0 von 5 Sternen Parisian Augustinianism 11. November 2007
Von Jacob - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
t is always interesting to find "coincidences" in theological movements. That is, when group A arrives at a theological position/conclusion that looks eerily similar to what group B believes. It is even stranger to find that they never borrowed from the same sources or even interacted. Such it is with the rise of Radical Orthodoxy (hereafter RO) and its critique of modernity.

RO is a group of theologians who saw the bankruptcy of modernity, and the inability of post modernity to answer the tough questions, thus positing a critique that seeks to avoid both secularism and pre-modernity. It is similar to a Parisian Augustine. RO is sensitive to post-modernity's critiques of secularism. The book offers a multi-angled critique of secularalism: epistemological, ontological, and ecclesiological.

Once Upon a Time there was Plato
RO's epistemological critique of secularism is a retelling of the story of Western philosophy. According to RO, philosophy took a fatal turn with Duns Scotus. Scotus posited a univocity of being stating there is only one kind of being in everything real, though infinite in the case of God and finite in the case of creatures. According to RO, this flattened ontology, removing the transcendent and giving us a metaphysics of immanence. Smith writes, "The created, immanent order no longer participates in the divine and thus is no longer characterized by the depth of that which is stretched toward the transcendent (93)." In other words, man is now able to interpret reality apart from God or any notion of the transcendent. This opened the door to secularism.
The antidote to Scotus, then, is Plato. If Scotus unhooked ontology, Plato (or his Christian disciples) can reconnect it. In short and in contrast with modernity, RO offers, not a univocity of being, but a participatory metaphysics. Popular opinion on Plato is that Plato denigrated the material in favor of the spiritual (I will resist applications to some Reforme--never mind). But RO suggests, on the other hand, that it is nihilism, with its denial of the transcendent that denigrates the material. But can Platonism make the claim that it values the material?
RO inverts Platonism on this point. Following Phaedrus, RO argues that when the material participates in the spiritual, the physical is rightly energized and affirmed. For example, the physical embodiment of beauty excites the soul's desire such that its wings sprout and are nourished." On one hand I agree. I value the material very much (almost too much), but is this an accurate reading of Plato? I really can't (and neither can Smith) follow their reconstruction of Plato. Plato spoke often of soma sema: the body is a prison for the soul. But we need not accept their reading of Plato to grasp their point.

Ontology: Unfolding Reality
This was arguably the toughest section of the book. And the most surprising. Smith reintroduced Dooyeweerd to the Reformed and academic scene. If nihilism/modernity flattened their epistemology, it also flattened its ontology. Secular ontologies, according to RO, "claim to fully define the conditions" for reality (187). This section will be shorter since the same critique of epistemology will be used for ontology. RO counters the secular ontology with a new move on RO's part: an Incarnational or participatory ontology. In rephrasing RO's ontology, Smith uses the arcane philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd, particularly his modal scheme.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Essential first step for those interested in RO 9. Oktober 2006
Von N. Wood - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
I read this book two years ago during the summer before my senior year of college, and I found it utterly fascinating. Even at the level of learning I was at then (three years of college philosophy and theology courses), the book was rather difficult at times, so it's definitely only for those at advanced undergraduate or graduate levels. That said, it's still infinitely easier to read that any of John Milbank's own writings, so anyone wanting a relatively easy introduction to the thought of Milbank and other RO thinkers should definitely start hear before picking up any of the source texts themselves.

For those unfamiliar with RO, it is a movement combining the best of contemporary Christian theology, Continental and postmodern philosophy, and ancient and medieval thought, creating a new "post-secular" theology that doesn't simply parrot the findings of the social sciences and secular philosophy, but recasts them in a distinctively Christian mould. For those who, like myself, have looked for something in Continental philosophy of religion that doesn't end up with results that look disappointingly unorthodox, RO definitely merits a look.
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3.0 von 5 Sternen A helpful introduction if you can understand it 14. April 2015
Von Teddy Ray - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verifizierter Kauf
Don’t let the title fool you — this is some heady stuff. It will be a tough read for non-philosophers. The first and last chapters were excellent. I think many of RO’s critiques and constructions are on the money. They have a lot of important things to say. I just wish they used more words I knew.
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3.0 von 5 Sternen Why this book is just 'ok' 3. Juni 2013
Von Robert B. Culhane - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
James Smith assumes too much of the uninitiated, namely that they will understand his short hand way of referencing various theologians as a means to having to avoid the long winded and harder work of actually explaining what he is meaning. It takes a while to move into the book's actual thesis (which I'm still coming to as I write this review). I happen to have enjoyed majoring in the theologians of the 20th Century, esp K Barth, but even I have found it heavy going, so you will also need to have a dictionary of theology at your fingertips to get the best out of this book. You will also need to have read a primer on Post-Modernism of some sort to gain an introduction to the major players in this world/cultural analysis before tacking "Introduction to Radical Orthodoxy". I suspect that RO's attempt to reinstate an Augustinian epistemology as normative is not likely to succeed simply because I don't think they really show evidence of understanding Augustine. Furthermore, the grand Reformed vision of an integrated system of theology which constructs a Christian worldview in which politics, economics, theology and church are integrated into a unified narrative is one which is a perpetual dream and unlikely to succeed except in a small, isolated and 'godly commonwealth.' I suspect that the only group which will achieve this dream is Islam and that it will, in a Post-Modern Western context, be the most likely theology to become a metanarrative that silences all other dissenting voices and fills the void of both rationalism, the failures of Modernity and secularism. Overall, this book although interesting, is really a heated argument within a coterie of theologians who need to leave their lounge or pub and return to the kitchen and take care of washing the dishes for their wives!
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4.0 von 5 Sternen Postmodern Augustinianism? 3. Februar 2013
Von Ashtar Command - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
Radical Orthodoxy (RO) is a relatively new current within Christian theology. Despite its name, it has nothing in common with the Eastern Orthodox Churches. RO's foremost representatives are John Milbank, Catherine Pickstock and Graham Ward. All three are Anglicans. RO's project is difficult to describe in one short paragraph, but has been described as post-secular and postmodern. Milbank at one point called his ideas "postmodern critical Augustinanism". RO is usually considered conservative, but its theology looks like a very curious mixture of Iamblichus, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and postmodernism, all suitably reinterpreted in ways many scholars find questionable. At least theologically speaking, this is therefore anything but "orthodoxy" as traditionally conceived.

"Introducing Radical Orthodoxy" is regarded as the best introduction to RO. This is somewhat ironic, since James K. A. Smith is a critic of the new movement. Smith writes from a Reformed perspective and frequently references Kuyper and Dooyeweerd. In a later chapter, he turns out to be critical of them, too. Be that as it may, I did get a relatively good grasp of RO after reading Smith's book. Indeed, most of the book is relatively non-polemical, and it's obvious that the author wants a dialogue with RO rather than an outright confrontation.

RO challenges modernity in the name of both postmodern and "pre-modern" themes. At the same time, they have a kind of double attitude towards postmodernity, both challenging and appropriating it. They seem eager to assimilate the postmodern ideas that there is no "objective" truth, that all objectivity is really "mythos", and that no neutral reason exists. Smith himself is positive to these notions, and ties them to Reformed versions of presuppositionalism. RO's presupposition is that the Bible as interpreted by the traditional Christian creeds is true, while admitting that this cannot be proven by appeals to a neutral, objective reason. However, since nothing else can be proven in this way either, it's really a contest between the Christian mythos and the secular mythos. The problems and contradictions of this position are roughly the same as with other forms of presuppositionalism. Thus, RO seems to believe that the Christian story is more consistent than the secular ones, which are self-contradictory. But so what? Is "consistency" a neutral term? Why is consistency desirable, anyway? Some people seem willing to live without it! When the chips are down, it seems that we'll never know the truth, unless the Holy Ghost opens our unregenerate hearts... Note also that some presuppositionalists accept evolution. RO doesn't seem to be creationists, and neither were Kuyper or Dooyeweerd. Where does the idea of evolution come from? Divine revelation at some church council? I think not. Here's a clue: Charles Dar...! This little detail is enough to create havoc in any presuppositional scheme which wants to incorporate the findings of modern science.

RO's weird parasitism upon postmodernism is a pity, since some of their other ideas are more interesting. RO wants to challenge the dualism and crypto-Gnosticism they believe is inherent in much Christian theology. They want Christians to have a positive view of creation, the body, political engagement, sexuality and aesthetics. RO therefore puts a lot of stress on the idea of "participation": the material world "participates" in God, and exists only due to this participation. In and of itself, the material world would be nothing. Matter can be blessed and positive only because it participates in a higher, transcendent reality which both creates it and graces it. This idea, which to me sounds like panentheism, is apparently taken from Neo-Platonism, especially the theurgical version of Iamblichus. Interestingly, RO claims that Plato too was really a this-worldly philosopher with a positive appreciation of the physical and material. This, Smith is at pains to point out, is hardly the traditional view of Plato! (Smith is sympathetic to RO's pro-material stance, but regards Plato as the dualist par excellence. However, he also criticizes RO for downplaying the Fall.) Personally, I found RO's position intriguing, since some other writers have cracked the idea that Plato was really a "descender". Ken Wilber comes to mind. Another is Dominic O'Meara in his book "Platonopolis", which even attempts to turn Plotinus into a thinker oriented to this world.

RO have also reinterpreted Thomas Aquinas, claiming that he didn't really believe in an autonomous reason, an independent realm for secular philosophy, natural theology, etc. Rather, Aquinas considered the world to participate in God in Neo-Platonist (Augustinian?) fashion. Therefore, one cannot properly *know* even a material object without knowing its divine telos, which in turn is impossible without an explicitly Christian-theological perspective. Autonomous reason cannot give us any true knowledge. While this interpretation of Aquinas is presumably also idiosyncratic, I have seen it before.

Smith points out that there is a curious parallel between RO and Francis Schaeffer on the genealogy of secular modernity. Both traced its theological roots to the High Middle Ages, Schaeffer to Aquinas while RO singles out Duns Scotus as the main culprit. According to RO, Scotus made the philosophical category "Being" more fundamental than God. Both God and created things partake of Being, which implies that the difference between them is one of degree, not one of kind. This opened the door to the flattened ontology of modernity. Radically unhooked from God, matter becomes meaningless, leading to the ironic situation that the materialist cannot consistently honour matter. Materialism and secularism are therefore ultimately nihilistic. A body without a soul is, after all, just a corpse. The transcendent dimension is needed even by those who want to celebrate their bodies and the goodness of the material world. In a strange kind of way, materialism is an inverted Gnosticism, since both are forced to regard matter as meaningless or evil.

Materialism is also unable to explain difference. Materialism, after all, is monist. The only kind of "difference" materialists can affirm is oppositional conflict between particulars. Without a higher dimension, these conflicts are impossible to solve. War and strife are eternal in a flattened cosmos. By contrast, RO believes it can propose an "ontology of peace", including a call for harmony in society. RO also has a political side, which I don't think is fully explicated in the book. Smith calls it "socialism" but it obviously cannot be socialism in the Soviet or Chinese sense. My guess is that RO wants a form of communitarianism with government interventions in the economy and harmony between the classes. (I suppose Marx would have called this bourgeois socialism, or, less charitably, feudal socialism!)

"Introducing Radical Orthodoxy" isn't an easy read. I've read most of the book, but I gave up when Smith started to articulate the Leibniz-Deleuze view of matter as an alternative to RO. Frankly, the postmodern angle rubs my onion. Why even bother engaging Deleuze, Derrida, Foucalt or Zizek? The way to Hell is paved with the names of pomo luminaries!

That being said, I nevertheless recommend James K. A. Smith's book to advanced students of theology who, for whatever reason, don't yet feel advanced enough to take on Milbank's, Pickstock's or Ward's own writings. Or those of Deleuze, for that matter.
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