Wednesday, May 07, 2008


I'm not sure if I feel ready to get back into theology-blogging, but maybe I'll give it a try. I'm reading theology again, and in the past blogging has been a good way for me to organize my reading.

First some updates, if anybody has wondered what I have been up to.

My thesis is more or less finished. Actually, It would have been finished already if a certain famous professor had not taken quite a bit more time than expected to read it and give it a go ahead...

As the last few posts showed, my interest in politics has lately overtaken my interest for theology... That may be changing at the moment, but as I say that is too soon to say. The combination of theology and politics is still my major area of interest.

If some of my more regular readers are still around, they will find this very ironic, but what I'm currently doing is trying to get a deeper understanding of, yep, postmodern theology. Particularly Radical Orthodoxy. I'm still not 100% convinced that it is worth while doing, but there are some aspects of it that intrigue me, and I have a hunch that my "expertise" on asceticism actually may have some value in this discussion... More about that later, maybe.

What I like about radical orthodoxy is that it shuns both conservative and liberal theology, although I do not at all agree with the image of 20th century theology that the foster. There seems to be a will to completely by-pass this century (and the 19th) among these writers. I don't think this is a valid way to be post-modern.

I am also intrigued my some of the political ideas around among these writers, but I'm still not sure about the way they fit together with the other ideas.

And I'm still to find a proper worked out radical orthodoxy ecclesiology - is there one? The entire concept points towards ecclesiology, but exactly what that ecclesiology is like seems to be difficult to articulate. But I may just have missed it. Suggestions welcome.

Anyway, I might post some on my continued reading of radical orthodoxy texts. Or not. Will see.


WTM said...

Glad to have you back, Patrik.

On the RO question, I have a friend who has spent some time thinking about them, although I don't know if he can be of help on the RO ecclesiology question. In any case, he has a multi-part series on his blog entitled, "...and taking names," that engages with Jamie K.A. Smith's work. The first installment is in June of '07, and they continue of the next few months.

He may prove a good conversation partner for you on this topic. If you want to and can't get a hold of him through his blog, I can put you in touch with him.

Patrik said...

Thanks för the Tip! Seems like a good series.

dan said...

This is a pleasant surprise! Good to see you writing here, once again, and I hope you continue.

Andy said...


I know all too well how difficult it can be to maintain a blog (or at least the stamina to actually blog something worthwhile). Glad to see you're giving it a go.

Thanks for your comments on my little Smith series. (And thanks to Travis for being a good agent!)
I basically agree about Smith's final thoughts on liturgy. But this is, I think, a problem with RO in general. That Smith even approaches the subject of the practical viscera of liturgy at all is remarkable.

As I see it, one of the major problems with RO is precisely in its failure to articulate any consistent ecclesiology. They do a lot of heavy intellectual lifting about many things, but when it comes to the issue of the Church, one can almost hear echoes of Paul's directive to the Philippians: work out your own ecclesiology with fear and trembling!

On the one hand, RO depends on a strong ecclesiology of a very Catholic sort (apostolic succession, though not necessarily Roman). They depend on something stable called "liturgy," and yet, what prayers or rites are acutally involved in this liturgy are never really discussed (Pickstock's "liturgical consummation" does not talk about the elements of liturgy, but rather assumes a traditional catholic mass). Likewise, they depend on the Creed and the Councils without vocalizing their allegiance to the episcopal institution that solidified those structures. (This last criticism, of course, could be directed at Reformed Orthodoxy as well.)

RO generates a lot of interesting discussion around ideas, but generally falters at the line of anything practicable.

Anyway, just some thoughts.

I look forward to reading more of your thoughts.

Andy Guffey

Patrik said...

Ok, it is good to see that my perception about RO is not based on my lack of knowledge only.

The question is then why they fail to articulate an ecclesiology, when it is such an obvious "hole" in their project. Is it because that is where the people involved would not be able to agree on a position?

Or is it because ecclesiology really is extremely difficult to articulate in any kind of postmodern discourse?

Andy said...

Good question. I would guess that it is because it is not really in their field of vision. On the one hand, they're not really very indebted to postmodern discourse. They traffic in postmodern thought, but they can also be extremely critical of the postmodern. They find pomo useful to break apart the fallacies of modernity, but that does not necessarily make them postmodern. More importantly, though, I think most of them are not extremely comfortable in the church. Most of the RO players are much more concerned with dialogue with other academic disciplines than with inter-denominational/ inter-religious dialogue. In other words, they all seem to want to take over the academy more than form the church.

Those are my suspicions regarding their silence. I just don't think they're really after dogmatic or ecclesial theology so much as philosophical and academic theology--even though that philosophical theology depends on the church for its distinctives.

Like I said, those are my suspicions.


Patrik said...

Andy, that is interesting, because my apparently erroneous perception was that RO wants to be a an ecclesial theology, kind of like Barth wanted to.

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Glad to have you back! It's always great when a thesis nears completion! Congratulations!

tyler said...

A few notes on RO's ecclesiology: it is ambiguous but I think it's hard not to have an ambiguous ecclesiology if you want to take Christianity/the church seriously in a world where the churches are not united. As far as where RO "comes out" ecclesiologically, Milbank seems to have taken a liking to the current Pope (though he himself is of course an Anglican). They both like Augustine for the same reasons (his engagement with the "secular"/pagan philosophies of the day). There is a conference in Nottingham this summer in which Milbank will (I think) defend the Pope's book on the historical Jesus against annoying scholars like Geza Vermez. His Centre for Theology and Philosophy is also having its annual conference in Rome this coming fall. Other RO scholars like Smith and Pickstock spend more time talking about how RO is compatible with traditions that are not the Anglican or Roman Catholic churches, from my incomplete reading of Milbank I don't think he really cares whether or not it is. Then there is D.B. Hart who is a convert to Orthodoxy. He writes in conversation with Milbank sometimes and I'm sure he doesn't care about RO's potential for ecumenicism because he doesn't seem to care about much besides writing brilliant theological literature.
I have been impressed by Milbank's work for a while now but I agree that the RO "brand" is annoying and ironic. I also think it sounds stupid, but it does make some sense.
...Nice blog by the way.

::aaron g:: said...

Glad to see you're back.